Media


Over the last six years, I’ve learned more than a tad about how our local political sausage is ground. The manufacturing of poor public policy for political gain adds a distinctively bitter taste to that meaty melange.

Yes, at times, pettiness, spite, gamesmanship and ego overwhelm good sense and reasonable public policy. For a few of these “powerful” folks, public disagreement at any level, is a line-crossed forever – a sin never to be forgotten.

Fortunately, at least as I’ve discovered, most of the local “movers-n-shakers” operate using a different calculus – follow their own internal compass – center their arguments more on solving problems – than working to belittle those philosophically opposed. Sure, sometimes the waves of disagreement toss the boat of local discourse about. Maybe a few intemperate barbs about “tone” are thrown around. Debate can and sometimes does devolve into vileness.

In the end, though, whether at OrangePolitics (OP) or SqueezeThePulp (STP) or the Chapel Hill New’s OrangeChat or BlueNC or even on a WCOM radio show, valuable signal seems to punch through the noise of mean-spirited divisiveness.

I don’t buy all the hype about “the wisdom of crowds” but I do know that the folks participating on these forums – whether I agree with them or not – have provided me a new perspective and an invaluable education on local, state and national issues.

There is wisdom in yond hills.

It’s a shame, then, when a healthy dose of disagreement descends into the provinces of puerile, petty vindictiveness (or worse).

Heck, I don’t want to see a group hug or a chorus of Kumbaya but maybe, in these, our country’s current troubled days, just a small crumb of Rodney Kings “can’t we all just get along”.

That’s why I’m happy to see this Geoff Gilson post over on STP:

People, we are lucky that we live in a community that cares enough to be as active as it is. And we are all of us intelligent enough that we should be able to engage in that activity without needless vitriole.

Now, I’m as guilty as anyone of getting a few cheap laughs out of a local politico’s discomfort. But the events of yesterday have got me thinking.

So. Let me start the ball rolling. Dan Coleman, I apologize. I know you are a good and decent man. What happened on ESP was cheap. I’m sorry. On my new show, I will ask you tough questions. But the histrionics will be…well, history.

That bit of radio theatre was a hard listen.

I know Dan. I had listened to and read Gilson’s work. My (quite extensive) stomach sank as the show unrolled. I knew these two had significant disagreements on policy. They had an opportunity to publicly sharpen their cases for and against. Maybe even a better than good chance to shed a little light on the local scene.

All lost in the noise.

Sure, Geoff is working on a new show for WCHL 1360.

Cynically one might presume that this fence-mending is more about dissipating potential guest’s concerns than an honest attempt at rapprochement.

I’m taking Geoff’s bridge building on face value. I think he wants to restart a conversation and not a shouting match.

Good for us. We all win when our local “movers and shakers” expound and sharpen their arguments over local policy in the arena of public debate.

I bumped into the new CarrboroCitizen’s Taylor Sisk and Kirk Ross this morning at Carrboro’s Weaver St. Market. “Where’s the paper?”, I asked. Kirk said that more than 20 folks had already called him asking the same question “Where’s my paper?” Well, they had a few bumps on the road to their premier issue. All’s well, though, as the first content ladened and ad packed edition hit the bricks.

By 3:28pm the papers started appearing around Carrboro – at “the Weave” (inside by the cash registers), at the Orange County Social Club, hand-delivered by Mary Beth to her customers, tossed in the drive of the first 18 home subscribers (all signing up early by “word of mouth”).

I like the CarrboroCitizen’s home delivery model – “don’t ask, don’t get”. The first few times I called Ted Vaden, who ran the Chapel Hill News, was to complain about the 3 or 4 copies of each edition showing up in our drive. We lived on the corner of Wyrick and Barclay, sharing a house with another apartment. For some reason the U-shaped drive attracted multiple deliveries – one of which was sufficient (my neighbors usually pitched the paper directly into the recycling bin or, rarely, used it to scrape up the dog poop along Barclay). I thought about that when I was writing the “My View” column for the Chapel Hill News: just how many of my columns went straight to scraping poop up off the roadway?

