Mark Zimmerman’s pro-development propaganda loosely veiled as commentary (“Developing a Better Attitude in Chapel Hill,” CHN, May 1) cannot go unchallenged.
He says our mistrust of developers’ motivations creates unwarranted suspicions when developers donate to specific candidates who appear to favor a pro-development agenda. He maligns news-media reporting of those suggesting a link to potential “influence-peddling or providing payback for decisions.”
To his eyes, the community doesn’t understand that big developers aren’t bad guys, but simply help our community grow while being its wealth-creators along the way. Reading Zimmerman’s explanation of it all, one could conclude that the huge profits big developers such as Roger Perry and his East West Partners reap off of Chapel Hill are the farthest thing from their minds. It’s as if the out-of-place monstrosity being built on Elliot Road and the prison-wall ambience of East 54 are there to solely sprinkle happy economic fairy dust on Chapel Hill without any thought to shoving big bucks into the developer’s pocket.
Poor misunderstood developers.
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Former Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and current Town Council member Donna Bell both received substantial contributions to their 2015 re-election campaigns from officials with developer Roger Perry’s Chapel Hill-based East West Partners and its partners Trammell Crow Residential (Elliot Road apartments) and Caves Valley Partners (Obey Creek). (CHN, March 23 and April 13)
Does Mr. Zimmerman believe we should all just be thankful that out-of-state developers such as Maryland-based Caves Valley Partners are so philanthropic as to invest in the campaigns of our local politicians?
What big hearts they have.
Zimmerman asserts there is “no news there.” He’s right. That kind of thing is all-too common. No, the point is NOT that developers donate money to political campaigns sympathetic to their cause. The REAL story that Zimmerman so masterfully glossed over is that some of these politicians didn’t release this information in time for voters to use it in their decision-making process.
In Kleinschmidt’s case, many of these donations were reported without the required dates that would demonstrate whether his campaign received them prior to the Oct. 19 pre-election reporting deadline.
Just sloppy recordkeeping? Should voters accept this?
While Kleinschmidt lost that re-election bid, Bell did not. The only incumbent re-elected last November, Bell did not file her pre-election donations report by the October deadline, so it arrived too late for voters to consider.
Her reason for missing the deadline in reporting the thousands of dollars contributed by developers whose projects have or will come before her for a vote?
While the checks were dated before the deadline, she received them afterward, so she didn’t have to report them in October before the election. (CHN, April 13)
Ponder that. They were dated BEFORE the deadline, but she received them – apparently ALL of them – AFTER the deadline.
Timing is everything, I guess.
Maybe Mr. Zimmerman thinks council member Bell should be rewarded for all of this. I, for one, think she should be recalled.
Now residents look down the barrel of the 1.6-million square feet of development coming to Obey Creek: a development larger than The Streets at Southpoint mall; a size in which a substantial number of citizens pleaded against and for which the town’s own planning commission, as well as not one, but two citizen committees advised to evaluate smaller-sized development, but were ignored by the then-mayor and Town Council including Bell. So please pardon us, Mr. Zimmerman, if we jump to conclusions about the relationship between developers and the town of Chapel Hill in recent years.
“Even those who don’t feel developers deserve to be embraced ought to suppress their feelings for practical considerations,” Zimmerman stated.
Look, I have nothing against making money. I have nothing against responsible growth. However, don’t paint a picture of big developers as the good guys just looking out for the town. There is a reason why the current mood of the electorate is angry. And while legal, these power-broker approaches to the business-political relationship in Chapel Hill are a fine example of why.
Joe Buonfiglio lives in Chapel Hill.