Leading from the Left

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Energy Plan for Earth Day

With Earth Day approaching (Saturday), I decided now would be a good time to release my energy proposal. With energy costs continuing to climb and continued worries about air quality and climate change, it seems appropriate that all of us--individuals, units of government, businesses--need to evaluate energy usage. We're all going to have to seek ways to reduce costs, create effeciency, and use more renewable energy rather than non-renewable sources.

Here's my Energy Proposal....

Orange County Energy Policy

Vision. Orange County can do our share to reduce dependence on foreign oil, to reduce air pollution, and to reduce the emission of green house gases that contribute to global climate change. While we are a relatively small county, we are looked to for leadership in North Carolina. By taking a lead on energy issues, Orange County once again can set a high bar.

Goals. This proposal has three goals.

A. Reduce cost to the tax payer by reducing the county’s energy consumption
B. Reduce emissions of air pollutants such as green house gases
C. Reduce our dependency on foreign oil

Proposal. For the county to develop a comprehensive energy policy that addresses conservation, cost savings and reduction of emissions. An energy plan should address issues such as efficient building standards, using renewable fuels such as bio-diesel, capturing methane gas at the landfill for use as an energy source, and creating more access to public transit throughout the county.

Fighting Global Warming

Orange County can do our part and take the lead in North Carolina in the fight against global warming. We have a responsibility to leave our world a better place for future generations. Part of this commitment is doing our part to minimize our impact on global climate change. With our national leaders failing to take action, we must act locally. Here are some actions we can take at the county level:

∑ Establish official county goals to monitor and exceed the Kyoto standards for per-person carbon emissions by 2012
∑ Launch a county-wide public awareness campaign to reduce personal and business energy use via such steps as purchasing efficient lighting and appliances
∑ Mandate that new county vehicles utilize hybrid, flex-fuel, or other green technologies
∑ Work with employers in Orange County to provide incentives for employee car- and van-pooling, public transit use, and telecommuting
∑ Partner with local biodiesel manufacturers/co-ops (such as Piedmont Biofuels) to generate enough biodiesel to operate public vehicles in the county like school and public transit buses

Energy Sustainability

One of the great challenges of the 21st Century will be curbing our appetite for many of the earth’s limited natural resources. Oil. Natural gas. Even clean water. All are threatened by excess consumption if we do not take appropriate actions toward a sustainable future. Other energy resources, such as coal, are still plentiful but have deleterious effects on the health of our environment and ourselves. To make matters worse, many of the largest reserves of oil and natural gas left in the world are under the control of some of the worst abusers of human rights. The global community’s addiction to these resources will only serve to profit and strengthen the leaders of such places as Iran, Syria, and the Sudan. While this is a global problem, it is not without local solutions, and we in Orange County can do our part through a combination of conservation and renewable energy:

∑ Increase pedestrian and cyclist travel opportunities by planning walkable communities, expanding our greenway system, adding more bike lanes, and bridging gaps in sidewalks
∑ Establish standards for new or renovated homes that conform to LEED or other efficiency standards or incorporate renewable energy technologies such as solar cells, concentrating solar power, wind turbines, etc.
∑ Adopt LEED-NC v2.2 building standard for new public buildings
∑ Regulate heating and cooling settings in government buildings to lower energy use and costs
∑ Closely monitor utility bills of government buildings
∑ Install efficient lighting in government buildings
∑ Partner with non-profit organizations such as NC GreenPower to promote public and private investment in renewable energy projects within North Carolina.
∑ Pursue practical methods for utilizing methane gas from the Orange County Landfill to generate electricity

Monday, April 17, 2006

More on equity

Last night, I posted on equity between our two school systems and gave a few examples of the disparities that currently exists.

I grew up in an education family. I'm the son of a school teacher and three of my four grandparents were school teachers. To top it off, my only uncle and only aunt are educators.

Because of that upbringing, I believe deeply that we have an obligation to ensure that every child in our county has access to the resources that he or she needs--regardless of whether the child lives in the northern part of the county or the south, whether she's black, white, or latino, and regardless of socio-economic status.

I think it's time we move beyond the divisive debate on merger and focus on the real issue: Are schoolchildren getting the resources they need? If there are gaps, where do they exists and how do we correct problems?

Here's my goal: increase the per pupil spending in the county system until it matches the city schools.

Closing the gap will take years. The gaps wasn't created over night and won't be closed over night either. But we owe it to the schoolchildren to fund both systems adequately.

Equity, what it means for the kids

I've been asked nearly every day on the campaign trail about school merger and equitable funding for the schools. With regard to equity, there is a consistent theme I keep hearing from voters in the southern part of the county. They say things like "Their schools (Orange County Schools) are 4th in the state? Is equity really a problem? Why should I care about equity?"

I usually answer by saying something along the lines of "We're ONE county, a very wealthy county at that. It's important that all kids, whether they live in the north or south, get as high quality an education as we can possibly afford." Or sometimes I say, "Well, NC schools are ranked 42nd in the nation. Being ranked 4th in a state that is ranked that low isn't good enough for Orange County.

