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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Progress Dems endorse Jeff Starkweather

News Release/Progressive Democrats of NC endorse Jeff Starkweather for NC House District 54:

The Progressive Democrats of North Carolina (PDNC) are pleased to announce the endorsement of Jeff Starkweather for NC House District 54. Jeff Starkweather’s platform is solidly progressive, and his long history in Chatham County politics and community organizing supports his claim to be THE progressive candidate in this primary. His passionate commitment to sustainable growth policies that are solidly rooted in the community, his tireless efforts for clean renewable energy and green building practices, his forceful and informed voice against the dangerous practice of fracking, his unwavering support for public education and strong schools for all, and his decades-long record on human and civil rights make Jeff Starkweather a candidate the Progressive Democrats of North Carolina can whole-heartedly support.

The Progressive Democrats of North Carolina are committed to the development and implementation of progressive ideals based on human and civil rights, peace, justice and environmental sustainability in North Carolina, the nation, and the world.

www.progressivedemocratsnc.org

Jeff Starkweather endorsed by The Indy, Sierra Club, State Employees and AFL-CIO

News release/ April 23, 2012

Jeff Starkweather’s record of fighting for good jobs, strong schools, a clean environment and civil rights won him the endorsements of four major organizations comparing candidates for election to NC House District 54, representing all of Chatham County and a portion of Sanford.  The endorsements, based on questionnaires, interviews and candidate records, are from: The Independent Weekly, the State Employees Association, the Sierra Club, and the AFL CIO.

“I’m overwhelmed and honored by these endorsements and others I have received during the campaign from current and former elected officials, community leaders and supporters all over the district,” Starkweather said.

The Independent called Starkweather “a longtime champion of the environment, social justice and sound growth policies.” The newspaper said that the retirement of Rep. Joe Hackney, “leaves a need for a candidate who has a deep familiarity with the issues facing this district. We think Starkweather’s views on energy and growth could continue Hackney’s work; his willingness to defend public education and to stand up to social conservatives is also impressive.”

“[Starkweather] has the kind of fire Democrats need in the Legislature,” The Independent concluded.

The NC Sierra Club said it endorsed Starkweather because of his lengthy track record promoting environmental protection and renewable energy and sustainability, and his opposition to fracking.

Jeff Starkweather is a strong environmental advocate who has a long history of working for environmental causes in Chatham County and North Carolina as a whole,” the Sierra Club said. “His key environmental positions include promoting alternative energy and its use in North Carolina, strengthening North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Standards, opposing changes in laws to allow fracking for natural gas until its economic benefits are proven to outweigh its environmental costs, and searching for ways to collaborate with citizens and environmental experts to make North Carolina a model of sustainability.”

The NC AFL-CIO and Triangle Labor Council based their endorsement on Starkweather’s answers to a questionnaire and interview on employment and economic development issues. The State Employees Association of North Carolina’s EMPAC endorsement was based on a questionnaire and interview about issues facing NC public employees. They endorsed Starkweather and other selected General Assembly candidates “because we feel they understand the importance of the valuable services our members provide,” the SEANC stated in its news release.

Starkweather has lived and worked in Chatham County for 40 years. He is the former editor and publisher of The Chatham County Herald and a retired attorney who specialized in civil rights and employment law. In 2009, the Western Chatham NAACP named him a Humanitarian of the Year and in 2006 he was a News and Observer Tar Heel of the Week.

He currently serves on the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation Board and the Triangle South Workforce Development Board. In those economic policy leadership positions he was instrumental in the development of the county’s economic development strategy and industrial incentives policy and in bringing a job link center back to Chatham. He has also served on Chatham’s Sustainable Energy and Green Building Advisory Board and he chaired the Affordable Housing Advisory Board.

Sierra Club endorses Jeff Starkweather for State House

The N.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed Jeff Starkweather for NC House District 54 because of his lengthy track record promoting environmental protection, renewable energy and sustainability, and his opposition to fracking.

Jeff Starkweather is a strong environmental advocate who has a long history of working for environmental causes in Chatham County and North Carolina as a whole. His key environmental positions include promoting alternative energy and its use in North Carolina, strengthening North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Standards, opposing changes in laws to allow fracking for natural gas until its economic benefits are proven to outweigh its environmental costs, and searching for ways to collaborate with citizens and environmental experts to make North Carolina a model of sustainability,” the Sierra Club stated in its announcement.

