Category Archives: LocalArts

Ellie Reinhold: Dream Nature

Ellie Reinhold, Chapel Hill artist and founding member of the Hillsborough Gallery of Art has a new show opening today (Fri. 7/30/2010).

Ellie works in various mediums – this show features paintings and one assemblage. Her work draws heavily on both her vibrant inner nature and a deep appreciation of nature. Over the 27 years I’ve known her I’ve seen her challenge herself to dig all the deeper, stretching her craft to capture her vision in new and creative ways. This new show, which she has worked quite hard on – is reflective of that evolutionary drive.

The reception begins at 6pm (directions) and runs to 9pm.

The Hillsborough Arts Council hosts Last Friday throughout the warmer parts of the year. It is one of the best gallery walks in the Triangle.

Library or Lot #5?

Here is what I meant to say at this evening’s Council meeting.

Like a lot of my remarks, I find myself editing on the fly, so what I managed to get out in less than 3 minutes wasn’t quite what follows but I believe I made the points I needed.

The simple summary?

We can’t do the Lot #5 (140 West) project and the Library expansion together. Lot #5 hasn’t met its goals, the cost/benefit ratio is decidedly out-of-whack, the necessity quite clearly not there anymore.

Further, the Library expansion project needs to be delayed until taxpayers can bear the total cost. Beyond that, we need to request an extension from the North Carolina Local Government Commission to allow issuing bonds beyond the current deadline so when it is fiscally prudent we can move expeditiously.

Finally, public participation, once again, is barely considered.

Tonight’s remarks:

In 2010 you will be making several key budgetary decisions whose impacts will span the next decade – the Lot #5 (West 140) and Library expansion – two examples.

Lot #5 represents the greatest and riskiest fiscal liability going forward that can be safely dispensed with.

Part of the sales pitch made by some on this Council is we needed this project to kick-start development Downtown.

With Greenbridge nearly built, University Square poised for redevelopment, approval of Grove Park – which will displace the affordable Townhouse Apts. on Hillsborough St. with luxury condos – and other Downtown projects on the way it’s clear that we don’t need that supposed stimulus Lot #5 brings anymore.

It’s time to reconsider this troubled project especially given that:

1) the cost reductions that allowed RAM to lower prices haven’t been significantly passed on to the taxpayer,

2) the number of units pre-sold hasn’t grown in-line with price reductions (33 units pre-sold so far, down from the reported 2008 commitment of 35).

3) the open-ended nature of the cost of the environmental cleanup is still being underplayed,

4) the University at University Square has already put forward a much more sound, interesting and integrative proposal (123 West Franklin) for that stretch of Franklin St. than the expensive – at least to the Chapel Hill taxpayer – Lot #5,

5) still up in the air how we will borrow the money – COPs, TIFs, etc. In any case, however we borrow the $9-10M or more it will limit the Town’s ability to prudently respond in funding core needs,

6) and from what I can see in RAM’s recent missive ( RAM Dec. 22nd, 2009 letter [PDF]) no effort has been made to involve the nearby business and residential community in discussing mitigation of the type of construction-related problems that have plagued Greenbridge or even apprise their future neighbors of current developments (let alone present a coherent and consistent story to the local press).

Three years out and no significant improvement in the proposal. Three extensions to the contract granted by Council. Lot #5 should be shelved now so that the Town can take projects that are more central to its charter.

What does this have to do with the Library?

I want to see the Library expanded but now is not the time.

The memos before you [here] paint a fairly rosy picture of the borrowing in terms of adopting new debt but they don’t do a very good job in putting that increased debt in context of our already astonishing – at least by historical Chapel Hill standards – debt load.

Memo #A, in fact, disingenuously characterizes the increase to homeowners using examples of property valuations well below ($200K) the Chapel Hill baseline.

Look at the chart in Memo #A. The rate of increase in the debt load – that rapidly increasing impact on the Town’s flexibility in borrowing – running our debt right up to the debt ceiling for our AAA bond rating – starts in late 2012 and zooms steeply from there.

Of course, besides adding new debt that and anticipated G.O. additions will account for roughly several cents on the current tax rate while the real kicker is the growth in cost of Library operations – which appears to be even more significant.

Worse, the continued structural instability and weakness of our economy gets short shrift.

Now is not the time to take on a large forward liability.

