Things have considerably slowed down here at the Town of Chapel Hill. Meetings have become more lighthearted and less frequent. It has also become more quiet as there seem to be less people around. Why is this you may ask? This Monday was council’s last meeting until they reconvene in September. Yes, council has gone on a break (but I’ve learned not to call it that, because council is sensitive to the word).
I asked someone why council goes on “hiatus” during the summer and apparently it has a lot to do with UNC. Many UNC faculty/staff/etc have historically been involved with Chapel Hill government and there was strong disfavor of the council doing work while most of UNC is out and away for the summer. At first this seemed ludicrous to me, that a government would bend to the whims of another entity in their community to this extent. But the more I thought about it and the more I talked to others about it, the more it made sense.
The fact of the matter is that Chapel Hill government will always be inexorably tied to what UNC does and sometimes what UNC wants. UNC creates a lot of burdens on the town of Chapel Hill that other communities don’t have to deal with. For example have you really considered all of the land that UNC owns in Chapel Hill? All of that land (land in Chapel Hill may be more valuable than gold) that is tax free and the town has to provide services (ex. police and fire) for. The burden of providing services to a student population. For example, who pays for it when students storm Franklin street or when drunk students commit any damage or crimes on Franklin street? Who takes on the burdens of fires starting on UNC’s campus? I could go on, but I think you get the picture that the town takes on costs and burdens that are created by UNC.
But, it would be remiss to not say that the town receives almost incalculable benefits from having UNC in Chapel Hill as well. And those benefits mean that town government at times bend to the preferences of UNC (hence having council meetings that align with UNC’s academic calendar).
Anyway, I wanted to write this blog to say that often times we can forget that local governments can be majorly influenced by more than just their constituents and as we think about entering into local government we would be careful to do an environmental scan of how influential other groups and entities are in local government outside of its’ citizens.