What a year for Kirk Ross, the editor of the CarrboroCitizen. I’d run into Kirk a few times over his many years in Town, and though he is a friend of my brother Steve, never really talked with him at length. That changed last year when we both camped out at my brother’s house during SxSWi 2006. Over the week we talked about new media, citizen journalism, citizen activism, developing a brand as a journalist, leveraging the wisdom and interests of the community to better our community, newspapers – living, dying, lost and in-limbo, music, Austin’s “scene”, BBQ Texas-style, politics (lots and lots of politics – local, state and national) and, along with ae [arsepoetica] and her boy-toy db, the incredible Las Manitas.

Coincidentally, it was that same week that CitizenWill really got started.

I think he was casting about for a new direction, a new vibe. I had a few conversations with him since about his developing “brand”. Over the last year he’s traveled the State reporting back via the Cape Fear Mercury, kept his finger on the fibrillating pulse of our somewhat nutty North Carolina legislature via his Exile On Jones Street ‘blog, continued to publish at his former gig – the Indy – and, now, not only help create a new Carrboro newspaper from scratch but inverted current conventional wisdom – using the paper’s ‘net content to deliver a physical product.

Wow! A bold experiment worth the support of the Carrboro community. Congratulations and good luck guys, the news keeps on rolling and you only have 147 hours, 21 minutes until the next edition is due.

I walked over to the offices of the Carrboro Citizen this afternoon to see if Kirk and company would make their Mar. 21st D-Day. Fingers were flying as the staff wrestled multiple streams of content onto the Triangle’s newest newspaper.

Bubba told me that they had to have all the magic bottled by 10PM, just 6 minutes from now.

Good luck folks, I look forward to reading your Mar. 21st inaugural edition.

I might even pick up a couple extra to save for posterity, hope they factored that into the first run 😉

Where can you get a copy?

….free in-town home delivery for Carrboro (and the contiguous Northside neighborhood in the big city).

To sign up give us a call at 942-2100 or send an email to delivery at carrboro citizen dot com. We’ll need to know where you live, of course, and where you’d like the paper placed.

A couple of things to note:

• We plan on opening up delivery options throughout our coverage area as demand increases. If your neighborhood is outside the Carrboro limits and you’d like to be included, please let us know.

• Since we’re a free publication, most apartment complexes do not allow delivery. If you’d like a rack in your complex, though, we’re happy to bring one over.

There will be a box at the park and ride. Also, Weaver Street Market and some of the shops and eateries are on the list. I was asked this week if we’d consider adding Southern Village to our delivery area. Like a lot of neighborhoods not in 27510, it’s likely we will open Southern Village up to home delivery if the interest is there.

In case you don’t subscribe to Council member Laurin Easthom’s ‘blog The Easthom Page, she has an update on some possible forward motion on implementing a municipal network.

Updated staff report on wireless with council discussion is tentative but hopeful for April 23. Such a report will be pretty inclusive and give us the staff’s full range of realistic possibilities for the council and public to consider at that time. I’ll update accordingly, or if things change.

She tagged it to her recent post on “Wifi and Economic Development”.

Thanks for the update Laurin.

If you would like to see our Town use technology to more effectively address social issues, improve operational efficiencies and drive the cost of doing government business down, then make a date to attend the rescheduled Public Forum on Information Technology 7-9pm Mar. 21st, 2007.

The event will be held in the Conference Room of the Chapel Hill Public Library, 100 Library Drive, Chapel Hill [MAP].

While the invitation by “the Town of Chapel Hill to the public to offer comments and suggestions on how it can use information technology to provide more effective and efficient services” is encouraging, given the consultant-oriented agenda

The purpose of the focus group is to provide citizens an opportunity to comment on the components of an information technology environment that would assist Town government operations to provide for the effective and efficient delivery of services to the community. Receiving public input is a part of the process of developing a needs assessment, which is being developed by RHJ Associates Inc. under contract with the Town.

I’m a little concerned that this is more about checking off the “public participation” requirement than soliciting real input.

Council approved the RHJ proposal for a needs assessment [PDF] Nov. 6th, 2006.

Who is RHJ Associates, Inc.?

