The morning after

Dear Friends,

Yesterday Deb McManus won the Democratic primary race in NC House District 54. We have sent her our congratulations and wishes for success in the fall general election contest.

With your help we ran a positive grassroots campaign that focused on critical issues. But we underestimated our opponent’s powerful political and financial resources. The McManus campaign raised half of its funding from large donors we didn’t have access to, including Lillian’s List (for women candidates only) and gambling proceeds from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (of which she is a registered member).  Her campaign hired a professional political consultant and had under-the-radar support from well-connected district party leaders, who shifted her get-out-the-vote campaign into high gear at the eleventh hour.

I have no regrets about our efforts.  We do not know exactly what role Amendment One played in the results, except that an unprecedented surge of voters came to the polls with no knowledge of our race or the distinct differences between the candidates.  I have never experienced anything like this before.

I am forever grateful to everyone who supported our efforts through personal contributions, volunteer hours and votes. The most rewarding aspect of the campaign was the opportunity to work with an extraordinary team of friends, and to meet so many new people, who share a commitment to strengthen our community through progressive and forward-thinking policies.

We attracted early support from a slew of current and former elected officials, and won endorsements from all the major organizations that compared both primary candidates. And we received generous support from more than 150 individuals.

We put together a talented team of volunteers who did amazing work. Together, we produced excellent materials, and executed effective strategies. We knocked on hundreds of doors and got tremendous responses.  And we had a series of inspiring neighborhood gatherings where I had a chance to listen to our supporters’ hopes, dreams and concerns.

My family made many sacrifices to support my candidacy. That starts with Dee, whose love kept me going and whose effective communication skills strengthened every message.  I’m proud of my daughter Emily Tinervin, who turned out to be a formidable campaigner. She and her husband Scott, and our granddaughters Ryan and Emery, inspired us every step of the way.  As always, among our most generous volunteers and supporters, I’m pleased to count Linda Starkweather and her husband Ned Kelly. And my parents’ values, support and love influenced this campaign throughout.

The last eight years of grassroots political campaigning have been rewarding in many ways but most of all because of the opportunity to get to know and work with so many selfless citizens. Now I look forward to quality time with family and friends, and enjoying life in this special place, while we figure out what the next adventure will be.  I am deeply honored to have taken this journey with all of you.

With warm regards,

Jeff

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Vote Tuesday: It’s going to be close

Dear Friends,

Thanks to your support, we’re now ready to win the Democratic Primary on Tuesday, Election Day.

But the race is heating up and the vote could be very close.  Your vote could make the difference between victory and defeat.  The outcome will determine whether our community and state continue to move forward, or get stuck in the past.

When we win, it will mean that all of us will have another strong progressive vote in the General Assembly, sorely needed in this challenging political climate.

That’s why I need your vote on Tuesday and I hope you will encourage your friends to vote for me as well.

I’ve spent the last 40 years standing up for our community.  I’m eager to go to Raleigh to keep working for strong schools, good jobs, clean air and water (no fracking!), and for everyone to have an equal chance for  economic prosperity.

I’m also ready to fight against the forces that are trying to turn back the rights of women, minorities and anyone who disagrees with their ideology.

I’m honored to be endorsed by every major organization that has compared the positions and track records of both candidates: The Independent, Sierra Club, State Employees and AFL-CIO. 

The Progressive Democrats of NC, said that I am “THE most progressive candidate in the race.”

Women for Jeff,  40 active local women across the district, say I’m clearly the best candidate on women’s rights and economic issues.

The local teachers group, the Chatham Association of Educators, is recommending me for my “clear knowledge of public education” and “grassroots background and fearlessness.”

And many current and former elected officials across the district say I’m the most qualified, effective and electable candidate.

With this broad base of support, and your vote, we can win on Tuesday and in November.

After the polls close on Tuesday we will gather at The City Tap in downtown Pittsboro to watch the returns, thank our supporters and celebrate what we’ve achieved together.  Please join us there.

Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you. Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday.  And please share this with your friends and lists. Every vote matters.

