Jason Baker's blog

What's Next for Chapel Hill?

This year's municipal election is over. There were wins I was proud of and losses that deeply disappointed me. Regardless of who you supported in this year's elections, I think we can all agree that everyone who ran should be given our thanks for stepping up to the plate; that the incumbents who lost should be given our gratitude for their years of service; and that the council and mayoral newcomers should now be given our help, advice, and honest feedback to keep Chapel Hill moving forward on progressive issues.

I'm a fan of the TV show The West Wing, and though it ended years ago I rewatch it regularly. Not the least of the reasons why I keep watching is that it portrays a universe in which nearly everyone involved in political leadership is motivated by strong ideals, and works every day with a sense of duty to make their country a better place. And I'm reminded today of fictional President Josiah Bartlett's phrase at the end of every battle, won or lost: What's next?

After the happiness of victories and sadness of losses begin to fade, it's time for us to ask ourselves: What's next for Chapel Hill?

Dorm Closures and the Chapel Hill Housing Market

I was surprised to read this headline in the Daily Tar Heel today: "University closed Stacy and Everett due to low housing enrollment." But maybe I shouldn't have been.

Stacy and Everett residence halls combined house 189 students, but this year, only 135 signed up to live there. The two dorms will be repurposed for the 2015-16 school year.
 

Rick Bradley, associate director of housing and residential education, cited the expansion of new apartment communities and a lack of desirable amenities in student housing for the loss in enrollment.
 

“It’s not uncommon for a 9,000-bed operation like us to have 200 or so vacancies. That became our standard: 98 percent occupancy. In fall 2014, that 300 became 500, so the concern rose,” Bradley said.
 

“When that 500 empty spaces last fall now looks like it’ll be 800 this fall, we are opening at about a little over 90 percent occupancy. Our awareness has now been heightened.”

Hillsborough's "Confederate Memorial"

Next Monday, the words "Confederate Memorial" on the façade of the Orange County Historical Museum may move one step closer to being removed.

The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners next meets at 7 p.m. July 13 in the Whitted Human Services Center.

The agenda is available now on the town website and includes various items, including a discussion and possible action on the “Confederate Memorial” lettering on the exterior of the building located at 201 N. Churton St.

It seems likely that the, should the town decide to act on town manager Eric Peterson's recommended, a Certificate of Appropriateness may first need to be obtained from the Historic District Commission.

For background, see these articles from last month:

10 Questions to Ask Ourselves About Diversity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the makeup of interest groups and other constituencies in Chapel Hill lately, and how it reflects upon the diversity of our community. I focus on Chapel Hill, because, well, that’s the local entity I spend the most time following. But the same questions I ask below should be asked at any level of government, and of any organization we associate ourselves with.

This isn’t a criticism of a specific group. A lot of organizations I’ve been involved with through the years wouldn’t score perfectly on this test. The point isn’t to make anyone feel bad, it’s to ask all of us to do better.

I believe strongly in meritocracy, but meritocracy cannot exist in an ecosystem without diversity. To find the best ideas, you need to start by collecting the most ideas.

Anyway, without further ado, here are ten questions I hope that everyone organizing a political group, civic organization, or public input session asks themselves.

Come Beta Test the New OP!

After a considerable amount of work, we're pleased to announce that the next iteration of OrangePolitics is now entering a public beta. Please check it out and let us know what you think! Feel free to log in, mess around, look for old content, and try out posting and commenting! The site reflects a pull of our current database which I made about a week ago. Related, if you have recently changed your password, the change may not be reflected on the new site; if you're having trouble logging in, let me know and I'd be happy to help!

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