Making a decision based on these figures tonight will be guaranteeing a tax increase or steep cuts or just ignoring basic obligations two years hence.

Here are my suggestions:

1) Shelve Lot #5. We can have a Library expansion – hopefully starting next year – or we can have Lot #5 – we can’t handle both.

2) The Library borrowing should be delayed until prevailing economic conditions show signs of improvement – strengthened sales tax revenues, stable fund markets which will lend money at a more favorable rate – say less than %100 of the 20 year Treasury bond ratio.

3) Have staff prepare a request to NC Local Government Commission to extend Chapel Hill’s time limit for issuing these bonds so the Council and community have adequate time to plan.

4) Use the established public budget process which kicks off next week [2/3/2010 7:00 PM Council Chambers Townhall) to discuss the Library in light of all our Town’s needs – competitive staff wages, affordable housing reserve funds, the growing retirement fund deficit (Unfunded Liabilities: Pay As You Go Not Sustainable) among many others.

Last Fall many of many on Council obligingly participated in a special “emergency” meeting to acquire Dawson Hall for police and other key Town services. That urgent need hasn’t gone away – the police department’s facility still needs attention – why isn’t that part of the rosy projections?

Our citizens deserve a diligent evaluation of the cost of the Library expansion and operations within the context of our total budget and foreseeable needs – not wants.

They also deserve to participate – not just get an agenda item 3 days before a decision is scheduled.

5) Finally, postponing tonight will give you the opportunity to carefully consider this proposal in light of all your priorities, give you time to evaluate the rosy picture drawn by these memos against your own understanding of the economy and think about how to engage the community during this weekend’s Council retreat.

In addition, it buys needed time for the public to review the current proposal, attend the budget sessions, ask their questions, get their answers and finally weigh in in a thoughtful manner.

Thank you.

[UPDATE: Council Postpones Consideration]

From tonight’s Council flash report:

Consideration of Proceeding with the Library Expansion Project: The Council considered the project schedule and associated costs for expansion of the Chapel Hill Public Library. The Council delayed action and indicated its desire to discuss the expansion costs in greater detail and in the context of the entire Town budget. The Council stated it wants to know what level of funding Orange County will provide toward Library services.

Orange County provides no capital support toward the Town’s Library expenses; this includes all past and present Library construction costs, debt service for same, equipment or special project costs. County support toward Library operating expenses has remained at $250,000 since 1995 and represents 11 percent of this year’s Library operating budget. About 12,000 of the Library’s patrons live in Orange County outside Chapel Hill limits. The number of materials borrowed by these patrons was 386,000 items last year. This represents approximately 40 percent of the Library’s annual circulation.

Raymond, Ready For Service: What Would I Do?

What would I do the next 13 months? If you look back through the hundreds of posts on local issues I’ve made since September 2005, you will see I’m not short of ideas for positive change. I also have two election platforms (2005 and 2007) and many election questionnaires that contain specific proposals addressing Town finances, economic development, managing UNC’s growth, environmental protection and remediation, carrying capacity, improving operational efficiency and on and on.

For all that, the next seven months are going to be quite busy.

My main role is to fill in the gaps, put my shoulder to the wheel and work on those bread-n-butter issues that are already in the pipeline. I’ll add value where I can, manpower when its needed and innovative solutions as required but for the most part I fully expect that my agenda for building a pocket park Downtown or implementing the Dark Skies initiative will have to wait.

Here’s what I sent to Council:

Laurin suggested on her ‘blog “Decide what you want to do in a proactive way on the council”. Noting “it would be easy to sit up there and just vote on things as they come along in reactive mode, but most council members have areas that they really want to work on making changes and spend extra time on those issues that are important to them.”

As you well know, I have brought many issues before Council these last seven years. Over the next 12 months, most of the work I expect to do is to fill in the gaps, add my shoulder to yours, to push forward on known Council business. I do have a few ideas, old and new, that I would like to pursue. Most have to do with improving operations, environmental and resource management, technology and process enhancements, the budget, economic and Downtown development, managing growth, etc. Some, like adopting lighting guidelines as per the International Dark Skies initiative, can be grafted into current work. Others, like beginning the process of creating a new hands-on arts center, will probably have to wait.

Here’s a list of items I’d like to work on in order to give you some context:


Financial report card.

It’s nice that we have maintained, even tenuously, our AAA bond rating but that cannot be the only metric we use to indicate financial health. I would like to work with Council and staff to develop and publish other metrics indicative of the Town’s overall financial health.