Thanks,

Jeff

Vote por Jeff Starkweather para la Cámara Estatal de Representantes Distrito 54 en la elección demócrata preliminar el martes, 8 de mayo

Jeff y sus nietas

Mi nombre es Jeff y soy candidato para la Cámara Estatal para representar al Condado de Chatham y parte de la ciudad de Sanford. Quiero usar mis años de experiencia como abogado y periodista para luchar por los derechos de todos los residentes de nuestro distrito, incluso los de los inmigrantes.

Excelentes Escuelas / Proyecto de ley DREAM Act: Debemos invertir en la educación pública, desde los programas pre-escolares hasta el sistema de colegios y universidades, y promover la educación bilingüe. Yo apoyo la Ley DREAM y el acceso al estudio superior para todos los estudiantes, sin importar su estado migratorio.

Buenos Trabajos: Debemos apoyar a los negocios locales y atraer buenos trabajos para todos. Los inmigrantes contribuyen a la prosperidad de nuestro estado y merecen documentos legales para obtener empleos.

Cooperación de las Agencias de la Ley: Todos merecen la protección policíaca y ser tratados con respeto por los oficiales de la ley. Nadie debería de vivir con miedo de la policía o ser discriminado a causa de su raza o etnicidad. Yo creo en el acceso a las licencias e identificaciones para todos, de este modo nuestras comunidades y carreteras serían más seguras.

Reforma Inmigratoria: Somos una nación de inmigrantes y debemos apoyar un proceso para obtener la ciudadanía para los inmigrantes que ya se encuentran en el país. Éste es un asunto que el gobierno federal tiene el deber de solucionar.

Unidos podremos restaurar una sociedad justa y próspera para todos. ¡Su voto es su voz, hágase contar! ¡Espero contar con usted el 8 de mayo!

“Yo confío en Jeff por su compromiso hacia la justicia y derechos humanos para todos. Jeff me ha apoyado mucho a mí y a nuestra comunidad. Yo votaré por él y espero que usted también” –Ilana Dubester, fundadora y previa directora de El Vínculo Hispano.

Ilana and Jeff

La votación temprana será del 19 de abril hasta el 5 de mayo, puede registrarse y votar a la misma vez. Las elecciones preliminares serán el 8 de mayo. Para mayor información en inglés, llame a la Junta de Elecciones de Chatham al 919-545-8500 o del Condado de Lee al 919-718-4646. Para español, visite a http://veyvota.yaeshora.info.

Y NC State Board of Elections, Carlos Casallas,919-715-9206, carlos.casallas@ncsbe.gov

Este anuncio fue patrocinado por Jeff Starkweather para la Cámara Estatal.

* * * * * * *

Vote for Jeff Starkweather for NC House of Representatives District 54

In the Primary Democratic Elections on Tuesday, May 8


My name is Jeff and I’m a candidate for the N.C. House to represent all of Chatham County and part of Sanford. I want to use my years of experience as an attorney and journalist to fight for the rights of everyone in our district, including immigrants.

Great Schools/ DREAM Act:  We must invest in public education from pre-school through the college and university systems, and promote bilingual education. I support the DREAM Act and in-state tuition for all students, regardless of immigration status.

Good Jobs:  We must support local businesses and attract good jobs for everyone.  Immigrants contribute to the prosperity of our state and deserve legal documents to secure employment.

Cooperative Law Enforcement: Everyone deserves police protection and to be treated respectfully by law enforcement. No one should live in fear of the police or be discriminated based on race or ethnicity. I believe in access to Drivers Licenses and IDs for everyone, this will ensure that our communities and roadways are safer.

Immigration Reform: We are a nation of immigrants and we must support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are already here. This is an issue that the Federal government must resolve.

United we can restore a just and prosperous society for all. Your vote is your voice! Make your voice count. I hope to count on you on May 8th!

“I trust Jeff because of his commitment to justice and equal opportunity for all. Jeff has helped me and our community a lot. I will vote for him and hope that you will too.” –Ilana Dubester, founder and former executive director, El Vínculo Hispano.

Early voting will be from April 19 to May 5. You can register and vote at the same time! The primary elections will be on Tuesday, May 8. For election information, contact the Chatham Board of Elections at 919-545-8500 or Lee County at 919-718-4646. For Spanish, visit http://veyvota.yaeshora.info.

