Chapel Hill 2020 Impartiality – Real or Imagined

I want to begin by thanking all of the stakeholders who came out to Chapel Hill High this morning, a beautifully sunny fall morning, and participated in our first “come together” session in which we heard reports from all of the theme groups on what transpired in their first work sessions. We had over 100 stakeholders participate and we got to hear from about ¼ of you in the discussion portion of the meeting. For those of you who didn’t have time to share your thoughts please think about posting them on either the blog or the web.

 One stakeholder raised the question, which he had previously raised in a letter to the editor in a local paper, of whether the co-chairs of CH2020 and the theme group co-chairs were impartial and free of conflicts of interest. He also suggested that the process was poorly designed from the beginning, not allowing the stakeholders to make these co-chair appointments, and that Council should consider scrapping the process and starting over.

 I would like to begin by clarifying a few points. The co-chairs of CH2020, Rosemary Waldorf and myself (George Cianciolo) were asked to be co-chairs by an Initiating Committee of 15 Chapel Hill citizens that was appointed by the Town Council. Neither Rosemary nor I sought out the positions, we were asked to serve by the Committee. As I understand it, the Committee chose us because both of us have been involved in Chapel Hill for some time (Rosemary served both as a Chapel Hill Council member and a Chapel Hill Mayor; I have served on numerous Town advisory boards and committees) and we are viewed as being capable of being fair and impartial. The process which CH2020 has been following is one that was laid out by the Initiating Committee after four thoughtful and productive public meetings and was based on a process used by a consultant to the Town in nearly 100 other communities successfully. Neither Rosemary nor I nor the Town Staff designed this very open, very participatory process – it came out of the thoughtful deliberations of the 15 citizens of the Initiating Committee.

 To facilitate the work of the theme groups Rosemary and I recruited 18 citizens who live or work in Chapel Hill to act as co-chairs, or facilitators, for the 6 theme groups. We specifically recruited people we believed are leaders and who could remain impartial as they facilitated the theme group discussions. When recruiting these co-chairs we asked them if they thought they would be able to remain impartial and all agreed. Once the themes were identified we asked the co-chairs to choose themes in which they had the least personal interest in order to make it easier for them to retain their impartiality. All of our co-chairs underwent facilitator training with School of Government trained facilitators. All of these people were being asked to make a major commitment of time over the next 8 months.

 It was brought to our (Rosemary, me, and Staff) attention that during the first theme group meetings several of our co-chairs shared personal opinions. We did not hear that they took control of the direction of the discussions or in any way tried to cut off any discussion. Nonetheless, we do not wish our co-chairs to offer personal opinions since it will detract from their intended neutrality. We have spoken to these co-chairs and they admitted that they erred and said they would be more conscious of their roles. As it is said, to err is human….

 The stakeholder who wrote the letter to the editor and spoke up today spoke with me afterwards. He insisted he bore no malice to Rosemary, me or any of our theme co-chairs but that “perception is everything”. I can’t change his perception. All I can say is that if anyone feels that Rosemary or I or any of our theme co-chairs are being unfair or less than impartial we want to hear about it. We are trying our best to help you, the citizens who live, work, play, or do business in Chapel Hill, create a Comprehensive Plan that we can all be proud of.

8 thoughts on “Chapel Hill 2020 Impartiality – Real or Imagined

  1. Somehow we have got to do many things differently, do them much more ably,
    and do all of them simultaneously, collaboratively and fast. Ready or not,
    like it or not, we are presented with a planetary emergency.This is the time
    for making necessary behavioral changes by thinking globally and acting
    locally. Science and common sense will give us direction. What we cannot do
    is sit on the sidelines. No, we cannot afford to sit this one out. All hands
    are needed on the deck at this critical moment in the history of our
    planetary home. Our generation is simply not stepping up to the challenges
    before us. The consequences of our failures appear colossal and profound
    with regard to the prospects for future human well being and environmental
    health. The very last thing a responsible person is to do in such
    circumstances is consciously and deliberately choose to remain silent, I
    believe. Are we not participants in and witnesses to yet another
    preposterous failure of nerve? When are the leaders going to speak out in an
    intellectually honest way and act with a sense of moral courage? How
    terrible are things going to have to become on Earth before
    the-powers-that-be begin to talk about and do the right things, according to
    the lights and best available knowledge they possess? Whatsoever is real and
    true must be acknowledged if we are to respond ably to climate
    destabilization, pollution, biodiversity loss, resource dissipation,
    environmental degradation and overpopulation,but the manufactured ‘nothing
    is wrong’ reality is well-established and those who speak truth to power
    are consistently marginalized and ignored. It is difficult even to imagine
    how much can be done in such unfavorable circumstances. Still our efforts
    are vital because the-powers-that-be are living in a fool’s paradise, and
    the stakes are such that the things that are not being acknowledged will
    likely destroy life as we know it on Earth. We know how to stop
    overpopulation humanely.The gravity of this and other looming human-driven
    global threats are understood and could be confronted with a long overdue
    determination to do what is necessary. All of the world’s human resources,
    including overrated intelligence and technology, need to be deployed in
    order to overcome the emerging and converging wicked problems looming
    ominously on the horizon.The-powers-that-be could save the world if they
    acted with the intellectual honesty, moral courage and power they possess to
    sound alarm bells, forcefully warn the world, and call out loudly and
    clearly for changes toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate
    enterprises. But most of the necessary changes are unlikely to happen,
    The-powers-that-be want to maintain the status quo, come what may. They lack
    the moral courage and the imagination to save the world we are blessed to
    inhabit as a fit place for habitation by children everywhere and coming