RHJ Associates, Inc. (RHJA), a Delaware corporation, was established in March, 2000 as a follow-on to the discontinued public sector business unit of The Network Address, Inc. (NAI), Annapolis, Maryland to continue serving the local government community. RHJA focuses on information technology issues confronting municipal governments, is managed by Robert (“Jake”) Jacobstein, formerly Vice President of Client Services of NAI’s public sector business unit, and includes other experts in fields of technology relevant to accomplish day-to-day municipal operating objectives. Upon formation of the company, RHJA expanded its services by teaming with seasoned consultants who possess depth and breadth in virtually all areas of applying technology to government operations. RHJ associates have a minimum of ten years working experience serving the local government sector. RHJA consultants offer a holistic set of services in addressing municipal technology needs. These services include strategic planning, needs assessment, telecommunication planning and design, including voice, data, video and multi-media, organizational development, project management, enterprise resource planning, vocational systems acquisition, and institutional network specification and development,. Collectively, RHJ associates have served hundreds of public entities by assisting them with their information technology challenges.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Strange thing – the only website I’ve found for them (http://rhjassociates.com/) list their address as:

1124 Ragsdale Ct.
New Port Richey, FL 34654
(301) 332-2300
(646) 225-7777 (fax)
Jake’s Email

The site is rather, ummm, elegant in its simplicity.

If there’s another site, I haven’t stumbled on it yet. This kind of appears to be a one man operation run by “Jake”. The curricula vitae of his staff, at least the staff he had in 2004 looks impressive but his proposal to Council was silent on his 2007 assistants (if any).

How did RHJ Associates get involved? Town Manager Roger Stancil.

Town Manager Roger Stancil had recommended a contract with RHJ Associates Inc., a Maryland-based municipal technology planning company which he had hired in Fayetteville, where he worked as city manager before coming to Chapel Hill in September. The company is managed by Jake Jacobstein, a former executive with The Network Address Inc.

N&O’s Jesse James DeConto, Oct. 26th, 2006

Hey, working with someone you’ve worked with before and trust is a smart idea. The no-bid $37,000 contract – not so smart.

Especially for a guy that seems not to be broadly experienced in building social networks or business systems but, instead, has focused on optimizing telecommunications.

At least that’s what he did for Fayetteville’s Public Works Commission (their hometown power company) Oct. 11th, 2006 .

Consideration of Purchase of New Telephone Switch and Related Components
Presented by: James Rose, Chief Administrative Officer Jake Jacobstein, RHJ Associates
Recommendation: Award contract to Embarq (formerly Sprint) [OUCH!]

Same for Cumberland County, Jan. 25th, 2006.

The committee discussed at length the pros and cons for the phone system being voice over IP or digital. RHJ Associates, Jake Jacobstein will attend a meeting with the Partnership staff to provide an initial consultation for what is best for the Partnership and OFRC tenants.

Or Colonial Heights, Virginia Oct. 26th, 2006

The objective is to replace the entire telephone system with a new system that increases the effectiveness of 911 PSAP systems users and the public safety service level to the citizens. The City Emergency Communications Center desires to acquire a system with a proven technical and functional design and preference will be given to Proposers that have currently installed systems that closely approximate or satisfy the City Emergency Communications Center’s requirements in the major functional areas.

Hey, nothing wrong with telecommunications! I worked many years for Nortel – even programmed telephone gear. Heck, I think VOIP (voice over Internet) is the bee’s knees.

And don’t get me started on municipal networking and WiFi.

Just because it appears Jake is top heavy in telecomm , there is no reason he couldn’t be fluent in the latest tech trends. I went on to help bootstrap a couple .COMs to multi-million dollar status as a CIO/CTO. I’m at ease with the latest-n-greatest the computer field offers.

No reason Jake couldn’t have tread the same path.

Still, it is curious, at least to this former member of the unreconstituted Technology Board (you remember how Mayor Foy peremptorily dissolved those apparently nettlesome citizen groups don’t you?), that a needs assessment tapping the wisdom of our computer-oriented citizenry isn’t being performed interactively on the ‘net.

Where is the online forum?

Geez, one of the great advantages of online technology is to open up the discussion – to create a long tail of collaborative content to help fuel innovation.

A few missteps here but Mar. 21st will prove RHJ Associates mettle. 7-9pm. The Library. Bring your tech wishlist.

Though I’ve quoted many relevant comments from OrangePolitics, a watering-hole for local pols, the “other” local forum, SqueezeThePulp has been popping with online commentary for months.

