February 2007

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.

In reviewing this evening’s notes on increasing the Town’s election contribution limits ($200 to $250) and lowering the standards of disclosure ($25 instead of $20), I noticed that Internet video is now available.

The Town’s proprietary Windows Media-based solution from Granicus was opposed by a number of members of the since dissolved Town Technology Advisory Board.

Here’s an overview of their system.

Sure, the Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash player used with the content I’ve posted on youTube and Google Video is proprietary, but, unlike the Granicus system, both give you a download option.

The media player was not honoring the “no autoplay” directive. For the sanity of my readers, I’ve put in this direct link.

I hope this issue is resolved before final deployment.

BTW, I think the current $200/$20 thresholds should stand until contested. Further, rather than fiddling with the limits we should be pushing for public financing – which, luckily, is on tonight’s agenda [#13]. The Council is asking the State permission to trial public financing.

Of course, asking is a lot easier than doing. Hopefully this won’t die on the vine after election 2007.

I served on Chapel Hill’s Downtown Parking Taskforce, which wrapped up its business two weeks ago and which will be presenting its findings formally on Feb. 26th [AGENDA].

I meant to comment more frequently on our work but circumstances and some cautionary notes from staff intervened. It’s an interesting issue – how much of the preliminary work of a committee you serve on do you want to expose?

I wouldn’t want to shut down the free expression of the wildest of ideas. And, though the process was open to the public, like so many of our citizen’s groups rarely covered by the media – hardly attended by those outside the relevant committee.

I certainly commented frequently (and vociferously) on my and others participation in the Horace Williams Citizens’ Committee. I went into the issues discussed within the Technology Board, but didn’t speak to the internal and external tensions that contributed to its dissolution.

Reporting on my next committee (if I’m ever appointed to one after my vocal opposition to Lot #5) will probably be dependent on a number of factors…of which I hope to get some feedback on from my readers…

The Parking Taskforce was pretty effective – and ranks up there with the HWCC for citizen participation.

The meetings usually stayed on point – had some humorous commentaries (including a prominent local comparing University Square to Cabrini Green) – and generated a slew of good ideas.

Here is the cover letter [DOC] and finalized [DOC] report that will be presented on Feb. 26th.

I’ll be adding my support and a little commentary that night – please send me any comments (campaign AT willraymond.org ) or add them to this post.

I appreciate that my central themes of cooperation/collaboration in terms of parking resource allocation made it into the final report.

Unfortunately, the section on using modeling and metrics to manage parking policy – a section I promoted – was excised. Maybe too business-like an approach – but I believe any implementation plan that doesn’t incorporate targets, a methodology to measure progress and actual timely measurements is flawed. We should have time to repair this omission as staff fleshes out the recommendations.

The guidelines I drew up on behalf of the committee were also not included, partially because they were redundant, partially because they didn’t fit into the report structure and partially because we ran out of time to discuss/elaborate/refine on them.

I present them here for completeness.

1. Parking is provided for the public good by the citizens of our community. The public, irrespective of economic, social or other status, will come first. Parking policy, to the greatest extent possible, shall not be discriminatory.

2. Public and private parking is an important and strategic common resource for our Downtown’s success. Parking policy will cultivate private-public management policies to successfully conserve and cultivate this common resource.

3. Fees collected from public parking will not be seen as a revenue generator for the general fund.

4. Fees from public parking are to be utilized for parking and other transit oriented infrastructure support and improvement.

5. While productive public parking policy furthers the social and environmental goals of our town, the primary focus of downtown parking is economic development.

6. Public parking policy will be driven by timely metrics. An “evergreen” process based on measured utilization will be used to adapt to changing conditions.

7. The public’s ability to understand novel parking strategies is not to be underestimated.

8. Parking strategies will be based on “best in class” flexible approaches. Parking requirements fluctuate by time of day and year, location and special activities. “One size, fits all” policy is not appropriate.

9. Failure to abide by commitments to utilize transit in lieu of providing required parking facilities has consequences. [update: this applies to businesses that made commitments to use transit in lieu of building lots]

Additional documents used during our discussions:

I have some additional resources I used that I’ll try to post sometime soon…

[UPDATE II:] Excellent write-up covering the history of the landfill by Aarne Vesilind in today’s Chapel Hill News.

[UPDATE:] It appears some of the videos have synch issues introduced by the youTube post processor. They’re watchable. I’ll be reloading them once I’ve identified the problem.

I was planning to speak at the Feb. 20th, 2007 Carrboro Board of Alderman meeting on the apparent predetermined decision to trash the Rogers Road community once again. Instead I attended to a family matter.

It didn’t matter as the concerned citizenry turned out to ask the Carrboro BOA for help.

Mark Schultz’s Chapel Hill News Orange Chat posted a piece in near real time (way to go guys).

These snippets were mixed down from this complete [REALMEDIA] recording provide on-line by the Town of Carrboro (imagine that 😉 ).