Rebuilding our reserves.

The next few years are going to be tough. We need to start rebuilding our reserves beyond what is needed to maintain our yearly credit-rating. The recent and continuing financial crisis proves the need for prudent reserve planning.

Cutting costs.

We need to prioritize spending now, cap some expenditures and freeze some outlays. We must control costs – especially energy – and prepare staff for low or no salary growth. I’ll take the heat for putting all discretionary spending options – library bond, Lot #5, etc. – on the table. We need to aggressively pursue operational efficiencies – I will ask Council to form a small tiger team to work with staff to seek “low hanging fruit” that will cut short-term costs.

We can’t do it alone.

I will call for a new Citizen Budget Advisory Board. I believe this needs to be short-term appointment and that Council needs to actively recruit citizens with professional credentials to assist in formulating our budget.

Carolina North.

Development agreement. Community benefit at every step.

I’ve already expressed some of my concerns on scheduling, the need for a more robust underlying zone, the necessity of negotiating with other entities and how to make the agreement successfully outlast its creators. I will continue to work those and other issues, one of which is community benefit. While Roger Perry suggested 3 million square feet as a good starting point, an investment by the University which justified significant returns – like a $45 million transit plan – to the community I believe that the Council should set goals that benefit the community at smaller increments. For example, I would like to see the bus stop south of the Innovation Center site replaced with a multi-modal facility as part of the next step. Sidewalks should provide safe access to this facility where bicycles and scooters can be securely stored as folks switch to the bus system.

Development agreement. Standards above and beyond.

As a member of the HWCC environmental sub-group, I helped create a framework for making sure the negative environmental consequences of Carolina North were minimized. I and others proposed applying “best in class” lighting, air particulate, ground water, emission standards that are above and beyond those required under the comprehensive plan, LUMO or other statutory instruments. Since a development agreement provides the flexibility to mandate standards outside current zoning requirements, I will ask Council to revisit this framework, add additional provisions for incorporating future “best in class” energy and environmental standards.

“Bang the drum loudly”

As I’ve suggested with other large-scale development projects, I believe that our duty goes beyond inviting folks to Council hearings. We need to pursue public input. We need to use all the tools at our disposal – notably the Internet – to give our citizens an informed perspective on the various impacts these projects bring. I would like to team with the Planning and Technology departments and use Carolina North as a pilot project for developing a public outreach plan which can be extended to other facets of the development process.

Council meetings, discussions and transparency.

As the creation of the development agreement progresses the demand on Council time will also increase. I’ve already put a lot of time into Carolina North and am ready to pour even more effort into creating a framework for Carolina North’s development our community and the University can appreciate. That said, it strikes me that Council could use some new tools to both keep the public informed and to communicate openly with various stake-holders. Council has already called for a new Carolina North website. I’ve asked for a FAQ, glossary of terms and a record of every citizen question with attendant answer. I believe we can do even better and am prepared to make specific suggestions to improve our e-governance.


“We’re not Mayberry”

Chapel Hill doesn’t exist in a bubble. I have been concerned about increased gang-related violence for several years. I would like Council to revisit Chief Jarvies proposals drafted after the Avalon incident. We need to make sure that Chief Curran and Captain Blue have adequate resources to train our force to meet organized violence.


I spend a lot of time Downtown. Handicap accessibility, lighting, signage, and cleanliness continue to be problems. I would like to work with the relevant staff and boards to address some specific issues that seem to be raised over and over.

“Walking is not a crime.”

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.”

Extending neighborhood contacts

As part of the new website revamp, I would like to provide my professional expertise in improving public safety communications between neighbors and neighborhoods.

Civil rights/civil liberties

We have a well-trained police force. We try to hire the best. Chapel Hill has prided itself on maintaining the highest standards protecting civil rights and civil liberties. I want to work with Council and Chief Curran to make sure we can maintain our citizens confidence that we consistently honor our duty to protect our citizens rights, privacy and liberty.

Downtown revitalization

Parking recommendations implementation.

As a former member of the Downtown Parking Task Force I’m quite familiar with the competent suggestions made by staff and task force. One, the new parking assessment I called for, is near completion. We should see this as the starting point for addressing our longterm parking needs. As Dwight Bassett scrambles to backfill the spaces being lost on Lot #5 and plans move forward for more on-street slots, now is the time to form a small implementation task force to make sure the best, practical (low-cost) recommendations are carried out expeditiously. I volunteer for that new team.


