Sunday, December 14, 2014

Impact of Redistricting on North Mecklenburg

With the dust finally settled on our national elections with the runoff in Louisiana, it is time two look forward to a new US Congress and State General Assembly.

This past election saw Republicans maintain their super majorities in both houses of the State Legislature.  They also added a Representative in the state’s Congressional House delegation in addition to winning a second US Senate seat.  That's a significant change from just a few short years ago.  In fact, North Carolina has seen one of the more dramatic changes of any state in the country as far as the party of our elected officials with lawmaking authority is concerned.  With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at how we got here.

It ultimately comes back to a national effort aimed at state-level legislative politics.

Most people who follow politics are now familiar with the political map being shown on any news show discussing the US House of Representatives – the one that shows a sea of red Republican seats with the smaller number of blue Democratic seats centered along the coasts and around a few urban centers.

That map is no accident.  It is the result of a concerted effort by Republicans over the past several years  – an effort called REDMAP or the  REDisticting MAjority Project.

REDMAP originated with the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) after the 2008 elections in preparation for the 2010 Census, and its subsequent constitutionally required redistricting.  The goal was to gain control of more state legislatures and influence the redistricting process across the country to draw more Republican-friendly districts at the State and Congressional levels.

The REDMAP effort was greatly enhanced by th.e Obamacare fueled Tea Party wave that swept the country during the 2010 election season.  The end result for North Carolina was the first Republican controlled Legislature in 140 years.  Redistricting ensued, and the past two Federal and State election cycles have occurred under the new districts.

The results?  The state’s Congressional delegation has moved from 8 – 5 favoring
the Democrats going into the 2010 elections to 10 – 3 favoring the Republicans after the 2014 cycle.  Over these same cycles, Republicans have secured election-tested, veto-proof super majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

For its intended purpose, REDMAP cannot be considered anything but an unmitigated success for the GOP here in North Carolina.

So, how has this impacted voters choices here in North Mecklenburg?  Here, the results have been more mixed.

On the Congressional level, the NC 9th has the dubious distinction of being one of 77 House districts nationwide (and the only one in North Carolina) where one party ran unopposed in 2014.  Between the heavy Republican slant of the district, and Congressman Robert Pittenger’s proven willingness to spend whatever it takes to win an election, the odds of winning were too long for any challenger to step into the fray.

At the State level however, things remain fairly competitive.  North Mecklenburg has parts of two NC House Districts and one NC Senate district.  While Senator Jeff Tarte (R) of Cornelius has the NC Senate 41 district fairly well wrapped up, on the House side things are much tighter.   Those seats are NC House 92 held by Rep Charles Jeter (R) of Huntersville and NC House 98 to be held by newly elected Rep John Bradford (R) of Cornelius.

According to the latest Civitas Institute rankings of partisanship in legislative districts, NC-92 was the only district in the state won by a Republican in a Democratic leaning district.  The district has a 2012 Civitas Partisan Index (CPI) rating of D+1.  Jeter won the district this year with 52.5% of the vote – an increase over his margin of victory in 2012 at 51.4%.

In NC House 98, Bradford did win Speaker Thom Tillis’s old seat by a fairly wide margin – gaining 55% of the vote.  That slightly outpaced the CVI rating for this district of R+9.  However, that high CVI rating should not be take as an indication this district is the result of gerrymandering.  It is actually down from the 2011 rating of R+11.

In fact all of the districts representing North Mecklenburg have seen decreases in the Republican-leaning nature of their districts.  Another analysis done by Professor Michael Bitzer of Catawba College shows more Mecklenburg precincts outside of Ccarlotte becoming more “blue” or at least less "red" in recent years.

As an example, the precinct around Davidson College used to be the only blue precinct in the whole North Mecklenburg area.  Between 2008 and 2012, other blue precincts joined NC-98 on its southern edge in North Charlotte.   Thus, its reduced CVI rating.

So, what does all this mean to you the voter?

It means that local voters should continue to hold their elected representatives accountable.  Particularly, at the State Legislative level they still have incentive to listen.

As the Mecklenburg electorate continues to change, their jobs in Raleigh will depend on it.

