Author Archives: Damon

Mayor Lavelle Issues Statement on Recent ICE Actions in Carrboro

This morning, Mayor Lavelle released a statement regarding recent activity by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Carrboro and throughout Orange County.

It has come to our attention that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have been operating in Orange County over the past two days. We believe they have detained at least two Carrboro residents and at least four other county residents.

First, I want to make clear to the community that the Carrboro Police Department was not involved in these actions. As our Police Chief Walter Horton stated last year, “Immigration status has never been a concern or priority to the Carrboro Police Department. We are here to serve all community members.”

Since learning of ICE’s actions, Town officials have been working with representatives of El Centro Hispano and other community partners to contact the family members of the detainees and to ensure that they have adequate legal representation.

Approximately one in five Carrboro residents were born outside the United States. The Carrboro Board of Aldermen firmly believes that immigrants are an integral part of our community and should be welcomed and supported. For many years, we have advocated for comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform. It is essential that all residents of Carrboro feel safe and secure, regardless of their national origin or immigration status, and that they receive due process and legal representation.

We will continue to cooperate with our colleagues in Orange County, Chapel Hill, and Hillsborough to keep the community informed about this week’s incidents. We also will continue to support the work of our community partners to educate residents about their rights, and to offer information and resources for residents who need assistance.

Finally, on a personal note, I cannot adequately express how frightening this news must be for our neighbors who live in constant fear that these actions may happen on any given day in our town. My heart hurts for our community. I look forward to a future when we live in a nation where all people are treated with compassion and respect, regardless of their immigration status.

Joint Office Hours With Council Member Karen Stegman

Karen Stegman and Damon Seils

Celebrating with then-candidate Karen Stegman

This year, I’m kicking off a new season of community office hours with a special guest. Join me on Sunday, February 25, from 12:00 to 1:30 pm with the wonderful Karen Stegman, who was recently elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council.

Carrboro and Chapel Hill are joined at the hip, and that’s how we like it. Our two towns work closely with each other and with Orange County on a range of important issues, from public transit and land use planning to emergency services and solid waste. Karen and I share particular interests in progressive comprehensive planning that emphasizes smart growth and local and regional pedestrian-bicycle-transit connectivity; social inclusion and racial equity; and environmental protection. As two of Orange County’s three LGBTQ elected officials, Karen and I also take a special interest in showing up for our fellow LGBTQ North Carolinians.

We’ll be available to talk about these topics and more. Drop in at any time. We’re looking forward to seeing you.

Plan ahead for future office hours:

  • Sunday, March 18, March 25, 1:00-3:00 pm
  • Saturday, April 14, 2:00-4:00 pm
  • Sunday, May 6, 1:00-3:00 pm

For more news and event information, follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Carrboro Celebrates Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, (Blake Chamberlain, Social Visionaries Re-imagined)

On Monday, February 5, Carrboro joins in on the countywide celebration of the 200th anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s birth.

Come out to the Century Century to learn from and celebrate with James Williams, former public defender for Orange and Chatham Counties; Michelle Lanier, executive director of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission; and Jaki Shelton Green, 2009 Piedmont Laureate and 2003 recipient of the North Carolina Award for Literature.

Plan to attend other events throughout Orange County into the spring: http://www.orangecountync.gov/…/frederick_douglass_200th.php.

Community Service

Moral March on Raleigh 2017

Moral March on Raleigh 2017 (See more photos.)

Many of you know that I was arrested in December at the North Carolina Legislative Building while protesting the General Assembly’s outrageous fourth special session. That sham session, called under dubious legal circumstances, featured bills that would diminish the new Democratic governor’s ability to make appointments to the cabinet and to UNC schools’ boards of trustees, change the makeup of boards of elections and merge the state board of ethics and the state board of elections, and delegate greater authority to the new Republican superintendent of public instruction. Basically, the fourth special session was a power grab.

In the aftermath of my arrest, I have agreed to complete community service hours. These won’t be just any community service hours. I plan to highlight the work of several nonprofit organizations in North Carolina that are advancing causes and serving communities under direct attack by our reactionary General Assembly.

Today, I served as the volunteer social media manager for the NC AIDS Action Network during the Moral March on Raleigh. I met people from all over North Carolina and talked with them about what brought them to the Moral March. See the NC AIDS Action Network’s Instagram feed at https://www.instagram.com/ncaidsaction/.

NC AIDS Action works to secure affordable, high-quality health care for all and advocates for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in North Carolina and the South. At today’s march, we gathered commitments of support for maintaining the Affordable Care Act. The People’s Agenda calls for health care for all. We must “reject efforts to repeal the national health care reform law and fully implement it in NC; preserve state funding for Medicaid, Health Choice and other essential programs; act immediately to address the crisis in the treatment and placement for persons with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and substance abuse problems; triple funding for the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities and state HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.”

Open Letter to the President-Elect

Mayor Lydia Lavelle and I have joined 154 other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender elected officials from across the country in sending a letter to the President-elect. We have concerns, naturally.

Read the open letter here: http://bit.ly/2jM3VTy.

The letter expresses our concerns about the President-elect’s nominees to his administration. Nearly all of them have espoused anti-LGBT views aimed at denying us acceptance and inclusion in the law, in our families, and in our communities. Many of them proudly tout legislative records opposing basic legal rights for LGBT Americans, and some have openly denigrated our lives and our personal relationships.

The letter urges the President-elect to govern with the values of inclusion, fairness, and justice. We are committed to ensuring that all of our constituents have a voice during the next administration.

