Thursday, June 28, 2007

Free Men back in print

John Ehle's The Free Men, the story of the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill in 1963-64, is back in print after more than 40 years. As I said a few months ago when I chaired a panel on this period for the Southern Historical Collection in UNC's Wilson Library, this book ought to be required reading in Chapel Hill. And perhaps that says too little. It's important local history, but it also tells in microcosm the much larger story of the sacrifice and commitment that black (and a few white) Americans demonstrated in order to gain the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Thanks to former Council member Joe Herzenberg for coming to our meeting last night and calling it to our attention.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Housing first in Raleigh

The trip that a number of us from Orange County took to the CASA program in Raleigh this morning was informative and inspiring. CASA is a housing nonprofit in Wake County that offers "decent, safe and affordable housing" to "people who face the daily challenge of living with a mental, developmental, or substance abuse disorder." A good percentage of their clients come to them from a condition of chronic homelessness. Four or five years ago, after themselves being inspired at a conference by New York City's Pathways to Housing program, they decided to stand the "housing ready" model on its head and see what happened. Today, they have 18 apartments housing people who were homeless and disabled, with Wake County providing the supportive services.

CASA's office is on W. Jones Street, half a block from Raleigh's busy and continually upscaling Glenwood Avenue. You would never pick out its nearby housing stock, nestled in a mixed-use neighborhood among lawyers' and doctors' offices, as the homes of people who were lately on the streets, broken down alcoholics or substance abusers.

Mary Jean Seyda, assistant director of CASA, was in charge of our tour. We also heard from David Harris, director of housing services for Wake County. We in the Orange County 10-year planning process are lucky to have their example to follow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Heart Mountain National Historic Landmark

Don't miss Eric Muller's post about the recent dedication of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center as a National Historic Landmark. The inscription on the plaque reads,

Between 1942 and 1945, guard towers and barbed wire fences on this site confined a community of nearly 11,000 forcibly uprooted people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom were American citizens. All were victims of racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and failed political leadership.

For a national park system site, this is a remarkably straightforward confession of historical truth.

Eric notes that he's a member of the board of directors of the Heart Mountain, Wyoming Foundation, and that he designed the web site, but he's too modest to note how important his own work has been to contemporary understandings of this site and its part in a sad episode of our nation's history.

I also recommend Eric's recent interview on "The State of Things," in which he moves from discussing his work tracing his German great-uncle's life and death at the hands of Nazis to discussing the genesis of his interest in Japanese-American history.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New fans for The Old Ceremony

As Django Haskins and The Old Ceremony moved into their last couple of numbers on Sunday afternoon in the Forest Theater, a young fan could hardly restrain herself. A girl who could not have been walking for very long attempted her way up the steps of the stage more than once. Cellist Josh Starmer seemed to be encouraging her, but a fatherly force insisted on intervening.

It was a great concert for young and oldish.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The hidden costs teardowns/McMansions

On June 10, the News & Observer ran a front-page story on the teardown trend in Raleigh. It was too depressing to blog about. There was little critical voice. Mostly, teardowns were characterized as an economic benefit to a neighborhood.

Myrick Howard, president of Preservation North Carolina, has another view.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

"Strange Fruit," beautiful music

The Long Leaf Opera Festival's world premiere of "Strange Fruit," last night in Memorial Hall, was wonderful. Intense, difficult at times to watch, it is beautifully written and performed. Librettist Joan Ross Sorkin tells how it came about:

The development of the opera began in 2000 when I was introduced to the 1944 novel by Lillian Smith when a friend discovered a letter from Ms. Smith in her mother’s papers after her death. I was immediately smitten with Ms. Smith’s work and began writing a musical book based on the novel, which I would eventually turn into the libretto for the opera. As I wrote, it became more and more apparent from the intense passions of the characters and the sweeping historical context of the story that the material was suited more for opera than musical theatre. I was introduced to Chandler Carter who was the ideal composer, having grown up in the South with a strong interest in the African-American experience. Chandler had just completed his opera, No Easy Walk To Freedom based on the life of Nelson Mandela and was eager to tackle issues of race closer to home. Our collaboration was sealed in 2002, and we began in earnest to develop the opera. We applied to New York City Opera’s VOX developmental program for new work, and the piece was accepted. Strange Fruit became part of the NYCity Opera’s VOX 2003: A Showcase of American Composers, and Ben Keaton, Music Director of Long Leaf Opera, was in the audience. Kismet!

