Ruminations


One of the projects on tonight’s agenda was D.R. Bryan’s six story Southern Village hotel. The hotel was to be plopped down in Southern Village’s central “square”. At 75+ feet, it would tower over the nearby United Methodist Church.

Local residents were concerned that this 6 story project wasn’t human-scale or compatible with the existing surround. I fully agreed.

“We value the human, pedestrian-scale of our existing ‘Village’ and believe the mass and scale of a 75-foot building set diagonally from the United Methodist Church is incompatible in proportion to the neighborhood area,” the petition said.

According to the Chapel Hill News OrangeChat, the project has been pulled from the agenda awaiting a supposedly more palatable 4-story variant.

They have a new plan that is four stories, they announced last week. The new plan also closes Abedrdeen Drive to create a plaza connecting the hotel to the community’s village green and stage.

OrangeChat also noted that one of Bryan’s partners, a Southern Village resident, opposed the project. Ben Waldorf, former Mayor Rosemary Waldorf’s son, signed the petition challenging the project.

You might also remember that Rosemary recently suggested providing direct economic incentives (cash) to fill all the empty commercial properties around town. No indication as of yet if cash incentives will be required to fill this new hotel.

Do you recognize the following scene?

This is East West Partner’s revisionist view of Chapel Hill as improved upon by their East 54 project. They have provided a cool animation of the eventual East 54 living experience.

One small problem.

Their Chapel Hill doesn’t match reality.

What is it about big time developers and their desire to re-conceptualize reality?

From what I hear, East West Partners are working hard on their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) certifications. East54 could be the first North Carolina development to leap LEED-ND’s hurdles. An accomplishment well worth noting if they run the whole race.

Isn’t that worth overlooking a little virtual retouching of Chapel Hill?

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.

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.

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 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.

Ellie, Elijah and I go to the polls Election Day (it deserves to be both capitalized and a holiday) – it is a family tradition. Even though I’ve voted in every major and almost all primary elections since 1980, I still get excited on Election Day (doubly so when I was running).

While I’ve worked out most of the top of the ticket characters I’m voting for, luckily I still have time to figure out some of the judgeships.

Early voting in Orange County has been heavy but not a problem. As reported in today’s News and Observer:

In Orange County, the average wait has been 15 minutes or less, said director Tracy Reams of the Board of Elections. By the end of Wednesday, 38,904 people — more than 40 percent of registered voters — already had voted in Orange.

Since Orange County has been managing the voter turnout, the Board of Elections decided this morning to close the polls as per the original schedule (9am to 1pm Saturday).

I’ve closely followed the management of local elections for nearly 20 years and from what I can tell, this is one of the best run elections Orange County has experienced.

One reason: Tracy Reams.

Oct. 10th I called the BOE to find out how preparations were progressing. I had heard that in the closing days of regular voter registration the staff was processing hundreds of applications daily. Tracy, who was hired last December, spent nearly an hour sketching out her plan to make what was anticipated as the biggest election in decades go smoothly.

After a few minutes, I well understood why the BOE was so thrilled to hire her:

Billie Cox, Chair of the Orange County Board of Elections, said that she and members of the board, Hank Elkins and John Felton, were very pleased that Ms. Reams had accepted this position.

“Tracy has all the skills we were seeking,” Cox said. “In addition to her understanding of election laws, technology and organizational skills, she is well known and highly regarded in Nash County for her ability to work with staff, precinct officials, political parties, candidates, and the general public,” Cox added.

In 2006, I reviewed the county’s choice of voting equipment. I pushed for the more tamper-proof, verifiable vote, optical scan option. One technical limitation these machines has involves how many ballots, realistically, the hopper can manage. ES&S, the manufacturer, claims 2000. Folks on the Internet claim 1500.

Two years later and two minutes into our conversation, Tracy described her ballot management process.

“Our machines won’t hold 2,000 ballots,” she said and went on to describe how she had instructed poll-workers to empty the bins at 1,200 to prevent jamming. Then she outlined her procedure for guaranteeing the integrity of those ballots – witnesses, safety tape, ballot box opened publicly. Wow!

She had ordered %120 of the required ballots to handle any major swell of last minute registrants, ordered 13 phone lines up from 4 at the BOE office, doubled staff to 65 with another trained 10 employees on standby and planned to position the extra dozen polling machines in the field quickly accessible to replace any broken equipment. Further, she had ordered enough laptops to deploy one, each with the current registration roll, at each of the 44 Orange County voting precincts.

