November 2008


Chapel Hill is filled with talented, thoughtful folks whose stories – personal and professional – often open new avenues of personal discovery. Eric Muller, UNC Law professor and, lately intermittent, ‘blogger (Is That Legal?), is a Chapel Hillian I’ve spoken of before.

His personal history, finding out what happened to his great-uncle during Germany’s Holocaust (Eric Muller’s Sad Serendipity) and professional research, World War II’s shameful Japanese internment (Free to Die For Their Country), have intersected in gripping fashion – an intersection he has documented over on Is That Legal?.

When I was a kid, I read about this mass internment of United States citizens. I’m not sure where I read about thinly veiled racism that ended in mass deprivation of liberties, outright seizure of long-held property, the disruption of thousands of families lives, but it made a deep impression. This was roughly around the period of greatest tension in the civil rights struggle. Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive pleading the case for common humanity. Yet, as the “WAR” in Vietnam was shifting into higher gear, some of the same prejudicial rhetoric used against 1940’s Japanese-American internees was making a resurgence.

I was reminded of Eric’s contributions today because of this BoingBoing article linking to scans of internment camp high-school yearbooks.

Internment camp yearbooks?

It seems like ever since Brokaw’s “greatest generation” series made their appearance, the mainstream media’s framing of the World War II era ignores some sad truths – including institutionalized racism against a variety of groups.

That generation’s struggle, as many of yesterday’s Veteran’s Day broadcasts sought to convince us, was more honorable than ours. Yet that generation allowed wholesale discrimination to continue.

Freedom is almost never freely granted, as Veteran’s Day reminds us, but must be pursued and then protected. Progress is incremental, as we our reminded by our own generation’s reverses – like the passage of California’s Proposition 8.

The hope is tomorrow will be better than today.

Eric is currently working documenting what he suggests is the greatest generation’s greatest lie.

Hirabayashi: The Biggest Lie of the Greatest Generation.” The article presents important new archival findings about Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81 (1943), which upheld the constitutionality of a racial curfew imposed on Japanese Americans in World War II. The Court concluded that because of the enormous security threat facing the United States — a threatened invasion of the West Coast by Japan in the months after the Pearl Harbor attack — the ordinary constitutional prohibition on “discrimination based on race alone” was not controlling.

….
It turns out that all this talk of invasion was a lie.

Lies have been used to send our troops to Iraq, eviscerate the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, approve torture, limit debate and dissent and many other activities antithetical to the proper functioning of an open democracy.

There is some hope that tomorrow will be better, especially if President Obama reverses many of the last 8 years of Bush signing statements, executive orders, illegal surveillance initiatives, shutters Guantánamo and ends extraordinary renditions (ACLU call-to-action).

Our past, as Eric reminds us, does inform our future.

I wasn’t able to attend the spoken-word event concerning the corrosive effects of Greenbridge on Northside last evening, but according to the Daily Tar Heel, it stirred some sharp discussion.

UNC junior Kane Smego, who performed slam poetry at the event, described the project as two towers, “one 10 stories, the other seven — like a middle finger to the Northside.”

The Greenbridge promotional video added some controversy:

The video features interviews with black Northside residents recounting family history intermixed with narration about the proposed Greenbridge site.

Many of those featured in the video now say their words were taken out of context and misconstrued to seem as they were in full support of the project.

“I didn’t realize what I said was going to be used in that manner,” said Dolores Bailey, a Northside resident who was featured in the promotional video. “So that bothers me a lot.”

Delores (not Dolores) did support Greenbridge’s zoning application though she also wanted to carve out a better deal for the neighborhood:

Delores Bailey, a Northside resident, pointed out that Greenbridge could help but would not solve all of the problems in that area of Chapel Hill and/or Northside. She said the notion that preserving downtown is more important than preserving a neighborhood makes her “shudder.” Ms. Bailey said there were people in the neighborhood who did not understand that Greenbridge would be 10 stories high. She proposed putting half of the affordable units in the neighborhood, adding that this would address more needs. Ms. Bailey said that developers had listened, and that even though she had problems with the project she supports it because it is an attempt to work with the neighborhood and an understanding that some people will be living in its shadow. She stressed the importance of Greenbridge being respectful of the neighborhood and not making it feel shut out.