That 4th place ranking is a statistic. What lies underneath that statistic? When OCS parent talk about inequity, what do they mean?

After talking to a Carrboro resident who stopped me to talk about the schools as I was putting up campaign yard signs Saturday morning, it occured to me that there are many facts that have been lost in the fog of the merger discussions. Here are a few facts that highlight why we need to focus on resolving equity issues between our two school systems.

¸ Stanback middle school has no science labs. The children study science from textbooks and worksheets.
¸ The county schools do not have AVID, unlike Chapel Hill Carrboro schools. AVID is a program that helps some African-American kids improve achievement.
¸ Orange County Schools have 1 ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) for 4 schools. I've been told the latino population at Grady Brown Elementary school more than doubled this school year, now standing at around 70 students.

I suspect few people really know the specifics about the differences in resources between our two school systems. In the coming days, time permitting, I will be highlighting more of the differences between our two schools systems. The more information you have, as a voter, the better decisions you'll make.

I believe our two school systems should receive roughly equitable resources, and if elected to the Board of County Commissioners I will work to see that happens.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sierra Club Endorsement!!

I just learned that I have recieved the Sierra Club endorsement. Needless to say, I am delighted to have the confidence of the men and women who volunteer their time to work on environmental issues.

The text of the Sierra Club endorsement is below.


Sierra Club Announces Orange County Endorsees

The North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club is proud to announce its endorsees in the 2006 Orange County Commissioner race. The endorsed candidates are Mike Nelson, Alice Gordon, and Barry Jacobs. We also would like to express our support short of an endorsement for Fred Battle.
During his ten years as mayor of Carrboro, Mike Nelson compiled a strong record on the environment. His accomplishments included the protection of the Adams Tract, the purchase of land along the Bolin Creek corridor, and the passage of the small area plan which at the time was the most environmentally restrictive land use plan in the state. Professionally he is the Director of Government Relations for the Conservation Council of North Carolina. His top priorities if elected include promoting regional transportation, protecting creeks and streams, and stopping global warming.
Alice Gordon has been one of the leading environmentalists on the BOCC for the past 16 years. She was the architect of the county’s ‘Lands Legacy’ program, which has protected large amounts of land in the area. She was also a pioneer in water protection, as well as in the creation of a county Environmental and Conservation Resources Department. During her next term she is committed to the continued protection of the rural buffer, which has been at some risk of having water and sewer run into it that could open it up for larger scale development.
Barry Jacobs has had a strong environmental voting record during his two terms on the Board of County Commissioners. He saved a nature area from becoming a landfill through the creation of Little River Park and has also shown leadership on land preservation efforts like the Adams Tract and New Hope Preserve. His top priorities for the next term include improving air quality through the county land use plan, working to create an east-west bus route connecting Alamance, Orange, and Durham counties, and increasing the energy efficiency of the county’s vehicle fleet.
While less experienced on environmental issues than the other candidates we are confident that if elected Fred Battle will be a strong advocate on the issues we care about. Because he has a more limited record we can’t offer an endorsement, but we appreciate his commitment to maintaining the rural buffer and his work in reducing the use of pesticides during his time working for the town of Chapel Hill.
We strongly encourage Sierra Club members and any residents of Orange County who care about the environment to support candidates who have shown leadership on these issues in the May 2nd election. They are the best hope for a Board of County Commissioners that will make the environment a top priority during the rapid growth we are facing.

Volunteers Needed

Hey, Everybody.


The primary is just 4 weeks away, and we need volunteers!! This weekend we’ll start putting up campaign signs around the county. And later in April, campaign workers wIll be going door-to-door in neighborhoods around Orange County.

If you or someone you know can volunteer, please sign up on the website, www.electmikenelson.com. Some of you have already signed up to help, and you don’t need to do so again. And please spread the word amongst your friends and neighbors whom you think would be interested in helping.

Our volunteer tasks will generally only take 2-3 hours of your time on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Piece of cake!

Monday, April 03, 2006

watch County Commissioners meetings online?

If my home county, Onslow, can do this, then it's time for Orange to follow suit:

Commissioners meetings to be shown on Web
April 02,2006

NEWS RELEASEBeginning with Monday's Onslow County Board of Commissioners meeting, all regularly scheduled meetings of the board can be viewed live via the county's Web site.

People can watch live meetings and view archives of past meetings 24 hours a day. The archived meetings will be searchable using keywords to make it easy to quickly research and view specific topics.

There will also be a "jump to" agenda and meeting minutes allowing users to select a specific agenda item and go directly to that point in the video.

Onslow County is the first county in North Carolina to partner with Granicus Inc., based in San Francisco, which provides web streaming video services to local governments.

"The ability to view board meetings via the Internet enhances open government and provides connectivity to all county residents," said Onslow County Manager Frank Clifton.