And, NC State Board of Elections, Carlos Casallas, 919-715-9206, carlos.casallas@ncsbe.gov

Paid for by Jeff Starkweather for State House

What I wanted to say

I was so impressed and moved by the statements made by so many local people testifying at the fracking hearing at Fearrington last night.  They did their homework and they spoke from the heart and the head. And the message was heard loud and clear all the way to Raleigh.

I wasn’t permitted to speak at the hearing last night because I had already spoken at the Sanford hearing ( in fact, I’ve been speaking out about this at every opportunity for months). But here’s what I had planned to say.

First, I want to thank my friend Chatham Commissioner Sally Kost, who pushed and prodded DENR to have a fracking meeting in Chatham County.  And of course I want to acknowledge former House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senator Bob Atwater for assisting Sally in making this happen.

I also want to thank the DENR staff who worked so hard on this report with so little time and so little staff resources.

Finally, I want to “thank” the DENR administrator, who gave us an unexpected gift by ignoring the substance of the report, and writing the now famous conclusion from nowhere.

Despite the fact that:

●  methane gas  has been found in nearby fracking wells;

● EPA recently found fracking fluid in nearby wells;

● no significant longitudinal studies, laboratory,  or animal studies have been conducted about water contamination by fracking;

● the shale gas deposits in North Carolina are significantly shallower than those in other states whose experience DENR was relying upon;

●  the consumer protection section was blank;

● the Department of Commerce declined to conclude that fracking would have a positive impact on our economy;

● and on, on, on…

Nevertheless, the conclusion said that fracking could be conducted in North Carolina safely IF it was properly regulated.

That insulting finding clearly did not fool anyone.

The only thing the conclusion accomplished is to help energize what is clearly the largest grass-roots environmental movement in this area in a long time.

I want to thank  leaders like Elaine Chiosso of the Haw River Assembly and Colleen Kendrick of the Deep River Clean Water Society, among many others, who have spearheaded this awesome grassroots movement here in Chatham County. I feel fortunate to have been able to play a small role in this movement and to be able work with and listen to such amazingly intelligent, diligent, passionate, poignant and humorous allies.

Clearly, the case has not been made in this report or anywhere else that economic benefits of allowing fracking for shale gas in North Carolina outweigh its costs.  Given Speaker Tillis’s statement that those proposing or opposing legislation must make the “business case,” I do not see why North Carolina should waste any more time and resources to determine if fracking can be done safely with the proper regulatory regulations and resources, unless and until the economic case can be made.

Based on my experience and research over the last eight years on community economic development strategies, I sincerely doubt that this case can be made in Chatham or anywhere else in the Triassic basin.

All this was predicted when energy experts said some time back that we had reached peak oil – the point where more than half of the total supply of potential oil has been exploited. Those experts predicted that the attempts to extract hard to reach oil and gas deposits would be more expensive and  require new experimental  and risky technologies.  Does the 5-mile-deep BP oil spill ring a bell?  Recall that oil engineers and federal regulators assured us this technology was incredibly sophisticated and safe. Fracking presents the same risky story.

We need move to away from fantasy of energy technological utopias and toward a more pragmatic and sustainable energy strategy – energy conservation and alternative energy. This is where the jobs of the future are, not  in the temporary positions filled mostly by outsiders that fracking might provide.

This is the energy strategy the people of Chatham and Lee are telling me they prefer.  And like my friends Joe Hackney and Bob Atwater, I will listen primarily to people who live in these communities, not the outsiders who just want to exploit us.

–Jeff Starkweather

State fracking study does not support its conclusion

There’s a significant disconnect between state officials who claim fracking can be conducted safely in North Carolina and the evidence, or lack thereof, contained in their own recently released 350-page study of the issue.

I have just read the “N.C. Oil and Gas Study” conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Commerce.  Regarding their findings, I can only say, with apologies to Gertrude Stein, “There’s no there there.”

In fact, the page dedicated to answering the troubling question of how to protect the rights of rural landowners is actually blank, except for one sentence. It states: “This section has not yet been provided by the Department of Justice.”

Never mind that the industry has already leased a significant amount of land in Lee county without any regulatory protections in place.   The blank page in the report says it all: It’s as if someone expects answers to fall out of the sky at some convenient point in the future, apparently after the state legislature decides to make fracking legal in North Carolina.

What’s more, on the environmental safety questions, the report shows that DENR, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, does not have sufficient information at this stage about the use of this new technology to make any claims about its safety.