I would like to be part of the team that improves Downtown’s security.

Friendly experience.

There are a number of short and long term improvements that would improve folks Downtown experience. Water fountains, a decent bathroom, a family-friendly pocket park, way-signs and other amenities which don’t have to be expensive could greatly improve visitors and residents Downtown experience. I will work with the Downtown Partnership, the Downtown business community, the Chamber, staff and relevant advisory boards to bring these straight-forward improvements to Downtown.

Development and growth

How high, how dense?

Last Spring, Council decided to end their pursuit of high density development zones. We need to restart that discussion. We should take the recent work on twisting RSSC into a palatable high density zone and start fresh with the density discussion. Our community might not embrace high density, but if we’re going to allow high-density development to go forward civic duty demands we have a clear, honest and open discussion among not only Council and those developers wishing to use a new zone but the wider community.

What just happened?

We need to make the development and inspections process easier to understand, easier to deal with and easier to track. We can use the Carolina North process as a pilot for community outreach. We can pursue NRG’s (Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth) request for a straight-forward progress reporting system.

University Square, how does it fit?

The UNC Foundation is moving forward on their plans for University Square. One challenge, in the next few months, will be how to seize this opportunity to reshape one of the more troublesome aspects of Downtown. Also, incorporating the University Square redevelopment into a broader Downtown development plan is necessary if all the components of revitalization currently on the table are to work complementary.

The Foundation has already expressed an interest in building a parking deck, which could elegantly solve some of Downtown’s parking issues, but Council needs to work from day one to make sure that their parking solution has a wider public utility.

Measure twice…

For several years I’ve suggested we use more metrics-based goals in our planning process. Compliance, by necessity, requires measurement but many times the goals under which a project is approved are not measured on delivery.

Carrying capacity

Along with measurable goals, we need to establish the longterm growth limits of Chapel Hill. We only have so much water. We can only ship so much trash cost effectively to some other community. Now is the time, as the available land for development is nearly gone, and as discussions of in-fill and density begin, to start a community discussion on what are the resource limits to Chapel Hill’s growth.

Evergreen process.

As we review our development plans and modify LUMO, I believe we need to revisit the process we use to keep these instruments current and firmly based on the best understanding at the time.

Rogers Road, our neighbors and future residents.

As the Rogers Road Small Area Task Force’s efforts draw to a close, we need to look at resolving some nuisances that have long plagued this community. In next years tight budget, adequate planning must go on to deal with these long neglected items.

Miscellaneous items I would want to work on:

  • Technology
    • Website refresh
    • Technology upgrades including more use of open source and open document standards.
    • The DOT fiber optic project
    • Better community outreach
    • Leverage the Internet
    • Put Council email on-line
    • Trouble ticket system
    • Specialty sites for Carolina North and Hillsborough425
    • Complete Council agendas on-line a full 7 days before meetings
    • Council and Planning Board video on-line. Audio of all advisory board meetings.
  • International Dark Skies Initiative
  • Waste management
    • Our part in managing waste – setting long term goals – in-county or not
    • Siting transfer site – our role
  • Storm Water Utility
    • Effective coordination between SWU, OWASA and Bolin Creek restoration
    • Effective oversight
  • Open space
    • Preserve creeks leading to Bolin Creek watershed
    • Identify and preserve natural corridors connecting through Carolina North
  • Arts
    • Hands-on arts in Chapel Hill
    • %1 Art funding to more local artists

March 28th: A Self-Advocate Path to Being Well, Feeling Fit

Carrboro’s self-advocate leader Ellen Perry told me that March 28th’s “Be Well! Feel Fit!” meeting would be a great introduction for those folks interested in positive, self-directed change.

Ellen is part of the “Self-Advocate Leadership Network”, a project under the auspices of the Human Services Research Institute (

The Self-Advocate Leadership Network (SALN) is a team of self-advocates and their allies who will travel anywhere to prepare self-advocates to play a leadership role in shaping developmental disabilities systems to promote self-determination, community integration and participant-driven supports.

Who is a “self-advocate”? “A self-advocate is somebody who has a disability and speaks up for themselves.”

Be Well! Feel Fit! Peer Connections, A Way to Wellness

Healthy living is more than eating your spinach, carrots and Brussels sprouts!!!

