There’s been racial tensions within Chapel Hill’s public works department for many years. During the last ten years I’ve heard and read about some quite troublesome behavior. I faulted former town manager Cal Horton’s “silo” style of management for covering up rather than resolving some rather nasty bits of racism. With Roger Stancil coming on-board (he got some good marks from Fayetteville’s NAACP), a reshuffling of Horton’s old lieutenants and a turnover of management personnel at the top I expected Chapel Hill would finally strengthen some basic job-related protections.

It appears not.

This graffiti (and other samples like it) have appeared in the Town’s new operations center (that costly bus barn) with some regularity over the last 6 months.

This example appears to target a particular employee that has been involved in organizing the workforce.

Tonight, Councilmember Mark Kleinschmidt did a bit of political theater – properly showing his ire at the affront then launching off into a bit of grandstanding about how he’d metaphorically throttle the offender, etc. Colleague Bill Thorpe also rose and said his piece though his was a bit more rambling (both which I’ll post as the video becomes available).

As I sat there through their outrage – and the polite applause that followed (“all good folks hate racism, right?”) – all I could think of is “Where the hell was that outrage before?”

Mark’s been on Council 6 years, Bill Thorpe served back in the bad days and 3 years this term. We’ve had news reports, civil rights lawyers – like Al McSurely, the NAACP’s Fred Battle, citizens and town employees coming before Council complaining about racial tension for years but what progress have we made?

Yes, I know we have a more balanced workforce, etc. but if the Town hasn’t been able to deal with this graffiti for months where does the Town really stand?

The Council needs to get off their seats and up to the Town Operations Center and talk directly with the good folks doing the day-to-day work of running our Town because if this crap is going on in the bathrooms, imagine what other kind problems – racial or otherwise – are going on within the Town’s workforce.

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