Yet, despite these inconvenient information gaps, the report concludes: “DENR believes hydraulic fracturing can be done safely as long as the right protections are in place.”

The problem is,  DENR did not provide the scientific evidence required to support this belief. As this report acknowledged, “[T]his analysis is constrained by the limited information available at this time.”

I thought DENR was a fact-based, not a “belief-based,” organization. EPA, with considerably more scientific resources at its disposal, will not even complete its study of just one issue regarding fracking – water quality – until 2014. Yet with $100,000 spent over a few months of internet “research,” DENR is willing to express its “belief” about areas the EPA has yet to address.

I recall House Speaker Thom Tillis responding to my question about fracking at a forum in Pittsboro, saying that he was open to hearing “the business case” for or against fracking.  Yet, the Department of Commerce, in its section of the state report, was not able to make a case one way or the other.

The report’s economics review section reads:  This analysis is not intended to indicate a position by the North Carolina Department of Commerce (Commerce) for or against…”

Maybe I’m missing something, but I thought the whole point of this study was to determine whether it was prudent for the state to authorize hydraulic fracturing, based on conclusions about likely economic, environmental and health impacts.

The problem, of course, as Commerce concluded, is: “Until the industry is more developed, and economic and multiplier relationships are better represented in the data, model outputs will not be robust.”  In other words, they do not have enough information to predict economic impacts.

At best, Commerce projected that fracking might result in an additional 858 jobs statewide after six years. That’s not much of an economic benefit considering the unknown potential economic costs. In addition to the concerns about groundwater pollution, the other unknowns not taken up in the study include impacts on competing industries (such as local farms, wineries and other tourist attractions) and state and local costs for impacts to other infrastructure (especially roads) and services (law enforcement, schools, etc.).

I appreciate the hard work DENR and Commerce employees put into this rushed and underfinanced study. But it’s an affront to all North Carolinians that the objective contents of the study were ignored or distorted to reach an unsupported conclusion.

The only real conclusion one can draw from this study is that we still don’t know enough about the true economic, environmental and health costs to authorize hydraulic fracturing for gas anywhere in North Carolina.

–Jeff Starkweather, prepared for DENR Public Hearing on Fracking Study, March 20, 2012 in Sanford.

Pittsboro urges legislature to say ‘no’ to fracking

Thumbs up to the Pittsboro Town Board for passing a resolution tonight that urges the North Carolina General Assembly to  maintain current laws saying no to fracking anywhere in our state. The Board voted 5-0 after hearing from more than half a dozen local residents, including me, who expressed concerns about the negative impacts fracking could have on Pittsboro’s environment, groundwater, public health, economic development, sustainable agriculture and unique quality of life.

Citizens testifying about the dangers of fracking included Gary Simpson from Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities, Haw Riverkeeper Elaine Chiosso,  Colleen Kendrick of the Deep River Clean Water Society, John Wegner, Barb Tessa and others.

Here’s the resolution:

“Whereas hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ is a method of extracting natural gas that involves injecting at an extremely high pressure, an undisclosed mixture of water, sand, and toxic chemicals to break up shale or other rock formations otherwise impermeable to the flow of gas;

“Whereas, North Carolina does not currently allow either horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, and the current North Carolina study of in-state shale gas resources and of the potential impacts of reversing this ban and allowing drilling and fracking to extract these resources is being undertaken without adequate funding and without adequate time;

“Now Therefore Be It Resolved that we, the members of the Town of Pittsboro Board of Commissioners urge the North Carolina General Assembly to maintain current laws in North Carolina that prevent hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the State and to take no action that would weaken these laws before it is fully demonstrated that North Carolina public health, waters, land, air, economy and qualify of life can be fully protected from impacts of allowing shale gas development in the state.”

–Jeff

Restoring the dream for all

We had an amazing turnout out at our Campaign Blast-Off Party on Sunday with old friends and new ones. Everyone was enthusiastic and generous, for which I am most grateful. Here’s a copy of my statement.

Before I begin, I’d like us to take a moment of silence to remember three amazing women who inspired many of us, who mentored me in many ways: Margie Ellison, Loyse Hurley, and Margaret Pollard. Their legacy is all around us and their energy still influences us. ..