Composer Chandler Carter, director Randolph Umberger, and actors Erika Newkirk and Charles Stanton were interviewed June 14 on "The State of Things."

There's only one more performance: tomorrow at 2 p.m. Go if you can.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chapel Hill preservation news

Ruins of the Dey House, December 2006

A house on Pine Lane designed by Jim Webb, one of the best of Chapel Hill's modernist architects, was recently demolished. On what was originally two lots, the lots are being marketed separately, by Tony Hall & Associates, as sites for proposed houses of around 4,000 sq. ft. each: see sketches for 104 Pine Lane and 106 Pine Lane. The name of the developer is not given.

Although Pine Lane, a dead-end street off Laurel Hill, is adjacent to the National Register Rocky Ridge Farm Historic District, it is not in the historic district. At the time that district was created in the 1980s, the houses on Pine Lane were less than 50 years old. According to Robert Stipe, a neighbor, as of last fall a survey that proposed expansion of the district had been completed and submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office; the survey was done by Ruth Little, author of The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill; and the house that was demolished was one of the proposed "contributing structures."

If the expanded historic district had been approved by now, the house might still have been town down, but the town's Historic District Commission at least could have imposed a delay of up to one year to encourage a sympathetic buyer.

Ernest Dollar, executive director of the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, came to Council on June 11 to propose a new ordinance to slow down teardowns. It's modeled on one in Apex. Under its terms, if you tear down an existing home that is identified as historic (and it could be listed on a survey of historic sites that's not limited to historic districts per se), and if you are proposing to replace it with something other than a single-family residence (for example a duplex or a condo), then you have to wait four years. It wouldn't have affected this teardown, but it would be a good measure of discouragement of others.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

NC in the news

Via the North Carolina Miscellany: (1) USA Today recently profiled the North Carolina Barbeque Trail. (2) the New York Times travel section covers exotic Monaco, Shanghai, Antartica, The Silk Road, Angkor, Venice, . . . and Concord, North Carolina.

Walker Evans as told to Bill Ferris

In 1974, a young, shaggy-haired Bill Ferris interviewed a 70-year-old Walker Evans. The interview (with pictures, of course) is published in the Summer 2007 issue of Southern Cultures, a special photography issue. Bill tells us the first run is sold out already, but they are printing some more.

Originality and truth and direct simplicity and honesty [are what I look for in a photograph]. I approach these things as a moralist, really, because some of these things I just said--honesty and truth--are moral values, but beauty is something else, and it's a word that should be used damn carefully. I don't know if I could tell you what I think beauty is but that it's got to be there.

[My students love me] because I love them. It's a thing I manufacture by my own love. They respond. There's love in everybody, and you have to evoke it. You evoke it by feeling it yourself. Mine is excessive. It's almost more than I can stand emotionally. Even lately, I've noticed that if I'm riding around in an automobile and I see children playing, I almost burst into tears because of just the sight of children. I've never loved children so much before, but I'm beginning to love them too. I must be going backwards. I was stopped with youth for a while, and now I've gone into childhood.

I don't think [documenting a person] is cold because I am warm myself and I think I can convey that. I'm essentially a born lover, and I love what I'm doing. I think I can put love in my work. I love life and I love people deeply, and that's what keeps me alive and keeps me happy.

--Walker Evans

Monday, June 11, 2007

Theory versus practice

When we were vacationing in Paris a few years ago, we saw a great headline: "Fine in practice, but how does it work in theory?" Ah, those tricky French! So self-aware they even joke about their passion for abstraction.

