Tuesday, August 25, 2009


In late July, Town of Chapel Hill Councilman Bill Strom announced that he would not complete his third term and would resign effective August 1st. He resigned, he said, “to pursue other personal and professional opportunities outside the community.”

By resigning when he did, it was too late for his seat to be included in this year’s municipal races. The filing period for those races ended on July 17. According to Chapel Hill Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos, had Strom stepped down within three days of the end of the filing period his seat would have been included on the ballot and the town council would have been charged with filling his seat until the election.

Now, when the council reconvenes on Sept. 14, Mayor Foy will officially announce the vacancy. The council will then set a time period of not less than seven and not more than 30 days for applications for the seat. Council members will then review the applications and officially place names in nomination. After the nominations, the council must wait at least one week before making its decision. The council will consider the opening at each meeting but is not required to make a decision by any set date. The new council member will serve out Strom’s term, which ends in December 2011.

This decision by Strom brought the blogs to life, in what had been a pretty slow summer. Some questioned Strom's timing, especially since there had been rumors of his departure for some time. Some, including this writer, wondered why he wouldn't trust the same voters who elected him three times to fill his seat. Some called on the four incumbents on the ballot to support the 5th place finisher for the appointment. Some candidates on the ballot, including incumbents, declared that they would not seek an appointment. Nothing is certain at this point except that this resignation and process to fill the seat will be an election issue.

Meanwhile, over in Carrboro, they also have a resignation. On August 20th, Carrboro Alderman John Herrera, who had already said he would not seek re-election this fall, has resigned effective immediately, five months before the end of his term and has moved out of Carrboro.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen has not decided on a process yet, but many think that they will leave the seat empty since it will be filled by the election. The Strom seat has two years; should it be filled quickly, after the election so we know who came in fifth, or what?. The interesting thing to me is the Carrboro situation received no where near the reaction that the Chapel Hill situation did. What explains the "tales" in these two cities? Timing is everything!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

CAMPAIGN 2009 (WCHL Commentary)

We know who will be on our ballots in November. Congratulations to all of our citizens who have decided to run for office and try to serve our community in this very special way. One difference in the Chapel Hill elections is that we are engaged in a state experiment with voter owned elections whereby candidates receive tax dollars to finance most of their campaign costs. One argument for this plan is that removing the barrier of money, candidates who might not run for office would now do so.

We have one mayoral candidate of the four participating and one of the eight Council candidates participating. The mayoral candidate participating was a vigorous supported of the plan. One not participating is a Council member who was a vigorous opponent. Nothing surprising there. But on the Town Council ballot the only participant is a second time challenger who finished 6th in 2007. What is puzzling to some is that the three incumbents on the ballot who voted for taxpayer funded elections (let’s call it what it is!) are not participating. Why is that?

I still think we are trying to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist. Money to win a seat is not the problem; time to serve is the challenge. There is no evidence that campaign spending is corrupting our elections. And I do favor publically funding those judicial elections; they give me a choice on giving my money or not. Choices matter and that’s what elections are and should beall about.