This post originally appeared in last week's Herald Weekly

Friday, December 5, 2014

Davidson Planning Ordinance Rewrite - Round 2

Davidson’s November monthly Town Board meeting saw one of the more spirited public hearings in recent memory.  Like a stunned boxer taking a flurry of punches in the opening round, the Town Board and Town Staff did not respond in real-time to citizen complaints about proposed changes to the town’s planning ordinance.  Per the town's own notes on the meeting fully 16 of 19 commenters opposed some aspect of what the town planners propose changing.

The public hearing is scheduled to continue at next week’s monthly meeting on December 9th, and it will be interesting to see if the Town comes out with a different strategy for Round 2.

The planning ordinance rewrite effort has gone on for two years already, and it’s costs have been adding up.

Initially, the Town brought in the Lawrence Group – a national planning and design firm whose local office was founded with the help of Davidson’s Assistant Town Manager, Dawn Blobaum, back in the 1990’s before she jumped from the private sector over to town hall.  The firm helped with an assessment and some of the initial work to the tune of roughly $75,000 for its efforts.

However, that represents just a small percentage of the overall cost.  As the project drug on, Town staff has taken direct control of the effort – spending an untold number of hours on the project.  A cost for all of that work was not available from the Town.

Finally, in this year’s budget there is an additional $25,000 for the Town Attorney, Rick Kline, to review the changes.  This covers his time spent in this fiscal year as well as back billing for work done last fiscal year.  It is a cost over and above the $50,000 budgeted annually for Mr Kline’s part-time work as Town Attorney

It is fair to say that a lot of time and expense has gone into the project, and to the town’s credit they have tried to get public input.  Part of the reason the first hearing was so well attended is that the Town spent $1300 sending 1400 letters to every household in the community impacted by the plan’s various rezonings.  It is unfortunate that after all that time and effort, the proposals produced seem to be taking the town in the wrong direction according to many.  It is a direction most residents and visitors to Davidson will be very surprised to see.

Some of the changes to the current ordinance will allow by-right development that might shock those who cherish Davidson’s small-town charm.  Normally, under the current rules these types of changes would have to go through a rezoning or some other action that would require specific approval – often from the Town Board – for changes of use for a given property.  If the proposed changes pass, that may not always occur.  Here are just a few examples that might surprise people:

1. The new Village Edge zoning designation allows 4-story buildings in town on certain specifically designated properties.  Several of these these are on or just off Main Street.  Does this sound like what you think if when you think of “Davidson”?

2. Retail would be allowed in the Village Infill area on any corner lot.  This will mix commercial uses into neighborhoods that have always been purely residential.  How would you like a bar or restaurant next door, or any other storefront for that matter replacing your neighbor’s front porch?

3. Developers will have more “offsite” options for meeting their affordable housing requirement.  In practice, this will allow high-end developments to potentially push their affordable housing requirement into other neighborhoods.  Does that sound like it's what middle-class residents want who already live in the town’s more moderately priced communities?

As was mentioned by Commissioner Graham after the hearing paused November 11th, the proposed changes impact more than just the 1400 property owners directly impacted by the rezonings.  Everyone who lives in Davidson will be impacted by these changes in some way.

Davidson officials were given a lot to think about at the November meeting.  Hopefully, they will come back with better answers than they did in Round 1, and hopefully they will once again  have a full house to hear them.

The bell rings for Round 2 at 6 PM on Tuesday December 9th at Davidson Town Hall.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Immigration Trap

There has been a lot of whaling and gnashing of teeth by Republicans over the President's executive order last week regarding immigration policy.  Cries of "amnesty!" have been flying around to get the conservative base riled up, and by all accounts it's working.  Proposed responses from Republicans range from shutting down the government, stopping implementation of the executive order through budget restrictions, to the ever present threat of legal action up to and including threats of impeachment.

The real question is would any of those responses work without giving the President exactly what he wants - relevance.