That is the kind of preparation our voters deserve.

I’ve gotten to know our BOE staff fairly well over the last 15 years and they all are a diligent crew.

Tracy is the icing on the cake.

As a member of the Town’s Downtown Parking Task Force I lobbied vigorously for a baseline study of parking conditions Downtown. Why? The data covering typical parking patterns was spotty at best. Further, there was no adequate model to plug any data into to analyze suggested improvements. A year on the Downtown Partnership is rolling out the results of the study they and the Town commissioned.

Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is holding a public forum to gather input from the community on the downtown Chapel Hill parking study. Parking has been identified by downtown business and property owners, residents and visitors as one of the top five issues affecting downtown.

The forum will be held at University Presbyterian Church on Thursday, October 30 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. The church entrance is located at 110 Henderson Street.

Parking is available in the Wallace Parking Deck on Rosemary Street. For bus routes
and schedules please visit [routes].

The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership hired the parking consulting firm of Rich & Associates to conduct the study. The study includes a current assessment of parking, an analysis of parking supply and demand, as well as parking promotions, management, policies and maintenance. The study makes recommendations on how to improve parking in the downtown.

To view the Parking Study Findings and Recommendations please click here.

To view the detailed Parking Study Recommendations please click here.

This information is also available at the Downtown Partnership’s office located
at 308 West Rosemary Street, Suite 202. To receive a copy by mail or email please
contact the Downtown Partnership at 967-9440 or partnership@downtownchapelhill.com.

If you are unable to attend the forum but would like to make comments please contact the Downtown Partnership at 967-9440 orpartnership@downtownchapelhill.com

I write my ‘blog knowing full well that there are many folks more eloquent, more on-point than I will ever be. Jim Protzman, former Chapel Hill Councilmember, BlueNC’r sent this simple request to Representative David Price about the Bush Administration’s $700 billion long con.

Dear Congressman Price

We were told last week that the world would end if the bail-out didn’t pass immediately. It didn’t pass, and the world didn’t end. Then we were told we had a few days. Then we were told next Monday would be okay. Some even say a few weeks would be okay.

The truth is, no one in Congress has any freakin’ idea what you’re dealing with here. The $700 billion figure was pulled out of Paulson’s ass. It has no grounding in reality whatsoever. It’s not even clear that a bail out is absolutely necessary…..

Dead on. Thanks Jim for articulating, if even a little freakin’ off-color, what I want David to do – reject the Bushies final grift.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that David’s efforts, if he should take Jim’s sage advice, will be subverted by his own party’s leadership, ala Salon’s Glenn Greenwald’s recent observation what the Democratic Leadership
(The complete (though ever-changing) elite consensus over the financial collapse) will probably do:

Leave aside for the moment whether this gargantuan nationalization/bailout scheme is “necessary” in some utilitarian sense. One doesn’t have to be an economics expert in order for several facts to be crystal clear:

First, the fact that Democrats are on board with this scheme means absolutely nothing. When it comes to things the Bush administration wants, Congressional Democrats don’t say “no” to anything. They say “yes” to everything. That’s what they’re for.

They say “yes” regardless of whether they understand what they’re endorsing. They say “yes” regardless of whether they’ve been told even the most basic facts about what they’re being told to endorse. They say “yes” anytime doing so is politically less risky than saying “no,” which is essentially always and is certainly the case here. They say “yes” whenever the political establishment — meaning establishment media outlets and the corporate class that funds them — wants them to say “yes,” which is the case here. And they say “yes” with particular speed and eagerness when told to do so by the Serious Trans-Partisan Republican Experts like Hank Paulson and Ben Bernake (or Mike McConnell and Robert Gates and, before them, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell).

So nothing could be less reassuring or more meaningless than the fact that the Democratic leadership has announced that what they heard scared them so much that they are certain all of this is necessary — whatever “all this” might be (and does anyone think that they know what “this” even is?). It may be “necessary” or may not be, but the fact that Congressional Democrats are saying this is irrelevant, since they would not have done anything else — they’re incapable of doing anything else — other than giving their stamp of approval when they’re told to.

