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New Chatham citizens' coalition launches grassroots election campaign

By Jeffrey Starkweather
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004

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A coalition of Chatham County community organizations and citizens announced today the formation of an umbrella election committee, Chatham Coalition, that will support local candidates who back their platform of smart growth, quality economic development, excellent schools and open government that encourages citizen participation. The Coalition will raise money for advertising and direct support of candidates for county commissioner and school board. The Coalition also seeks volunteers for a grass-roots election campaign that will include community forums and door-to-door canvassing. The Coalition will utilize an issue-oriented, citizens campaign to counter negative advertising and undue influence of outside forces.

"Citizen groups and citizens across the county have been speaking out forcefully about the failure of local officials to respond to their concerns," explained Coalition Chair Jeffrey Starkweather, a Pittsboro attorney. "Recently county officials have ignored massive citizen opposition to the Chatham Downs shopping center on U.S.15/501 and the Homestead residential development near Jordan Lake. We want to channel this grassroots energy into something positive - electing officials who will actually listen to citizens affected by their decisions."

One of the citizen groups supporting the Coalition effort is Chatham County United, an organization that was initially formed to fight annexation by Cary. Two other groups whose members are actively involved in the formation of the Coalition are Chatham Citizens for Effective Communities, which has led the fight for a Compact

Community Ordinance, and the Southeast Chatham Citizens Advisory Council, a Moncure-based group that initially was formed to fight a regional waste dump. These three groups have begun working together on a broader range of issues, including smart growth, improved school facilities and leadership, quality economic development, and open government. The Coalition is seeking other community groups, neighborhoods, homeowners associations, and citizens from throughout Chatham County to join forces in a widespread grassroots campaign.

"Chatham Coalition is needed at this critical juncture in the county's history."

"Chatham Coalition is needed at this critical juncture in the county's history," stated Coalition Treasurer Roland McReynolds, a local attorney," "The county is experiencing explosive growth. Yet, county officials have been encouraging residential growth while failing to provide the economic, educational and quality-of-life infrastructure needed to attract good jobs to keep our taxes from skyrocketing."

Once the elections are over, the Coalition plans to remain an active citizen lobbying force. The Coalition will assist citizen groups and voters to ensure elected officials are held accountable, as well as supported, on the issues candidates committed themselves to during the election.

"Our current county officials have made a mockery of citizen participation," stated Starkweather, "They have continually ignored citizen advisory boards, treated expert citizen input with disdain, and recently repudiated a county land use plan that was the result of more than five years of work by experts, local residents and the planning board. We need to elect officials who respect citizen input."

The Coalition's first major fund raising event, an outdoor musical and food festival, is scheduled for Saturday, April 24. The details of that will be announced soon.

The Coalition calls on all citizens who seek responsive local government to support this election effort by volunteering and making financial contributions to this grass-roots voter education and mobilization campaign. Donations by check may be payable and mailed to Chatham Coalition, P.O. Box 303, Bynum, North Carolina 27228, and by credit card on-line at the Coalition's secure website at chathamcoalition.org . The Coalition especially seeks volunteers who are willing to serve as campaign coordinators for their citizen group, community or subdivision and those willing to host issues forums or fundraising events in their homes. For more information on the Coalition, call 542-1265 or email chathamcoalition@direcway.com.

Other officers of the Coalition include Vice Chair Efrain Ramirez and Secretary Judy Hogan. The full steering committee membership and committee will be announced within the next two weeks.

[North Carolina law requires political committees to report the name, mailing address, job title or profession and name of the employer or employer's specific field for each individual whose aggregate contributions is in excess of $100 in an election cycle]

 
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