Randee and I had fun riding in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Holiday Parade on December 11, 2010!

We have only had two short board meetings since the summer break, and so I thought I would use this post to describe a course I am teaching for the first time at NCCU School of Law entitled “State and Local Governmental Law.”  I have thirteen students in this seminar style class; thus far our legal topics have included federalism, incorporation and annexation.  To make the course more relevant, I have tried to make the course real-life, and so we discuss actual issues in North Carolina and Carrboro.  For example, we are studying the North Carolina annexation laws and proposed changes, and we have discussed farmers, goats and chickens.  It is always refreshing to hear their points of view – and they have many!  For the first writing assignment, I had my students write a reflection paper about running for local office.  They had to focus on why they should be elected and what local issues they felt were important.  In short, this class has helped me learn a little more about issues we have in Carrboro, and has helped my students learn more about what they may need to consider if they become public servants.

With thanks to Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote “Twas the night before Christmas” in 1822, here is my Carrboro version of that familiar poem. I read a slightly modified version at the Carrboro Employee Appreciation Luncheon on December 19: (more…)

I recently attended the “Essentials of Municipal Government” training for newly elected officials. I learned a lot, and some of it was surprising. Many of my classmates were from towns much smaller than Carrboro and the majority of these small towns do not have a town manager or any public administrator! Officials in these towns do it all, which is no easy task. I am happy I dodged that bullet.

Another distinction was that in many towns, the mayor does not vote like our mayor does, except in cases of a tie. Of course, in the towns where the mayor functions somewhat in the role of the town manager, this makes more sense than it would in Carrboro.

During the training, we covered topics such as financing, open meeting laws, and running efficient board meetings. We discussed relationships between elected officials and other public officials and employees, and we considered environmental issues. I was pleased to see how much we do right in Carrboro. We are years into wrestling with hard topics, especially regarding energy issues, where, unfortunately, many other local governments have yet to undertake these concerns.

At the training, participants received several helpful resources and we made connections with new officials in other towns. I know I will be consulting both the resources and my colleagues as I continue to grow in my new position.

Two days after returning from the training, I participated in my first board retreat, attended also by several members of town staff. We came up with a list of our values and priorities (as they pertained to commercial development) for the upcoming year. The values we identified were the following (in no particular order):

New development should …

  1. Not harm existing businesses;
  2. Provide entrepreneurial opportunities for diverse Carrboro residents;
  3. Provide job opportunities for diverse Carrboro residents;
  4. Engage and build community;
  5. Be consistent with our environmental ethic;
  6. Provide long-term tax revenue ;
  7. Respect the character and history of our town;
  8. Support a multi-modal system of transportation and parking;
  9. Help develop/promote a local living economy;
  10. Sustain and protect existing neighborhoods.

Our priorities all related to these values, such as increasing commercial zoning, and exploring ways to encourage commercial businesses and offices to locate in village mixed-use developments. We also discussed creating a “Local Living Economy Task Force,” and assessing and improving entrepreneurship. Finally, of utmost importance to the board was the need to review our ordinances in an effort to regulate land uses and activities based on water usage.

During December, I met with every department head in Carrboro, and received a thorough orientation about their duties, organizational schemes, current projects and initiatives.

I consider it essential to have a good working knowledge of all of our departments; this will aid me greatly in the coming years as I work on my priorities and initiatives. I was impressed with the level of expertise and professionalism I encountered at every meeting. I feel confident telling Carrboro citizens that our “shop” is in very good hands, and I told our employees how much they were appreciated at the annual holiday employee luncheon on December 14.

I have also been reviewing the documents that are the basis for much of what goes on in Carrboro, for example, the Town Code (including the Land Use Ordinance), Vision 2020, the Northern Small Area Plan, and the RTS Economic Plan. In the past, I have had occasion to review various North Carolina General Statutes as they applied to issues in Carrboro, and will continue to do so as necessary during my term. These documents are the starting point for many of the discussions our board will be having.

I will be attending a program sponsored by UNC-CH’s School of Government and the N.C. League of Municipalities for newly elected public officials near the end of the month. It looks like we will be covering several interesting relevant issues as they pertain to elected officials.

Finally, we will hold our annual BOA retreat near the end of January at OWASA. We will discuss the myriad of issues that face our town and set our board priorities for the year.