Website optional?

In the past here on OrangePolitics, we have discussed whether endorsements matter, and made fun of candidates' yard signs (both of which I hope we will do again this year). Now that candidate websites are becoming more common, the Chapel Hill Herald has started the conversation about whether an online presence makes a difference in local campaigns. (And they have helped me complete the web site listings for the OP Election Guide, thanks!)

In reading this article, it's clear that some of the candidates are still not all that familiar with what goes on online, and to the extent that their constituents are in the same boat, I think that's fine. However, I do think that spending hundreds of dollars on a campaign site is a mistake. Take a cue from Mark Kleinschmidt, Alex Zaffron, and David Marshall all of whom are using free, hosted blogs from Blogger. Or from Jason Baker, Mark Chilton, and Will Raymond who are using open source (ie: free) blog software to publish their very-professional-looking campaign sites.

Most of us agree that campaign websites don't replace face-to-face contact, but they are a great way to have your say without depending on the local media to take your voice to the voters. If you don't want votes of people who use the Internet, then don't waste time on a campaign site. But I haven't met a local reporter yet who doesn't use the Internet, and I think candidates will have an increasingly difficult time ignoring this growing constituency.

So any of you who are still lagging behind (I'm talking to you, Hillsborough), check out one of these free and cheap services. It will take less than 5 minutes to create your blog and start talking to more constituents (and reporters).



Are the laywers particularly bad about taking no positions on their campaign websites (save Robin Cutson-- who I haven't read)? Are lawyers allowed to have platforms?

My hypothesis is that, while a website is not going to add a great deal to a campaign, the absence of a website can hurt (especially if most/all opponents have web sites).

A second hypothesis is that a poor website is worse than no website.

Mary, perhaps Judge Roberts Disease is spreading!!

I was a little disappointed to see that despite hiring a professional web site design firm - Bill Thorpe's web site has no platform or issues to speak of that relate to future or present Council issues. Is being a former council member good enough?

Am I having trouble clicking on the right spot? If anyone can point me to Bill Thorpe's agenda please let me know.

Bill is not alone on that front. It seems like a lot of candidates are banking on being 'likable' versus letting us know where they really stand on issues.

Another note, I never noticed Ellie Kinnard's endorsement of Eastholm before. That's a powerful endorsement (and, yes, endorsements do matter!). Now, if Lauren could just get rid of that 'neighborhood protection for Chapel Hill' sub heading--- it really connotes some negative things for me. It's good that Lauren goes into some detail about what she wants for neighborhoods, but the 'protectionist' label makes me suspicious right off the bat...
What is a neighborhood protectionist anyway?

You might want to ask the residents of Elkins Hills what they consider neighborhood protection, or the people in Carrboro who will be losing Estes extension eventually.

To me it means negotiating the best deal you can on behalf of the Town for the existing residents with powerful figures like NC DOT and UNC etc... and make sure individual citizens don't get left out.

Ed Harrison's web site is "under construction" but it seems pretty glitzy and professionally designed I think?

I'm guessing he won't have a "gun to the head" quote on it though.
snark snark


I think Laurin's definition of protecting neighborhoods includes:

-traffic calming measures
-beefing up tree protection ordinances so that new developments next to older ones retain some of their trees and don't just get clear cut
-reasonably sized buffers from developments like Carolina North, so that the Mason Farm fiasco is not repeated
-keeping neighborhoods safe by minimizing high speed cut through traffic, which I think you'll be able to hear more from her about at the Council meeting tonight.

It all seems pretty reasonable to me, nothing to be 'suspicious' about!

Yes, Tom those are reasonable things... The unreasonable things I worry about have to do with the neighborhood homogeneity concerns that some people have. Personally, I would refrain from using the neighborhood protection label; it means different things to different people.

mary - can you come up with another 2 or 3 word phrase that emphasizes what Tom and I said? - seriously.

Speaking of homogeneity - has anyone noticed how male dominated the Town Council has become? Sally Greene could be the only female out of nine...

green neighborhoods... I'll have to think about this more

Lauren is a sure thing... not to worry...

I guess "neighborhood preservation" is the other preferred term.

The problem with that term Helena is preservation from what? The safety issues Tom lists are certainly desirable; I want them for my own neighborhood. But 'preservation/conservation' in the local context implies protecting certain neighborhoods from density while exposing others to it.

The only neighborhood preservation that I'd concede can force limits on other developments are tree buffers. Personally, I am willing to sacrifice some infill if it means minimal tree areas can be kept at certain key spots or with certain older growth specimens.

In the case of Larkspur - larkspur is bordered on one side by Weaver Dairy extension, the other by train tracks and green space permanently preserved track, another side by built out Northwood the original (outside town limits) and to the North by future Chapel Watch Village. Coincidently the Chapel Watch village is near the Towns urban services limit and the rural buffer so there is not a lot more "northern" connecting that can be done.

In this particular case the Larkspur cut through has nothing to do with hindering infill. The residents have been unified and have not really protested the proposal density from what I can tell. They have been unified against the automobile commuter cut-through.

I always hear the phrase "neighborhood protection" as code words for no through streets or connectors.

But as I'm increasingly fond of saying, what do I know?

If we have to talk about neighborhood protection/preservation/
conservation, doesn't that imply by default that the town isn't already protecting everyone or is protecting some but not others? If best practice means high density and connector streets, why should any neighborhoods be exempted?

