WeaverStreetMktLawn


An quick update on next steps in the Weaver Street Market lawn saga…

September 11, 2006

To Weaver Street Market Owners:

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the feedback you are giving us about our handling of the lawn issue. We continue to be engaged in working toward a resolution that will maximize community use of the lawn. Here is a short update of what has happened in the last week. Please continue to send us your feedback and suggestions at feedback@weaverstreetmarket.coop.

Thank you

Ruffin Slater, General Manager

Update on Lawn in front of Weaver Street Market:

Weaver Street Market has engaged Andy Sachs of the Dispute Settlement Center to assist in facilitating a resolution to the lawn issues. Over the last week, Mr. Sachs met with several of the parties involved.

In addition, Carr Mill’s principal owner, Paul Greenberg, initiated a meeting, which took place on September 5 and included himself, Mall Manager Nathan Milian, Mayor Mark Chilton and Alderman Dan Coleman. The September 5 meeting included a frank exchange of information and concerns. Mr. Greenberg expressed his desire that Carr Mill continue to serve as a focal point for the Carrboro community. He also agreed with an idea put forth by Alderman Coleman that he meet with Bruce Thomas, who had already agreed to meet with Mr. Greenberg. It is expected that this meeting will take place on or around September 20. The Mayor has offered his office for this meeting and either he or Alderman Coleman will be present to facilitate. Mr. Greenberg agreed to reflect on the ideas discussed prior to his expected return to Carrboro on September 20.

Mayor Chilton and Alderman Coleman appreciated the Mall owner’s initial step toward resolution. Coleman said, “We appreciate Mr. Greenberg taking the initiative to seek to resolve this situation. We are confident that he will find Bruce Thomas to be easy-going, respectful of the mall’s concerns, and amenable to a win-win solution. Beyond that, we look forward to hearing Mr. Greenberg’s articulation of policy concerns that best serve the interests of the mall and our shared goal of its continuing to serve as a vital center for Carrboro.”

WSM General Manager Ruffin Slater added that the lawn and the activities that it supports have been a major asset to the community. “The activities on the lawn have existed in part because the Mall’s owners allow their property to be used by the community,” Slater said. “The challenge for the community and the owners of the property is how to continue the use of the lawn while respecting the legitimate needs of the property owner and of other users of Carr Mill.”

Slater said following a successful meeting between Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Thomas, Andy Sachs will remain available to help take up the challenge of balancing the needs of everyone involved.

Thursday morning, I boogied down to Carrboro’s low-powered radio co-op, WCOM, to join with Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton for a modified two-step with the boys of the ESP Show. With practiced professionalism, Geoff Gilson and the dangerous “Mad Dog” Aaron assembled a nice overview of the recent Weaver St. Mkt. Lawn public access issue.

Having done a few radio and television interviews over the years, I was generally comfortable with the format, but, as with my frequent appearances before Council, had a small problem compressing the nuance out of a complex issue in order to deliver a brief summary sound bite.

And, it appears, I find many things either “interesting” or “very interesting” – as you can hear for yourself [MP3:24meg] via WCOM’s PODcast.

By the way, “very interesting” is not just a verbal tick. Carr Mill Mall’s restrictions on public access to a de facto community-space reflect a broader troubling trend throughout our world. I find it quite illuminating (“very interesting”) that we have a sterling example of out-of-control controls in our progressive “Paris of the Piedmont”.

Now that the initial uproar over Carr Mill Mall’s management’s rather strained decision to implement new restrictions on public access to Weaver Street Market Lawn [MAP] has quieted down a bit, I thought I’d put together a quick recap covering the last couple weeks of letters, posts and comments.

The Wiki Roots wiki has a timeline and suggested next steps under the Moving with Footloose Bruce category. Issues of WSM strategy, customer safety, “community spaces” and potential racism are covered. Local activists Michal and Brian also posted a five point open letter in response to Weaver Street Market manager Ruffin Slater’s and Carr Mill Mall’s Nathan Milian’s joint proposal, the “Live on the Lawn” performance program :

First, while we are not interested in accusing individuals like Nathan Milian of racism, to the best of our knowledge, to this day the only people who have been banned, and asked not to dance are African American. Regardless of the intention of individuals involved, this is defacto discrimination.

