Message from an Extraordinary Public Servant, Friend

The citizens of Orange County have been well served by Commissioner Barry Jacobs for the past sixteen years.  He works hard to respond to the needs of a diverse county; and is a leader on issues of public education, affordable housing, environmental protection, and social justice.  He is a talented and skilled advocate for his constituents, and is my pleasure to work with him to serve the community.


-Congressman David Price

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Hearing the Public on Rural Recycling

Last night the Board of Commissioners held the first of two public hearings on the possibility of instituting a solid waste service tax district in rural Orange County. We heard from about 20 speakers. Good points were made on both sides of the argument for and against using a property tax to pay for a system of roadside recycling for more than 15,000 households.

The second of our scheduled public hearings on this topic will occur on April 1 at 6 PM at the Department of Social Services in Hillsborough – the old WalMart building.

We asked staff to build on an existing FAQ to go on the county website and to distribute at the next hearing. Prior to the hearing I submitted two questions to add that were gleaned from residents’ e-mails. We asked staff to respond to questions brought up last night by members of the public, and commissioners asked their own, additional questions.

Unfortunately some folks came to the hearing in Chapel Hill assuming the commissioners were not going to listen and had already made up our minds. Hope no one is spreading that mistaken impression. That’s not the case – certainly not for me.

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Three days into the ACC Tournament here at Greensboro, the stakes suddenly seemed higher. Perhaps that’s because the potent men’s programs from North Carolina — Duke, North Carolina, and N.C. State — were slated for competition today.

The Tar Heels were first up, the mid-afternoon crowd awash with Carolina blue. The fans were increasingly desperate to explode, but Pittsburgh maintained a comfortable advantage for most of the game.

One big problem for the Heels: Marcus Paige, their do-everything leader and sharpshooter extraordinaire, played with tape on his left (shooting) hand and thumb. The Heels missed their first nine 3-pointers, with Paige misfiring on six. For the game they were 4-16 from the bonusphere.

At the other end UNC couldn’t keep the Panthers’ Talib Zanna off the offensive boards. The senior finished 21 rebounds and 19 points. Paige had 27 points before fouling out.

As playing time dwindled and the situation grew increasingly desperate, Carolina began trapping and pressing in the backcourt when Pitt attempted to inbound the ball. The strategy worked wonderfully. Coupled with execrable free throw shooting by the Panthers (14-32 in the second half), UNC erased most of the 15-point deficit it faced with 3:21 to go.

In the end,  though, the hill was too steep to climb, and Pitt won 80-75.

UNC’s elimination left the tournament halfway to a major break with recent tradition. The last season neither North Carolina nor Duke reached the title contest was 1996, when most current players were too young to attend school.

Amazingly, the first and only time in the tournament’s history that no North Carolina team played for the championship was 1990, when Georgia Tech beat Virginia.

Pitt of course joined the league this season, fleeing the Big East. Over the past decade the ACC has taken in six schools from the Big East, with Louisville still to come next season. There’s precedent for a Big East newcomer zooming to the finals of the ACC Tournament — Boston College did it in 2006, losing to Duke.

The Panthers next face Virginia, the top seed, in Saturday’s first semifinal. The Cavaliers, who joined the league several months into its inaugural season in 1953-54, have a single championship to their credit. They won in 1976.

Syracuse, the second seed and another Big East refugee, is in a different bracket from Pitt and will play seven-seed N.C. State this evening. Then Duke takes on Clemson.

So there’s a real and growing chance the Big East teams could be the last ones standing in the championship competition. What a blow that would be to the pride of the ACC’s old guard.

Further disturbing for ACC traditionalists, a report surfaced today that the league is in final negotiations to move the tournament to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for two years, the move to take place as early as 2017.

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Strong Week

Last week started with Sunday’s always-inspirational annual Pauli Murray awards at the Central Orange Senior Center — a much-needed, multipurpose facility which I helped to design after leading efforts to secure bond funding for its construction.

The county attached the senior center to the Sportsplex after we bought the recreation facility and placed it under sound management. Attached too is an adult day health center named for Florence Soltys, an exceptional woman with a great heart who long championed the cause of seniors in Orange County.

The following evening the county held a quarterly public hearing at which the commissioners heard a proposal for the county’s second solar farm, this one in Efland; a zoning dispute involving a kennel and the apparently improper placement of a fence for its dog exercise yard near Durham; comprehensive plan and unified development ordinance text changes for Efland that reflect work done by a citizen task force over nearly a decade; and a proposal to advance an Agricultural Support Enterprises ordinance.