Victory Institute Open Letter

Good News for Carrboro’s Amblers and Pedalers

Late-breaking news from the North Carolina Department of Transportation at this morning’s meeting of the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization: With the completion of the latest statewide prioritization of transportation projects, NCDOT programmed funds for three important pedestrian and bicycle projects in Carrboro.

1. A sidewalk on the north side of Jones Ferry Road from Davie Road to Main Street. This project will complete a large gap in a heavily used portion of Carrboro’s sidewalk network in the most densely populated part of town.

2. A sidewalk on Barnes Street between Jones Ferry Road and King Street. This project will connect residential areas in and around the Lincoln Park and Whispering Hills neighborhoods to the major pedestrian corridor on Jones Ferry Road.

3. And now for the big one: Sidewalks and bike lanes on Estes Drive between N Greensboro Street and the town limit (and continuing to Martin Luther King Jr Blvd in Chapel Hill). This project promises to improve one of Carrboro’s biggest problem areas for pedestrians and cyclists. It will take time for the project to move through public comment, design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction, but we’re finally on the list.

While those of us on the policy-making board of the MPO have the fun of making decisions about which projects to submit for funding, the real work is done by professional staff on the technical committee. This committee includes staff from the Carrboro Planning Department, who worked hard this year (as they do every year) to identify projects that meet our community’s needs and have a strong likelihood of receiving funding. I’d say they’ve had a good year.

Comments on House Bill 232 Study Report

Today I submitted the comments below to the North Carolina Department of Transportation regarding the H 232 Bicycle Safety Laws Study Report. This report makes recommendations to state legislators for changes to state laws on bicycle safety.

Most of the recommendations are sensible and will promote the safety of cyclists, which is the stated purpose of House Bill 232, the legislation that called for the report. A few of the recommendations, however, would lead to the opposite of cyclist safety.

Read more about the legislation and the study report at ncdot.gov/bikeped/lawspolicies/. More resources are available from BikeWalk NC.

I’m In!

Good morning! I’m happy to announce that I will file next week as a candidate for re-election to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

Damon Seils

Update: Listen here to my afternoon interview with WCHL/Chapelboro’s Aaron Keck.

Two years ago, after several years of involvement in town and county government, I came into office ready to bring my experience and energy to the Board of Aldermen. Today, my enthusiasm for representing and advocating for Carrboro residents has only grown stronger.

My work has stressed responsiveness to and collaboration with neighbors and community organizations on a wide variety of issues, from improved bus service and pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure to civil liberties and social justice.

Among my first accomplishments was to revive the board’s effort to bring the town’s lowest-paid employees up to a new living wage. I also led a response to legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly that threatened local environmental rules, resulting in new protections for Carrboro’s stream buffers and tree canopy. I am especially proud of my advocacy for expanded nighttime and weekend bus service as a member of the Chapel Hill Transit Partners Committee.

Renewed nationwide focus on policing, civil liberties, and racial equity has presented us with an imperative to engage with our neighbors in understanding and improving local law enforcement. I have partnered with town staff, residents, and advocacy groups to organize community forums on policing and to craft policies that serve everyone equitably.

We have more to do. In all of my work, colleagues and community members know me to take a fair, thoughtful approach to both policy and process. My priorities for the next four years remain:

  • land use and transportation planning that promotes a healthy and affordable community, furthers our leadership in alternative transportation, thoughtfully integrates new development with existing neighborhoods, and responds to the challenges of global climate change;
  • economic development that helps locally owned businesses thrive, expands and diversifies our tax base, and meets people’s everyday needs close to home;
  • policy making that encourages broad participation, fosters partnerships with and among community groups, and builds on Carrboro’s reputation as a progressive community that values diversity and social justice.

I look forward to continuing to build relationships with my neighbors, to deepen my understanding of our community’s needs and challenges, and to promote solutions that reflect our values.

Keep up with my campaign and local happenings by following me on Twitter and liking my Facebook page.

 

Summer Streets, Part One

This weekend, the return of hot weather marked the return of office hours. My special guest was Mayor Lydia Lavelle. We took advantage of the town’s first try at Summer Streets, during which Public Works closed East Weaver Street to traffic for much of the day. As I said on Twitter, there was something downright civilized about closing the street (if just for a little while) and reclaiming the space for people.

Office Hours and Summer Streets With Guest Lydia Lavelle (Photo: Alicia Stemper)

Office hours during Summer Streets 1 with special guest Lydia Lavelle (Photo: Alicia Stemper)

With this temporary pedestrian plaza in place, Lydia and I found a shady, breezy spot in the middle of Weaver Street, and one of us (possibly me) ate blueberry pancakes. Our visitors came to share their thoughts about the impact of new development on Carrboro’s character, questions about policing, and ideas about repairs and upgrades to town facilities.

Mark your calendar for the town’s two remaining Summer Streets events: July 19 and August 23. We would love to receive your feedback. And I might just use those opportunities for more office hours.

Tour of the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Corridor

Today I took a tour of the Durham-Orange light rail transit (LRT) corridor, courtesy of Triangle Transit staff. We started at Triangle Transit headquarters in RTP, picked up a helpful if bulky set of maps and other materials, and made our way to the proposed western terminus of the LRT project in Chapel Hill. I used the event as an opportunity to live-tweet the tour for local politics blog OrangePolitics (where this entry is cross-posted).

Below is an archive of my tweets from today’s tour.

Do you have questions about the Durham-Orange LRT project? The next couple of public meetings will take place on June 4 (4:00-7:00 pm, Durham Station) and June 6 (2:00-5:00 pm, John Avery Boys & Girls Club). Attend a forum and/or find more information at ourtransitfuture.org.