First, I want you to know how humbling it is for me to have this opportunity to seek this State House seat, held by former Speaker of the House Joe Hackney for 32 years.

I am so appreciative of Democratic Party Chair Randy Voller and other party and political leaders in our county who lobbied me to run for this office.

It will be an incredible honor and responsibility to represent you and all the residents of this House district.

I am overwhelmed by the support I’ve received already from across a broad political and geographic spectrum. And I am grateful to every one of you.

I’d also like to recognize my family: my wife Dee, my daughter Emily and her husband Scott, and our granddaughters Ryan and Emery. My son Sam, the poet, lives in New York and isn’t able to be here today. It’s amazing to me that we now have three generations of our family living right here in Chatham.

This campaign is not about me, it’s about you, about all of us. We’re facing hard times and difficult choices about what to do to strengthen our community and our state.

I want to use my four decades of local advocacy to keep fighting for all of us — in Raleigh — for the things we all cherish, the things we know we need to make our wonderful communities be more sustainable economically, educationally and environmentally, so that we all may prosper.

What do we need to do?

First and foremost, we need to support our public schools, from pre-K through community college and universities.

We should be investing in our public schools– not starving them.

Thanks to the Tea Party, the leadership in the General Assembly is doing the opposite of what is most needed at this time.They are slashing support for public schools– the very foundation of our economic and democratic prosperity.

The current legislative majority should be ashamed of our per-pupil expenditures, where we seem to be racing to the bottom of all 50 states — instead of to the top. Some of them want to privatize education, which means if you can’t afford to go to school, well “You’re on your own.”

That seems to be their platform in N.C. and in Washington.  That’s not what my campaign is about.

Second, we must support local businesses and work strategically to attract good jobs for all North Carolinians.The right-wing leadership in Raleigh thinks the government’s role is to do nothing and somehow hope the jobs will materialize. Except of course when it comes to public jobs, then they want to cut them. So instead of creating jobs, they’ve actually been eliminating them.

I guess Sarah Palin might say, “How is that job-cutty thing working out for you here in North Carolina?” We know the answer to that one.

I believe in strategic economic development, that emphasizes our local strengths and our premium location. I’ve been working hard on that here through the Chatham Economic Development Corporation, and I will continue to do that in Raleigh for both Chatham and Lee.

Third, we must protect our clean air and water, our parks and natural beauty, because this is what makes this a stellar place to live and locate a business. This is why we need to stop the fracking frenzy.

Good businesses don’t want to locate in a place with polluted drinking water and smog.

We don’t have enough information about underground hydraulic fracturing in NC. So, let’s do our homework first, and don’t rush into something that could destroy what makes us strong.

Making us strong– that’s what my campaign is about: Strong schools, good jobs, clean air and water.

These are the keys to restoring the dream of upward mobility for all.

The American Dream is not just for the privileged few, it’s for the rest of us, too –all of us

It’s also time for us to pull together. The right-wing conservatives, Tea Party sippers, seem committed to a social agenda designed to divide us. They’ve launched a war against women, minorities and gays.

They want to take us back to the 1950s when people didn’t think women should have access to contraceptives.

Like you, I was appalled that Rush Limbaugh could stoop so low to have made that indecent attack on a law student who had the courage to challenge the attempt to deny contraceptive insurance coverage to college women attending religious affiliated schools.I promise you today that nobody in the General Assembly will fight any harder than I will against these attempts to turn-back the clock on women’s reproductive rights.

Instead of talking about jobs, these reactionary forces have been hyperventilating about social issues designed to keep us divided and distracted. That’s wrong. It’s got to stop. We deserve better.

I was extremely fortunate to grow up in a place and during a time when job opportunity, security and wages rose along with our increased productivity.

Democrats, Republican and independents came together and supported government investment in the G.I. Bill, education, highways, other infrastructure, and parks – what we call the commons. That was indispensible for making the American Dream possible for the average working person, like my father, a plant foreman and late maintenance director.

Granted, it was not as good for minorities and women back then –but the principle of public investment for a growing economy is valid today.

My view is that now it’s time to work together again and to include everyone in the American Dream.

If we work with each other not against each other, and if we work hard and we remember to give back to our communities for the common good, we will all prosper together and our communities will remain vibrant places to live, play and work.