By the way, the DTH also just wrote a story on candidate web sites:

Laurin Easthom seems to be particularly concerned with Carolina North. As Joe Capowski can confirm, when we worked on Horace Williams rezoning nearly a decade ago, neighborhood protection issues included noise, light, buffering, building heights, and traffic. The issues of density within the adjoining neighborhoods and of connecting roads were not prominent on our agenda.

So, in the DTH even Chilton admits that he hasn't used his site as much of a platform to tackle issues.
It's hard for me to know what to think about candidates who don't tackle issues.


Isn't that a bit of a stretch? A candidate who does not use a website to tackle issues is not the same thing as a candidate who doesn't tackle issues.

Websites and blogs are about communication. If a candidatesaren't going to communicate anything substantial through his website, what is the purpose? Should we accept Frank's claim that "a website is not going to add a great deal to a campaign, the absence of a website can hurt (especially if most/all opponents have web sites)." Or should we as technologically and politically savvy voters expect more?

In Mark's defense, I believe there is a note on his site or in one of the articles saying he will put more substantive, platform type issues online in October. But why wait? Just because some voters don't get revved up for local elections until the last minute, does that mean the candidates should cater to the lowest common denominator?

In fact, the DTH reported

As the season draws closer to Election Day, Chilton said he will use the blog more as a platform to tackle issues.

I don't get Mary's concern either.

But, I wonder if there's some irony in this discussion There's a lot of thought expressed above about how candidates use their web sites. And all commenters here seem to be heavy web users. Are any of you giving the content and/or format of the candidates' web sites or blogs primary consideration in deciding who to vote for? Somehow I doubt it.

I agree with Dan for the most part - people generally won't be voting for or against someone by the look of their web site and maybe even their content. Is Rutherford really a republican?

However, for candidates that you may not know a website cold be useful just to get an idea. However, as Dan MIGHT imply that's probably a mistake to rely on it because it becomes a form of marketing for the poorly informed.

If you rely too much on marketing - like via websites - you can end up with an ivy league educated, son of a president, who has a huge estate in Texas but pretends to be a common uneducated cowboy who lives on a ranch.

James P. -

a lot of the "protecting" neighborhoods near Carolina North are seeking have nothing to do with roads or cut-throughs...

John A.
Yes, it's a bit of a stretch... I really did mean to say: 'don't tackle issues on their website.'
Mark is lucky that he has you and Dan to defend him against careless posters like myself!

Yes, Dan, I find these campaign websites to be hard, painful reads, and they don't help me that much.
The bottom line is that I vote for people I trust who share my personal and political biases.
At the very least, I will vote for someone I don't know who sounds good on paper but also comes highly recommended by someone I do trust.

Does a candidate's website reflect what that individual, especially incumbents, believes the public should see as important issues OR does a website reflect what a candidate believes the public wants to hear? Timing matters in answering that question. In true moderate fashion, I would prefer to see each candidate bring their own issues to the website early on but keep the option open for adding new ones as the campaign proceeds as well as modifying positions of some issues. I especially like seeing more blogs being used since blogs portend the possibility of two-way communication.

A website/blog becomes part of the candidates record, a statement of values, a glimpse into that individuals communication style, and one tool for citizens to use in assessing the worthiness of that individual for public office. If I had only one choice, I would prefer to rely on the candidates own words on a website over the media's interpretation of her positions.

On second thought, let me contradict my previous post.
If I could vote, I'd probably (on a whim) vote for Marshall on the basis of his blogging--- which is all I have to go on. He's interesting and peculiar. Voting for an unknown is a risk, but intuitively Marshall seems worth the risk.

Come on folks, cut the candidates some slack. Before
you critique candidates who don't use their websites as
blogs, would you please try to run a campaign while holding a full-time job and raising a family.

Helena- First thanks for taking the time to check me out, and my yes I really am a republican. Even though I am by no means typical and have often referred to myself as a "progressive conservative”, I am a Republican for several reasons. And while there is little that I enjoy more than a rousing political debate, I find them much more rewarding and enjoyable in person.

I will say however that I firmly believe the vast majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Americans in general have many of the same shared goals (A strong economy, Peaceful existence with other countries, an educated and involved population, improving our standard of living through technology, and ultimately the pursuit of happiness) but many of our differences lie in what we believe to be the best processes and methods to achieve these goals. I will also say that I don't think anyone person or political party will ever have it EXACTLY right, but hopefully people will continue to work together to make our towns, states, nation, and world a better place.

Sorry for the tangent, and to bring it back on topic... I have thoroughly enjoyed checking out the other candidates' sites. Especially the ones where I have been able to get a better sense where someone is coming from. I hope mine will give people a sense of where I'm coming from, and it will be growing and changing in the near future.

To think that our society has only really started using the internet about ten years ago! We can only imagine what it'll be like ten years from now. Additionally, won't it be great when we and many others can enjoy the benefits of the internet without being fixed to a particular location...(I couldn't help the shameless plug for Town Wide Wireless Internet)

Thank you Joe. I might add, and sit on advisory boards for good measure ;-)!

I'd like to challenge those in the OP community that find these 'blogs helpful to both encourage three or more of their friends to take a look and, if they have a 'blog/site, to add the candidates 'blogs to their 'blog rolls for the duration.

To all the Wifi naysayers..

here's a program to develop sub 100$ laptops with wifi ability and cranks for when the electricity goes out...

apparently Massachusetts plans to buy them for all kids in the state.

Well spoken Joe!

The people have spoken ! Congats Mrs. Eastholm, # 1 vote getter for City Council...


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