But what does this all really tell us

What does this election truly tell us in Carrboro/Chapel Hill and what do folks think is going to happen first in the Chapel Hill Council and Board of Alderfolk?

Well, in Carrboro, it feels to me as though we're going to see a continuation of the same path we've been taken - an effort towards "sustainable growth" and higher densities in the appropriate places. One could say that the 41% that Vanke received was a wake-up call to say that Carrboro is going too far too fast, but the problem with that theory is that Broun and Zaffron got re-elected by decently wide margins despite having the same platform. And though Chilton is seen as an "outsider" he's still very much in favor of the status quo path it seems. I prefer to add up the numbers... as Mark said in a previous post, there is always a 30% "anybody but Mike" vote. Add a few percent here over the "art issue" and a few percent there over the connector roads policy and you get up close to 40%. I can't help but think that the Herald Sun helped swing things a few more percentage points Vanke's way when they had that high visibility article the day before the election explaining how a write-in victory would be a "historic" election in North Carolina. Carrborians are notoriously weak when it comes to underdogs (France, for instance). I can't help but think 5% just thought it would be great if a write-in candidate won.

And in Chapel Hill? How quickly can we get rid of those pesky cameras at the lights that haunt this commuter's dreams? And is the panhandling ordinance on its way out or are we going to continue to think up scenarios whereby the CH police are forced to arrest drunken frat boys asking for a quarter from their friends or well-dressed elderly folk looking for a quarter for the meter at 6PM? Would Greene and Hill come through for us on the panhandling issue? And can we convince Ed Harrison to switch his vote in the interest of preserving civil liberties? Please?



As he's said time and time again, Ed Harrison only switches and votes against his conscience when he feels threatened, and then only when he can make a speech to that effect. The fact that he feels threatened a lot should not be construed as a character flaw. It's a scary world out there.

I think there might actually be a race to see who can first propose the removal of the red-light cameras.

On both red lights and on panhandling, Sally has been in front on both of those issues as you may know.

Just to refresh your memories, here's a link to her March memo on panhandling http://www.sallygreene.com/ontherecord/Panhandlingmemo.htm

which has been publicly available during the entire campaign.

On cameras, see the note that Will Raymond has been circulating. Our family has some very personal reasons to be involved in red light solutions that are effective and save lives. Cameras do neither.

[when I get Sally's permission, I will post the red light letter]

[Sally Greene received a letter from someone who questioned her being a neighborhood advocate and opposing red light cameras. I've reposted the letter here with her permission.



Grassroots for Greene:

Yesterday I got a letter from two citizens who had received my campaign

mailer. They said my claim to be a neighborhood advocate was

inconsistent with my opposition to the red-light camera program.

Here is the letter I am putting in the mail to them today.

Thanks for your thoughtful letter. I am a neighborhood advocate, and I

do oppose the red light cameras. These are not inconsistent positions.

My husband's brother was killed a few years ago by a red-light runner

on a busy street in a residential section of Charlotte. We were

devastated by this senseless act. But neither of us think that a camera

would have made a difference. The situation involved a poorly

engineered intersection and a Time-Warner cable employee who was in too

much of a hurry.

You have posed more police staffing as the alternative answer. Numerous

studies have suggested that the answer is something else: better timing

or phasing of traffic signals, longer yellow lights, traffic circles—in

short, better-engineered road and signal designs. See for example the

report of the Institute of Transportation Engineers from July 15, 2002,


"Cameras do not reduce accidents caused by engineering defects."

See also this from the National Motorists Association,


"Proper signal timing, better signal design, and improved intersections

are the real answers to the red-light violation problem."

Many who have studied the issue believe that longer yellow lights would

help a lot. In Mesa, Arizona, for example, the company administering

the program, Lockheed Martin, asked for the cameras to be removed at

certain intersections. The yellow light had been lengthened at these

sites; as a result, not enough citations were being generated to turn a

profit. (See

http://www.motorists.com/pressreleases/redlightrevenue.html and


Another example of solving the problem without resorting to cameras was

reported from Michigan in 1999 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic

Safety. Intersections in Detroit were redesigned. The lenses of traffic

lights were increased from 8 inches to 12 inches. Left-turn lanes were

restriped; the traffic signals were retimed, adding an "all-red

clearance interval"; and intersections got better pedestrian signals.