But it's not only the French. It's academics across the board. "How does it work in theory?" seems to be the operative question behind the critics of Ruby Payne, an education specialist featured in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. A teacher, a middle-class woman whose defining reality was her marriage to a man raised in poverty, she has made a career out of teaching other teachers how to recognize certain behavioral patterns of poor children and to work with them, not to change them but to help them better understand and negotiate the complex social worlds in which we all move.

At the heart of Payne’s philosophy is a one-page chart, titled “Hidden Rules Among Classes,” which appears in most of her books. There are three columns, for poverty, middle class and wealth, and 15 rows, covering everything from time to love to money to language. In a few words, Payne explains how each class sees each concept. Humor in poverty? About people and sex. In the middle class? About situations. In wealth? About social faux pas. In poverty, the present is most important. In the middle class, it’s the future. In wealth, it’s the past. The key question about food in poverty: Did you have enough? In the middle class: Did you like it? In wealth: Was it presented well?

Her book A Framework for Understanding Poverty has sold thousands and thousands of copies. She has worked her way into personal wealth. Among teachers she's in great demand. But academics look at her with skepticism. She's buying into stereotypes, reinforcing the structures of racism and classism, say her critics. Even worse,

Payne's critics seem less aggrieved by what she includes in her analysis than by what they say she has left out: an acknowledgment that the American economy and American schools systematically discriminate against poor people.

I'm familiar with this line of criticism. Why tinker around the edges when the whole system is unjust?

Take Walter Benn Michaels for example, chair of the Department of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His latest, The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality, looks to be a fine catalogue of persistent economic injustices. I'm not far into it yet, but I see that one of the goals of the book is "to help alter the political terrain of contemporary American life." He finds it "hard to accept" that "we Americans just aren't all that committed to equal opportunity after all." I have no doubt that the observations in this book are earnest and well-conceived and meant to change the world.

What got my attention--what got me to pick up the book off the shelf of new books at the law library--was the afterword, which for some reason he writes in the third person. Here we learn that Walter Benn Michaels

makes $175,000 a year. But he wants more; one of his motives for writing this book was the cash advance offered him by his publishers. Some readers will be tempted to see a discrepancy between these facts and the arguments against economic inequality made in the preceding chapters. But they should remember that those arguments are true (if they are true) even if Michaels's motives are bad, and they would be false (if they were false) even if his motives were good. Not to put too fine a point on it, the validity of the argument does not depend on the virtue of the person making them. Furthermore, the point of the book is not that people, including its author, should be virtuous. During the summer in which most of this book was written, a homeless man lived in the railroad underpass Michaels can see out his study window. A more virtuous person might have been tempted to go down and bring him some breakfast or maybe even invite him in for a shower and a meal. It never occurred to Michaels to do either of these things. Mainly he wished the man would go away. And his desire for the man to just not be there does not contradict the argument of this book; it's more like the motive for the argument of this book. The point is not that we should be nicer to the homeless; it's that no one should be homeless.

This passage, in all of its tedious and cynical self-consciousness, leaves me speechless.

Ms. Payne's work reminded me of Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, the formerly homeless educator I blogged about in April. Looking back over my notes, I see that she actually had been in one of Ruby Payne's seminars, where she found a number of truths revealed.

If I want to get out of generational poverty there are hidden rules. For instance when my kids were small if you came to my house to eat, I’m going to make sure you get enough. I'm going to feed you! But if you came when my kids were teenagers I’d say let me fix you something else, because what was important then was that they like it, now how much. Now that I’m hanging around with other people sometimes, I’ve noticed that in affluent situations, they don’t care about whether you like it or if it’s enough, it’s all about how beautiful it is, the presentation and how lovely it is. If I don’t know those hidden rules, if I come into that situation and try to mingle, I’m already ostracized.

