Hello Michael,

> 1. Is this a welcome change, or should we just carry patches locally?

These changes would be very welcome. The current vendoring approach exists for 
all dependencies mostly to get have a smooth development experience. It is not 
meant for releases. The current approach for ORC is mainly in this form as 
there are things missing to get to a smooth, non-vendored released binary.

> 2. Assuming change is welcome, what is the preferred method for submitting
> changes?  Github PR(s)?

As mentioned above, they are very welcome. The preferred method is creating an 
issue in JIRA https://issues.apache.org/jira/projects/ARROW and then opening a 
PR on github. The name of the PR should be prefixed with the issue. e.g. 
`ARROW-XXX: [Python] Better ORC packaging`


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