MLK/Estes Drive Focus Area: How should the Steering Committee be structured? And what should its purpose be? Give us your thoughts!

On Wednesday, September 19th, the community will be gathering to discuss the Steering Committee structure, purpose, and application process for the MLK/Estes Drive Focus Area (recommended name: Central West Focus Area). This meeting will be held from 5:00-6:30pm in the HR Training Room, second floor, Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill.

In order to prepare for Wednesday’s meeting, a survey has been developed with the purpose of collecting information in advance of the meeting. Please complete this survey and provide us with your thoughts!

The survey can be found at the following link: Steering Committee Survey

The information from this survey will be compiled and will be a part of the discussion during the Wednesday, September 19th Recommendation Meeting #2.

Please complete the survey by noon on Wednesday, September 19th. The responses from the survey will be published on this blog by Friday, September 21st.

For more information about this process, please visit www.townofchapelhill.org/estesdrive

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6 thoughts on “MLK/Estes Drive Focus Area: How should the Steering Committee be structured? And what should its purpose be? Give us your thoughts!

  1. Sarah McIntee says:

    The problems with neighborhoods electing their own representatives onto the steering committee are matters of fairness to those not in contiguous neighborhoods and the practicality of creating a fair election within each neighborhood. In the existing Estes Hills Neighborhood, only those who are on Caswell, Surry and Cumberland are organized by an e-list. Those who list on Estes Drive, Granville, and Halifax are not on the existing e-list. There has been an outreach by those in Julie McClintock’s group to organize a group called the MLK-Estes Planning Group (fomrerly Estes Drive Neighbors; see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MLK-EstesPlanning/ if you wish to join) but that group is not all inclusive, and it also has not publically formulated the details of its mission, even though it appears to be operating under a defensive, but vague, mission. My advice to that group is do some thought-work about what it means to be representing neighbors and residents in the impact area. Nevertheless, this group has done much to get folks interested in the proposed development on MLK and Estes Drive (See the submitted application for Chartwell, formerly Carolina Flats). No matter how large this particular group gets, it isn’t including of all who are impacted by proposed development in this area and is IS a self-selected group.

    In order to have fair elections for steering team membership, the neighborhoods would need to be defined to include everyone who is not in a contiguous neighborhood, each neighborhood would need to be of equal size, and these neighborhood “precincts” would have to organize, communicate candidates, their qualifications, their interests, and then each neighborhood would have to contact everyone, get votes, and then educate the representative as to how to represent the larger group. This is a large, time-consuming, unwieldy task, and to do this in time for the current development application to be processed would be difficult, indeed.

    The alternative process, preferred by the staff, is to use the existing application process for the advisory commissions (transportation, bike-ped, greenways, parks & rec, etc..). On these applications, the citizen indicates interest to serve and writes a short reason why he/she feels a good candidate to serve. The commission chairs and the Council review the candidates and appoint memebrship. This is a vetting/application process that already exists.

    The neighbor/resident argument is that, by using this, as specified in the 2020 Plan, no longer a community/neighborhood review process if it has political input. The problem with this argument is just that, because the community/neighbors are not fairly organized and are not fairly elected, the democratic integrity of the process is compromised.

    Some other concerns that should be considered about the steering group selection process: 1. Is the process repeatable? 2. What happens when a member has to leave service? 3. Is this a process that could be repeated sometime in the future, as the plan needs updating, for 2030 or 2040? A poorly organized neighborhood has to retain its election structure for future use.

    My view is that, while it would be great for every neighborhood to have an organization, any organization held together by a few dedicated volunteers will dissolve as soon someone moves away. It is very difficult to sustain an organization so it is ready to serve politically on an occasional basis. For that reason, I think we are all smarter to use an existing application and appointment process that is always going to be there.

    Perhaps, those neighborhoods that are completely organized could encourage certain people to apply to this commission application process after they have their own discussions on candicacy?

    I am from a neighborhood with several smart and active people involved in the current process (some who are in the MLK-Estes Planning group I mentioned above, and some, like myself, who are not.) Not all of us are on the same page about solving development and planning problems.

    If we want a steering group that works on the tough issues, it needs to represent all interests. You can’t come to any good solutions by shutting anyone out of the process. Unresolved bad feelings alway have a way of growing back, like grass through the asphalt on the disowned sidewalk between Somerset and MLK.—SKM

  2. Sarah McIntee says:

    I think the survey was an effort to get input from the interested parties that prefer the morning meetings, especially since the evening people forced a reschedule to a non-morning time at the meeting a few days ago. Assuming that the staff do not normally work on weekends, they got the survey up fairly expediciously. I think that the town staff is trying to get input from everyone. You also need to keep in mind that many people were not involved with the meetings over the summer, and this early group was a self-selected group that was not completely representational. Just like we don’t want staff and council to be getting extra ear time, like on group extended plane trips from developers (!), we don’t want self-selected neighbors getting extra ear time. They was input and information to come in when it is expected, and when they can appropriately tabulate the democratic response. I will see you at the meeting tomorrow?

  3. Why is this survey being held before tomorrow’s meeting?

    Tomorrow’s meeting was meant to discuss the parameters used but the survey pre-selects a number of choices and excludes others that have already been under discussion by the 15 neighborhood representatives and staff.

    Why wasn’t this left up to the community? Why undercut the discussions we held with staff this summer? Why not collect the questions and parameters used for the steering committee composition and selection at tomorrow’s meeting and then publish a survey to validate them with the wider community?

    Why is it that Town staff continue to work to undercut community input?

    Staff sought the advice of the MLK/Estes neighborhoods and have met with them throughout the summer to collaboratively create a vital community outreach process. Creating this survey and launching it prior to the very meeting which was to discuss this issue is quite disappointing.

    We’re once again seeing a staff driven process which excludes VITAL community input.

    If Council and staff aren’t interested in the 15 neighborhoods input, please let the many folks who have spent hours on this issue already. I don’t want to invest hundreds of more hours in a process that is already decided or to validate it as an open, community-based process when it clearly isn’t.

    • Scott Radway says:

      Will, we both have enough experience in community planning and involvement processes to know that not all interested persons can attend all meetings. I currently live in one of the neighborhoods in the study area (for which no map has yet been produced) and would have attended last week, but missed the meeting for medical reasons. I may not make the meeting on Wednesday – as the time change posted with short notice now conflicts with another long standing commitment. I presume that many others with opinions about who, how many, what role and “Steering Committee” name items will also not be able to attend in person. SO – I think this pre meeting survey helps expand citizen participation, not limit it to only those who can attend. I think you are reading way too much into the purpose of the survey. It is a tool to allow those who can not make the meeting, but who have a desire to participate, to be part of the process. Generally, I think that you believe that more information and ideas from more people is a good idea. Why do you present the collection of more ideas from more people via this survey to be a bad idea? Are the decisions to be made only by the 14 people that can crowd into the HR Training Room? We agree on a lot of matters, but apparently not this time about seeking broader rather than narrower ideas and opinions for this study.

      • Scott, that’s my point. That if the Town had waited to craft the survey AFTER the meeting it would’ve included more data points to check, suggestions on language to use and new areas to cover. Of course, the Town could send out a new survey which includes those missing elements and modified language but, in my experience, it’s hard enough getting input as it is and we should concentrate on getting the most bang for our buck by asking the most inclusive list possible from the beginning.

        That said, there are omissions on the current survey which don’t make sense given the discussions that occurred over the summer. Why is that?

  4. Donna Bell says:

    You are only giving two days for people to respond. That seems kind of a short timeline. Especially if you want people to respond as well as encourage others to participate.

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