As far as that shadow, I argued that the socio-economic shadow this throws across Rosemary was not adequately discussed or evaluated (the physical shadow is pretty large also).

Alum08 at the DTH said:

It’s truly unclear what NOW is hoping to accomplish. This organization’s sole achievement has been complaining about something it does not fully understand. Additionally, this is all final and in the past. Why, as bright Carolina students, are we focusing on this instead of the future?

The future Downtown, at least as it is constituted by our current leadership, is high – high cost, high density, high buildings. The consequences, especially the long-term cumulative consequences, have not been adequately evaluated by our community.

Here’s a comment I left at the DTH:

It’s a shame that this dialog didn’t happen when the project was going through the approval process. I was one of the very few folks that stood up to challenge the project. I took a lot of heat for pointing out that this project would accelerate the gentrification going on not only into Northside but spreading South to Cameron, West to Pine Knolls, etc.

There are other shoes to drop here: the commercialization of Rosemary to the North, the cumulative impact of the Town’s Lot $5 project/Short Brothers project/University Square redevelopment on the nearby neighborhoods, the gentrification of nearby local businesses (how long will unsubsidized local business last as their rents rise or landlords redevelop to attract boutique shops?) and other corrosive effects of the high-priced/high-density vision our Council maintains.

Delores, as well as did other local leaders from organizations like the Hank Anderson Breakfast club, supported the project wholeheartedly. It was quite difficult to contest the social justice issue in the face of their support.

There’s a lot to like about Greenbridge, even as it sheds some of its “green” cred. I argued it was in the wrong place and that it would exacerbate the community displacements seen in Northside, Cameron and Pine Knoll.

Again, while Greenbridge is a “done deal”, there is still an incredible need to explore these other issues. I’m glad some other folks are taking up the challenge.

Characterizing Delores’ acquiescence as wholehearted is maybe too strong a sentiment but as I recall, in the end, there wasn’t a lot of struggle to get the final approval.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from last night’s event it is that our Town needs to look at improving our community outreach effort, get creative and more expansive, in order to build a broad consensus.

Not a great day for local tech companies in RTP. Nortel (Northern Telecom) is shedding another 1,300 jobs in an effort to stay afloat.

I worked at Northern for nearly seven years (I started at Team10 for any old-timers out there). Back then it was an incredibly vibrant can-do company with a really nice and committed workforce.

In the late ’80’s, early ’90’s Northern had a lock on digital telephone switching equipment. Profits bulged as management got fat and sassy. Profligate spending on some rather ridiculous ego-driven projects became the norm.

Unfortunately, upper management’s vision couldn’t keep up with that of the folks cranking out telco gear. Their top-of-the-heap attitude blinded them to what could and eventually would happen. I remember meeting with the top-dogs in RTP in ’91 trying to convince them that one of Nortel’s bread-n-butter products, the DMS-10, would be replaced within years by cheap, rack-mounted computers using commodity components.

That day eventually came to pass finding Nortel poorly prepared. By that time, I had moved on to help bootstrap a couple startups.

The lessons of Nortel – especially what missteps to avoid – have stayed with me all these years. Those lessons aren’t particularly grounded in Nortel’s culture but are more reflective of common attitudes found in many institutions (“too big to fail” for one).

If the Council does follow up on my call for a Citizen’s Budget Board, I will volunteer and apply the lessons of Nortel, my successful entrepreneurial experience and my diligent efforts to help set the Town’s finances on a firm grounding to bear.

To any remaining Nortel folks that stumble on this entry – good luck and god-speed.

[UPDATED: Fixed missing links.]

A number of readers sent me a link to an informal poll (here) over on OrangePolitics.

If you register, you can vote and add to my apparent lead 😉

As many of you know, after contributing significantly to Ruby’s website over many years, I pulled my support from OP, a supposedly “progressive” political ‘blog, because it was veering further and further from its original goal of promoting open discourse on local issues. Enough on that…

Some interesting commentary on the thread, including another “anonymous” assertion that having run for office and losing “roundly” is a dis-qualifier. When I parsed the statement, looked at the language, it wasn’t too difficult to determine that “anonymous” was someone that worked on behalf of the incumbents I ran against in 2007.