That’s what my working-class Baptist parents taught me to believe. And that’s why I’m stunned to see people who describe themselves as conservatives working against that most fundamental notion of the golden rule.

Finally, politics is also personal for me, as I bet it is for you, too.

I’ve got two grandchildren whose hopeful faces remind me every day that we must work together for the future, for the long-term, for an economy built to last.

That’s my vision. That’s why I’m running.

That’s why I want to work for you in Raleigh.

–Jeff

Environmentalists persuade commissioners to keep stream protections

Environmentalists, indeed all Chatham citizens, won a surprising victory Monday night when the conservative majority on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners reversed  a 3-2 vote to gut ephemeral stream protections in the county’s watershed protection ordinance. The dramatic reversal came about after all of the local citizens who testified on the proposal, including me — all arguing forcefully against changing the regulations — had left the public hearing room in mass once the majority voted the first time to gut the stream protections. Commissioners had heard testimony from 14 individuals, including six conservation  organizations. When a member of the County’s own Environmental Review Board reported that they also opposed the Commissioners actions, and conservative Commissioner Walter Petty agreed with Commissioner Sally Kost, who had been fighting all along to keep the regulations in place, the board invited the crowd back into the room.  Commissioners then voted 5-0 on a compromise resolution that kept most of the protections in place. I was one of the 14 who spoke against changing the regulations and in favor of maintaining stream buffer protections. This is what can happen when we all work together for our community. Here is my testimony:

I support keeping Chatham County’s science-based ephemeral stream buffer requirements.

The proposed revisions are solutions in search of a problem, or from my perspective, they seem to stem from an erroneous theory about local economic development.

First, we have had zero problems with the current stream buffer requirements because we have had virtually no development requests since were enacted in 2008.  The conservative or pragmatic approach to  concerns raised would be wait until we have had some real, on-the-ground complaints from actual development requests.  Any developer can seek a variance under the current ordinance that will allow him or her to vary from specific buffer requirements using best management practice that cause less land disturbance and preserve aquatic life and habitat and protect water quality. Then, if there appears to be an ongoing pattern of these variance requests, the county could consider modifying the ordinance accordingly.

Second, I specifically challenge the view that these stream buffers have a negative impact on property values or sustainable economic development – i.e. our ability to support local businesses and attract new ones.  There’s plenty of research showing that protecting watersheds, streams, rivers and water quality enhances the economic attractiveness of a community.  Indeed the recent Chatham Park video shown to the Economic Development Corporation made it clear that Chatham’s rural character and environmental quality are the principle assets the developers are using to promote and attract RTP-type high tech companies to this area.  Moreover, economic cost/benefit studies have found that stream buffers and other environmental protections increase property values for land owners and residents.

Beyond these technical arguments, this issue is personal.  I have two intrepid grand daughters, ages 6 and 4, who live with my daughter and son-in-law in North Chatham where their drinking water source is Jordan Lake.  Buffers around ephemeral steams  are needed  to safeguard their health, and the health of  thousands of residents and tourists living and recreating in the Jordan Lake watershed area.

Those girls also love to play in our creeks and rivers.  Those buffers are needed here because they act as filters to keep them clean.

Finally, my wife and I and many other local residents and tourists,  enjoy bicycling and hiking along those creeks and rivers where we enjoy the wildlife and natural beauty of these waters.  Beautiful streams and rivers do not protect themselves in the midst of development pressures.  They require the type of community protection and enhancement that our current ordinance ensures.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Please maintain our current pragmatic stream buffer requirements.

–Jeff Starkweather

Loyse Hurley: forever young

Chatham County lost one of its most stalwart and inspirational grassroots leaders with the death this week of Loyse Hurley, long-time president of Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities (CCEC).

I lost a devoted friend, colleague and advisor, and someone I dearly loved.

What is the measure of a person’s life? It is not the money one accumulates, the property one owns, the degree one earns, or the awards one wins.  The true measure of a person’s life is what she does to impact positively on the lives of others and that of her community.  By this measure, Loyse’s life was immeasurable.

As president and chief public advocate for CCEC, and as a mentor and advisor to citizen leaders, candidates and elected officials, Loyse modeled a fair and fact-based approach to public policy advocacy and analysis.  The strong grassroots support  we see in our community for environmental protection, preservation of rural character and  balanced land-use planning owes a great deal to her leadership.