GoogleVideo of whole discussion.

Comments by concerned citizens:

Rev. Campbell

David Richter

Tracy Coleman

Jeff Kingman

Jeanne Stroud

Nancy Ignia

Sharon Cook

The Carrboro Board of Alderman responds:

BOA Jacquie Gist

BOA Dan Coleman

Mayor Chilton

BOA Haven-O’Donnell

BOA Herrera

BOA Broun

Used by Joe Killian’s kind permission.

Automatic Writing’s Joe Killian caught NC’s Rep. Coble (R) returning to Greensboro after his finally joining in with the critics of Bush’s Iraq “surge” nuttiness.

Howard, I’ve been part of the treasonous cabal protesting our actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan since the beginning – welcome to the our reality-based club.

In my community opposition to our country’s ill-thought foreign adventures hasn’t generated any appellation of “treasonous slime”. On the other hand, my heretical and traitorous opposition to the Lot #5 Downtown development is, sadly, a different matter… 😉

For those folks, a small reminder of the calculus I use:

…there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right…

The University Station project – a development hugging the South-side of I-40 on Chapel Hill’s North perimeter – is up for review tonight (Feb. 19th).

Local resident John Doyle called Townhall to comment that the proposal was “absurd”, “absolutely ridiculous” and emphasizes that he’ll “make sure” any Council members approving the plan will not serve again.

John, 2007 is an election year 😉

Other citizens chimed in [PDF] on noise, traffic and other relevant issues.

Concern is growing about imprudent growth in our NW corridor – folks are starting to organize.

I’ll be interested to see if the “rah rah” growth wing of Council shows a bit more sensitivity – especially considering the increasing role their buddies at RAM Development are playing to the NW – this evening.

I commented Dec. 4th that the Lot #5 development juggernaut was powered by an all-consuming illogic I fully expected to crush rational opposition.

I wasn’t disappointed [VIDEO].

Echoing that sentiment, today’s Chapel Hill News speaks of a

“proposal…so big and had so much town involvement — Mayor Kevin Foy and council member Bill Strom have been its primary cheerleaders — that it has generated its own momentum.”

Private-public partnerships have and can be quite effective in promoting good policy on many fronts, but, unfortunately, land development is one that’s been subject to quite a bit of abuse.

Whether being consumed and co-opted by the process or willful ignorance, the landscape is rife with examples [thanks Molly, I miss you] of private interests implementing poor public policy – and a perversion of the public good in a rush to implement “sustainable economic development”.

By any objective standard, the ever quickening trajectory of this project has left judicicious public review in the dust:

When they unveiled the new version in November, the scale of the thing had dramatically shrunk — no more Wallace Deck project — although its cost remained just about the same, and the town’s financial stake had dramatically grown, from the original half-mil to $7.25 million. That’s more than a little tweak.

The project has been on a fast track ever since, and apparently will remain on one; the council agreed to move the project speedily through its review process.

Yep, the steamroller was shifted into higher gear last week.

The CHN shares my qualms:

The town is too closely bound to the project for our taste. Either retain the property and use it for truly public purposes — as a park, for example — or sell it to a private developer and be rigorous in reviewing whatever plans that developer proposes.

What can we do?

Contact our Council members (CONTACT) and let them know you don’t want to be steam-rolled by private interest.

Remember, Laurin Easthom and Jim Ward are fighting this proposal – Bill Strom and Kevin Foy are the most vocal boosters with Mark Kleinschmidt facilitating. Sally Greene, Cam Hill, Ed Harrison and Bill Thorpe support this “taking” to various degrees.

I’ll also be reporting on alternative modes of protest as they develop.

[UPDATE:] N&O coverage, tip from enthusiastic fan Paul Jones’ post.

Used with the kind permission of
Beverly McIver


Artist Beverly McIver will be speaking tomorrow (Feb. 18th) from 2-3pm at Tyndall Galleries in Chapel Hill’s University Mall [MAP].

Beverly has documented her personal trajectory through autobiographical portraiture using an authentic and stylized approach – an approach and style I’ve watched develop for nearly two decades.

Local folks, like Paul Jones, have also been following this Greensboro artist’s NC successes.

Tomorrow is an excellent opportunity to hear Beverly’s reflections on life, art and “her role in a society that historically has marginalized minorities and women” (to requote Preview: The Magazine of the North Carolina Museum of Art, March/April 2006).

Further works.

From the Chapel Hill News ‘blog OrangeChat, a guest post by Jon Wilner, executive director of the Carrboro ArtsCenter:

Culture Shock would be a vehicle for marketing the arts in our community in an attempt to create a destination for what the evening’s facilitator, Bill Flexner, called the “diamond in the rough.” The “diamond” refers to the four towns of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, and Pittsboro.

The folks over on OP weighed in, with Ruby Sinreich reacting strongly to an N&O report titled “Area wants to cash in on arts assets.”

I had the same initial reaction. Wilner joined the fray with some illuminating commentary.