    • Dear Sean Cavanaugh, Please accept my thanks for your comment. Even though I do not agree with you, I remain hopeful that a way can be found for those of us who can influence the path to the future will think carefully about how Chapel Hill can sustain the present quality of life and maintain its unique, small town characteristics. Take note of the many rules, regulations and laws that have been promulgated to assure the way of life you, I and other citizens of Chapel Hill enjoy now. Perhaps new and different rules, regulations and laws will have to made that assure the children at least a chance of residing in a town which somewhat resembles the one we are blessed to inhabit now. If the citizens of Chapel Hill choose to do nothing more or less than same “business as usual” things we are doing now, on our watch, I am concerned that much of what we proclaim to be protecting and preserving within our Great Town will be lost. Rampant economic growth and creeping environmental degradation will ruin our best efforts to assure a good enough future for the children. Our town is a place I like to think of as a beacon of light set in a dark, garish landscape of skyscrapers, burgeoning standard metropolitan areas and megacities. Perhaps necessary changes toward measured economic development rather than endless economic growth (making things better not bigger), sustainable lifestyles (replacing outrageous per capita overconsumption and individual hoarding activities), and right-sized, human-scale business enterprises are in the offing. One and all are invited to comment. Thank you. Steve Salmony

      • Steve… I grew up in North Carolina (like many of the people that want to contribute to the town) but wanting to stop high-rise construction and wanting to stop population growth is not the same thing. LIterally saying “I want to stop population growth” is akin to what people said here->

        You can help educate the world on sustainability, you can help conserve parks and natural resources, you can use clean energy, but you CANT FORCE people where they can live, how much off-spring they can have and what they should do with their families. Its ignorant and stupid and can be akin to racism, facism or many other ism’s that I don’t think you want to be a part of. Instead of ranting about population growth why don’t you design some sketches of what you want developed in the town of chapel hill, and as a team we can all submit things together and hope they get approved by town council. Complaining does nothing, be for something rather than against everything.

    • Let us look at the promulgation of rules, regulations and laws, as these activities relate to the Town of Chapel Hill. We know that laws exist to prevent slavery. Communities in the USA take this for granted now, but history teaches us that a Civil War was fought in the nineteenth century to determine this outcome. Whether by war, consensus or the ballot box, regulations are made to organize communal life whenever it is time to do the right thing, according to the “lights” we possess. Once upon a time women did not have the right to vote. Now things are different. Law assures women the right to vote. More recently, we have seen the establishment of regulations related to smoking in airplanes, speeding in school zones, texting while driving, etc. In each and every case the community, either locally or globally, people decided the benefit to “the community” that was derived from limiting individual freedom was justified.

      Although it is difficult to imagine now, please begin to consider that a need will arise soon within the human community to make rules that humanely, fairly and equitably restrict the propagation of the human species because future human well being and environmental health requires such action.


    A Petition to Define Limits to Economic and Population Growth in the Town of Chapel Hill, NC

    Whereas the Town of Chapel Hill appears to be outgrowing the comfortable and friendly size that has made it a wonderful place to live, raise children, work and retire; and
    Whereas increasing traffic congestion, crime and other social ills are presenting worrisome trends that result from human population growth which will eventually degrade Chapel Hill’s eco-friendly environs, deplete its limited natural resources and conceivably ruin what makes our town beautiful and special; and
    Whereas the Town of Chapel Hill has established limits and the Great State of North Carolina has boundary lines that separate it from adjacent states; and
    Whereas the USA has borders that confirm the limits of authorized human activity under its regulations and laws as well as distinguish itself as a separate nation; and
    Whereas Earth is round, bounded and finite with frangible environs not flat, unbounded and unperturbed by human production, consumption and population activities of the human species worldwide; and
    Whereas there are well-known biological and physical “rules of the house” in our planetary home that are categorically different from the manmade laws which regulate day to day production, consumption and population activities of human species, but are no less important to citizens of Chapel Hill, the State of NC and the USA as well as to the global citizenry of the human family, precisely because the biophysical reality of God’s Creation places immutable limits on the unbridled global growth of human overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities; and
    Whereas a billion human beings were added to family of humanity worldwide in the last dozen years (1999 to 2011); and
    Whereas in the month of October 2011 we expect that the seven billionth human being will join the human community; and
    Whereas there are more human beings in November 2011 existing on resources valued at less than two dollars per day globally than were alive on Earth in the year of my birth (2.3+ billion in March 1945); and
    Whereas we have heard many times, understood well enough, and can reasonably be expected to at least consider acting in a morally responsible way upon a shibboleth of humanity that goes like this, “Think globally, act locally,”

    Now, Therefore, It appears appropriate to Propose and Present this brief Summary of a Program for Action.