For Nussbaum-Beach, it would have been useful as a schoolgirl to be offered the tools to understand class differences. For teachers, it could ease the frustration of working with poor kids. Said a science teacher quoted in the Times article, "I realized, these kids aren't dumb. . . . They just haven't had the enriching experiences that I had growing up."

I'd like to change the world too. I'd like for nobody to be homeless or poor. In the long meanwhile, I wish Ruby Payne many more standing ovations.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Homelessness: talking straight

Kudos to Mayor Kevin Foy for challenging the folks at the new Robert and Pearl Seymour Senior Center to think clearly about their opposition to the proposed siting of the IFC men's shelter on county property near the center.

Mayor Kevin Foy strongly defended a proposal to move the men's homeless shelter to the county's Homestead Road campus Friday, telling seniors who oppose the plan that they must reflect on their individual responsibility to the community's needy.
"Homelessness is part of an economic, social condition that we as a community struggle with. It's a blight on all of us. The way that we respond to this issue tells us who we are as a people, as a community. I just think we need to confront that," Foy told about 100 people gathered for a community meeting on the shelter at the new Robert and Pearl Seymour Center. "This is our moral challenge."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Unity Day 2007

Today was the second bi-annual Unity Day for alumni, participants, and court team professionals of the Orange County Drug Treatment Court. It was held at the Southern Human Services Center. As a member of the steering committee for the court, I'm grateful for what they do. We heard four amazing stories from people whose lives had crossed the brink. Because of addiction and its consequences on their behavior, they've known what it's like to lose their jobs, their friends, even their children. Not everybody has the chance to get their lives back after all this. Not everybody who has the chance has the will and the persistence to do it. Here are the remarks I made.

I very well remember this event two years ago at Freedom House. Just as today there were amazing success stories. But there were two who made big impressions on me, and sadly they are no longer with us.

One was Arjun Nicastro, a skinny guy with a long pony tail and lot of positive energy, a counselor for Freedom House. He talked, as I remember, about how a life could be thrown away, or thrown away but somehow rescued. As remember he actually pointed to a trash can or a recycling bin, something to make the point that there are human lives that can end up tossed aside. Perhaps I made that part up. But the point was that people can make incredibly bad choices. Some of us when we do make mistakes or bad decisions or fall in with the wrong crowd, we have families with resources to bail us out and get us back on the right track. But that’s not always how the story ends.

What many of us didn’t know then, didn’t know till he died of leukemia about a month ago, was that Arjun himself was one whose life was almost thrown away. As I learned after his death from reading about the fellowship he won to attend the college of social work at the University of South Carolina,

He was a seventh-grade dropout who developed an addiction to heroin at age 14. By the time he was 17 [he] had been convicted of several drug-related crimes and was sentenced to life in prison as a habitual felon. After serving 23 years in prison, he was released in 1998 with $100 to his name and Hepatitis C.

So when Arjun told people they could change, there was no one knew it better than he did.

One of the people who told her story of transformation at that ceremony two years ago was Tami Atwater Mitchell. Tami was addicted to crack by the time she was 19. She went to prison many times for everything from shoplifting to embezzlement. She had been in a terrible cycle of getting high, doing something criminally stupid, and going to prison.

But eventually, she came up against the Drug Treatment Court, and it was the best thing that ever happened to her. She was the program’s first graduate and one of its best advocates. If sentencing that results in prison time is the strict Law of the Father, then what happens in Drug Treatment Court is mothering and fathering at once. If you’ve ever seen Judge Buckner in action, you know what I mean. This is a court that says yes you’ve done wrong, and yes you will pay the price, but no we aren’t interested in throwing you under the jail. We are here to help you understand why you did it and what you need to know to help you not do it again. We are on your side. Your life is valuable, and we don’t want you to throw it away. We are here to support you and help you find your grounding and your moral compass all over again, even if it takes months and years. It’s a pretty phenomenal concept.

This time two years ago, as a graduate of the program, Tami was married and had a son. She was working as an administrative assistant. She owned her own home and car. For her, the terrible cycle had been broken and she had grabbed hold of her almost thrown away life. Life is not fair, though. Tami died in a car accident in January 2006.