Jeff has now received endorsements from every major organization that has compared his positions and track record with his opponent’s. He is endorsed by: The Independent Weekly, the State Employees Association of NC, the Sierra Club and the NC AFL-CIO.

He is also endorsed by 17 current and former elected officials on county, municipal and school boards in Chatham and Lee counties.

And he has the support of Women for Jeff, a campaign advisory committee comprised of more than40 active women in Chatham and Lee counties.

Vote Early April 19-May 5

You can register and vote at the same time, during the one-stop early voting period at the following locations:

Chatham County

  • Pittsboro:  Board of Elections, 984 Thompson St. (in the office complex on US 64 Business across from the Post Office): M-F 8 am–7 pm, Sat. 10 am–3 pm
  •  N. Chatham: at Chatham Downs, near the Harris Teeter: M-F 10 am–7 pm, Sat. 10 am–3 pm
  • Siler City: Earl B Fitts Center, 111 S. Third Ave:M-F 10 am–7 pm, Sat. 10 am–3 pm

*For more info: Chatham Board of Elections 919-545-8500

Lee County

  • Lee County Board of Elections,  225 S. Steele St, Sanford: M-F 8am-5 pm; Sat. May 5, 8 am-1 pm
  • McSwain Agricultural Center, 2420 Tramway Road, Sanford: M-F 8-5; Sat May 5, 8 am-1 pm

*For more info: Lee County Board of Elections 919-718-4646

On Election Day, Tues. May 8, you must vote at your precinct polling place*.

State Employees endorse Jeff Starkweather for State House

EMPAC, the political arm of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, announced that it is endorsing Jeff Starkweather in the State House District 54 Democratic primary contest.

Starkweather was among fourteen Democratic and four Republican state house candidates across North Carolina endorsed by EMPAC, along with five Democratic and five Republican State Senate candidates.

“I am honored and humbled to receive the endorsement of the state employees, especially since I had the pleasure of representing many state employees as an employment and civil rights attorney,” Starkweather said.  “It is particularly important at this time when state employees rights and compensation are under severe attack from state legislative leaders to have a representative who understands the importance of their work to our state’s well-being and economic prosperity.”

The endorsements resulted from recommendations from SEANC members at the district level, which were then confirmed by a statewide committee.  Both Starkweather and his Democratic primary opponent submitted answers to an EMPAC questionnaire and were interviewed by a district level committee of SEANC members.

“SEANC has no permanent friends or no permanent enemies, only permanent issues,” said state EMPAC  Chair Wayne Fish. “We chose to support these candidates because we feel they understand the importance of the valuable services our members provide.”

SEANC, SEIU Local 2008, is the South’s leading state employee association, 55,000 members strong. With 2.1 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North Carolina and includes over one million public employees who have united to improve their lives and the services they provide.

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

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

Jeff files for NC House District 54

News Release 2/13/12

Jeff filing with good friends Sally Kost, seeking re-election as a Chatham County Commissioner, and Karen Allen Howard, running for Chatham Board of Education.

PITTSBORO —  Jeff Starkweather, a long-time community advocate and retired newspaper publisher and attorney in Pittsboro, filed today to seek election to a new open seat in NC House District 54, representing all of Chatham County and a portion of the Sanford area in Lee County.

“It’s especially important now to have a strong local voice represent this new district,” he said. “I spent my entire career fighting for fair treatment for all people and communities.  Now I want to bring fairness and civic responsibility back into the public debate about tax reform and public investments.”

“We need to strengthen our public schools from pre-K through community college and university levels  — not starve them,” he said.

“We need to work strategically to support local businesses and attract clean industries — not simply wait for the jobs to show up.

“We need to protect the natural environment that makes our region a stellar place to live and work, considered one of the best locations in the nation,” he said.

A Family Affair -- Jeff , Emily and the Tinervin team, Sally, Karen and the Howards at the Board of Elections

“And we need to restore the promise of upward mobility for all, not just the privileged,” he said.
“If we do these things by working with each other– not against each other– our economy and our democracy will thrive again now and for future generations.”
Jeff has lived and worked in Chatham County for 40 years.  In 1973, at age 26, he became the editor and co-publisher of the Chatham County Herald until it was sold in 1984. Under his leadership, the paper won two dozen awards for investigative journalism, public service, photography, news and feature writing.

