Chapel Hill Launches New Information Service

The Town of Chapel Hill joined the other Triangle area governments by launching a new information service called open data. This website includes data such as budget numbers and local traffic signals, provided by the local government and the Chapel Hill Public Library. Chapel Hill’s Public Library Systems Manager, David Green said it’s a great way to facilitate access to information.

“The town and its departments have lots of data. This open data service allows people to easily find what they are looking for and enables them to use it however they choose,” Green said.

Green said that the goal of this service is to increase transparency within the local government which can be a difficult task.

“For one thing, making it easy to use is hard to do and what data is there. Discovering what we have, so we can make it available. Is it in a good format, is it usable, is it useful,” Green said. “Then probably what is most important is a privacy issue. None of the information that is going to be shared on the open data platform contains information about specific individuals. So, being careful with the data, scrubbing it of personally identifiable information, and having it prepared in a way that is useful and usable.

“That’s a difficult thing to do but, it’s something that we are working on.”

This platform will give the public the opportunity to browse data and gather information. Green said he expects that it will create useful insight.

“In a community like ours, that has so many naturally curious people, we expect that open data will create useful insights, maybe proposals for creating solutions to some problems we have, and ways to be more efficient with the public resources we have,” Green said.

Chapelhillopendata.org is now open to the public to start creating graphs and maps with the data provided. In the fall, the town will hold public events to encourage Chapel Hill residents to contribute to the next steps with this service. Specific dates for these events will be posted later in the summer.

http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chapel-hill-launches-new-information-service

Diversity Across the Boards

By Barbara Foushee:

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro/Orange County area has a very diverse population. There are many different cultures and races.

Our local governing boards make decisions that affect all of us and these boards should be a direct reflection of the populations that they serve.

This is not the case.

There is approximately one minority member per local board in this area, which is a good indication that the needs and the concerns of some are not being met. To summarize that statement, there is not adequate representation at the table for everyone when important laws, ordinances, appointments, etc., are being discussed and subsequently voted on.

This troubles me because I know that there have been some qualified applicants in the past and recently that have been looked over in favor of the “status quo.”

I am here to encourage all of you to be a part of your local governing bodies. The decisions that they make will ultimately affect you and your neighbors. Get involved and be the change that you would like to see.

I would also like to challenge the local government entities to take a good hard look at your membership make-up, the efficiency of the board, and whether the board is actually serving the general population or a specific group.

In my opinion, it is definitely worth looking into.

http://chapelboro.com/columns/the-commentators/diversity-across-the-boards

State Democratic Party Chair Pleased with Election Results

North Carolina – Voter turnout this election year was low, but that won’t stop members of the Democratic Party from making bold predictions about their opponents’ futures.

***Listen to the Story***

Randy Voller is the Chair of the North Carolina State Democratic Party, and he says he and his party’s supporters should be pleased with last week’s election results.

“We pretty much swept all the races across the state, and in the big cities,” Voller says.

Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, and Sanford are a few cities included on his list of successes for the Democratic Party in this year’s municipal elections. So what went right for the candidates dressed in blue?

“Tuesday night was a referendum on what the mood of the electorate is in our cities,” Voller says, “The mood was to elect democrats and democrat city counsels across the state, especially in our bigger cities from Asheville to Wilmington.”

Voller says that mood was set by both federal and state government actions and events.He says the government shutdown and structural issues nationally had an effect on this election.

But Voller says events closer to home, within North Carolina’s state government, had a heavy influence on voters’ decisions as well.

“I think the interference in local control by the general assembly probably was on a lot of people’s minds,” Voller says, “There are a number of places where the general assembly got involved in local issues which traditionally they would not have done.”

Voller says he thinks the results in this election are foreshadowing future setbacks for opponents of the Democratic Party.

“I think what happened in Charlotte, where the republicans invested heavily and lost, is a bell-weather for 2014,” Voller says. And he has a message for voters not following his flock.

“If your stance is, ‘I don’t believe in government, or government doesn’t work, or we should privatize government,’ you’re probably on the defense right now,” Voller says.

http://chapelboro.com/news/election/democratic-party-chair-pleased-with-election-results

Aldermen Not Pleased With BoCC Actions On Recycling

CARRBORO – The Carrboro Board of Aldermen had stern words for the Orange County Board of County Commissioners just days after the Commissioners voted to take the next step in potentially privatizing the Orange County Recycling Program.

“The impact to the changes to the recycling program for Carrboro residents would be the elimination of Orange County’s curbside recycling as of July 1, 2014,” says Town Manager David Andrews. “The economic impact if Carrboro tax payers had to assume that cost would be about $300,000.”

The Commissioners voted last Thursday to put into action the possibility of privatizing trash and recycling pickup in Orange County. Assistant County Manager Michael Talbert said at the meeting that there will be multiple opportunities for the Commissioners to provide input or make changes.

Under the current system, residents in unincorporated Orange County pay a fee for access to county trash and recycling services. The proposal suggested would privatize future collection, resulting in a standardized fee for rural residents.

But Aldermen comment at Tuesday’s meeting was against that proposal. The Commissioners’ vote did not formally approve any decision on the matter, but Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton says the County Commissioners need to find a different solution.

“This is highly valued by people in our community,” says Chilton. “County Commissioners: there are a number of possibilities. Please find a solution and have that solution be that we are all going to continue to get this important service.”

Chilton says he would prefer to see recycling in Orange County go the other way.

“Some of our current recycling program is contracted out to private companies, and some of it is done in house by our county government,” says Chilton. “If anything, we need to be moving in the other direction. When it comes to solid waste management, it aught to be about having county employees perform the roles.”

Town Manager David Andrews says he sees at least one other potential solution.

“There’s a really simple solution to it all,” says Andrews. “That would be for the town to advocate that Orange County continue to fund the recycling program as it is and raise their property taxes. That way, nothing changes—it’s that simple.”

Alderman Jacquelyn Gist also brought up the potential impacts on those the current system employs.

“What about the staff,” says Gist. “There are people who’s entire careers have spent building this amazing recycling program. Maybe some of them are ready to retire and this is why this is happening—I don’t know.”

Other issues discussed by the Aldermen included the equipment currently used to collect trash and recycling as well as the time, effort and money already invested in the County’s robust recycling effort.

The County Commissioners are scheduled to further discuss the issue at a workshop meeting April 9, with a public hearing on the subject currently planned for April 23.

http://chapelboro.com/news/aldermen-not-pleased-with-bocc-actions-on-recycling