While we still miss her, today we have other success stories to celebrate, other lives to hold up and say no, they are not going to the trash heap. Miracles happen in the Orange County Drug Treatment Court. As Judge Buckner says, the participants are the miracles. They make their own miracles happen. But I don’t entirely believe that. No one can do that kind of hard work by themselves. They couldn’t do it without the structure of the Drug Treatment Court and the dedication that the staff brings to their jobs every single day. Together you all are the miracle, and on behalf of the Town of Chapel Hill I’m proud of every one of you.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

When I'm seventy-four

When planner and transportation guru David Bonk talks to the Council about the 2030 Long-Range Transportation Plan for the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro metropolitan area, it seems so technical, so logical and orderly. The other night I calculated how old I'll be in 2030, and a new world order appeared before me. By that time, my less than 20/20 vision will be fixed on a rather short range.

Last fall, the Orange County Commission on Aging presented the Council with its "Master Aging Plan Update and Preliminary Goals and Objectives." This is a good thing for an area where the retiree-age population is growing.

The one-level house we live in, built in the 1950s, was designed so that eventually one part of the house could be converted into an apartment for a caretaker. The owners in the end chose to move to Carolina Meadows. For awhile after we moved to this neighborhood a decade ago, it seemed like a NORC--but by now many others have moved on to Carolina Meadows or Carol Woods or The Cedars or The Forest at Duke.

We may not have those choices or want them. It would be great to know that our community has support services for those who are living independently long past a time when common sense or reason would recommend it. Happily, the county's master aging plan aims to have services in place for people who are still in their homes.

In Albany, New York, they've just started a new journal on aging and urban planning. Guess what? It turns out that walkability, mixed use, and efficient transit services are good for old people.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

When is a public utility not a public utility?

According to the telecommunications and cable industries: when it's the internet. My colleague Mark Kleinschmidt and I went over to Raleigh this morning to attend a hearing of the House of Representatives' Public Utilities Committee on House Bill 1587, "The Local Government Fair Competition Act." Local activist Brian Russell was also there.

This bill would make it prohibitively difficult for a local government body to get into the business of offering broadband to its constituents. As Fiona Morgan writes in today's Independent Weekly,

Largely ignored by the media, this tug of war between local governments and private industry is part of a trend in which state legislatures are carving out the nation's digital future by enacting laws that will govern the next generation of communications technology. Like the fight over net neutrality, these local laws will have tremendous impact on American's access to the Internet in years to come. But unlike that widely publicized congressional battle, these state-level regulations are struggled over in obscurity.

I expect that at our next Council meeting on June 11, we will join Fayetteville, Greensboro, and other cities in adopting a resolution in opposition to this bill. But our views certainly carried no weight in Raleigh this morning, despite the good efforts of Pricey Harrison (of Guilford County) and Angela Bryant (Nash County). Though the room was packed with opponents, many of them elected officials from municipalities and counties--Mark had hoped to speak--only one speaker was allowed in response to the statement by the industry advocate. But as it turned out, that one voice was powerful: it belonged to the mayor of Wilson, which is already in the business of running a fiber optic network.

Wade Hargrove, attorney with Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard, argued for the bill on behalf of the industry. These are the notes I took.

This is about fairness. It also requires cities to have a realistic business plan. It’s about government accountability.

The other side says we are neglecting rural North Carolina. That is not true. Eighty-two percent of the state has access. There’s more to be done, but it won’t be done if you don’t allow fair competition.

Some will say some communities need more and so government should do it. But at what cost? Our whole government is based on free enterprise. If you had closed your eyes at the hearing last week [May hearing of this committee], you might have thought you were in Moscow.

The telecommunications business is capital intensive and highly competitive. Cities have learned too late that telecommunications is more expensive than their consultants had said. Morganton is Exhibit A of why not to go into this business. Their municipal cable business told a private company to leave town. Morganton said no to free enterprise. It was a monopoly. Now it is losing money. It has a $1 million loss and $7 million in debt. There’s a lesson there.