Make no mistake about it, the last round if elections dealt a damaging blow to President Obama and the Democratic Party across the board.  There is now little-to-no chance the Democrats regain the US House until after the next Census, and even that would depend on a wave election in 2020 comparable to the Tea Party wave of 2010 to give Democrats more control over redistricting.  The US Senate is not that much better for the Democrats either.  This article from lays it out.  Basically, with the Conservative Democrat being a dying breed and with there being 25 dependably Red states and only 11 dependably Blue states, the polarization of the electorate and the design of the Senate will conspire against the Democrats in the future.

With that type of reality staring down on the President and his party, what is the best thing for him to do to remain relevant?  Drag the Republicans into a nasty fight over a hot button issue like immigration and hope they overreach.

If Republicans want to avoid that and actually accomplish something, the path forward is relatively simple.  However, it would require the type of political courage the Republican Party leadership has not shown in the past, and there is probably little reason to expect it now.

Here's the simple two step plan.

1.  Each and every Republican candidate for President in 2016 needs to clearly state that on day one of their presidency, the executive order signed by Obama will be repealed and enforcement will begin.

2.  Rather than attempting to attack the legality of the President's executive order, Republicans should accept the legal underpinnings of it and then use that same logic to force its undoing.

Here is why this would work.  It is doable, and it is doable quickly.

Each Republican presidential candidate can unequivocally state their intentions to undo President Obama's executive order, and the mere possibility of a Republican win in 2016 which might undo any programs that start from Obama's order would certainly slow down its implementation and acceptance.

The new Congress could quickly pass a bill that would go to the heart of the legal argument behind Obama's executive order.  All they have to do is pass a clean budget bill using reconciliation in the Senate if necessary to double the funding/capacity of the existing immigration enforcement system.

The logic behin the President's order is this.

As long as the immigration enforcement machinery is operating at capacity, the President is within his authority to prioritize who will be pursued for deportation.  The system currently can only process about 400,000 deportations a year. The administration's stance is that they have been hitting that number for the past few years, so now they are simply defining a large category of people they won't pursue.  This is legal as long as the system continues to operate at capacity.

Republicans should fund doubling the system's capacity in a clean budget bill.  Send it to President Obama and let him veto it if he wants.  At the minimum it exposes his action for what it really is - a backdoor amnesty.  It also would shoot a giant hole in the legal basis for his action that might undo it.  If he signs it, the Republicans would get what they "say" they have wanted all along - tougher enforcement.

But that takes us back to the political courage issue with Republican leadership.  No serious person could believe they truly want tougher immigration enforcement.  They have had chances before and done nothing.  There is simply to much campaign money flowing from organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce which enjoys the cheap labor lax immigration enforcement allows to believe Republican leadership would ever bite the hand that feeds it.

And that may actually be the biggest problem with ever achieving true and effective immigration reform.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Playing Three Card Monte on Public-Private Partnerships for Trains

Three weeks ago we told readers about the effort by the Metropolitan Transit Commission to gain support for its upcoming legislative agenda in Raleigh. That agenda included requests for three items:

1. Legislative permission to use Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) to finance transit projects.
2. Permission to access certain Federal loan programs for transit projects.
3. Repeal of the sunset provision for existing Special Assessment District (SAD) legislation.

These items had all been presented as critical to financing future transit line development including the stalled Red Line commuter rail project.  We raised concerns about why the MTC was pushing this along so quickly - asking local commissioners to approve supporting resolutions by it's November 19th meeting.  Of particular concern was the idea of using P3s as a mechanism to finance rail development.  With all of the controversy around the P3 project for the I77 HOT Lanes, it seemed this was being rushed along too fast for the public interest.

Then something unusual happened at Davidson's board meeting on Tuesday November 11th when the resolution was to be discussed.  Two of the three critical items disappeared - the P3 and Federal loan program requests had been removed.  Only the request to remove the SAD sunset provision remained.

Davidson's Board unanimously approved the slimmed down resolution with little debate.  On Monday of this week the Huntersville and Cornelius Boards passed the same resolution 4-2 and 4-1 respectively.

So, the obvious question...

"Why was the resolution trimmed to just one item?  Specifically, how did the controversial P3 provision disappear?"

