April 2006

The ‘net is the new Town Commons and the commons are under attack from the same feckless monopolists that charge us $200 billion in excess fees under the ’96 Telecommunications Act provisions to provide high-speed symetrical broadband but instead pilfered the bucks.

The latest offense? Throttling ubiquitous access to ‘net-based services.

Local audio activist and muni-network proponent BrianR has covered the salient issues quite well.

If you want a 2-minute video synopsis, here’s a clip from MyDD.

A Chapel Hill municipally-sponsored network will help keep the commons free for all. Next month, if all goes well, a public forum will be held on the benfits of citizen-owned communications.

Via Bora at Science and Politics

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was born at New York City on this day in 1904. In school he took the math and science classes befitting his early genius, but he really thrived on languages. He was known to learn a language just to read a single book in the original language, and he once accepted a speaking assignment in the Netherlands that allowed only six weeks to learn the language before his presentation. He graduated from Harvard, but language was no barrier to getting his PhD in Germany before taking teaching positions at Berkeley and Cal Tech. He was tapped to head the Manhattan Project to build the first US atomic bombs, but like many of the brilliant characters involved, he chose to examine the ethics of creating such weapons. In the anti-communist furor of the early fifties, Oppenheimer was stripped of his security clearance, which ended his influence on science policy:

This is a world in which each of us, knowing his limitations, knowing the evils of superficiality and the terrors of fatigue, will have to cling to what is close to him, to what he knows, to what he can do, to his friends and his tradition and his love, lest he be dissolved in a universal confusion and know nothing and love nothing.

There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any asssertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.

We knew the world could not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: “I am became Death, the destroyers of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost and science can never regress.

The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true.

– All from J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1904 – 1967

Where are today’s Oppenheimers?

With the current mad-ministrations reckless desire to wave a nuclear wand over Iran, and its history of scientific disregard, I guess even an modern-day Oppenheimer might not even be able to dissuade them from their madness.

Mayor Foy:

Having completed their missions, I petition the Council that we thank all existing and former committee members for their dedication and public service, and that we now conclude the service of the Technology and Horace Williams Citizens Committees, effective June 30, 2006.

Since yesterday’s 8 to 1 vote to dissolve the Horace-Williams Citizens’ Committee , I’ve heard from 7 HWCC members expressing from mild to strong dissent with the decision.

The common theme? More work to be done.

More on OrangePolitics.

17 years later and it still stirs my heart.

Tonight’s Frontline (9PM EST PBS) tries to answer the question: “Who was that guy?”

A sharpened up graph of OWASA’s water demand/supply curves via ForthGo’s Xan.

Citizen Harry Taylor to Bush this morning in Charlotte:

“I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration,” Taylor said, standing in a balcony seat and looking down at Bush on stage. “And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and grace to be ashamed of yourself.”

I’m sure Bush’s advance team is going to catch some hell over this ;-)!

Via Bora.

With one stroke, the Mayor proposes to eliminate two committees whose roles have been controversial at times. Both committees are far from done with their tasks, so it’s hard to understand why Foy wants to kill them off.

Is it because they’re both pushing the envelope?

I sit on both committees, so, from the inside, I find it quite a strange idea that they’re done with their tasks.

Maybe it’s a measure of the Mayor’s inattention to these committee’s work. Hard to say, though I do look forward to his explanation on April 10th.

What are these committees actively doing?

The HWCC has constituted several sub-committees to review equity, environmental and transportation issues.

For instance, the environmental committee is working on a proposal requesting that UNC do a complete, scientific environmental baseline for HWA and its surrounds. We also are researching environmental metrics to apply. Once the baselines and metrics are established, the environmental effects of Carolina North, positive and negative, can be measured over the next 100 years. UNC has an unique opportunity to study “green technologies and techniques” and using the Carolina North project as a driver for research and development.

Without the HWCC, who will advocate for that grand vision on behalf of the citizenry?

As for the Technology committee, yes, municipal networking is moving forward but that’s just a small part of the technology portfolio. Our town is way behind the technology curve and town management, to date, has shown no real interest in moving us forward.

For instance, it was the committee that identified technology-related cost efficiencies and savings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Besides that, the committee has discussed and proposed a number of enhancements in: open document standards, open access to governmental data, open infrastructure, accessibility, bi-directional citizen communications, self-service operations, etc.

A number of these proposals have been approved by Council but their implementation lags.

And, to be fairly blunt, whether from disinterest in the subject, lack of time or inability, most of the Council has paid little attention to understanding and utilizing common-place technologies to drive costs out of service delivery, enhance citizen participation in governance, create transparency and generally improve the overall performance of government.

Without the Technology Committee, who will suggest and advocate for these technology-related improvements?

TO: Town Council

FROM: Kevin Foy, Mayor

SUBJECT: Conclusion of Service: Horace Williams Citizens Committee and Technology Committee

DATE: April 10, 2006

The Horace Williams Citizens Committee was established in October 2002 to assist the Council in preparing for deliberations with the University of North Carolina regarding the development of the Horace Williams property.”

The Technology Committee was formed in 1998 and charged with advising the Council on the formation of a technology plan, including the formation of a town-wide network.

Both Committees have benefited from the work of dozens of citizens, council members, and town staff, and have put countless hours into their work. The Horace Williams Citizens Committee Report and the recent presentation on Wireless Internet from the Technology Committee are evidence of the time and effort involved.

Having completed their missions, I petition the Council that we thank all existing and former committee members for their dedication and public service, and that we now conclude the service of the Technology and Horace Williams Citizens Committees, effective June 30, 2006.


If you’re interested in the effective use of technology to enhance our local governance or in retaining a strong, local and non-political voice in the Carolina North mega-development, I suggest you contact the Mayor and Council by April 10th – ask them to keep these citizen voices active.

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