These modifications significantly reduced red-light running. This

program is praised in a compelling essay by a man whose wife was almost

killed by a red-light runner:

http://www.mackinac.org/article.asp?ID=4936/. (See also


The American Automobile Association, which began by supporting

red-light cameras in theory, has recently voiced reservations,

questioning the way the programs are in fact administered. A program it

finds particularly bad is the one in Washington, D.C. It is operated by

Affiliated Computer Services, which also runs Chapel Hill's program.

(See http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,97286,00.html.)

There are other issues with the use of red-light cameras, ranging from

the practical question of whether they actually serve as a deterrent to

the philosophical questions involving Big Brother and

constitutionality. I can't say it any better than it was put by House

Majority Leader Dick Armey a little over two years ago. See


"'I believe that when one examines fully the consequences of using red

light cameras, it will become clear that the devices are more trouble

than they are worth'" said Armey. "'When we turn over the traditional

duties of law enforcement to an unthinking machine, we are all

diminished. It's time we re-evaluated the government's role in

promoting law enforcement by machines that undermine our privacy and

system of laws.'"

Of course, strong neighborhoods must include walkable, safely designed

streets and intersections like the one you frequently cross at Boundary

and Franklin. But I don't believe that the red-light camera program is

the right way to achieve the safety that we all need. I think we need

to explore other solutions through changes in road and signal design.

Please do your own research. Perhaps, like my fellow candidate and

neighborhood advocate Rudy Juliano, who has reversed his initial

support of the program, you will find that the more you learn, the less

you like the cameras. At the least, please understand that my

opposition is grounded in a study of the issue as well as a commitment

to both neighborhoods and public safety.

Sincerely yours,

Sally Greene

Re the 41% write-in vote that Vanke received, I've been wondering if it's related to the difficulty that Gloria Faley had, barely squeeking by. Are we seeing an anti-gay bias here? Or is it the issues, things such as infill, school merger, etc?

I can say from the interaction on the parents' lists that I observed, gayness was not the issue for Faley. The discussion amongst the parents was over whether their children and their classmates are served or disserved by the policy of differentiation in the classroom. Gloria was very strong to the point of insulting some parents on this topic. Michael Kelley and Jamezetta were strong on 'serving the needs of every child' or special classes as needed.

Even off lists at coffee with other parents -- mostly moms -- no one even mentioned Faley as gay. As wrong and as misunderstanding the problems of their children, but nothing personal at all.

That doesn't mean that there might not be something that I missed.

I should add that parents, who had been involved in the Third High School discussion and in CATS, were futher putoff by the sudden, to them, endorsement of Faley to which they had had no say. We'll probalby hear more of that.

As Nelson's harshest critic, I can tell you that being gay has nothing to do with my problems with him. I am not anti-gay, and I did not ever sense that Nelson being gay had anything to do with the uproar over swastika-gate.

When people referenced Nelson being gay in relation to swastika gate, it was just out of additional shock that a gay person would display a symbol that meant death to singled out gays, along with Jews and others. As a Jew, I find myself more sensitive to the symbol than many non Jews, and just figured the same would be true with gay people. Many echoed that, and Nelson questioned if we are gay bashing as a result.

Todd Melet


Once again, good analysis of Carrboro politics by Rickie.

The real story in the Carrboro results isn't the total Vanke accrued--any opponent in Carrboro who puts together a credible campaign will garner at least a third of the vote. Remember, while Carrboro may be progressive overall, there still are many conservatives who just don't like the direction of the community. In addition, the art controversy and recent difficult policy decisions by the Board of Aldermen gave Vanke ready-made issues to pull out this base. Given the nature of recent controversies, it is surprising that he didn't do better.

Some have said that write-in candidates usually don't fare well. That is true. But most write-in candidates get a late start, aren't well organized, and come across as kookie. Vanke was none of these. Well organized write in candidates can and do win--remember, Strom Thurmond initially got elected to the US Senate as write in candidate.

But Vanke's vote total isn't the real story in this election. The real story--missed so far by the ever sleepy press--is Alex Zaffron's performance. Alex won handily in the downtown precincts. As the leader of the downtown redevelopment efforts--particularly building heights--Alex would have borne the brunt of voter anger if folks living near or close to downtown thought Alex was out of step with their needs and their neighborhoods. Instead, he won these precincts by significant margins.

There is no other way to interpret the results other than to say that the voters most effected by the proposed changes agree with Alex's positions.

It is also clear that a majority of the voters agree with the policy positions of the current board. How else do you explain the re-election of all the incumbents and the election of the challenger who had positions most closely aligned with the current board?

Mayor Nelson-

In the above post, you said "there still are many conservatives who just don't like the direction of the community".