Second, beyond racial discrimination, we believe that Carr Mill Mall is treading on dangerous ground when they begin to differentially allow people who look and act a certain way to dance….

Third, we support Carr Mill Mall’s efforts to ensure public safety and a convivial atmosphere for its tenants and customers…

Fourth, the fact that the WSM lawn happens to be private property does not negate our constitutional rights….

Finally, while we understand that private property is something Americans hold very dear, we also recognize that it is the community that ensures the right to private property and that sustains whatever economic value such property might hold. We feel it is no small matter that the banning of these individuals is one among a number of steps Carr Mill has taken to rid the lawn of its role as the functional commons of Carrboro. Thus, we want to pose the question about how far we are willing to allow the rights of single and corporate property owners to override the collective good of the community from which they benefit.

The Chapel Hill News asked their readers what they thought and got a range of responses:

  • A call to Get the crazies off the lawn from Lucinda Poole

    I think it’s an eyesore all those hippies and children running around dancing and loitering in Carrboro. I never feel comfortable walking anywhere close to the lawn at Weaver Street. Maybe what the manager at Weaver Street realizes is he possibly could change his clientele. Hooray, the normal people take over Carrboro. Start a commune somewhere out in the country and dance under the stars and moon until your heart’s content. Just don’t make me have to witness it.

  • An observation that Impromptu act is not performing from Lyle Lansdell

    The “dancing man” should not have to apply to perform. He wasn’t performing. He wasn’t playing to an audience. He was simply expressing himself. Children burst into dance. Would you tell them to apply for a slot?

  • A tempered appreciation by Donna Kaye of the role Weaver Street Market has played

    Personally, I would lean towards allowing creative and self-expression on the lawn. However, there are legitimate concerns on the other side as well. I do wish Carr Mill management had engaged the community first with a question like, “How can we maintain the ability for people to express themselves creatively in this space, while at the same time, promoting safety and access to parking for all the businesses in Carr Mill Mall?” This way a policy could have been developed with community buy-in that would have forgone the current public wrath of what appears to be a unilateral decree.

  • Ken Brooks felt we’re giving away our freedoms bit by bit

    This is just another example of something that is terribly wrong with our nation lately. While fighting for freedom abroad, we are losing it by inches at home. And we are doing it to ourselves.

    Every complaint, every accident becomes a cause for action; every action takes away a little more freedom. Nobody has the courage to say to the complainers, “Peace!”

Folks commenting on the local bulletin board SqueezeThePulp [STP] tended to lean towards supporting Carr Mill manager Nathan Milian posting under topics like:

  • Spot the Looney: Private Property and Carrboro Cheerleaders celebrating Art “bought me an election” Pope’s noise machine, the John Locke Foundation’s, commendation of some STP posters’ wit.
  • Paul Newton’s prohibition covering Lunatics on the lawn: No dancing allowed in my front yard which temporarily pushed discussions of burning mulch piles aside and spawned a short voyage to South Park.
  • Followed by a movie-oriented theme of “Footloose ED” or “Dancing with Bricks” which had Carrboro dogfood baron Frank Papa warning

    if people continue to “protest”, and continue to ignore Mr. Slater’s pleas for sanity, then Carr Mill Management will simply forbid any and all use of the “lawn”.

    Noting that

    It’s been threatened before several times with the most recent that I’m aware of is when Mark Chilton was talking about closing that block of Weaver St. to car traffic. That is truly a *terrible* idea, and it would hurt business to such an extent that from what I understood (purely rumor), Nathan told Mark that if Mark proceeded with trying to close down Weaver St. to car traffic even one day a week, that everybody would be forbidden to use the “lawn”, making closing Weaver St. a moot point.