Here’s one of the more active threads Proposed Orange County Landfill Transfer Station Survey which led off with this David Richter open letter to the Orange County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) and elective councils of Carrboro and Chapel Hill:

An open e-mail and appeal to each of elected leaders of Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro:

Proposed: Eubanks Road and the surrounding areas should be removed as a proposed site for the Orange County Landfill Transfer Station from further consideration for now and for the foreseeable future.

Dear Elected Leaders:

I am asking each of you to take an immediate public and personal position on the above proposal. There was a column in the Chapel Hill Herald on Tuesday, 2/13/07 and the Chapel Hill News, 2/14/07 that talked to all the reasons why Eubanks Road should not be the site of the new Landfill Transfer Station. However, the simple fact is that the Rogers Road community was made a promise in 1972 on placement of the Orange County landfill on Eubanks Road. When the landfill was filled to capacity, the Rogers Road community would no longer be subject to Orange County waste facilities and activities. We should not quibble on technicalities or wording. That was the spirit of the promise.

We can talk about how that promise was already broken, but that would not be useful or productive. If the transfer station is located on or near Eubanks Road, it will clearly be a break of the promise and an act of intentional or unintentional “Environmental Racism”. This promise and the decades of contribution by the Rogers Road Community override all the other considerations of cost and expediency. As our current elected leaders, you are responsible to fulfill that original 1972 promise assuring the integrity of our local governments, adhering to the values of our community and just plain doing the right thing.

I am asking each of you to respond to me by March 1^st . The response should be a Yes or No to the above proposal. I will compile all the responses and report it to the local papers. I will also feedback all the responses to those who did respond. Besides each of your names, I will place one of the following entries with no caveats:

– Yes (for the proposal)
– No (against the proposal)
– No position
– No response

I appreciate your attention to this issue and look forward to your responses and a positive result. Thanks.

David Richter

Commissioner Moses Carey responded to David

Mr. Richter;

I am certain that you have followed the process the County is using to make this important decision about the location of the Transfer Station. Our efforts to communicate with the area residents and consider all available sites have been reported in local papers. Additionally the issue of a “Promise ” has been discussed in this community for many years. While you may not be familiar with those past discussions, you may consult the archives of the news papers to become updated on those discussions.

The BOCC has a process to make a decision on the Transfer Station site and I trust we will adhere to it. That process includes listening to area residents and weighing all available information before making a decision. The views of the Towns on the currently considered sites is the next bit of information we will receive for discussion at our march 1st work session during which the public may listen, but not speak. You may wish to attend to be further informed.

However, it would be premature and unethical in my opinion for any elected official to respond to you as you have requested prior to considering all information which must be considered to make an informed decision on this matter.

I look forward to seeing you at our meeting.

and David responded to Moses

Commissioner Carey:

Thank you for responding to my e-mail. I do appreciate your time and consideration. However, I am baffled by your response and disagree with your rationale.

1) I do agree that we have an ethical problem but disagree where the ethical problem lies. Regardless of whether people agree on the reality or the interpretation of the “promise”, it is an undeniable fact the Roger’s Road community has lived with the Orange County Landfill for over three decades in their back yard and all the resulting negative impacts to their quality of life. After three plus decades the fact that Orange County Board of Commissioners is even considering the same area as the site of the Transfer Station is of itself unethical. It is time to look else where to solve Orange County’s waste problems.

2) I do not understand what process you were referencing in your response. I was unable to retrieve any process with a search. If there is a documented process please point me to it. However, in the last posted minutes of the Solid Waste Advisory Board meeting of 11/2/06 it seems there is no current alternative Orange County site list or search of a site in progress. In fact it is my understanding there is no official criteria for a Transfer Station site in place. The minutes clearly promote the Eubanks Road site for the Transfer Station as the path of least resistance. As far as I can tell, Eubanks Road is the “ONLY” site within Orange County under consideration. Please tell me if I am wrong and if so I apologize and where can I find the list? It is also important to note that any “process” leading to an unethical result is far from appropriate.