This will be the third “big scare” used to justify the most corrosive of public policies. 9/11 led to the hasty adoption of the Orwellian Patriot Act. Fabricated “intelligence” of Iraqii WMDs led to the worst foreign policy and humanitarian disaster of the last few generations. And now, with the implosion of financial institutions whose underpinnings were based on incremental movements of trust in instruments spun from less substance than cotton candy, we have the rush to payoff the indefensible ripoffs on Wall St.

By every and any measure, the American public, prodded by fear and ignorance over 7 years, have emptied their, their childrens’ and grandchildren’s pockets – trillions of dollars – in the largest transfer of public weal to private hands ever.

Never have so many given so much to so few.

And as the Cheney/Bush madministration draws to a close, this third and final act seeks to strip the America’s cupboard bare, dot the final i on the most incompetent Presidency in our Republic’s short history and end, it seems, by drowning the Neo-Con’s favorite whipping boy – a Federal regulatory government – in the bathtub.

[UPDATE]
The meeting started out with a set of criticisms, especially from Barry Jacobs, about the consultant’s work product and process. “This is not the process we agreed to…” sums up the majority’s concerns.

I called for a reworking of both the process and the criteria used to determine the siting of the transfer facility, including suggesting a “matrix decision” process (Trash Talk: Systematic Is The New Watchword). As such, I agree that this wasn’t the process the BOCC wanted or asked for. I understand that during the summer it is more difficult to track progress of ongoing projects. That said, the BOCC knew that this particular issue required more oversight than usual and should have been prepared for substantive process this evening.

Nice if they had “got it done”, as one public commenter said.

In any case, it appears that the Eubanks road location is slated to be bumped on community concerns putting Hillsborough’s sites squarely at the top of list. It will be interesting to see how that discussion plays out.

Here (“Rogers Road Community:A Unified Front”) is a collection of background information.

[ORIGINAL]

Starting in the middle with community input.

First, room is packed to the point the fire marshal has asked that folks move out into the hall. Haven’t seen this many folks in the room in quite awhile…

Using the matrix decision process I suggested last year (Trash Talk: Systematic Is The New Watchword), the BOCC just agreed to apply the community criteria to the selection of a site from the top ten. Eleven sites were winnowed out of hundreds based on exclusionary and technical requirements. One of those was dropped because of an existing preservation agreement.

First up Rev. Campbell steps up and hands the BOCC two stacks of comments – each the size of a NY City phone book – and says “here’s some community comment” to get us started.

Next is Rev. Eaton (James B. corrected me, that was “Pastor Rick Edens from the UCC church on Airport “), calling on site #4, the existing Eubanks site, to be dropped.

UNC environmental graduate says that NC is the only state which has studied siting waste management and that, in general, those with little political power get stuck with the garbage.

Neloa Jones points out that if Federal EPA guidelines for site selection had been followed that Eubanks would have never made it to the list of ten. She asks that ALL the criteria be applied before any of the sites be eliminated but then continues by citing the relevant guidelines underlining that Eubanks Site #669 be eliminated. She finishes by saying “vote tonight”, “let it end tonight”.

Rev. Campbell is back. He handed in 340 community criteria comment forms. “36 years” is enough. 36 years of tainted ground water, unsafe roadways, etc. means there is no social justice for this community – in fact for all the citizens of Orange County. He calls on the BOCC to protect all residents – to protect their environment – to protect their rights. “Make the right decision. Remove site #669”.

Mike Gerry – Hillsborough board member – asks why two of the top sites are in the Eno River Economic development zone. Was quite concerned that his committee is just now finding out about those site selections. Wishes they had been involved earlier in the process.

I suggested earlier (2035: Orange County’s Garbage Center of Gravity) that these sites would actually function as an economic resource going forward. Not only being sited in a zone already set aside for commercial development, both sites are close to rail access.

Another representative from Hillsborough is pointing out that the two top sites (based on the exclusionary and technical criteria) will negatively impact Hillsborough’s development. You think that these sites aren’t in somebody’s backyards back “this is in Hillsborough’s backyard”. A backyard that Hillsborough already has planned to develop for its economic well-being.

Nate – environmental engineer with extensive background in site selection. In professional opinion the county’s consultants used subjective criteria in scoring Eubanks in an effort to depress its chances. First example – transit access on Eubanks should score higher given I40 access and existing road improvements. Second, existing site improvements on Eubanks makes it more technically superior than the score indicates. Third, existing perception that the 2011 closure will bring “a pristine meadow”, that isn’t the case. He’s trying to make the case that the technical and exclusionary criteria were biased and not objective in order to create a political excuse to remove Eubanks.