    This thread also yielded a bit of “rope-a-dope” between columnist Brian D. Voyce and OWASA board member TerriB.

  • Rounding out the STP threads “Seize the Lawn” aka “The Party’s Over” had a much higher signal-to-noise ratio (even with Brian Voyce’s and Melanie See’s back-n-forth palaver over drinking on the lawn). Several posters echoed my warning that using the government’s power of eminent domain was a non-starter and would only serve to harden Carr Mill Mall’s heart.
  • 2005 Carrboro Board of Alderman candidate (and 4th place finisher) Katrina Ryan opined

    I just think that it is important to know what we are really discussing. We are not talking about defending the right to free speech. There is no right to free speech on someone else’s private property.

    and further imagined

    that the ” influential visitor” who saw Bruce dancing with bricks was one of the owners, in from Maryland. Let’s imagine that he was also a strict Baptist or a Mormon, who have religious prohibitions from drinking or dancing. Whose first amendment rights do we defend in this case, Bruce’s right to free speech, or the owners freedom of religion? Or, maybe he is just a liability attorney, whose immediate reaction to “dancing with bricks” would be “Get that guy outta here….what if he hits somebody’s kid ?”

    For the most part, the owners of Carr Mill have been the gracious hosts of Carrboro’s social scene for a decade, and the behavior of the dancing dissidents seems a bit ungracious and ungrateful, IMHO.

  • Gracious? Kind of debatable. She did suggest, as others have, a mediated settlement starting with a conversation with Carr Mill Mall’s owner. If that didn’t work, she propsed

    a ballot referendum that provided for a prepared meals tax and a downtown business district tax to fund the purchase of the lawn, provided the owners were amenable. ( I specify these to funding sources since restaurants and downtown businesses benefit disproportionally from the presence of lawn patrons) Let the voters decide.

    Interesting idea, though it introduces another set of potential restrictions, regulations and concomitant demands of public investment.

  • The referendum proposal didn’t seem short term enough for AndrewN who said a ”
    consumer boycott is a more reasonable first step”.

    That left Melanie See with a

    thought rolling around in my head for days…is it possible that the boycotters/protesters are really angry about something ELSE…and taking it out on CMM? The response seems…disproportionate. I mean, there are people starving, dying, and several wars going on…not to mention the erosion of TRUE civil liberties…

    Seriously, what the HECK? I know of NO constitutional right to dance on someone else’s lawn. In fact, if a group of people showed up (uninvited)to dance on AndrewN’s lawn, or Randee Haven-O’donnell’s lawn, ar Jacquie Gist’s lawn…I bet they’d be less than pleased.

Yes, Melanie, there’s more going on here than an “influential visitor” initiating a cascade of poor business decisions by Carr Mill Mall’s management.

A much more heavily traversed local ‘blog, OrangePolitics [OP], served as a clearinghouse for both information and calls-to-action.

I found it odd that among all the posts and comments no one made a connection between RubyJi’s privately-owned de facto ‘net-based Town Commons, the criticism she’s received over the years for her seemingly restrictive policies on OP access and the Weaver Street Market Lawn debacle. There is a kind of resonance I hope to explore further.

Rather than trying to recap OrangePolitic’s seven threads, with their nearly 400 comments made from July 28th to September 4th, I’ve listed the posts titles.

Here’s a few representative comments from just one thread documenting the initial reaction of the OP community.

  • Starting July 27th, Graig Meyer questioned the logic

    Did Milian seem to think that Bruce and the hoopers actually hurt Carr Mill Mall [CMM] business somehow? I can’t believe that would be true. It seems to me that they are a part of the aesthetic that makes WSM and CMM the hub of Carrboro social and economic activity. I’m willing to let the guy see the error of his ways, but I just want to know what his logic was in the first place.

    July 30th 2005 Carrboro BOA candidate Catherine Devine reflects on Milian’s track record citing his opposition “to the open air market slated to benefit WCOM starting in September, fearing that its patrons will sully his pavement every Saturday.”