A vote for this bill is a vote against government monopolies and against unfair trade practices.

And the following is from the remarks of Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose.

Wilson has a strong history of being an economic leader in the state. We were leaders in the textile and tobacco industries. Our state leaders were proud of us. Our city decided to invest heavily in traditional infrastructure.

Now, we have been successful in getting new industry. State incentives have helped. Our state was our partner.

We realized we needed to invest in fiber optics infrastructure. This time our state is not our partner.

Kill this bill. We know who wrote it. We are at odds with a powerful industry. We were warned about huge corporations with deep pockets. We were told they would turn the legislature against their own local governments.

This is a direct assault on the citizens of this great state. BB&T and S.T. Wooten, our colleges, the Chamber of Commerce, businesses and citizens are on our side. They’re tired of waiting for someone else to bring this infrastructure.

The title of this bill is misleading. It is anything but fair. Our local cable provider has used public records law to gain access to our business model. That’s not fair.

This is David v. Goliath and all his cousins.

Does the state plan to level the playing field between public and private colleges?

Does the General Assembly really want to prevent private/public partnerships like the one we already have?

I am not asking these huge corporations not even based in North Carolina to believe in the City of Wilson. I’m asking the Legislature to let us believe in ourselves.

After brief discussion, on voice vote the committee referred the bill to the finance committee. Representatives Harrison and Bryant apparently voted against, but I am not sure. It was hard to tell.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Lonely hearts reunion

I said it was hard to believe I was only eleven when Sgt. Pepper's came out. Replied my son swiftly and sweetly, "I thought you were two."

Cool interactive graphic via ae.

UPDATE: Even cooler 45-min. history of the making of the album, via Brian Russell.

TINA, meet LOIS.

Dan Coleman, Carrboro alderman and one of the panelists at last night's forum on Carolina North, just returned from six days at Berkeley, where he attended a conference of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. These are folks working hard to build and strengthen local business and community networks, in the face of globalization. Their principles:

  • Living economy communities produce and exchange locally as many products needed by their citizens as they reasonably can, while reaching out to other communities to trade in those products they cannot reasonably produce at home. These communities value their unique character and encourage cultural exchange and cooperation.
  • Living economy public policies support decentralized ownership of businesses and farms, fair wages, taxes, and budget allocations, trade policies benefiting local economies, and stewardship of the natural environment.
  • Living economy citizens appreciate the benefits of buying from living economy businesses and, if necessary, are willing to pay a price premium to secure those personal and community benefits.
  • Living economy investors value businesses that are community stewards and as such accept a "living return" on their financial investments rather than a maximum return, recognizing the value derived from enjoying a healthy and vibrant community and sustainable global economy.
  • Living economy media provide sources of news independent of corporate control, so that citizens can make informed decisions in the best interests of their communities and natural environment.
  • Living economy businesses are primarily independent and locally owned, and value the needs and interests of all stakeholders while building long-term profitability.

Are these people dreaming? TINA would like you to think so. TINA is the name Michael Shuman affectionately gives, in The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses are Beating the Global Competition, to those who believe "There Is No Alternative" to globalization. (Thanks to Dan for loaning me this book.)

We see this argument all the time--for example, in a book reviewed May 30 in the New York Times. As William Grimes summarizes the thesis of Nayan Chanda of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization in Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization, "globalization is an expression of human desires that date back to the dawn of time, when the first humans left their African homeland and set out in search of a better life." Chinese jeans are in our genes!