In a November 6th email on behalf of CATS CEO, Carolyn Flowers, to MTC members, Flowers had this to say regarding the authorization to use P3s to finance transit projects:

"With respect to the public private partnership (P3) position, legislation enacted in the 2013 regular session, SL 2013-401 established a statutory framework for local governments to enter into P3 arrangements. Initially, CATS staff believed the 2013-401 framework was of limited use in implementing 2030 Plan projects and we started considering a new framework.  Over time, staff understanding of what types of P3 arrangements would be utilized for 2030 Plan projects evolved to the point where it is believed SL 2013-401 will provide a sufficient framework. For this reason, the proposed public-private partnership position may be removed from the agenda."

In response to an emailed question regarding this change, Flowers said “outside counsel recently confirmed that 2013-401 can be used for any capital project, including transit infrastructure projects”.  Flowers confirmed the outside counsel was law firm Parker Poe.

Parker Poe has a long history of connections to Charlotte transportation issues.  One of its partners, Anthony Fox (no relation to US Transportation Secretary and former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx) served on Charlotte's "Committee of 21" regarding local road needs.  He was also appointed by Charlotte to the proposed new Charlotte Douglas Airport commission.  Parker Poe is also the same firm where former long-time Charlotte City Attorney, Mac McCarley, went after leaving his job with the City.

Prior to receiving input from outside attorneys, there was good reason for CATS staff to not think this session law was applicable to building rail lines.  SL 2013-401 was spawned by House Bill H857.  When H857 was written, it was not intended to create law to be applied for transportation projects.  This was confirmed by Rep. DeanArp (R-Union) who was one of  H857's primary sponsors in the General Assembly.

In fact, one of the “whereas” clauses in H857 specifically states it does not impact projects administered by NCDOT, and NCDOT helps administer rail projects where State money is involved.  However, the whereas clauses of a bill only describe the intent of the bill.  They do not become part of the law itself.  H857 was intended for public buildings, not transportation infrastructure.  Somewhat ironically, according to Rep Arp it was meant to bring more transparency into the use of P3s, but he agreed in this case is sounded like the law generated from his bill was being used beyond its original intent.

In this case, the legal eagles in CATS’s employ seem to be sacrificing the spirit of the law by following the letter of the law.  For CATS and the MTC it is much easier to claim they have the authority they need, rather than going through the messy process of actually being granted that authority.  In doing so, the public is once again deprived of participating in the discussion.  As importantly, if this position stands, the Republican-led General Assembly would not have to vote on allowing CATS to use P3s for rail transit financing - bypassing an opportunity for more legislative oversight.

Regardless of how you feel about rail transit in general or the proposed Red Line specifically, we should expect more from our government agencies than a game of three cardmonte using legal loopholes to get what they want.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bradford neighborhood delivers scathing public hearing comments on affordable housing implementation.

We've obtained a copy of the comments delivered by the Bradford HOA president at the public hearing on the proposed planning ordinance changes.  Posting.them here for anyone who wants to review.  Does your neighborhood have similar issues?

Regardless, it was great to see citizens being active in their community.  We need more.of that.  Comments begin below..

Public Comment Regarding Davidson’s Affordable Housing Ordinance
Delivered to Davidson Town Commissioners on Novemb!?er 11, 2014

My name is Juliet Bowden, and I am here with residents of Bradford to share our concerns related the Town’s Affordable Housing Ordinance and its implementation.
Our neighborhood has endured 6 years of troubled history with the Affordable Housing Ordinance, and the Town’s implementation of it.

There has recently been much discussion and focus on the policy merits of providing affordable housing. And there is also much focus and discussion on the impacts of such policies on developers. However, there is rarely discussion regarding the real impact of such policies on the neighborhoods subject to the ordinance. Neighborhoods, mind you, that consist of tax-paying Davidson residents like those in Bradford who ironically have had the least voice in the matter, yet have been significantly negatively impacted.

This is partly because of the stigma associated with speaking out against affordable housing. This is also because neighborhoods like ours have largely been cast aside as bystanders to business dealings between the town and the developer. Bystanders who can suffer economic damage as a result of those dealings between the town and the developer.

So as not to go down that path of stigma and social misunderstandings, we would simply like to let the facts from our experience speak for themselves to hopefully inform meaningful changes to both the ordinance as well as the manner in which the Town implements the ordinance.