For our elected leaders to stand up at this time and be counted is not unethical; it is the right thing for them to do. I urge them to be counted, if not through an e-mail to me (I am just a single citizen speaking for myself) then through other venues. I also urge the Orange County Board of Commissioners to take the ethical path and instruct the Solid Waste Advisory board to take Eubanks Road off the table and find another site for the Transfer Station regardless of the convenience factor. After all, the Rogers Road Community has been living with the “inconvenience” for a long time.

David Richter
Carrboro

Yes, SqueezeThePulp snide, nasty and tough at times with a few dust ups that drown the signal out with noise (like the crappy tit-for-tat that Fred Black and Mark Gill had in the middle of this transfer station discussion) but it does serve a locally online community that Ruby’s OrangePolitics doesn’t.

And that online community, on the Rogers Road issue, led the way.

Profiting from Council’s continued inability to craft effective technology policy, Clearwire, a wireless Internet service provider utilizing proprietary spectrum, has gained a toe-hold in our community.

These days, it’s hard to imagine getting through high school without the Internet.

However, there are at least 100 students at East Chapel Hill High School whose families cannot afford the service.

This number is a big concern for Ginny Guilfoile, East Chapel Hill’s Parent Teacher Student Association president who started a program to provide loaner computers and Internet access for students in need.

“I thought, how would it be if my kid didn’t have a computer,” Guilfoile said. “I knew there were kids that could not keep up with the other kids at East without the Internet.”

The district’s Information Technology Division was able to form a partnership with Clearwire, a high-speed wireless Internet provider.

Ray Reitz, the district’s chief technology officer, explained that by using Clearwire, the need for costly land-line phones or cable is eliminated.

“The cost of Internet access has been the main obstacle. The Clearwire solution is a completely wireless solution,” Reitz said.

Daily Tar Heel, Feb. 28th, 2007

Long time readers know how I’ve promoted the development of a community-owned network to stimulate economic development, bridge the digital divide and increase Town’s operational efficiency.

Councilmember Laurin Easthom has been the only elective leader to-date promoting the cost effective and tactical deployment of this “must have” infrastructure.

“Must have”? Yes, to compete effectively in the global marketplace we need to invest a modest amount in technological infrastructure.

Rider said she has received very positive feedback from the 42 students to whom the program has provided Internet access so far.

“One student told me the quality of her work improved because she had time in between going to school and working on assignments,” Rider said. “Basically they all talk about the same thing – how it was very hard to do their work and how much easier it is right now.”

Guilfoile said that although the program has been successful this year, the PTSA might not be able to sustain the funds needed to continue it unless they find a long-term source for funding.

Only 42 students now out of 100 alone at East covered by the $15,000 in grant money.

What of all the other students and residents within Town that are cut-off from the new Town Commons?

Free access to both information and information infrastructure is critical for our community’s success.

Recently, local activist Ellen Perry pointed out in a thread on OrangePolitics the problem the homeless have when cut-off from communication:

has any one ever thought about helping these folks get social security and a post office box so they could start to help themselves . if people dont have anywhere to get there mail its hard to start to get a check or a medicaid card or food stamps or apply for any of the stuff people have when they have a home.

As last week’s Independent headlined (Bridging the divide
Techies across the Triangle are finding ways to connect people around the world
), more and more services are being directed and delivered via the ‘net.

For a community that prides itself on social justice and intellectual prowess, the continuing failure to bridge the gap is inexcusable.

No, I’m not talking about a face-off between the N&O and the Herald Sun.

If you get PBS HD 4.2, Frontline is airing the episode, “What’s Happening to the News”, of their series News War

Bergman traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration’s attacks on the media and the post-Watergate popularity of the press to new obstacles presented by the war on terror and changing economics in the media business and the Internet. The topic has special resonance for Bergman, whose career as a journalist for FRONTLINE, The New York Times, ABC News and 60 Minutes has included reporting on the issues that are critical to the current controversies. “There has been a perfect storm brewing in the world of news,” says Bergman. “Not since the Nixon administration has there been this level of hostility leveled at news organizations. … [But] unlike the confrontations of 35 or more years ago, today’s news war sees the very economic foundations of the business shifting.”

Don’t get HD? Frontline is streaming the show here.