This sentiment, that actually putting myself before the voting public – arguing for policy changes lifting folks up – made me a lesser applicant was echoed by one the Council members I spoke to this week. Running, ideally, shows a level of concern that rises above simple bellyaching, that has evolved into a desire to make hands-on change happen.

To me, taking the risk is a good thing….

If you follow that Council member’s trail of thought – not running for office, not serving on an advisory board, not appearing before Council, not attending a Council or advisory board meeting, not taking a public stance on any of the issues before our Town, maybe not even voting in a municipal election – must be the highest of qualifications.

As my son says, “LOL”.

I would hope that running a lousy campaign against 2007’s unprecedented incumbent bloc effort doesn’t really disqualify me from serving our community. Hey, I managed to get 1400+ votes in 2007, that’s 1400+ more than any of the other applicants 😉

George more eloquently observed “Just because someone is not elected does not mean they were rejected! All that one can surmise from an election result(s) such as we had is that more people wanted another candidate than wanted Will – nothing more.”

I have and continue to apologize to my 2007 supporters.

I didn’t run the campaign they deserved. If I run again I will be better organized, probably spend more money (my $1891 didn’t go far against that well-known incumbent bloc’s $23,000 or Matt’s $20K) and start much earlier.

Penny bravely suggested “the council is looking only to place an African American person in this position. They just went through the process to make it look good for the community. Knowledge of the current issues and involvement in the over all community was not a prerequisite.”

George sarcastically said she was “provid[ing] statements regarding the Council’s positions with an air of authority suggesting that you know something that no one else does”.

George, not only has Mayor Foy and other Council members made public statements that lend credence to Penny’s comments but, after having spoken to Kevin, Mark, Laurin, Matt, Ed and Sally, I can assure you this is central to most of their thinking.

It doesn’t appear that will change, as one member suggested that as long as the propriety of making race central to the decision is only challenged by a “white woman” (Chapel Hill News LTE), the Council will take the politically expedient course.

When I ran for Council with Bill Thorpe, he told me that it was important that his community had representation at the table. He didn’t qualify that concern further.

Loren Hintz, as I noted earlier, made the excellent observation that all of the Council should be approachable – that centralizing the responsibility for outreach within one person takes us further from our civic responsibility to not only listen to all segments of our community but respond.

Similarly, I argued that the critical challenges of the next 7 months cut across all the ways – racially, economically, socially, politically – one might want to divide us up.

As far as dividing and divisiveness, I find it interesting that no one on OP has challenged the underlying contention that there is even such a thing as a cohesive African-American community and that they are represented fully by the Hank Anderson Breakfast Club. There are many “communities” within our greater community, the pretense here is that it isn’t ones life experience that is the key differentiator, it is their census designation.

As Cat says on the OP thread “Age, gender, and race are secondary to life experience, world view, and personal philosophy.”

I do find it strange that in Chapel Hill, right after Barack Obama was elected President on the “content of his character”, the political dynamic is uppermost in Council’s minds.

Beyond capability, interest, prior involvement and experience, the choice, at least as framed by most of the Council members I spoke to comes down to “stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group”.

[U] In any case, if the Council breaks with history, the public will be able to adjust the makeup of the board come Nov. 2009.

Finally, a quick review of citizen concerns reveals that Chapel Hill is a community of neighborhoods (strangely enough, unlike most of the other folks leading our Town, the issues I’ve taken on don’t directly involve my neighborhood – they involve broad themes – like due process – or particular affronts – like the lack of environmental justice).

History shows that it is rare for one neighborhood to come to the defense of another unless the issues are broad. There are some notable exceptions, Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth being one such organization. Again, trying to divvy up the community into politically manageable blocks not only takes us further from the goal of civic unity but doesn’t recognize the way our citizenry currently interacts with Council.

As I said in my application, as I have demonstrated over the years, while I have a strong bias towards helping folks that are struggling, I can represent the interests of the whole of this community. My themes have been social justice, expanded opportunity, community outreach and equality of access.

I am not only approachable, I have worked to broaden civic participation at every level. If selected I will reach further into the wider community, meet often and directly with any citizens – irrespective of their background – who need Council’s assistance.