    Tenant and local businesswoman Casey Schlatter commented August 1st on how the “Bruce issue” blind-sided her:

    As an owner of The Original Ornament in Carr Mill Mall, I can say that what you read in the paper was exactly the first of what we, as merchants, heard about Bruce and his “dancing problem” on the Weaver Street Lawn. There has been mention to some of the mall businesses that there could be a boycott of the shops for this action taken by Nathan. Please know that we do not want people to take that out on us; it would hurt the small group of businesses in a way that would have nothing to do with Nathan. We pay rent to Nathan but, unfortunately, have never had much say in other matters related to the mall.

    elizabeth liptzin, was “appalled by the entire situation with Carr Mill Management’s recent decisions” but agreed

    “that anger & frustration shouldn’t be taken out on the mall tenants. Meanwhile everyone, tenants and all, should be allowed to constructively contribute their opinions to the management–AND BE HEARD..”

    A longtime North Carolinian she

    grew up locally, watched this town evolve, and appreciate the variety of elements that converge to make it what people love so much–yet, we can love something to death. If the management has some true gripes, they should be responded to as such, but the management has to be clear about problems per se instead of singling out individuals (especially on the basis of appearance) that aren’t doing anything wrong.

    Elizabeth became quite a prolific commenter on OP.

Other new media outlets, such as The Carrboro News, have covered the lawn issue from a community-based perspective.

Speaking of media outlets, I’ve been invited to publicly ruminate on events to-date on local community radio WCOM tomorrow:

Our guests will be: Mark Chilton, Will Raymond and Bruce Thomas, himself.

We will be examining the issues and the personalities. Is this a storm in a teacup, or the perfect storm for Carrboro? Is everything what it seems to be? And is everyone whom they seem to be? You know, the usual ESP stuff…

Tune into WCOM 103.5 FM, next Thursday, between 9am and 10am. Listen online at: www.communityradio.coop Call in with a question to: (919) 929-9601. Or leave a question here, or send it to us at: theespteam@yahoo.com

Happy listening and happy blogging!

Geoff Gilson “The ESP Show” Thursdays, 9am-10am WCOM 103.5 FM

Finally PLEASE NOTE that member/owners of the Weaver St. Market Co-op are eligible to run for the WSM board of directors this October. If you want to alter the boards’ stance on the lawn, consider submitting an application NO LATER THAN SEPTEMBER 19th AT 9PM.

Funny thing, while that application isn’t available online, the ridiculous Licensed for the Lawn application is….

I shrunk this documentary video snippet (by Elijah) to a more manageable size (2.5M for 43M).

Videos below the fold…
(more…)

Here’s some great documentary snaps of the August 26th Weaver St. Market civil dance disobedience taken by my steady-handed, sharp-eyed 9 year-old son Elijah.

There’s more pictures over on Flickr under the wsmdancein tag.

Pictures below the fold (more…)

Ironically titled article in today’s Herald-Sun “‘Dancing man’ gets go-ahead to go back on lawn“.

Goes on to mention that it’s only 1 hour, 1 day once a week (of course with preapproval).

Few comments I hadn’t heard before:

“Milian said Thomas’ dancing set a bad example; other performers would think they could use the lawn similarly and the place could become overrun with jugglers, magicians and other entertainers.”

“Apparently Vivian Spiral, who brings the hoops, is the exception to the new rule. Milian said as long as she is not selling the hoops, she may perform at official Weaver Street Market events. He declined to comment how Spiral’s activities differed from Thomas’ dancing. ”

“The new program will be effective Sept. 15; no performances on the lawn will be tolerated before then.”

I wonder how tolerant Carr Mill management’s reaction will be to today’s dance dissension?

Ruby (of OrangePolitics fame) asked earlier today

I have only one question: when are we holding the first dance-in on the lawn?

Oh, and when are the owners and/or board or WSM going to take some leadership on this issue?