Tonight’s episode

examines the economic pressures the news industry faces because of aging audiences and the Internet. Included: comments from “Daily Show” head writer David Javerbaum; Ted Koppel; former L.A. Times managing editor Dean Baquet, who was fired after a dispute about staffing cuts; “60 Minutes” executive producer Jeff Fager; Google CEO Eric Schmidt; Daily Kos’ Markos Moulitsas; and former L.A. Times editor John Carroll.

Ever since the Chapel Hill News was McClatcheyed and the Herald Sun was Paxtoned the overall quality of Chapel Hill reportage, in my humble opinion, has slipped.

It is NOT the fault of the Chapel Hill News staff but, I believe, the framework they’re working within. That’s why I welcome their latest experiment, Orange Chat, that allows them more direct interaction, fuller explication and timelier reportage than their print version. Must be frustrating to have to do an end run to deliver content to the community.

Beyond that, the Chapel Hill News is having a nice upswing with the awarding of six news awards by the NC Press Association in the 2006 NC statewide competition.

Staff writer Jesse DeConto won a first-place award in the news enterprise reporting category for “Down on the Corner,” a story about the immigrants who gather at a corner in Carrboro every morning looking for day labor jobs.

“Excellent ‘enterprise’ to recognize this story and cover it so well,” the judge wrote. “It has a human side as well as the background and supporting data that shows this to be an issue of importance. Well done!”

Editor Mark Schultz earned a first-place award for headline writing.

CHN, Feb. 26th

McClatchey needs to unleash these folks and let them run their own shop.

By the way, though I’m an occasional columnist for the CHN, I’m speaking from no internal knowledge.

Looks like one of our community’s cooler cats is out of the bag.

The Daily Tar Heel reports today on pioneering on-line journalist, State political analyst, former editor of the Indy Kirk Ross’ ( Exile On Jones Street) latest venture: The Carrboro Citizen.

Why create a new media outlet for Carrboro?

“It’s got 17,000 people, seven schools, good schools, growing, annexing; it’s next to exploding Chatham County – we think it needs a newspaper,” [ROSS] said.

Ross also said he has been unhappy with the way outside papers cover the town.

“You read a Carrboro story, and it’s not written for Carrboro; it’s written to explain things to the Triangle.”

The Citizen is an interesting inversion of current trends in newsprint. This new media effort is tapping their strong on-line content to publish newspapers. Yep, real paper, delivered weekly on Wednesdays.

Hey, not everyone is online, yet…

Congratulations to Kirk, his allies at the Carrboro Commons and to the Carrboro community for supporting their own “home town” news outlet.

There’s been a small discussion over on SqueezeThePulp about the declining efficacy of local media outlets in covering our community. I suggested that new media outlets will soon move into this long fallow territory – intensively covering local events – to the possible detriment of traditional news outlets.

It appears that Carrboro is the center (once again) of local innovation.

Monday, the Carrboro Commons launched to fill the gap:

As we launch the Carrboro Commons today, we too feel the need for an introduction — sort of a 5W’s on us: the who, what, why, where, when and how.

In short, we are a new newspaper blog for this special place. Whether you call it “the Paris of the Piedmont,” “The People’s Republic of Carrboro,” “Karmaboro,” or just plain old Carrboro, if you’re a resident, you know that Carrboro is unique. And with apologies to Stephen Colbert, compared to Chapel Hill, we think Carrboro is “uniquer.”

That’s why we believe that Carrboro is an under-served media population. From everything Carrboro folk are telling us, this is a town that needs, wants and deserves a quality news, feature and A&E source.

More via the inimitable Paul Jones.

An update on the muni-networking task force prepared by UNC’s Shannon Howle Schelin, PhD, one of our stronger advocates for 21st century infrastructure.

On November 13, 2006, an exploratory meeting was held at the Town of Chapel Hill to discuss the Town’s interest in pursuing a wireless strategy. The goal of the meeting was to determine a strategy for investigating the broad issues related to a wireless initiative in the Town, as well as to seek the in-kind support and expert guidance of the University of North Carolina (UNC), the UNC School of Government (UNC SOG), and the NC League of Municipalities (NCLM). External participants participating in the meeting included John Streck, UNC, Shannon Schelin, UNC SOG, and Lee Mandell, NCLM. Internal staff members participating in the meeting included Roger Stancil, Flo Miller, Bob Avery and Arek Kempinski.

