Halloween 2008 on a Diet

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Wow! A %50 reduction in this years Halloween crowd.

The Town of Chapel Hill successfully reduced the size of the Halloween event on Franklin Street with an estimated showing of 35,000. Town Manager Roger L. Stancil said he believed the “Homegrown Halloween” campaign assisted in reducing the number of revelers, and strategies implemented by Chapel Hill Police helped to improve safety. Franklin Street was closed at about 10 p.m. to accommodate the crowd and was cleared of people after midnight to wrap up the party.

“The partnership of the Town, the University, student government, businesses downtown and the community at large is what brought us back closer to a homegrown event that was safer and more manageable,” Stancil said. “We did this together as a community.”

To manage the event that attracts costumed revelers to promenade on Franklin Street, the Town must coordinate a workforce of more than 700 people, including law enforcement officers, fire and emergency medical service personnel, parking monitors, public works, and parks and recreation crew members.

Some of the changes this year included restricted access to downtown Chapel Hill through lane and street closures starting at 8 p.m. There were no bus shuttles although Safe Ride buses operated for UNC-Chapel Hill students. Alcohol checkpoints were in place at the event, and DWI enforcement took place along outskirts of Chapel Hill with cooperation from the NC Highway Patrol. The Town worked with downtown bar and restaurant owners to restrict alcohol sales after 1 a.m. All ABC permittees among the bars and restaurants in downtown Chapel Hill would not permit customers to enter or re-enter after 1 a.m.

Town crews were expected to work through Saturday morning to clean up litter and restore order. The Town is holding special hours on Saturday morning to receive calls from residents who wish to report post-Halloween related issues that require prompt attention. Service calls will be accepted between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 1, at the following:

Halloween, 2008: Helicopters and Sirens Go On and On

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I was Downtown about 8pm this evening. Some folks were gathering but it was generally quiet. It appeared Chapel Hill’s attempt to “scare” off visitors might have worked.

Starting 9:30pm though I began to wonder.

We live close to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and the Police Station. Starting 10pm there was the constant thrum of helicopters overhead and the nearly continuous whine of sirens moving. Then, as 11:30pm approached, the helicopters moved off and the sirens quieted.

Tomorrow we’ll get to see if we achieved a Homegrown Halloween.

Halloween Trick: Bank-rolling Boozing

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Local teen alcohol awareness activist Dale Pratt-Wilson asks if the $225,000 spent managing Downtown’s Halloween booze-fest is worth it:

Wow…What an awesome use of my tax dollars! I am especially pleased with having to pay for twenty-one Orange County EMS calls related to drunkenness.

It would be interesting to see a cost analysis of what the town earned in tax revenue and fees etc. vs. funds expended for manpower both law enforcement and civilian and finally the crews needed to clean up the mess.

As the night rolls on and families have gone home, this financial extravaganza amounts to nothing more than a drunk-fest. If you don’t believe me, ask any of the 385 officers being paid to work this gig.

Why are we bank-rolling this party? Help me and the other citizens to understand the thinking behind this decision.

I’ve disagreed with some of Dale’s tactics but she’s got an excellent question here, does the investment merit the return?

When I first moved to Greenville to attend ECU, Halloween was “banned” Downtown. In the mid-’70’s, there had been a tear-gassing police riot that shutdown the festivities and, in 1980, the town was still in no mood for downtown parties.

The constitutionality of the town’s Halloween crackdown was questionable but the outcome was quite effective – step off the sidewalk, congregate or wear a mask and get arrested.

Eventually Halloween returned to downtown Greenville and by the time I graduated folks were puking their guts up in downtown alleys, getting their heads bashed in during drunken brawls and damaging private property for blocks around. Adding to the volatile mix – tensions from out-of-town visitors like Jacksonville’s and Fayetteville’s young recruits, gangs out of Raleigh and university students from State, UNC-CH and UNC-W – which often resulted in some rather nasty incidents.

I’m not sure the best course of action to take in managing our Halloween but letting it continue to escalate in cost and taking on a riskier profile with no clear return to the citizenry doesn’t make sense.

Time for a community confab to sort out what we value most from this Chapel Hill tradition and preserve those elements we, as a community, find most appealing.

Halloween Trick: North Street Complaint

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

I believe there’s usually a better way to do almost anything and, as a business person, well understand the value of customer complaints as a tool for driving improvement.

Complaints are like canaries in the coal mine alerting you to developing negative conditions – many organizations, though, would rather kill the canary than respond to their plaint.

In 2005, then Town Manager Cal Horton, made sure that the candidates for office were tied into Council’s information stream. This included citizen mail, status reports, early agenda items and advisory board work product.

After the 2005 election, I asked Council to make this information available to the wider public. In spite of professing an interest in transparent governance, the majority of Council decided not to expose our residents to citizen complaints or alert folks early to developing policy problems.

The Chapel Hill Police Department reports that last night’s Halloween bash, attended by 82,000 folks, went fairly well – at least based on the numbers:

Simple Affray(4),Assault on a Female (1),Simple Assault(2),Drunk and Disruptive(3),Assault on an EMS(1),Disorderly Conduct(1),Assault on an LEO(2),Resist and Delay(3),Failure to Disperse(1).

Orange County Emergency Medical Services responded to thirty-one calls and eight people were transported to UNC Hospitals. Twenty-one of the calls were related to intoxication.

Sounds good but not everyone was happy about our Town’s effectiveness:

The control on our street, NORTH STREET off Hillsborough tonight was ridiculous! By 10PM, the street was filled with cars that didn’t belong here. I spoke with the “traffic control” people and they said “…nobody told us anything…”. They let anyone down the street to park who asked them to, they had no cones until they found some up near Rosemary Street, and had no clue what they were supposed to do. This is the most ridiculous traffic control during Halloween I have ever seen. Someone at the Town needs to take control of this Halloween disaster and protect the neighborhoods from the thousands who invade the Town each year.

There is no reason to spend this much tax money on an event and NOT
protect the people who live here!

Now, we could look at this an isolated complaint, be comfortable with the overall numbers and not investigate any further OR we could look at this as an opportunity to do better next year.

Halloween means Helicopters

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

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”.

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