Thus, I propose the creation of the annual Loyse Hurley Award for Citizen Advocacy and Leadership for the grass roots advocate who best demonstrates her respectful, fact-based advocacy. Maybe CCEC will have ideas about how to develop this.

I know Loyse  had a personal impact on my life, and I have seen considerable evidence that she inspired many others who had the privilege of knowing her.

Lo, as we affectionately called her, was the most amazing listener and counselor.  I doubt if anything I wrote or did in terms of public advocacy or community organizing occurred without my first consulting with her. We had a standing arrangement. Whenever I was fired up about something and whipped out an e-mail or proposed a statement or speech about it, I always sent a draft first to Lo for her dispassionate evaluation and advice. Many of those e-mails or letters thankfully never saw the light of day after Lo reviewed them.  And others were toned down appropriately with her edits.
When I was down or upset by the harshness of public discourse, Lo always lifted my spirit and bucked up my determination to get back in the game.

As Lo became sick over the last year, I missed having her wise counsel as much as I had in the past. At first this made me feel lonely and untethered. But I learned to ask myself, “What would Lo do?“ and the answer would come in my conscious recollection of her words and example.

Many of us are deeply saddened by Lo’s death. But I take comfort in knowing that we can also celebrate her life by carrying her spirit and voice with us each day as we try to be a bit more like Lo.

I conclude with this tribute to Lo, taken from Bob Dylan’s song Forever Young:  Lo, you grew up to be righteous, you grew up to be true, you always knew the truth, and saw the light surrounding you. You always were courageous, you stood upright and were strong….Your hands were always busy, your feet were always swift, you had a strong foundation when the winds of change did shift, your heart was always joyful, and your song will always be sung, you will stay forever young.

Let’s not turn eastern Chatham into Cary

What follows is my testimony to Chatham County Commissioners during a public hearing this week on the draft Chatham-Cary land-use plan covering the eastern area of the county adjacent to where Cary has been involved in development annexations:

“Ironically, rural America has become viewed by a growing number of Americans as having a higher quality of life not because of what it has, but rather because of what it does not have.”

So stated Don A. Dillman, one of the nation’s foremost rural sociologists.

Most residents of this area and the vast majority of Chatham citizens do not want to see Cary bulldozing itself further into eastern Chatham.

The  land-use plans for this area will affect everyone in Chatham County, particularly our hard-pressed taxpayers, as well as future generations.

I have spoken on this issue before. Tonight, I have three general bottom-line concerns:

First and foremost, the elected officials of both Chatham and the Town of Cary should be guided primarily by the desires of the people who live in the affected area. Based on my direct observation and review of the joint meetings, I do not believe this has occurred since our new Chatham board majority took over these negotiations.  Residents in the affected area should be able to determine the destiny of their community.

 Second, residents of this area have clearly expressed their wish to maintain our rural character. They oppose suburban sprawl with its pollution, traffic jams, noise, and visual clutter.   They have expressly stated they do not want to become “Cary-fied” by having to rely on Cary’s urban and suburban design standards.

Chatham residents in this area want Chatham design standards in place before the plan is approved, not in 2013.

Finally, residents of this area want a direct say concerning development proposals in their community.  They want to be able to have a voice in whether “voluntary satellite annexation” or what I refer to as “developer annexation” of nearby land is allowed.  No matter how detailed this plan is, it is not legally enforceable if a subsequent Cary elected board decides to go in a different direction.

For this reason, it is imperative that Cary and Chatham come together to have the General Assembly enact a local bill that gives both boards the power to approve or disapprove a development, annexation request, or change in the plan. Without such authority, this joint land-use plan exercise is meaningless window dressing.

Unfortunately, we gave away our leverage on this issue when the current board approved the Western Wake sewer line across the county without insisting on this requirement as part of the agreement.  But now we should test Cary’s good faith and not approve this plan until they formally agree on a local bill giving Chatham equal land use authority over this area.

In closing I want to quote from 16th Century poet William Cowper:  “God made the country, man made the town.”  What he said then is true today.  Let us not destroy the country God made in order to accommodate the expansion of Cary.

–Jeff Starkweather