The preliminary minutes and associated outcomes of the meeting are offered for your review and comment.
The external participants were briefed on the interest of Town Council and citizen advocates in pursuing a wireless strategy for Chapel Hill. The majority of the conversation centered on the “why” question—as in “why is Chapel Hill interested in undertaking such an effort?” The drivers for the wireless strategy were articulated as follows:

  • 1. Addressing the digital divide;
  • 2. Increasing citizen access (in-home service)
  • 3. Increasing mobility (ubiquitous access in public areas—i.e. downtown);
  • 4. Improving governmental operations (public safety and public service); and,
  • 5. Economic development.

Based on the conversation, the following suggestions and commitments were made by UNC, UNC SOG, and NCLM

  • 1. The interest of the Town Council and citizen advocates does not specifically presume a “wireless” solution, but rather, a “connectivity” solution of which wireless is one component.
  • 2. The “why” question is multi-faceted and each component needs to be studied individually in order to create a comprehensive connectivity plan.
    • a. For example, licensed radio frequency (4.9 GHz, etc) is a robust, 802.16 alternative that is specifically designed for public safety and public service but is unavailable for citizen use. However, the lack of interference that is provided by the licensed spectrum creates significant advantages in data speed, accuracy, reliability, and security—all of which are vital to the development of any mobile government applications.
    • b. Another example is the extension of a wireless network into low-wealth communities without the provision of equipment used to access the network will not have the desired impact upon the community.
  • 3. The external participants, UNC, UNC SOG, and NCLM, agreed to work as a team, with the involvement of the Town staff, to examine the components and drivers of the “connectivity” request that has been generated by Town Council and citizen advocates. The outcome of this work will be a comprehensive listing of the drivers and requisite solution alternatives for each issue.
  • 4. The request to identify additional drivers associated with the connectivity request was made at the close of the meeting and will be gathered by Town staff through conversations with Council Members.
  • 5. The team will convene to begin its work after the Thanksgiving break.
  • 6. In addition, upon completion of the plan, the team will advise the Town Council and staff on the technological, financial, and legal issues surrounding the various solutions that will compose the Connectivity Plan.

Additional feedback or comments on this meeting or the steps outlined for proceeding are appreciated.

Originally tonight’s Council agenda seemed to indicate a discussion on forming a broader task force was on the docket. Now the item is “informational”.

A shame, as I was planning to make a few comments about the lack of citizen advocates within the current discussion and trumpet the continuing successes of other locales, like St. Cloud Florida’s comprehensive effort or Minnesota’s St. Louis Park educational outreach.

Went to an interesting Downtown Partnership sponsored Safety Forum this morning, the notes of which I’ll post later…

While there I had the pleasure of meeting the Herald-Sun’s Robert Ashley.

Poor guy. He probably wouldn’t have sat next to me if he’d known I was going to give him an earful about the Herald-Sun’s on-line linking policy.

As I recently wrote, cutting the community off from their historical narrative is not only selfish, it is bad business. Robert disputed my “bad business” assertion, telling me the HS makes plenty from their archival content.

Ouch! I’ll bet whatever paltry sum they’re making from paywalling, the ill will they’re generating amongst both their on-line readership and those, like myself, that are FREELY steering customers (“eyeballs”) their way far outweighs the traditional business value of hiding content from the greater ‘net-world.

Already folks who want to reference HS articles are either, one, skirting fair-use provisions excerpting enough of the content to bolster their points or two, turning to other media outlets with far friendlier community-service oriented policies.

Doc Searls, always an entertaining and insightful commentator on new media, wrote recently about the cracks forming in the paywall and why, sans community service, paywalling is dumb business:

That’s why I’ve tried to limit the argument to the real trade-offs involved. This has nothing to do with “citizenship.” It has everything to do with the facts of publishing life, where the Web is a larger and larger context. Newspapers and magazines make some money by selling old stories through Lexis-Nexis and Dialog. But they make most of their money from advertising and subscriptions, which might both increase if archives are exposed to the Web.

Robert, if you’re reading this, I want to emphasize that I’m your ally.

I want to strengthen all our local journalistic enterprises – to help your institution make the leap from a manufacturer of paper and ink products to a valued community service provider. But you need to make the move soon…new media is moving at Internet speeds and it won’t be long before your backwards policy is irrelevant.