You are missing an important point. Most of the people I have talked with about being malcontent about Carrboro politics, are not conservative. Vanke himself wrote a letter to the editor prior to his run stating that he supported French Trade Month, impeaching Bush, and some other item. Calling Vanke conservative may have been an effective campaign stategy, but you won, and don't need to kid yourself any longer.

For that matter, Gist is far from conservative, and she got behind Vanke.

Before you get to enthused by your victory, I think you should realize that your 1,500 votes represented about 10% of Carrboro residents. I am not making excuses for the 80% of "no shows", but you did not move them to the poles, and either did Vanke.

Congrats on your victory. I hope to see you open your ears to other voices, and stop using labels to discount peoples point of view.

Todd Melet

I was simply making the point that Carrboro--like any community--has bloc of residents who don't fall into the mainstream. In any given Carrboro election, a third of the voters are going to vote against the progressive candidate whether for mayor, school board, senate or president.

I further tried to make the point that Mr. Vanke started with this group on his side. I never claimed that Mr. Vanke or Ms. Gist were a conservative or that all of Mr. Vanke's supporters were conservative. On the contrary, Mr. Vanke clearly reached somewhat beyond the built in opposition and secured the votes of a good percentage of moderates and liberals like Ms. Gist.

I'll be the first to admit that the voter turnout was abyssmal. However, compared to the 1999 election in Carrboro (10% turnout), this election was relatively successful at bringing out voters. 20% in an off year election is pretty substantial when you keep things in perspective. I'm afraid it's an exercise in futility to guess at what the other 80% were thinking.

In the same vein, the town of Carrboro sponsored a ton of workshops on development guidelines downtown (Vision 2020 and the walkable communtiies workshops) throughout recent history to get input from residents on multiple dates and at multiple meetings about future development iniatives in Carrboro. In those meetings a majority of citizens stressed commercial density downtown and better pedestrian access (sidewalks) among other things. The aldermen have responded by passing land use changes, approving bond referenda and approving developments that theoretically fit with this desire. I don't know of many other towns where individual community participation has been fostered at such a high level and led to concrete changes in policy. I'm sorry, but the town appears to have tried very hard to include everyone in the process and until a crystal ball is developed to read the minds of every resident in Carrboro, we're going to have to rely on the majority voter mandate to decide on future policy and practice.

Hey, fellow junkies: Suffering from campaign withdrawal? Can't spin down your mental hard drive yet? Well worry not. For your amusement (and rather by accident), I have devised a little parlor game using a formulaic analytical tool to evaluate the results of local races (disclaimer: It's not s'posed to be scientific, just a little postulative device, so Chill Out, Logic majors). To see how it works in a first run, see my rant posted in the 'And The Winner Is' string.

Here's how to play:

1)Make a first run through your race to develop your 'factors'--Here are some basics you can start with:

-Platform: current policies/contrarian approach(alternative factors)

-Incumbent/Non-incumbent(alternative factors)

-Good organization: (Y/N)

-Industry ('Bust A**' factor)(Y/N)

You may add/delete or change factors as you see fit, based on the race, but for the model to work, you must apply them across the board.

2) Make a second pass, applying all factors to all candidates/issues in your race.

3) Using the Top vote getter's numbers as a benchmark, apply retrograde analysis to your factors to guesstimate the number of votes affected in each direction by each one and,

Voila! you may find some conclusions that will surprise you (or not).

In lieu of productive activity, I'm running the Carrboro Mayor's race thru the model, and will post my conclusions soon.

Anybody wanna play?





Considering that the single biggest issue wasn't even on the ballot, it's understandable how low the turnout was. I would have voted except for that whole citizenship thing...

It's a pretty safe bet that the regulations on pan-handling are going to get a warm blanket and a trip to the first amendment methadone clinic.

Hey Paul - I guess this obviates my plans to stand in the median on 15-501 holding a sign saying "Have Job, Just Ate, Just Enjoy Free Speech".

I'd guess that the red light cameras will be gone as soon as someone finds out which wire to disconnect. I hope the loss of the $2 isn't going to cripple the budget...

There are a lot better ways to improve safety at traffic lights. One example is having timers showing how long until the light changes (similar to the pedestrian crossings at Franklin & Columbia. I remember reading that this was tried in Houston in the late 70s with good results; maybe advances in technology have made this cheap enough to deploy in real time. (Hey - I wonder if you could hack the new-style LED matrix lights to do this :)

As for the Carrboro race; if you honestly weren't suprised by the numbers, you shouldn't be reading this board - you should be up in New Hampshire heading a polling team and working out where you want your office in the West Wing to be :-)

With the turnout so low, I don't know how much can be read into the results; I expect that with only a write-in as opponent, the Nelson campaign didn't need to mount a full-scale get-out-the-vote effort. It'll be interesting to look at the detailed breakdown though.