Chapel Hill has led the way on buying or commissioning art, like the notable $671,000 being spent on an out-of-town artist for Lot #5’s plaza, but we’ve lagged on support for hands-on art (more on that later).

The facilitator’s report on the first CultureShock gathering is available now from their website.

Former Council member, occasional OP poster and Director of Bill Drafting for the North Carolina General Assembly since 1981, Gerry Cohen has a new ‘blog, NC Bill Drafting: 30 Years on Jones St., capturing the tug-n-pull of NC’s legislative tides.

What a great niche subject covered by a key player. For instance, he notes in this interesting post that 2007 is a banner year for legislative proposals – up over %40 since 2005.

Didn’t see that covered in the MSM. Thanks Gerry.

Here’s two other local legal ‘blogs that I like to read:

UNC Law prof Eric Muller’s Is That Legal – covering subjects as diverse as the WWII Japanese internment (which he’s an expert) to the near rescue of his great-Uncle Leopold from the Holocaust.

CreditSlips, which covers all things credit worthy. Their posts on payday lending, health-care related bankruptcy and credit in general are fascinating.

Both have educated me in areas I’d probably never stray to without the ‘blog-o-sphere.

I have a feeling Gerry’s ‘blog will be the same….

Via Terri Buckner (LocalEcology) at SqueezeThePulp

PROM Night is coming up and we have had requests for help in getting prom dresses for some students who can not afford to buy a dress. We are asking anyone who has a dress or dresses that are collecting dust in the closet to donate them to our Second Annual Prom Dress Drive.

We hope you all will take a look in your closet and pick out a few of those old brides’ maid dresses or prom gowns as well as shoes and accessories and drop them off at Orange High School by March 2, 2007.

Dresses, shoes and accessories can be given to Laura Shenkman in The Adolescents In Need Office or April Johnson, school social worker. We can also come by your school and pick them up if needed. This is a great opportunity to spring clean and helps a few young women have a wonderful prom experience.

Our Prom Dress shop will be open to any student in need with a referral from a teacher, counselor or an administrator. Shop opens March 6th at Orange High School. Please send all referred students names ASAP.

April Johnson, 732-5240 ext: 2002
Laura Shenkman 732-6133 EXT: 20067
Avis Barnes, 245-4000 ext: 21067

What a nice idea….

[UPDATE: Response to davepr from Orange County BOCC member Moses Carey.

The Rogers Road (MAP) community has long suffered from promises unkept.

[UPDATE:] Embedded video:

At Feb. 12th’s Chapel Hill Town Council meeting
Sharon Cook and Jeanie Stroud defend their Rogers Road community.

As you might remember from my recent posts, the area is coming under closer scrutiny by Chapel Hill, which stands poised to annex the area.

Whether through deliberate environmental racism or just plain old callousness, the Rogers Road community, backing up to the Orange County landfill, has had to deal with the consequences of our garbage woes for decades while original promises, such as keeping the landfill north of Eubanks, fell to expediency in the mid-’90s.

Instead of treating this traditionally black community with the due courtesy and respect they deserve – deserve doubly for both dealing with the noxious detritus of our modern life and the many unfulfilled obligations our leaders made on our behalf – our community continues to give short shrift to our northern neighbors.

In December I attended the kickoff meeting for the Rogers Road Small Area Plan. That meeting cemented my concerns that, once again, the Rogers Road community would be getting the short end of the stick.

Why? Money, of course. From the Rogers Road corridor east towards Martin Luther King (Airport) Road is going to be prime development land. If Chapel Hill annexes the neighborhood before the landfill closes the tax valuations will race ahead of the land resale value. A developer, though, could pick up tracts for a song – sit on them waiting for the landfill to close up shop – and turn a pretty penny.

To avoid that our Council needs to promise to coordinate the annexation time table with the closing of the landfill. Let’s be fair.

Shorter term, the Rogers Road community faces the prospect of a garbage transfer station being sited on Eubanks.

Now, in many respects I’m proud of the strides our community has made in dealing responsibly with garbage.

Strategic operations by the Orange County Solid Waste Management Department, along with our community’s strong recycling efforts, have extended the life of the existing landfill while redirecting various waste streams into beneficial uses – mulching, composting, recycling, etc.

With the anticipated 2010 closure, transferring waste will become a necessity. Shipping it in or out of county entails another set of environmental consequences. Our community must take a leadership role in responsibly dealing with the 25,000 tons – 29% of the total waste – formerly going into the landfill.

Maybe the most effective site for the transfer center is the existing Eubanks road location. And maybe you can make it look “Greek or Roman temple”.

But if the Rogers Road community says “we’ve had enough” then we’re obligated to find an acceptable solution.

[UPDATE:] The video below streams from my site – here’s the Google Video that streams faster.

Here’s the complete “debate” Council held on the Lot #5. Note how quickly the expedited SUP application was approved.

Next Page »