Leave it to Dan Coleman to finish on a strong note. Attending his last regular meeting as a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, Coleman spoke about the dream of Carrboro, and he urged his colleagues and neighbors to seek out creative ways forward in a world of seemingly insurmountable challenges. His farewell remarks are pasted below. Join Dan and many others at OP Happy Hour on Friday, December 14,
(location to be announced very soon) at Looking Glass Cafe in Carrboro.
Farewell Remarks by Alderman Dan Coleman
December 4, 2012
Carrboro, North Carolina
Carrboro is a wonderful place, a dream really, but a dream on a sea of devastation. Here’s some of what I’ve read recently about that devastation: In New York City, 72% of African Americans don’t graduate high school. In the Amazon rainforest, cities that didn’t exist 20 years ago are booming. We are losing the Arctic, the Greenland glaciers, the coral reefs. Derrick Jensen has said that if aliens came to earth and inflicted such devastation, we would declare all-out war. But instead we inflict it on ourselves.
If we are honest with ourselves, we must feel helplessly complicit in these global problems; not only do we fail to stop them, we cannot even find a way not to make them worse. Someone writing in the Sun this month asks, “Would you rather have songbirds or running shoes?” And the question may be just that stark. And we in Carrboro pride ourselves in our road races.
We have lost our moorings and no longer understand how to live sustainably on planet Earth. Pretty much everything we do makes matters worse, and we deceive ourselves with notions like “sustainable growth.” Growth under an economic regime that values neither community nor ecology sustains nothing other than social and planetary destruction. So we make Faustian bargains like building a chain hotel downtown or housing whose density we somehow deem makes it desirable. But we do so without any accounting for the cost to planet Earth and ultimately to humanity.
But still, we must find hope and we must grope for a way forward. And this is what I have tried to do as alderman.
The local living economy is key, but it cannot mean just buying Chinese-manufactured products from a local vendor. We have to find ways to expand upon the Farmers' Market and local craft markets to become more self-reliant. The local living economy is like the seed that sprouts in the midst of the rotting pod. My worry is that the pod is so vast that the rot may overwhelm the seed. Therefore, we must avoid compromise and do our utmost to localize our economy and disinvest from the global infrastructure of pollution and devastation.
In doing so, we must become the poster child for combating climate change. We should be proud of our fare-free buses, our bicycle network, and our sidewalks and of our willingness to go toe-to-toe with NCDOT for progressive transportation policy. But we must import less, each and every one of us, and use less fossil fuel energy in all aspects of life.
The great thing about Carrboro is how many there are who understand this message and who are not complacent. Yet, so many citizens of this town, myself included, tread too heavily on the earth. We must do better.
A great challenge for a small town is to make progress on social justice, given that so much of our wealth is extracted from us to serve the power elite. Still, I was pleased this year when my call for a housing wage for town employees found an eager ear in our new manager, David Andrews, who has promised a plan for the coming fiscal year. And I will be pleased to learn that my colleagues act next year to increase our flexibility and capacity to create and sustain affordable housing.
And I would remind my colleagues of the adage that political office is a bully pulpit. Too rarely do we use our public office or the capabilities of government to reach out and educate our fellow citizens. An educated electorate, we all understand, is the foundation of democratic society and essential for future progress. Never be afraid to spend tax dollars to communicate with the citizenry.
When I move next month, I will find myself in a wonderful place with many of the same challenges but without the obstacle of the world’s most entrenched capitalist class calling the shots. And without half-witted evolution and climate change deniers running much of state and national government. Still, there will be much to do.
Will I miss the dream of Carrboro? Surely I will. Especially its people who I have had a unique opportunity to know so extensively. I commend the town to the safekeeping of these six fine people who have served with me on the board. I am especially heartened by our two newest members, who may represent a generational shift away from the jaded politics of we baby boomers. Michelle brings an amazing sensibility toward people and process, communications and community. And Sammy, more than any of us, understands the challenges facing the planet but couples that awareness with a facility for grassroots organizing and building genuinely sustainable alternatives. May Carrboro find a thousand like them.
So, enjoy what you have. Create more of it. Share it with all. But be ever mindful that our prosperity comes at an incredible cost to the planet, and be prepared to repay that cost with interest. Thank you all.
Thank you. It has been a privilege to serve as Carrboro alderman for the past seven years.