Simon Spero, my new favorite poster. "Have Job, Just Ate, Just Enjoy Free Speech." Perfect.

Regarding that office in the West Wing, must I remind you all that I predicted Vanke would get between 35% and 43% of the vote? There were many doubters out there, and you know who you are. And, that I also predicted there would be a lot of blather about the "signal" this sends, and about the twilight of Mike's strong-man authoritarianism or some other such nonsense, and surprise: there's an article in the paper today on just this very subject!

Fox Mulder can reach me through my publicist.

Re: Hand wringing over low turnout

After every election cycle, it appears to be a ritual for all and sundry to engage in a group hand-wringing session bemoaning the wretched voter turnout, citing the fact that "only 20% of voters turned out, indicating rampant apathy..." ad infinitum, ad nauseum. What is rarely mentioned is that these figures are misleading, in that the percentage cited is of the TOTAL number of voters still on the rolls--not those actually present. Two factors come into play here: Southern Orange County's population has a very high rate of turnover--Exactly what that is is unknown--What is known is that turnover in student population alone is around 10k per year. Over an 8 year span, this roughly equals the total number of voters on the rolls (about 81k). Why is this important? Because the board of elections only removes an voter from the rolls if they have participated in no elections for two ENTIRE presidential cycles, to wit: eight years. What this tells us is that a large number of people on the rolls probably longer exist. Here are a couple of interesting numbers: The total voting age population of Orange County (200 census) is 94,243. The total number of voters on the rolls is 81,921. Then knock off around 10% who are ineligible for other reasons (non-citizen, felony disenfranchisement, etc.) and you're left with two scenarios that I believe are equally likely: 1) 97% of eIigible people are actually regisered to vote or, 2), The Board of Elections has taken to registering voters who ride in strollers and drool, or who ansewer the question, "Are you an Orange County resident?", with "Woof.", or "Meow.". As such, I would be comfortable in hazarding a guess that at least 25-30t %of those listed, are no longer here. So if we deflate the voter rolls by this number, our average turnout rate bumps to around 30%. While not a stellar example of participatory democracy, not a bad number for a local race. To further test our theory, let's do a comparative analysis of two contrasting Carrboro precincts: First let's find one that typifies those with the highest turnout--stable, low-turnover, high rates of owner-occupation. North Carrboro seems to fit the bill--some older neighborhoods(Bolin forest, Barrington hills), mixed in with some newer subdivisions (Cates' Farm, Wexford, etc). What was the turnout? --36.6%. OWASA, on the other hand, is a very high turnover precinct, populated mostly by student-oriented apartment complexes, with 2 small, stable predominantly African-American neighborhoods. Turnout? About 10%(unadjusted).And guess who those folks likely were? Don't answer all at once, please. Again, this being the case, N. Carrboro's turnout is probably more reflective of the actual number across the board( I got creamed there, but we won't talk about that). So, what does_this_ all tell us? Just this:That the sweeping pronouncements made by reading these tea leaves are so much twaddle: While the results certainly do not indicate a juggernaut mandate to get on the blower to the architects of the Empire State Building to get busy designing for Carrboro, neither was participation so anemic as to warrant dismissal of the direction indicated by the result. It also fails to support the rather bizzare logic that the fact that the non-winners made a decent showing, indicated either, a) tepid support for the direction advanced by the candidates elected indicated by low turnout, or b),a pitchfork-and-torch groundswell of dissatisfaction. Rather, There was a vigorous campaign and exchange of ideas by all, and that, after reviewing the numbers, a good strong sample of folks came out to indicate the direction that they wanted to move the community. Nothing more, nothing less.



Sorry about the poor structure of the previous post. I hit 'post' in error before final edit. My bad.

Wow Alex,

That's a pretty heady post. But, after my second read, it's also pretty evident that it's largely truthful, well thought out, and a damn fine take on it. Were you purposely delaying posting until the elections ended? You seem to have taken a fast-track approach to becoming the preeminent orangepolitics.org wonk.

P.S. - Congrats to you on your re-election!

According to the Census Bureau, 69.5% of citizens are reported as registered. In the last national election (2000), of the 18 and greater population, 55% of the total pop voted, 60% of the citizen pop, and 86% of the registered pop. Are we that far off the national data?