    As a part of the town-wide envisioning process to consciously and deliberately manage economic and population growth in the Town of Chapel Hill between now and 2020, leaders, planners and stakeholders will assure that the maintenance of the unique character and the quality of life in Chapel Hill, as we enjoy it now, is protected and preserved for the children and future generations. To accomplish this goal, various scenarios or different elements of a single scenario will be developed with the hope that the following steps will be examined for their efficacy.

    Because overpopulation is ultimately a local issue, set an optimum/maximum population size for the Town of Chapel Hill in 2020. This goal can be fulfilled by adopting growth-management policies related to limits on the number of new residential dwelling units and to additional eco-friendly curbs on commercial developments per year between now and 2020. Zoning regulations can be promulgated to further restrict the size of residential, commercial and industrial buildings within the town limits. The reality-oriented adoption of “soft caps” on economic and population growth will make it possible for the Town of Chapel Hill to sensibly acknowledge and adequately address the considerable and potentially unsustainable growth pressures that are readily visible on our watch.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Steve Salmony

    Steven Earl Salmony, 1834 North Lakeshore Drive, Chapel Hill, telephone: 919-967-5764

  3. Opening remarks, November 21, 2001, Chapel Hill Town Council Meeting related to a Petition Presentation

    In Chapel Hill and around the world, it is all the same: many too many people can be found in too many places destroying the natural world for personal economic gain. Many human-induced pressures on Earth’s finite resources and its frangible ecology, that directly result from the unbridled global growth of overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities by the human species, put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future for children, not only in Chapel Hill but elsewhere on the surface of our planetary home. If we are to halt the reckless destruction of Earth as a viable resource base as well as the irreversible degradation of an already polluted environment and a warming climate, we must accept limits to growth.

    We must start somewhere soon to chart a sustainable course. Endless economic and population growth appear to be unsustainable. Let us consider now and here ways we can humanely, fairly, equitably and realistically define limits to economic and population growth in Chapel Hill, while there is still time to do so. Once the comfortable and friendly size of Chapel Hill is lost due to economic and population growth pressures, Chapel Hill’s quality of life and special characteristics will be impossible to regain.

    Perhaps we can “think globally” about the predicament seven billion human beings present to the viability of Earth as a fit place for human habitation. Then we can choose to”act locally” in ways that move us in the direction of a sustainable future for children everywhere and for life as we know it.

  4. Jeanne Brown says:

    Thank you for addressing the issue of facilitator neutrality in your post. As we discussed after the meeting, I felt that leadership’s response to the stakeholder who raised concerns about neutrality failed to acknowledge the fact that you had received numerous concerns about facilitator neutrality, making the stakeholder raising the issue appear to be a lone wolf in the pack.
    I think that an important process-wide lesson from that exchange is that leadership must be both transparent and proactive when issues arise. Although it appears that the leadership group addressed the issue internally, failure to acknowledge the issue and inform concerned stakeholders lead to frustration amongst the stakeholder group that you represent and fostered the perception that the process lacks the level of integrity that is essential to this important process.
    Based on our conversation, it is my understanding that the leadership team has taken steps to address the issue of neutrality with various facilitators. As a member of the transportation group I found it encouraging that our facilitators began our first meeting by explaining that they had chosen “transportation” because it was a topic they felt they could be neutral about. They further explained that they had agreed amongst one another that they would keep one another in check and that we (the stakeholders) were encouraged to point out if they over-stepped their bounds.
    While I know that the leadership team recruited individuals who they felt would be strong leaders, there do appear to be a couple of theme groups which are headed by individuals who have strong conflicts of interest. That, in and of itself, creates a certain level of concern amongst stakeholders and warrants diligent scrutiny on the part of the leadership team. Given the potential impact to home values and quality of life that these theme groups have, the stakes for these groups are high and it is essential that the conversations are handled in an unbiased manner.
    Again, thank you for addressing this important concern in your post. I think it would be helpful if you address the expectations of neutrality with the entire stakeholder group at the start of the next meeting. In doing so, please empower the stakeholders to speak up immediately so that discussions proceed in the appropriate manner.

Let us know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s