As far as running for office, it is easiest to take the path that is safe, politic and popular. That is the path it appears this Council will take this evening.

As far as leadership, what is right is not often easy.

I have and will continue to take on those challenges that are overlooked, unpopular and politically unsafe because getting a good result – doing what is right – should be the goal.

Eve Carson was universally lauded by the local community for epitomizing the Carolina Way. Her friends honor her by ensuring that her contribution to our community continues.

Linda send out this reminder.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The death of Eve Carson last year was a tragic moment that stunned us all. In the months since Eve’s death, students have planned ways to remember her and the things she loved and cared deeply about.

Come participate in the inaugural Eve Carson Memorial 5k for Education on Saturday, November 15th, 2008. Gather at Polk Place behind South Building for registration at 8:00 a.m.; the race will begin at 10:00 a.m. Children’s activities will be available. Kids under 7 run for free and dogs on leashes are welcome to run.

Go to the website http://educationforeve.com for information, registration options and a way to donate even if you don’t run.

The Pi Beta Phi sorority and Phi Delta Theta fraternity have organized this great community activity to raise funds in memory of Eve. Two thirds of the total proceeds will go to Eve’s scholarship foundation and the remaining third will be split between First Book, a nonprofit that gives new books to preschool children from low-income families, and the Clyde Erwin Elementary School in Onslow County.

Get your running shoes laced up and join us on Polk Place on November 15.

Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson posted this small poem on his ‘blog in celebration of the Obama blowout:

Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Jesse could run.
Jesse ran so Barack could win.
Barack won so our children can fly.

Nice.

Ellie, Elijah and I stayed up past midnight tracking the close NC Presidential race. The last hour and a half the State Board of Elections (SBOE) showed McCain leading by a small margin. For some reason, integrating results from several presumably “blue” counties – Asheville’s Buncombe and Wilson’s Wilson – lagged. Larry Kissel, the valiant school teacher who battled millionaire porkmeister Robin Hayes was also running close (I have supported Larry since I met him several years ago at a local progressive Democrat event).

I really wanted a “blue” sweep in North Carolina this year.

11PM California clinched to race. Incredible! We hung on to each word of his historic acceptance speech – which has already begun to set the tone of his Presidency – and discussed how better days were on the way.

About 11:30pm, we started to get excited as WRAL, then WTVD and finally NBC17 began to report a swing of several to tens of thousands of votes Obama’s way.

Finally, well after midnight, as Mecklenberg, Buncombe and Wilson totals came in, the SBOE reported an Obama win!

We did a family jig, put Elijah to bed and went to sleep knowing that our child, and many other children, have a better chance today than they did yesterday to spread their wings and fly.

In my application for the Council seat, I called again for Council to sponsor a thorough, wide-ranging and comprehensive community discussion on development density.

How high, how dense?

Last Spring, Council decided to end their pursuit of high density development zones. We need to restart that discussion. We should take the recent work on twisting RSSC into a palatable high density zone and start fresh with the density discussion.

Our community might not embrace high density, but if we’re going to allow high-density development to go forward civic duty demands we have a clear, honest and open discussion among not only Council and those developers wishing to use a new zone but the wider community.

We won’t have to wait on Council to initiate that discussion. Dec. 10th, Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (NRG) is holding a forum meant to begin a community conversation on acceptable limits to density and growth.

Dear NRG neighbors and supporters:

Mark your calendars for December 10, 2008!

Chapel Hill 2020: where are we headed?

Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth will hold a public forum on growth, density, and the future vision for our community on the evening of Wednesday, December 10, 2008, in the Chapel Hill Town Council Chambers, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

As our community has grown, the need for a community-wide discussion on how we want our town to look has become acute. More and more citizens are expressing uncertainty and concern about what degree of density is most appropriate for our community, and where the best locations for it might be.

NRG believes that our region will develop best if it develops based on a comprehensive vision that is understood and endorsed by informed citizens. The goal of this forum is to kick off a community-wide discussion of these issues. NRG will be broadcasting more information as the agenda and speaker list firms up. But for now:

– Mark your calendar for this event

– Please forward this e-mail to any and all potentially interested friends and neighbors

– Please send any questions to NRG by return response to info@nrg nc.net

Thank you, and please watch for more details on this important event!