If the assumptions made by Alex are valid, would not the variation in student behavior - turing 18 in a national election year and registering, not changing their registration to Orange County, etc. - make a real difference in those results?

Even a 50% turnout of registerd voters is sad if you ask me!

Thanks, Incognito,

And, no, I haven't been storing up these little sermonettes. I first logged on Monday to see if we could find anything out about Joal's signs, and I was hooked, HOOKED, I TELL YOU...Sorry, pass the methodone. But really, I love brain teasers, and absent any real polling data, this little communal forensic examination of the recent contest is a great one.



"In the last national election (2000), of the 18 and greater population, 55% of the total pop voted, 60% of the citizen pop, and 86% of the registered pop. Are we that far off the national data?"

Probably not. My guess is this area generally has better turnout than the national average. Bear in mind that Presidential elections yield the greatest turnout and 2000 was certainly a contested election. So-call "off year" elections like 2002 show a considerable dropoff even though we get to vote for US House members, some US Senators, and Governors in some states. Odd year local elections are even lower on turnout.

You should see a very different turnout picture in 12 months.

For the occasion of new terms beginning this week, I write to remind the Carrboro incumbents of their electoral self-interest, and to point out some paradoxes to the punditry.

Nobody in Carrboro received a strong mandate for anything – except to build sidewalks. There are many people convinced that I maxed out at my 41 percent, in part because Nelson did not campaign vigorously. Carrboro, this is Houston, please come in . . . . Mine was a write-in campaign, undertaken in nine weeks with three long weekends out of town. Before my campaign, I knew only about fifteen Carrboro voters, including the two under my own roof. I got no press endorsements, no group endorsements. Nelson acknowledges that his last term handed me some easy issues. But most Aldermen and the Mayor are talking like they plan to hand out more for 2005. I’d prefer to see them make it more difficult for us, for them to be more compromising in the future than in the past.

Note the first-person plural. Next time, the opposition will be much better organized and coordinated. And I personally will have much more time to introduce myself to Carrboro voters.

A brief aside for the broader south Orange punditry: Has everyone missed the irony of sweeping endorsements of Chapel Hill candidates that opposed UNC walking all over town, against the sweeping rejections of Carrboro candidates that opposed . . . new urbanism walking all over town? The comparison is crude, I know, and it involves two very different kinds of controversial and forceful planning.

On new urbanism versus NIMBYism: We can have our cake and eat it too. We can continue to encourage density in development, but also to protect calm, liveable neighborhoods, as well as sustainable commercial areas, including but not limited to downtown.

Smart residential growth means liveability. Smart commercial growth means viability.

To summarize some points of my campaign, here are some issuess where Carrboro’s new urbanism is impeding smart, common-sense growth:

(1) Commercial growth requires accessibility, and for many who shop and dine in Carrboro, this requires parking in proportion to businesses. Carrboro should secure long-term parking capacity before expanding building space downtown.

(2) Historic town centers are not the places for modern commercial density; my own experience living in a number of European towns provides ample examples. Paris of the Piedmont should reject the example of Bonapartist Paris, where hundreds of thousands of the city’s poorest were chased out of central Paris in favor of Hausmann’s urbanist dreams. There was room for compromise then, and there is room for compromise now. Sky-scraping Aldermen should take a survey of Laurel Avenue and Broad Street before issuing self-congratulating permits next door to those neighborhoods. J’adore Paris, but our corner of the Piedmont is not Paris or Brooklyn. It is Carrboro. We have other accessible commercial centers, notably at Willow Creek and Carrboro Plaza.

(3) It is possible to continue infill without the sensory shock brought to quiet streets in some recent projects and proposals. Human beings have spent most of their history surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature, and many in Carrboro have invested scarce resources in the twin virtues of in-town living and calm neighborhoods.

(4) Connectivity does not have to equal connector roads through residential winding roads and T-intersections. There seem to be two arguments for connector roads, one cultural and one pragmatic. Both are misguided when superimposed on Carrboro. The cultural opposition emerges from a visceral dislike of people who choose to live in cul-de-sacs. Cut through the separatism of cul-de-sac-ists! they say. Surely some in the cul-de-sacs want to avoid social mixing. But most of them just want quiet neighborhoods, and streets calm enough so that adults and children can socialize outdoors in their neighborhoods.