Healthy living is about…

  • Doing things that make you happy – like swimming, art or cooking classes.
  • Being in good health – both physically and emotionally.
  • Learning how to be safe in intimate relationships.
  • Making new friends.

Who decides what what I do?

In the Be Fit! Feel Fit! program you decide what you want to do.
You can choose to lose weight, learn a new art or craft or learn how to be safe in a relationship – it’s up to you.

What does the Be Fit! Feel Fit! program do?

We try to match you up with resources in your community and support from your peers to help you achieve your health and wellness goal.

The meeting is at Carrboro’s Town Hall, 301 W. Main Street (MAP).

  • 5:00-7:30 pm for NEW members
  • 5:30-7:30 pm for existing members

For more information contact Ellen Perry ( 919-942-5602 ) or Danielle Doughman ( 919-962-4029 ),

Lincoln Arts Center: The Clock is Ticking

Nice summary of Chapel Hill’s Lincoln Arts Center’s problem locating a new home by Jesse James DeConto in today’s Chapel Hill News.

Sooner or later, the popular pottery program is going to have to leave its home at the Lincoln Center, the administrative office complex of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools on Merritt Mill Road. The school system is short on office space, and district officials have said that eventually they will have to reclaim the studio for offices and storage.

“The schools really do need this space at some point,” said studio manager Carmen Elliott. “They’ve been renting a lot of space for their workers.”

The studio has operated at the Lincoln Center for 30 years. The current lease will expire on Dec. 31. Elliott worries that losing the space will signal the end of the pottery program.

“It’s been a great, great place to be,” she said. “I’d really hate to see it fold.”

It has been more than two years since the incredibly loyal and enthusiastic Lincoln Arts Center family joined together to save this vital hands-on arts program. It has been more than a year ago that they presented one of the most moving citizen-led petitions I’ve ever witnessed to the Town’s Parks and Recreation Commission. And nearly as long ago that this band of dedicated art enthusiasts petitioned Council.

It has been nearly one year since the Chapel Hill News Editor Mark Shultz’s “Pottery Predicament”

Phyllis Swank’s latest sculpture looks like a cross between a heart and seashell, its waves inviting your fingers to gently grab hold. People have told her it looks like something from the ocean, but she hasn’t heard the heart reference before. She’s momentarily taken aback, because she was thinking about her nephew — who had been killed in an accident — when she molded it from a melon-sized piece of brown clay.

Schultz’s May 10,2006 Chapel Hill News editorial

Followed by last Fall’s renewed efforts to focus Council’s attention.

For all that upfront attention, this “little” program – having served 8500 young, old, autistic, rich, poor residents over 30 years – teeters on the edge.

Please contact our Council (CONTACT ) and let them know that hands-on arts is a vital to our community – that this unique 30-year old program deserves a new home in which to flourish.

Lincoln Center Arts Program Needs a New Home

Karen Fisher’s Feb. 21st letter to the Chapel Hill News:

The Lincoln Arts Center has to find a new home or risk closing its door permanently. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools administrative offices will be expanding into the space that the Lincoln Arts Center pottery studio has leased for 30 years. Chapel Hill is in danger of losing this incredible self-supporting, community resource. All it needs to continue is a space adequate for hands-on artwork, preferably near a bus line.

The Lincoln Arts Center has provided classes for over 8,500 registered students. These students include school-aged children, senior citizens and all ages in between. The center serves students of all skill levels and abilities including students with special needs.

There is a sliding fee schedule that makes these classes accessible to citizens of many different income levels. Where else in Chapel Hill can such a diverse group of citizens find wonderful arts instruction and explore their own creativity?

There is no shortage of fine teachers and able assistants in the area, but where will they teach and inspire their students if the Lincoln Arts Center studio closes it doors? All other hand-on arts/pottery programs in the area are privately held and out of range for many of our citizens.

What does it say about our community if this program closes down for lack of space? Are we supporters of community-based arts? We certainly have some wonderful galleries and fine artists in our midst. Where else but at the community level do we nurture the creativity of our citizens?

Take action: Come to the next Chapel Hill Town Council Meeting on Monday at 7 p.m. and lend your support. A petition to find a new home for the Lincoln Arts Center will be presented at that meeting.