The joint hearing with the Orange County planning board took approximately 4 1/2 hours. The solar farm drew little opposition. The kennel had considerable citizen support for an adjustment that would allow it to continue as is. The ag support enterprises ordinance, first spawned when Maple View Farm had trouble locating an ice cream store in the rural buffer more than a decade ago, is a mechanism to simplify and expedite farm-related development. Two people spoke in favor.

All of those items were referred to the planning board for recommendation back to the commissioners.

The Efland plan — part of a larger effort involving Mebane on which I had worked since it started in the mid-2000s — drew protests from folks who had missed the numerous signs and notices touting a series of community meetings. To better accommodate residents’ questions and concerns, consideration of the item was deferred pending staff-led information meetings in the community.

The next morning at 8:30 I brought greetings from the commissioners to a full house at the 16th annual Orange County Agricultural Summit. The event, which was initiated at my instigation in 1999, brings together growers, vendors, and others interested in improving their businesses or promoting our local agricultural economy.

The summits, originated to meet the changing nature of N.C. farming in the wake of the tobacco settlement of the late 1990s, present fresh ideas and approaches, basic business information, individual advice and testimonials, and government and nonprofit support efforts. We had a full house (100?). There was plenty of enthusiasm and networking during breaks at the Maple View educational center. A lunch of locally grown foods capped the session.

Two days later, on Thursday night, the county commissioners met in joint session with the Hillsborough town board. These annual meetings have occurred for more than a decade and reflect the strong, collaborative relationship I’ve actively helped to promote, sometimes in the face of opposition from other elected officials and staff.

We discussed sidewalks, transportation (particularly local bus service and an Amtrak station to be built in town), our joint land-use efforts (I participated from the plan’s inception), planning for road patterns in economic development areas, and a joint agreement I had proposed to protect cultural and natural resources around town when governments disturb land.

The results strengthened our work together, reiterated a strong commitment to bus service in central Orange County, and reaffirmed the perameters of our joint plan while potentially moving about 400 watershed acres from town to county jurisdiction.

On Friday night the 2014 candidates in Orange County races, as well as their friends and families, packed Steel String in Carrboro at the generous invitation of

On Saturday morning, first thing, many of the same candidates were eating scrambled eggs, sausage, ham and biscuits with gravy at the Schley Grange.





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Recent Articles in Raleigh News and Observer

Since September I’ve been writing a weekly column on sports for Raleigh’s News and Observer. Many of the articles also run in its sister paper, the Charlotte Observer.



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Pauli Murray awards

Today the Orange County Human Relations Commission hosted the annual Pauli Murray Awards ceremony. The event commemorates the life and values of Pauli Murray, a courageous and trailblazing champion of equal rights and social justice whose family hailed in part from Orange County.

As I said in welcoming those in attendance, there are many good things about being a commissioner and a few even better things. Giving the Pauli Murray Awards to those who exemplify and/or articulate the values for which she fought are among the better parts of representing Orange County.

This year there were award winners at the elementary school level for best fair housing posters; at the middle school and high school levels for best essays on the importance of the Voting Rights Act of 1964; as well as awards in annually recognized categories honoring an individual, presented to Judith Blau upon recommendation of Margaret “Peggy” Misch; for a youth, presented to Desaray Rockett upon recommendation of Keith Cook; and for a business, upon recommendation of Alice Ammerman to Vimala’s Curryblossom Café.

The music by Diali Cissokho and John Westmoreland, the food by EB Catering Company, and the remarks by several articulate speakers rounded out two hours of heartfelt community feeling and pride at the Central Orange Senior Center.








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Links to recent posts on


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Coal ash danger in Orange County?

Raleigh’s News and Observer has a story today (2-23-14) about the dangerous presence of coal ash holding ponds around North Carolina (not to mention the rest of the U.S.) A map accompanying the article by John Murawski appears to include a site on the Durham-Orange border. According to Mr. Murawski, that is a cartographical error.

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[Barry]Thank you to the voters of Orange County for their gratifying support in the recent Democratic primary for county commissioner at-large. Serving as your commissioner these past years has been an honor and a privilege, and I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of our community.

Now that the electoral cycle is over, candidates and our supporters are conscientiously taking down campaign signs around the county. If you see any of my signs lingering along the roadside, please let me know at or at 732-4384.

Also published in the Carrboro Citizen and the Chapel Hill News.

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We did it!

The unofficial results (below and at the NC Board of Elections) show that Barry won over 50% over the vote in this three-way primary. With no opponent in the November general election, this means Barry will return to the Board of County Commissioners for another term. We greatly appreciate the support of everyone in Orange County!

 	 	                Percent	Votes
Joe Phelps (DEM)		31.76%	3,689
Barry Jacobs (DEM)		52.74%	6,125
Joal Hall Broun (DEM)		15.50%	1,800
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