Julie McClintock and Kristina Peterson

Co-Chairs, NRG www.nrg-nc.net (email) info@nrg-nc.net

Like they say, mark your calendar for what promises to be an interesting event.

In my application for Bill’s seat on Council, I mentioned my concern (“Walking is not a crime.”) that the recently announced Orange County Community Safety Partnership program, which trains Town staff and the general public to identify and report criminal activity or other public safety related issues, needs to be careful in discriminating what is and what isn’t considered “suspicious”.

When the Police Department announced the Orange County Community Safety Partnership, I was concerned because it sounded like the roundly criticized Homeland Security TIPS program. It wasn’t clear what kind of oversight, training or civil protections were part of the program. Pat Burns, our representative, walked me through the program and provided some insight on its operation. The training presentation has a few items I would like see addressed and I believe the community would be well-served by having Pat run Council through the process to solicit feedback. For me, the part about reporting “persons walking through yards of residential areas or seeming out of place” needs to be clarified. You might recall a recent embarrassing incident when a young man using his cell on his street corner had the police called because he “seemed out of place.”

The incident I’m referring to was reported throughout Town and on BlueNC.

Dear Lake Forest neighbors,

My name is Allen Buansi. I am 21 years old. I’m 5-11, weigh around 190 pounds and I am a black man. More often than not, you may see me in the neighborhood on a bicycle and wearing a backpack. I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for about 10 years and have lived in the Lake Forest neighborhood for much of that time. I attend Dartmouth College, and I head back up to school on September 14. I work at the local YMCA. I am in Chapel Hill for the summer, and I am an assistant football coach for East Chapel Hill High School, the school from which I graduated.

You may see me on the corner of Tadley Drive and Ridgecrest during the day or at night talking on a cell-phone to my girlfriend who lives in Texas. Or you may see me there talking on a cell-phone with my mother who lives in Richmond, Virginia and is a Ph.D student at UNC. You may even see me on a cell-phone talking to one of my best friends, Andres, who also lives in Texas. You may see me there on my bike because I have just ridden back from football practice at the high school. The reason why I am on that corner in the first place? I do not get a good signal back at the house, which is in Avalon Court, a block down from Tadley Drive. And so the only places I get a good signal at are at the corners of Avalon Court and Ridgecrest Drive and of Ridgecrest Drive and Tadley Drive.

…..

A neighbor had called the police department saying that there was a suspicious man standing on the corner. “There have been robbers in the area, and we came check out the situation,” one of the officers said to me. “I see,” I say. “So can I not talk here on my cell-phone? I get a pretty bad signal back at the house.”

The officer then recommended that I go down half a mile to the parking lot of Whole Foods to talk on my cell-phone. He recommended that I leave the neighborhood in which I live and have stayed for the past 10 years, so I could talk on the phone to my loved ones. “Otherwise if we get more calls, we’re going to keep coming down here.”

Last year we had a few day time break-ins at the end of the street. Pretty surprising given that the Police Department is only a block away. Our neighborhood got together and reviewed our community policing options.

During that meeting, a young black woman who lived on our road told us a similar story. She was walking home when a police cruiser slowly pulled-up. She was stopped, asked for ID and told to be “more cautious”. More cautious?

Anyway, it turns out her neighbor had called the police. The neighbor was quite embarrassed, apologized profusely.

I spoke with Pat Burns at length and he provided a copy of the training PowerPoint (here). While the language could be tightened up – “persons walking through yards of residential areas or seeming out of place” – this is the PowerPoint and not the actual training session. Obviously the class-setting provides an opportunity to flesh out what constitutes “suspicious” and provide guidelines on where the bar is set for calling in law enforcement.

Pat understood my concerns, said there was some provision to weed out false reports on ex-lovers, etc. He also offered to let me attend a session to see what kind of safeguards exist for myself (it is open to the public, space available).

If I get the chance, I’ll attend and report back my findings.

Someone sent me an email saying one local pundit doesn’t think my service on the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee deserves recognition.

Three comments.