He went on to become a federal public defender and civil rights attorney, spending nearly two decades representing the interests of low-income defendants and working people, women, minorities and persons with disabilities. He also served on the Chatham County Planning Board.
In 2006, the News and Observer named him a Tar Heel of the Week for his grassroots political leadership to prevent sprawl and promote balanced growth.
He retired in 2008 and a year later was named a Humanitarian of the Year by the Western Chatham Branch of the NAACP for his grassroots leadership, advocacy and service.

Most recently he has been working for good jobs, affordable housing and energy conservation through service on the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation, Triangle South Workforce Development, Chatham County Affordable Housing, and Sustainable Energy and Green Building advisory boards.
“I understand what middle-class , working people and the working poor are up against in today’s economy,” he said. “My parents, now in their 90s, are devout Baptists from modest means. They worked hard their entire lives to ensure their children could graduate from college and get good jobs.  They taught us to work hard, give back to the community and stay true to our values. Thanks to their sacrifice and example, we were the first generation in our family to attend college.
“That’s the vision I want to restore, that all citizens believe once again that hard work and giving back go hand in hand, and if you do  both,  your family and your community will succeed.”
Jeff was raised in Ojai, California. He has a B.A. in political science and economics from Redlands University and a J.D. from the School of Law at N.C. Central University. He also studied social work and planning at the graduate level at George Washington University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He has been married to Dee Reid for 26 years. She is director of communications for UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

They raised two children, who attended public schools in Chatham County. Sam is a poet and publisher who works at the City University of New York.  Emily, is a teacher’s assistant at Pittsboro Baptist Pre-School and lives in northeast Chatham with her husband Scott Tinervin, and their two children, Ryan, 6, and Emery, 4.

Don’t fast-track fracking in NC

Last week I attended a scientific workshop at Duke University on fracking, along with many concerned local citizens and officials. The evidence presented included new information about toxic water flowback and greenhouse gas emissions, which reinforced my view that the legislature should not try to fast-track fracking in North Carolina as many Republicans seem to want to do. Instead, there should be a moratorium on any legislation to allow fracking until there is sufficient experience and research to show that this technology is safe and will bring more economic and environmental benefits than costs.

I have spoken out on several occasions about the need to be very cautious about fracking, due to ongoing pressures to frack for shale gas in large tracts of Chatham and Lee counties that are part of our new state House district.

As Lisa Sorg of the Independent Weekly wrote last week about the Duke workshop: “If anyone in the General Assembly listened to the scientists at the hydraulic fracturing workshop at Duke… then any pro-fracking legislation should be dead in North Carolina.”

Scientists at the Duke workshop presented new information about the negative impact that flowback from fracking wells can have on local water quality. The flowback contains water, oil, and toxic chemicals, including barium, arsenic, lead and bromide.  Based on undisputed scientific presentations, there does not appear to be a safe way to dispose of or treat this wastewater.  Injecting it back into the ground can contaminate groundwater. Moreover, such deep underground injections can cause earthquakes, as was recently demonstrated in Ohio. Discharging wastewater in nearby rivers and streams has been shown to harm the ecosystem for up to a third of a mile from the discharge point.

At this time there are no cost-effective methods to treat the flowback. Re-use has not been proven effective either and raises concerns about storage and transportation spills and leakages.

A second new scientific finding presented at Duke concerns the impact of fracking on greenhouse gas emissions.  Robert Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell, reported that green house gas emissions from shale gas fracking are 40% greater than emissions caused by the extraction of conventional gas and oil. He attributes this to venting of methane gas during drilling and the fact that methane contains about 72 times more greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide that is emitted from oil or coal production.

Susan Christopherson, professor of city and regional Planning at Cornell, reinforced what I had previously heard: There is a serious question whether a fracking resource extraction economy provides more benefits than costs, in part because it produces few jobs for local people.

Finally, I learned that the EPA’s scientific study of the potential impact of fracking on water quality will not be completed until 2012. This study will include existing data, retrospective and prospective case studies of actual fracking operations, water modeling and laboratory studies.

North Carolina should not proceed with any plans for fracking until this study is concluded and then only if it provides evidence that it can be done safely and economically.

–Jeff Starkweather