Bradford’s First Experience with Davidson’s Affordable Housing Ordinance

In early 2008 the developer started building the first of three affordable homes in Bradford up at the front of the neighborhood near the River Run entrance.
In October of that same year, Bradford residents discovered that the developer had worked with the town to revise and develop additional Affordable Housing units.
This plan entailed consolidating three adjoining single family lots and constructing there a 10 unit complex.
At the time, many of the residents who had purchased homes in the neighborhood were unaware of the material fact that more than 3 were required to be built.
Since this was drastically different from the original plan for the subdivision, residents were taken aback that no input was sought in advance of this revised proposal.
It was puzzling how just several months prior the Town had required a charrette for a proposed pool in the neighborhood, but did not seek residents’ input on significant changes to the developers Affordable Housing plan or land usage in Bradford until the residents had discovered it was in the works and pressed the issue.
As a result of pressing the issue, residents held a meeting with Town staff in which residents were invited to voice their concerns. Town Manager Lemon Brice, then Town Planner Kris Krider and Cindy Reid were present. The developer was also invited, but did not attend. Around 40 – 50 Bradford residents did attended that meeting.
At this meeting, residents brought up valid issues around building a 10 unit building in Bradford, but were instead treated with disrespect and called “NIMBYs” (not in my back yard) by the Town staff.
If there was anything constructive that came out of this episode, it was to be Bradford’ case against a 10-unit structure and building units for the lowest AMI in rural areas. Residents brought to light with the Town the significant issues such as density versus dispersal of units, access to public transportation and public services, parking issues, access for emergency vehicles and the apparent mixed messages from the Town regarding the importance of transparency and public input. The issues brought forth by residents at that meeting were dismissed by the Town and residents were told, as they have always been told, that the developer has to fulfill his obligation and it’s his legal right to do it this way.
However, Bradford just learned this year from the Town that the 10-unit building could not have been built anyway because the deed restrictions filed in 2008 broke with Bradford’s covenants which the homeowners brought to the Town’s attention back in 2009 – another interesting facet of this saga that calls into question concerns over the Town’s wherewithal to implement the ordinance.

Second Experience with Davidson’s Affordable Housing Ordinance

In 2008 the Bradford developer attempted to build three homes for the Affordable Housing Program.
The first of these homes was purchased for $203,500 within the Affordable Housing Program by a family who works in Davidson. A month after moving in, a mechanics lean was placed on the property because the developer had not paid his sub-contractors.
The other two of these three affordable homes were not finished by the developer, foreclosed on, and sat unfinished with building materials laying on the property among weeds and debris until they were finished and sold in 2011 and 2012.
One of the foreclosed affordable homes was purchased by the Town in 2011 and sold to an Affordable Housing homeowner for $120,000 – although identical the home that had sold for $203,500 under the Affordable Housing Program.
The other foreclosed home was released from the Affordable Housing Program and was sold by the bank for $112,000 and is now for sale on Craig’s list for $225,000.
This was the first of a few significant Affordable Housing failures that Bradford residents suffered from.
Third Experience with Davidson’s Affordable Housing and Other Ordinances
After attempting to build three affordable homes in Bradford, coupled with the failing housing market, the developer packed up in 2010 and called it quits. Leaving the 75 residents of Bradford with a string of bills and unfinished work that required the homeowners to take up special assessments and raise dues in an effort to pay for approximately $83,000 of developer debt: $22,000 Duke Power contract, the electricity bill, the developer’s annual contribution of $11,000 per year for mowing his lots and common areas, and in 2012 Bradford Homeowners received a foreclosure notice and tax bills totaling $17,000 for the back taxes the developer owed on the common areas which coincidentally the developer deeded to us with the assistance of his attorney Rick Kline.
What do these have to do with affordable housing? This is evidence of a ripple effect that can occur when a poorly conceived and poorly implemented ordinance places a burden on both the Town and the developer – a burden that is however born to a great extent not by the Town nor the developer, but passed on to the residents who have had little say or representation in the matters.
In addition, the Town endeavored to reduce its losses in Bradford by requiring the developer to sign an agreement to deposit $25,000 for each lot sold into an escrow account for street repairs. Once again, the Town with its attorney Mr. Kline along with the developer’s attorney Mr. Kline managed to mitigate risks for the developer and town, but passed the developer’s debt for the residents of Bradford to shoulder. What has recently come to bare once more in Bradford are the repairs to the streets that satisfy the developer’s obligation and satisfy the Town’s requirements, but ultimately residents shoulder the burden of this deal. This is just one more debacle that has left residents significantly distressed over the appearance of our streets.
Take a look at the work that was recently completed on the streets in Bradford. It reflects and underscores our statements that the Town’s implementation of its ordinances can cause additional harm to a community.