Unfortunately some folks are trying to drown this citizen out. His comments show that he hasn’t been following the story as closely as he maybe should to apply his professional opinion. He finishes by addressing the environmental justice consideration by calling on the BOCC to provide tax breaks, development funds, etc. to reward those neighborhoods. Of course, this means he doesn’t know that promises made to these neighborhoods have been ignored for over 36 years.

Jim Ciao – local developer for Waterstone – who is developing neighborhoods near site #573. They put $28 million into economic development where the OC and the BOCC asked them to put it. Is afraid that #573 will negatively impact their development.

Two more Hillsborough citizens pipe up that the entrance to Hillsborough shouldn’t be blighted by trash trucks. Jo Soulier says she doesn’t want to tell visitors that “instead of using Google to find Hillsborough just follow the trash trucks.”

Rogers Road resident Ken Meardon gets up to respond “to the lady who was concerned about following the trucks…imagine telling [folks] to follow the trucks to your house as I have these last 36 years.”

Kevin Wolff steps up and reiterates his opposition to the Rogers Road site. Asks that the commissioners begin to consider keeping our trash in county and not dumping it on another community. He points out that the costs for transporting our trash problem is only going to increase and calls for a resolution that will economically address our waste now and in the future.

Barry Jacobs wraps the session by reiterating that the community criteria will be applied by the next meeting and the final slate will be ready for community discussion.

Final tally – at 6:30pm the fire marshal counted 184 folks at the meeting.

[UPDATE Matt Dee’s N&O report here. ]

Fred reminds us that tomorrow, Sept. 17th, 2008, is Constitution Day. 221 years ago our Founders ratified a vision which carried this Nation to greatness. Over the last 10 years, much of our national leadership, motivated by partisan zeal and political gamesmanship, have done their best to besmirch and diminish that awesome achievement. As long as folks remember, though, there is hope we will restore our lost civil liberties and re-infuse this Nation with the same spirit upon which it was founded.

Fred has gathered a fantastic set of links, including the Library of Congress’ historical retrospective.

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.

Barack Obama swung by Chapel Hill tonight in his on-going attempt to clinch his party’s nomination. As David Price noted, for the first time in decades North Carolina is relevant – and we have an opportunity to push Obama over the top.

As with many political events, the rally, scheduled for 9:30pm kicked off promptly at 10:19pm. The Dean Dome was 3/4’s full – the crowd a mix of college students and locals (with a smattering of notable politicos – Mel Watt, David Price, Hampton Dellinger, Alice Gordon).

If you’ve seen Obama speak before, the stump he gave was fairly familiar – tweaked a bit for both the Tar Heel college and North Carolina “blue” crowd. He butchered Chancellor Moeser’s name (quickly corrected with some input from the crowd). He made a small reference to RTP – proposed cloning its success (I suggest better research by his crew). Spoke of mitigating college tuitions using a Americorp type program ($12K per annum -whew!). Talked about off-shoring of jobs and closing of mills. But mostly it was a speech targeted towards a national audience.

He riffed on McCain – “25 years in Congress” and a $25 gas tax refund “is the best he can do”.

After pummeling McCain a bit, he carefully highlighted the differences between him and Hillary.

Obama painted Hillary as the candidate of lobbyists, special interests and the back room party apparatchik. Contrasting his trip to Wall Street to inform CEOs that their personal tax bills were headed up, that under his administration Federal subsidies for their cash cows would dry up and windfall profits (literally highway robbery) were going to be taxed with Hillary’s Union hall pandering, he made the case for his political courage. And, he noted subtlety, she hasn’t been quite honest.

Which brings me back to our local Board of Commissioners race.

Between the two at-large candidates that I know and have seen in action at close range, Neloa Jones is the hands down best candidate.

She’s united her community, built coalitions and been honest and up-front with her concerns. She’s demonstrated her political courage.

She is no creature of the local “rah rah growth at any cost” political clique.

Neloa has not been missing in action and she hasn’t, like her opponent laid claim to positions she hasn’t fought for – kind of our own homegrown Obama. Sharp, with a real sense of purpose, Neloa is the kind of leader we need for Orange County.