Looks like soon, very soon.

(more…)

“Hourly slots”, “a limit of one performance per week per artist or group” , “with the approval of Carr Mill” altruistically “free of charge to both the artist and the public.

The joint press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT
Nathan Milian, Carr Mill Mall Manager 942-8669
Ruffin Slater, Weaver Street Market General Manager 913-1592

Carr Mill Mall Adds Performances to Lawn

Carrboro NC (August 22, 2006) The community has long enjoyed the lawn in front of Weaver Street Market as a gathering place for Weaver Street Market events and Carrboro events such as the 4th of July Parade. Now Carr Mill Mall is adding another element to the list of lawn offerings: hourly slots where musicians, dancers, jugglers, and magicians can showcase their talents before a live audience. Carr Mill Mall manager Nathan Milian said the program, called “Live on the Lawn,” would serve as an outlet for artists wishing to share their work with the general public, free of charge to both the artist and the public. “We recognize the community’s desire for places of artistic expression,” said Milian, “and we are pleased that Carr Mill can provide such a place.”

Weaver Street Market and Carr Mill Mall worked together to design the program. “The program provides another way for the community to benefit from the lawn,” said Weaver Street Market general manager Ruffin Slater. “In addition to Weaver Street’s regular Thursday night and Sunday morning events, this program creates more opportunities for music and performance events,” Slater said.

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton applauded Carr Mill’s use of the lawn for events. “The lawn is the center of our downtown,” said Chilton, “and this program indicates Carr Mill’s commitment to use the lawn for the good of the community.”

Weaver Street Market will coordinate the program on behalf of Carr Mill Mall. Performers will apply at Weaver Street, and the Market will schedule the performances with the approval of Carr Mill. Performances will be scheduled on weekday evenings and weekends to respect the needs of the office tenants above Weaver Street Market. There will be a limit of one performance per week per artist or group.

The lawn in front of Weaver Street Market is part of the common area owned by Carr Mill Mall. Milian manages Carr Mill on behalf of the owners. “Carr Mill owners are very community minded.” Milian said, “we have worked hard to develop a program that satisfies the needs of everyone to the best of our ability.”

Milian said that Bruce Thomas, who he had previously asked not to dance on the lawn, would be welcome to apply to perform as part of the “Live on the Lawn” program.

###

I caught a small snippet on WCHL 1360 with someone (Milian?) claiming the lawn was turning into a sandpit – and the licensed for the lawn program was an attempt to manage that and parking problems. What a non sequitur.

Caught this young scofflaw just a short time after the private press conference announcing WSM’s new policy of “licensing” lawn performers.

The, short notice, private press event, held by Ruffin Slater, general manager of the Weaver St. Market (WSM) co-op, and Nathan Milian, property manager of Carr Mill mall appears to have been short on answers, including how the new, by permission only “Live on the Lawn” program will work.

Local radio WCHL1360 covered the event, so, hopefully more details will be forthcoming. Until then, we’ll have to scratch our heads about how the “limit of one performance per week per artist or group” will apply to free spirits like the young hoopers or even to the supposed reason for the new policy, dancing Bruce.

Nathan Milian underlined the graciousness of Carr Mill’s owners in providing “an outlet for artists wishing to share their work with the general public, free of charge to both the artist and the public.” Is that the same public that already supports Carr Mill’s business with their hard-earned wages?

Milian, again spinning furiously, proclams this is “another way for the community to benefit from the lawn.” No mention on how Carr Mill’s tenants benefit from the community.

Applications for the new lawn license are not currently available (as of 4:30pm) but I’ve been told the office will have some tomorrow (Aug. 23rd).

The whole mess remains a cautionary tale for Chapel Hill as our Council rushes to turn over public-owned lands to private control. We need stronger requirements protecting open access to what will have been citizen-owned assets.

I believe in strong property rights. Carr Mill’s owners are free to set the public access rules. If empty stores are a result of an


empty lawn,

so be it.