Lessons Learned from Experience

We know that a one-size-fits all approach does not work as each neighborhood has different attributes that affect the feasibility of affordable housing, such as proximity to public infrastructure, developer wherewithal, etc.

We know that implementation is just as important as what’s written in the ordinance.

We know from experience that developers will knowingly or unknowingly pass an unfair economic burden of compliance onto residents.

We know that it is unacceptable to have a continuing lack of transparency into agreements between developers and the Town and selective adherence to policies aimed at seeking citizen input, etc.

Bradford residents learned a lot about the ordinance over the past 6 years and learned a lot about their own neighborhood. We know that while we may not meet the AMI housing perfectly, in the spirit of the Town’s mission and the Affordable Housing Ordinance, Bradford is the kind community that Davidson seeks to encourage with its Ordinance. We have economic diversity, ethnic diversity, single family homes, town homes, garage apartments and homes that a lot of people would consider affordable.


We need relief. We’re not asking for relief for the developer. We, the residents who have been harmed the most by the administration of the Ordinance, are the ones who need the relief. We have naively assumed that a town of our size, a town where the mission statement and ordinances are written to promote the wellbeing of its citizenry, would do the hard and necessary work to ensure that its citizens are not mishandled and crushed in the process of achieving those goals.

We ask for the sake of Bradford that the town stop instituting any changes to Bradford using the same attorney as the developer’s attorney as we know this to be unfair to the homeowners of Bradford.

We know that our difficulties are not what was intended when these ordinances were written, but the Commissioners need to take a very hard look at not just the ordinances themselves, but how staff go about implementing them. We request that the Commissioners take a step back and give the process of creating ordinances that support the ideals of our community more time and public input.

Lastly – We believe that a community that makes provisions for and cares the smallest, weakest and most vulnerable of its citizens is one worth supporting and living in.

Thank you.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is Davidson's mandatory affordable housing ordinance on the ropes?

The affordable housing ordinance in the Town of Davidson has been taking punches from all sides recently.  As one of only three mandatory affordable housing ordinances in North Carolina (the others being in Manteo an Chapel Hill), the relatively small program has withstood several controversies over the years while consuming an outsized amount of attention at Davidson Town Hall.

The program currently includes just 56 for sale units and a small number of rentals.  However, according to data provided by the Town earlier this year as many as a third of the for sale units have been sold to individuals who did not strictly qualify.  That means the houses sold with the required deed restrictions but not necessarily to owners who were below the maximum income thresholds - somewhat limiting the program’s impact on its intended target population.

Some other examples of past controversy surrounding the program include:

- The 2007 land swap between local developer Lawrence Kimbrough and the Town in exchange for an exemption from the ordinance for his high-end development off of Pine Road.  At the time, another local developer, Rodney Graham, now a Davidson Commissioner, spoke out and strongly questioned the validity of the transaction.  Graham is a strong supporter of affordable housing, but his past concerns show that even supporters see potential issues with how the ordinance has been implemented.

- In 2011, the Town attempted to buy two houses built for the program in the Bradford neighborhood after they went into foreclosure.  The move occurred after a closed session of the Board which caused concern in the town regarding transparency.  Ultimately, only one of the homes was purchased by the town, and the other was bought by a private investor.

- In a lesser known event in 2012, the town stepped in to help a small number of affordable housing owners with appeals after the most recent county revaluation when their homes were valued at more than they could legally be sold for under the ordinance’s strict resale requirements.