Please, when you go to vote for Obama (or Hillary) cast a vote for Neloa.

Here’s some action from tonight’s rally. All photos compliments of my son Elijah.

(more…)

Forty years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. As you might guess, I’ve been encouraged by his words and his actions for more than four decades.

The night before his death Dr. King observed a nation in distress:

The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.

He rejected the quelling of dissent:

All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

But, in the end, he was silenced.

Though it seems we’ve come a long way from the days of Crow, recent reminders, like the racist subtext flowing through the local blog-o-sphere after Eve Carson’s murder or the continued government supported gentrification of Chapel Hill demonstrates how far we’ve yet to go…



What would Martin make of our world today? Principled dissent is no longer an American bedrock principle. Surveillance, wiretapping, water boarding part of our everyday experience. “Incarceration over education” ( 1 in 9 young black males according to the recent Pew report), poverty surging and a war even more ridiculously off-kilter than Vietnam ever was…

Martin said that night (I’ve been to the mountaintop) that we should “develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness”, to help folks not questioning “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” but rather “If I do no stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

That is the question, as ever, before us this tragic fortieth anniversary.

(more…)

“Murder does not come often to Chapel Hill” sums up what I’ve heard frequently today in the wake of Eve Carson’s tragic death.

The Mayor said it. WCHL’s Ron Stutts and Natasha Vukelic repeated the sentiment on my drive home. Chief Curran, at the 5:30 CHPD, said it was one reason Eve Carson remained unidentified for some time.

Murder, at least for now, does appear to come infrequently to Chapel Hill but it does come, and more often than our media and elected leadership admit. I’ve lived here for nearly two decades – been around Chapel Hill for nearly three – and no matter how much I want our community to be and to be seen as safe and secure, our brushes with serious crime are coming more frequently and often more violently.

In the last few weeks, two domestic disputes, one in Northside and one at Carrboro’s Carrboro Plaza ended in the murder of two of our local citizens.

Not to diminish the Carson’s terrible loss, but where was our community’s outrage, sorrow, grief and calls-to-action for the deaths of 51 year-old Marshall Ralph Brown (shot in the back by stepson 27-year-old William Albert Stroud) or 59 year-old James Imonti ( by his 65 year-old father-in-law)?

Was it because Eve Carson’s death was apparently random, not as mundane as long simmering family disputes? Was her death any more random or less tragic than those of the 2005’s murder of the Sapikowski’s, blasted by their son over an argument about his grades and a girlfriend? Brutal, terrible but so was that of 2006’s Kedrain Swann’s at the ill-fated Avalon night club.

Was it that she was young, accomplished and so full of promise and these folks seem to have made less of splash in our local community?

“Murder does not come often to Chapel Hill” comes from Sylvia Colwell’s analysis of the troubling media coverage of another Chapel Hill murder of young woman of great promise.

July 15, 1993, roughly 6am, Kristin Lodge-Miller, 26, a speech therapist with a promising future was gunned down on Estes by 18 year-old Anthony Georg Simpson. Simpson pumped 5 bullets into Kristin, the final a head shot as she lay dying on the side of Estes [B on MAP]. He didn’t care that morning commuters saw his callous act.

Random, brutal, senseless.

This happened a short distance from where my wife and I lived. The murder, the ensuing media circus and the trial stirred ire within our community. There were calls to regulate or ban handguns.

What lessons were to be learned?

In the years since, folks, as is natural, have forgotten Kristin. The informal memorial of flowers and mementos decorating the shoulder of Estes was removed. The remnants washed away. Her friends and few others seem to remember or care about that Chapel Hill murder anymore.

I still remember though.

Is there anything to learn from Eve’s death? Chancellor Moeser’s kind comments this afternoon [MP3] made clear there was plenty to learn from Eve’s devotion to the “Carolina Way”. But what of her death?

I know one lesson to take away from today’s commentary. Chapel Hill is changing.

Random acts of violence and simmering domestic disputes that chaotically flare into fatal confrontations are nearly impossible to prevent but complacency does a disservice to our community. As the story of Ms. Carson’s death unrolls, I hope what the world will see a realistic Chapel Hill.

Maintaining the pretense, especially in the face of so many near misses these last few years, is also disservice to folks like Eve, James, Marshall, Kedrain, Kristin.

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