Q #4 Working with neighboring jurisdictions

4. Suggest steps Chapel Hill could take to improve collaboration with Orange County and neighboring jurisdictions.

 George Cianciola  It is imperative that we improve our collaborations with our neighboring institutions and municipalities, including UNC, Carrboro, Hillsborough, Orange County, Durham County, and Chatham County. To begin with, Chapel Hill residents comprise nearly 50% of Orange County’s residents so whatever benefits Chapel Hill will benefit Orange County and vice versa.  Furthermore, if what benefits Chapel Hill benefits Orange County, then it will also benefit our neighbors in Carrboro and Hillsborough.  In a similar fashion, whenever UNC and the Town are successful, it benefits all of us.

We need to examine where our Town services (such as public safety, solid waste, social services, various types of inspections, etc) overlap with our neighbors and find ways to share such services where possible and thus begin to realize the cost savings that can be achieved by minimizing redundancy. These types of collaborations between municipalities might require changing the mindsets of various individuals but I believe the potential benefits will help drive that process. I think everyone is beginning to understand that cuts at the Federal and State levels are hurting all of us and that future progress will require working together.

Ed Harrison  Before I was even on Council – exactly 12 years ago – I requested a process of joint review of land use projects and policies between Chapel Hill, the Durham jurisdictions, and Orange County. This was referred to and implemented by the existing Durham-Chapel Hill-Orange Work Group.  Not long after that, the WG began including detailed presentations and discussions of land use and transportation planning processes, with participation by both elected officials and engaged staff members.

On the full range of issues, especially those involving Orange County’s relationship with Chapel Hill, policy decisions should best be made in discussions between policy makers themselves. This has been hard to accomplish in recent years. The most significant issue where this has been the case is the expensive one of solid waste, including next steps on recycling, a high priority for Chapel Hill.

The periodic Assembly of Governments meetings between Orange and the towns too often don’t deal with issues that are actually of major importance to governments besides Orange County.  This has been driven for years by County administrative priorities, which, while important, often omitted a chance for Town input. In this regard, major change could happen this week, as Michael Talbert takes the County Manager’s job (as Interim) after Frank Clifton leaves.

Loren Hintz   I know the region well by serving on the Orange County Commission for the Environment, working in the Chapel Hill Carrboro City School System, working with CHT, having graduated from UNC and my involvement in community organizations in the region. Chapel Hill needs to increase meetings with staff and elected leaders from other jurisdictions. We need to look for increased opportunities for collaboration for example: share school and town recreational areas. We need to also meet with Durham and Chatham County and share long term plans.

Sally Greene   Regarding Orange County, I believe we enjoy strong collaborative relationships. The Public Library is a good example. After years of getting nowhere, a negotiating committee I served on resulted in a breakthrough new agreement. County funding is up by 37 percent over where it was stalled for a decade, and a formula is in place for that percentage to rise. Next for discussion is the subject of interoperability. I’m hopeful about that.

The regional transit plan is another area where we have seen excellent collaboration, resulting in the passage of a sales tax referendum. Already with the results of that funding, we are seeing improvements to Chapel Hill Transit service.  Under Holden Thorp, the university’s relationship with the Town became stronger and more cooperative. As an example, the Ackland has become a key player in the work the Downtown Partnership and others are doing to put downtown Chapel Hill on the map as a cultural arts destination.

Regional collaboration on affordable housing is evident in the emerging proposal from DHIC of Raleigh to produce low-income tax credit housing on Town-owned land. Results like this come about, and can continue to happen, when people work together openly, in good faith.

Gary Kahn  Better communications between county and neighboring jurisdiction through joint public hearings.

Paul Neebe  Appoint a liaison to work with the Orange County commissioners and the other neighborhood jurisdictions. This liaison would report back to the town.   If this already exists then clearly it’s not working.  We need to figure out how to make this work.

Maria Palmer  We need to reward town/county employees for ideas that foster collaboration and save money. We need to talk to each other systematically and study what we can do better together.

Amy Ryan   Increased collaboration between towns and Orange County could produce significant benefits for both groups.  As Hillsborough, Carrboro, and Mebane grow, Chapel Hill may not remain the only large population center.  It will make less and less sense to duplicate (quadruplicate?) our efforts, for example by having multiple library systems.  By identifying areas where cooperation can provide economies of scale and save on redundant administrative costs, the towns and counties could substantially improve their financial bottom lines.  Such cooperation would take time, and negotiating shared jurisdiction and costs would be a considerable undertaking.  But ultimately citizens throughout the county would benefit.

D.C. Swinton  My top goal is to make Chapel Hill a town with zero tolerance for sexual and domestic violence. In order to obtain that goal, the Town must collaborate with other jurisdictions. For instance, we must engage Orange County to allow our Magistrate’s Office to provide domestic violence protection orders, making them more accessible for survivors. Next, we need to collaborate with Carrboro to provide funding for a domestic violence shelter in the next three years. Finally, in collaboration with Orange County, Carrboro, and Durham, we can establish a child advocacy center, which is paramount for young survivors of domestic or sexual violence. The closest CAC resides in High Point, and that is unacceptable.

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