At the end of it all, if the Herald-Suns and News Observers of the world want to cut off their “long tail”, so be it…

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about citizen journalism of late.

Exemplary reports by BlueNC’s own SouthernDem, Greensboro’s release of the “secret” RMA report detailing the reasons for their police chief’s discharge, commentary from real journalists at the recent ConvergeSouth unconference, the Sunlight Foundation’s key assistance in outing congressional nepotism and revealing federal earmarks have me wondering about the future role CitizenWill.org might play in our local community.

Unfortunately, even as many online researchers/authors/activists are buoyed by rising fortunes, the United State’s professional journalism institutions are on the wane.

Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006 chronicles our medias plummet from 17th to 53rd place in a short 4 years.

The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

It could be worse:

“Unfortunately nothing has changed in the countries that are the worst predators of press freedom,” the organisation said, “and journalists in North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Burma and China are still risking their life or imprisonment for trying to keep us informed. These situations are extremely serious and it is urgent that leaders of these countries accept criticism and stop routinely cracking down on the media so harshly.

The three worst violators of free expression – North Korea, bottom of the Index at 168th place, Turkmenistan (167th) and Eritrea (166th) – have clamped down further. The torture death of Turkmenistan journalist Ogulsapar Muradova shows that the country’s leader, “President-for-Life” Separmurad Nyazov, is willing to use extreme violence against those who dare to criticise him. Reporters Without Borders is also extremely concerned about a number of Eritrean journalists who have been imprisoned in secret for more than five years. The all-powerful North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, also continues to totally control the media.

Strong journalism is a deterrent to tyranny both petty and powerful.

Maybe, in some small way, local folks like BrianR at Yesh, Mark Peters at SqueezeThePulp, Sally Greene at Greenespace, Ruby Sinreich at OrangePolitics, Robert P at CountryCrats, Bora Zivkovic at Blog Around the Clock, Eric Muller at isThatLegal.org, Laurin Easthom at The Easthom Page, Terri Buckner at LocalEcology, Paul Jones at the Real Paul Jones, Kirk Ross at Exile On Jones Street and many more, are filling the widening gap between what we have reported and what we need reported.

Maybe, even, they provide an encouraging example of what a local on-line community is capable of achieving.

There were 20+ folks tonight – with a couple from the media – maybe 4 or 5 organizers – some town staff and the balance being interested citizens. I was already convinced that District 15B voters have a heck of slate of candidates before them – tonight I was more impressed than ever.

Very simply – we can’t lose. Of course, we have to pick and the candidates did a good job differentiating their philosophies, approaches, procedures and performance.

Due to what turned out to be poor placement of the camera and some technical issues I botched Adam Steins opening statement. In my defense, I set my camera up early – on a tripod as per BrianR’s excellent recommendation – well away from onlookers and the moderator. But then “dancin’ Doyle” decide to move stage right. By that point, my bobbing photographic nemesis for the night had taken the high ground.

Opening statements in reverse order appearance on the ballot. Essentially, Adam Stein reviewed his service before the bar, his work on the Mel Watt and Daryl Hunt cases and laid out his career as per the first forum.

I apologize for cutting Judge Fox off during question on political parties influence: essentially he gave a reprise of his answer on parties and politics from the 1st forum.

Some interesting highlights.

  • Anderson on reforming the system for selecting judges – especially the perception of the public about what the effect of money has on jurisprudence.
  • Anderson on keeping current with the law.
  • Stein taking up the transition challenge with his closing statement.
  • Stein on why he’s punctual now – great story of his youth.
  • Fox on managing high profile cases.
  • Baddour on how a short term can hurt our system of justice.
  • Baddour on direct outreach and keeping the “common Joe” in the picture.

Again, I apologize to the candidates for weaving around, botching the focus, not anticipating “dancing Doyle” and, in Mr. Stein’s case, completely zapping a segment. I’m working to get better at this vLog business.

And to my readership, thanks for the feedback. I wasn’t sure if these videos would have any utility.

Opening statements. I botched Mr. Stein’s statement. Later this week I hope to retrieve a video copy from the cable telecast.

youTube link to opening statements.

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