First, while I was appointed in January, 2006 and the HWCC provided its final report May 22nd, 2006 (report here), I definitely hit the ground running. While I wasn’t a member of the HWCC very long, I had already attended many of the Phase II (post production of the HWCC principles) and a few of the HWCC Phase I meetings. I had contributed some ideas during the early phase and, when I ran for Council in 2005, had pushed for inclusion of additional environmental guidelines.

Second, the second phase of the HWCC, under new Chair Julie McClintock, pushed an agenda that included the “fleshing” out of the top level principles.

I must have had the group’s confidence as they let me draft the original response to Chancellor Moeser’s January 25th letter (I was a new member), a letter Julie, Joe Capowski and I further refined and presented to Council in May (here).

They also ignore the work of my version of the HWCC sub-committee in developing a framework for using “best in class” environmental protections, including processes for verifying compliance, for Carolina North.

Third comment?

I’ve worked hard to bring interested citizens into the decision-making process. Questioning volunteers’ commitment – especially without reviewing what they have done – is not very inclusive.

We need more helping hands to lift our community up. I believe the best public policy arises from measured debate. If I ever have the honor of serving our community on Council, I assure you that I will measure a candidate by their ability and interest not by whom the cliquish political in-crowd deems fit.

And I will never, ever dismiss a citizen’s contribution but rather honor and celebrate their civic concern.

Wow! A %50 reduction in this years Halloween crowd.

The Town of Chapel Hill successfully reduced the size of the Halloween event on Franklin Street with an estimated showing of 35,000. Town Manager Roger L. Stancil said he believed the “Homegrown Halloween” campaign assisted in reducing the number of revelers, and strategies implemented by Chapel Hill Police helped to improve safety. Franklin Street was closed at about 10 p.m. to accommodate the crowd and was cleared of people after midnight to wrap up the party.

“The partnership of the Town, the University, student government, businesses downtown and the community at large is what brought us back closer to a homegrown event that was safer and more manageable,” Stancil said. “We did this together as a community.”

To manage the event that attracts costumed revelers to promenade on Franklin Street, the Town must coordinate a workforce of more than 700 people, including law enforcement officers, fire and emergency medical service personnel, parking monitors, public works, and parks and recreation crew members.

Some of the changes this year included restricted access to downtown Chapel Hill through lane and street closures starting at 8 p.m. There were no bus shuttles although Safe Ride buses operated for UNC-Chapel Hill students. Alcohol checkpoints were in place at the event, and DWI enforcement took place along outskirts of Chapel Hill with cooperation from the NC Highway Patrol. The Town worked with downtown bar and restaurant owners to restrict alcohol sales after 1 a.m. All ABC permittees among the bars and restaurants in downtown Chapel Hill would not permit customers to enter or re-enter after 1 a.m.

Town crews were expected to work through Saturday morning to clean up litter and restore order. The Town is holding special hours on Saturday morning to receive calls from residents who wish to report post-Halloween related issues that require prompt attention. Service calls will be accepted between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 1, at the following:

Prolific BlueNC ‘blogger Anglico better known locally as former Council member Jim Protzman is now a newly minted novelist.

Debut novelist Protzman offers a refreshingly different tale about a man who calls himself Jesus and leads a group of men who have taken the apostles’ names as they sweep parking lots and anything else they can throughout the South… Fresh prose and an offbeat style make this an appealing tale…Jesus Swept includes some rough language that may offend more conservative readers, but it might appeal to more adventurous patrons who enjoyed last year’s Saving Erasmus by Steven Cleaver.

Tamara Butler — Library Journal, 11/1/2008

According to Jim, Jesus Swept took ten years to write. Publishing it, he says, is “sort of like running for public office, which I’ve done a few times, except there’s no election day. It just goes on and on and on.”

Jim’s tale doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

When I lived in Greenville there was an old man (who was probably my current age) who would carefully sweep 10th Street’s gutters – Downtown to Jarvis. Rain or shine, rarely acknowledging traffic, pedestrians or nearby gawkers he diligently worked down one-side and then back up the other. At times his concentration seemed almost Zen-like. Maybe he was following a better angel?

More information on Jim’s novel from Kitsune Books.

Congratulations Jim!

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