There is an alternative, though: Shuman calls her LOIS (local ownership and import substitution). Though it may not be immediately obvious why avoiding the lure of Wal-Mart, paying more out of pocket to local business owners, might be in your own best interest as well as that of the business owners, there are clear and resounding long-term benefits:

LOIS, for example, is a natural cousin of "smart growth" or anti-sprawl policies. Promoters of smart growth envision, for example, the redesign of a community so that residents can walk or ride bikes form home to school, from work to the grocery store. They want to scrap old zoning laws and promote multiple uses--residential, commercial, clean industrial, educational, civic--in existing spaces. They believe it's better to fully use the town center than to build subdivisions on green spaces on the periphery. Because LOIS businesses tend to be small, they can fit more easily inside homes or on the ground floor of residences Because they focus primarily on local markets, LOIS business place a high premium on being easily accessible by local residents. . . .

A TINA-dependent community, in contrast, is likely to suffer several kinds of environmental hazards. Box stores, for example, are characterized by gigantic parking lots, which cover vast tracts of land with concrete that drain off oil, gasoline, and other toxins into the water table, often in torrents that can lead to flooding. When national chains move on, these huge spaces are neglected, become eyesores, and lower property values. Nationwide Wal-Mart has three hundred vacant stores, and most are less than a mile away from the Supercenter that ook the predecessor store's place.

We do a good job in Chapel Hill of keeping the big box stores at bay. But perhaps not such a good job of encouraging LOIS to thrive within our borders and slowing down the leakage of dollars to those big box stores that call from up the highway. I'll look forward to talking with Dan and others about principled steps Chapel Hill and Carrboro can take to foster thriving local living economies.

Monday, June 04, 2007

NRG Community Forum on Carolina North

Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth hosted an informative forum tonight on Carolina North. "This forum is an example of democracy in action," said Mike Collins as it got under way. It was great to see so many folks out to express their interests. We elected leaders need to work with citizens to articulate what it is that we need to further the town's interest as the the process of developing this huge section our community goes forward.

Held less than a week after UNC's latest public information meetings on the development, this session was important because it allowed citizens to talk to each other about what the town's goals should be for a development on 1,000 acres in the middle of Chapel Hill.

Over two hours of discussion, several themes emerged, as summarized by Collins:

Citizens need to be out ahead. They can lead this effort by giving their input to their local government leaders.

UNC has its vision, but we have to articulate through our governments what we want.

The time line that the UNC Board of Trustees has proposed, with a concept plan coming to the Chapel Hill Town Council in October 2007, is dubious. We have to decide as a community if that schedule works for us. Studies on fiscal equity, transit, etc. need to be completed before we move forward.

This will be a lengthy process if the town goes through its normal paces and takes the proper amount of time. Cutting corners is not in the interest of our community.

The uncertainty that many citizens feel about what it is that we want is an issue. We must think about what we want for the town.

Many thanks to NRG for sponsoring this conversation. Collins' other point was very true: Two hours is a good start, but not nearly enough time to flesh out the complexities of what's before us. I hope there will be more community conversations like this.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Wilmington? Forget it.

Blame the messenger: Rep. Thomas Wright of Wilmington, who proposed 10 items of legislation to follow up on the Wilmington 1898 Commission's report on the violent political coup that for 100 years had been called a "riot," is mired in scandal. All but one of his bills seem dead in the water, and that one, one that merely acknowledges that what happened was "a conspiracy of a white elite" (but, as I noted earlier, doesn't really call a spade a spade), "faces uncertainty in the Senate" after passing in the House by only 64-47.

Some commission members, who worked to uncover what had been one of the state's least-known and darkest episodes, say they are concerned that Wright is no longer effective and that their work may not result in the change they had hoped for.
"I had left it up to Rep. Wright to guide us," said Irving Joyner, a law professor at N.C. Central University and the commission's vice chairman. "Now the viability of that strategy is in question."
But is only the messenger to blame?

Leo Daughtry, a Smithfield Republican, was one of those who voted against [the House bill]. He said the legislature should concern itself with the issues of today: roads, public education, taxes. He said he would oppose any plan to fund remembrances of 1898, whether with a monument or with reparations to descendants of victims.
"I don't see where it would serve any purpose at this point to spend money on an event that occurred a hundred years ago that didn't affect any person living today," Daughtry said.