These events and others have led some to question the fairness of how the town administers the program.  Those simmering questions finally boiled over recently with a lawsuit filed by two local developers questioning the validity of the ordinance under NC state law and during a public hearing Tuesday night regarding the town’s Planning Ordinance re-write which includes extensive changes to the Affordable Housing rules.

Davidson has been down the litigation path before over its development policies, and the results have not usually been to the town’s favor.  After spending Town resources defending policies where it has overreached, Davidson was forced to settle past lawsuits over the Summers Walk and Davidson East developments.  The Summers Walk lawsuit eventually led to the repeal of the town Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and was a precursor to the current lawsuit involving Affordable Housing

What is new to this affordable housing discussion is what happened Tuesday night – public pushback from Davidson citizens.

Several members of the Bradford neighborhood and it's HOA Board attended the public hearing to make clear their concerns with how the affordable housing program has affected their community.  Bradford HOA President, Juliet Bowden, delivered a blistering 10 minute speech relaying the overall history of the neighborhood and the issues it has had with the Town’s continuously changing story on how affordable housing will be implemented.  Much of those concerns center around the plan to consolidate program units into a 10 unit apartment building.   A plan that was a surprise to neighborhood residents.

One of the highlights of her speech was when she repeatedly mentioned that long-time Davidson Town Attorney, Rick Kline, has also served as the attorney for the neighborhood’s developer.  “Uncomfortable” is the word that comes to mind.  The shaking heads from audience members who were not Bradford residents tells you what many people thought about that situation.

Ms Bowden’s comments were followed by the HOA’s Treasurer, Ron Sewell.  After mentioning that some were interested in pursuing legal action to get relief for the neighborhood, Mr Sewell invoked the “Davidson Way” of talking things out as the much preferred option.  He also asked for a moratorium on building affordable housing in some of the impacted neighborhoods until that can be done.

Is mandatory affordable housing on the ropes in Davidson?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  One thing for sure is that it certainly does have a fight on its hands.

Full disclosure alert, I live in the Bradford neighborhood but had no involvement preparing any of the neighborhood remarks.  However, we have attained a copy of the HOA President's comments.  Check back later today for those.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NC Supreme Court Debacle for Republicans

After last Tuesday, Republicans now securely hold all the levers of power in the state - election tested super majorities in both houses of the Legislature, the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor offices, both US Senate seats and 10 of 13 seats in Congress.  It is becoming harder to say that NC is truly a purple state.

However, all was not rosy for the GOP last Tuesday.

Just before Election Day, we told you about the most important but least known races on your ballot - the races for NC Supreme Court.  Unfortunately, while Republicans romped across the state and the nation, these non-partisan races went heavily for the Democrats where they one all three associate justice races and flipping the seat held by Republican Robert Hunter.

As the smoke clears, it has become obvious the most likely path for Democrats to stop the conservative direction of the state comes in the courts.  That will be much easier to do in coming years.  In the next three election cycles only one of the more conservative justices will be on the ballot.

Flipping one of those seats is all that needs to be done.

Ironically, it appears that one of the voting changes pushed through by the Republican legislature may have helped cause this situation.  Check out this piece over at the The Voter Update.  They postulate that removing straight ticket voting contributed to the dramatic reduction in voter drop off for these non-partisan races this cycle.

Only about 15% of voters skipped these races this year where 25% skipped in the past.  The idea is that under straight ticket voting people thought they voted for these races when in fact they did not.  By removing the straight ticket option, people took a closer look down ballot and did not skip these races as often.

It also could be that the Democrats just did a better job of getting their message out about progressive judges.

Over at commenters relayed stories about conservative activists that would not hand out voter guides that included the judges because of who else was on the ticket.  Here locally, the County Republican party also had trouble fully staffing the polls with volunteers this cycle.  Handing out the judge information is critical on election-day.  Often, it is the only piece of information people will take.  Without it, many voters have no idea who to vote for in these judiciary races.

In a cycle where Republicans won a statewide Senate race and received a majority of the combined votes in the races for US Congress, they somehow missed out on solidifying control of the State Supreme Court.  That's a mistake that could turn out to be costly.