Take action: Write to Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy (e-mail: or 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill 27514 or telephone: 968-2714) and/or The Chapel Hill Town Council (e-mail: or 306 N. Columbia St., Chapel Hill 27516, telephone: 968-2845).

Absolutely eloquent Karen.

As of now (Mar. 16th, 2007) it appears that the Lincoln Arts Center is homeless and that this unique,self-supporting program is kaput by October unless Council finds it a new home.

I’ll be posting both those calls to save the only publicly supported hands-on arts program in Chapel Hill and further information as the story develops.

Jon Wilner’s Shocking Culture

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.

Halloween means Helicopters

5:33pm, Tuesday, Oct. 31st, 2006, Halloween in downtown Chapel Hill means helicopters.

As I stepped out of my building at the corner of Church and Franklin streets, the first portent of tonight’s Chapel Hill-o-ween was the thrumming beat of helicopter blades. Two of the beast hovered high above downtown’s Franklin in a vain attempt to suss out the scope of tonight’s festivities. Why vain? Downtown was fairly quiet as the clouds continue to roll in and a very light drizzle falls.

Farther from town center, several apartment complexes appeared to be charging for parking. Town staff were busy setting out barrels. And the large portable traffic signs were positioned for action.

In years past the hubbub of Halloween is clearly audible from my home. With tonight’s anticipated record crowds the best way to see the action is to take the bus.

Realtime bus information available HERE.

On Tuesday, October 31, 2006, Tar Heel Express service will be provided to support the Halloween event. Buses will run from the following locations:

* Friday Center parking lot
* Jones Ferry park-n-ride lot
* Southern Village park-n-ride lot
* University Mall parking lot

Trips will begin at 9:00 PM and run until 2:30 AM. The cost is $5.00 per round trip, $3.00 one-way.
Chapel Hill Transit will also operate a modified service for the following night routes: D, J, NU, & TG

* D will end at 8:51 pm at Franklin @ Estes
* J will end at 8:56pm at Rock Creek Apts.
* NU will end at 8:56 pm at Carolina Coffee Shop
* TG will end at 9:20 pm University Mall.

For service concerning any of the information, please contact Chapel Hill Transit at (919) 968 – 2769.

Chapel Hill on Halloween is quite a sight. Please take your time, take care and, if you think of it, post some pics on Flickr using the tags “halloween”, “chapel hill”, “2006”.

The Best Things in Life…Carrboro’s Musicfest

Wonder if this Carrboro event will end up in Chapel Hill Magazine?

Stringband goodness from the
Carolina Chocolate Drops

This weekend’s Carrboro Music Festival should be great especially if the weather holds.

The 9th Annual Carrboro Music Festival is September 24, 2006. Our day long, free festival will feature numerous musical styles at 21 indoor and outdoor venues including The Carrboro Century Center, Cat’s Cradle, Weaver Street Market, Armadillo Grill, Open Eye Cafe, The ArtsCenter, and the Carrboro Town Commons. The outdoor sites will feature music until dark, while some of the indoor venues will go until midnight. As always, the event focuses on a myriad of musical styles with 150 different musical aggregations, ranging in size from solo artists to a seven piece World Music band.

Damn you David Fanning!

Sure, I’m nearly 225 years behind the times cursing David Fanning’s troop’s drunken pillage of nearby Hillsborough, North Carolina but it is the thought that counts…

In the early morning hours of September 12, 1781, Loyalist David Fanning led 600 Tory militiamen on a daring raid of Hillsborough where Governor Thomas Burke had taken refuge. Taken by surprise, the Hillsborough District militia and handful of Continentals offered little resistance. Fanning’s men quickly captured the Governor, 71 Continentals, and a large number of Whig militia while also freeing 30 loyalist prisoners held in the jail. After their success — in which they suffered only one wounded — the victorious militia began to plunder the town, and after finding liquor, a number of them celebrated by becoming increasingly drunk.

Some interesting fun in-store this weekend as our brave Continentals are surprised (at 11am Saturday, 2pm Sunday Sept. 9th & 10th) by the Loyalist militia.

Schedule & Maps

Events running all weekend, so check it out.

Weaver St. Market Lawn: The Story So Far….

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: Call in with a question to: (919) 929-9601. Or leave a question here, or send it to us at:

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….

Licensed for the Lawn: Dance, Dance Fever

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 Continue reading Licensed for the Lawn: Dance, Dance Fever