Which leads me to the demerits of most of Carrboro’s connector roads, present and planned. (Note the allowance that some of them might make sense.) They cut through narrow neighborhood streets, not designed to handle the through-traffic that will surely come blazing along at forty miles-per-hour or more. Stops and starts and sharp turns will spew fuel inefficiency into the noses and ears of Carrboro residents. The connectors will not, I assert, reduce traffic on arteries enough to change quality of life or DOT needs along those arteries.

And since my word probably won’t change the first mind, I refer readers to a text of shared respect – Planning Magazine’s issue on the subject, May 2002 (I believe), which lays out an alternative for pedestrian and bikepath connectivity, but in a grid of vehicular cul-de-sacs. (I might add that fire lanes can serve emergencies.) We CAN have our cake and eat it too. That is, we can have our community mixing, and still have streets where that mixing occurs in person and not in the car.

One thing that gets me so fired up is to see some social progressives marginalize our core issues by dismissing anti-progressive consequences of specific policies. The progressivism gets lost. Board of Aldermen, please keep all your constituents in mind during the next two years.

It was interesting to see 2 letters to the editor -

one from yourself - Jeff - and one from former council member Joyce Brown. Both questioning for economic development whether CH is really the best place (most needed) for economic development ala Carolina North.

Some have tried to paint you falsely as right wing but your views prove otherwise. I believe your pragmatism is (pardon the cliche) refreshing. 41% write-in, in a society where people won't get off the couch to vote) to me is impressive and I think common sense can go a long way in governing well - particularly in an area where the constituents are as environmentally concerened as Carrboro/Chapel Hill.

I've never quite understood the point of all the talk about New Urbanism when you can just go a few miles down Tobacco Road and find actual, proper urbanism.

Of course, I bought my Loft in one of those converted tobacco warehouses after deciding not to buy the house I was renting on Windsor Circle largely due to the approach of you know what...



scary thought: durhampolitics.org

Question from the Ministry of Truth:

If there were a durhampolitics.org would all the files on that site be corrupted immediately or would it take a while before they became corrupt?

Ruby: "Actually “certain government circumstances” and “others” are not particualrly distinct to me. Are you saying it would be OK in a privately-owned gallery but not in a publicly-owned gallery?"

By "others," I mean other artworks that might be extremely offensive to some or many. And YES, I have always maintained that it's fine in private galleries.

Terri: "I admire Nelson for standing up for the artist and I loathe those who criticize him and/or the town on values. BUT I don't agree with the idea of annexation on principle."

There you have it Ruby, the opposite of what you asserted on the annexation thread. I had people who agreed with me on most of the policy issues in 2003, who voted against me because I equated the swastika-flag with the n-word (in any word), and opposed that in a public space.

The fact that many were surprised (because many were not) by my performance, and that you think that I have no other popular position, shows that I might just grasp the very real diversity in Carrboro.

It's probably true that against Nelson the past couple of times at least, any one-person opposition candidate would have gotten about 30%. I'm not sure the swastika issue got me so much as one extra vote. But it sure did make it harder for me to get others. I worked really hard for that extra 11%, or whatever it was, showing people my nuanced positions, my severe opposition to Bush, etc.

So far I haven't seen any elected officials say in print or elsewhere that they would allow the n-word in a Town Hall exhibit of any kind. (I think I've seen Ruby say that she would. I'm sympathetic to her reasons, as long as she'd not protest ANYthing in a Town Hall exhibit, which I find hard to imagine.)

(And for comparison's sake, let's say the n-word were not just in some caption bubble, but spelled out with stars in a U.S. flag. I don't know, but I can imagine that a number of African-Americans would not be happy with that in their government space. In that case, they would be taken much more seriously by the OP set than I was. I know some Jews were upset about the swastika, and I'm not just talking about Todd Melet, but especially about people who suffered under that abomination flying in their towns for years.)

I'm sorry to be loathed by Terri (if my criticisms fall under her description), but I'm glad she and I agree on some other things.

To clarify, sorry, by "public" I mean government-owned, not publically accessible private spaces.

I agree with you on this much Jeff. The swastika flag is acceptable to some, not because of the ideal of artistic freedom, but because its message falls within range of their own beliefs. Show me someone who hates the message of that flag, and yet supports its display, and I'll show you a real supporter of artistic freedom.

I see, Ed. I did misunderstand you.

Still "taste" cannot be legislated, and as you point out, it's difficult to even define what qualifies as "art." Personally, I try to cast a broad net, but there have been things that even I disagreed with (see the Chapel Hill gun scupture debate of the mid-90's).

Hopefully any upstanding patriot who doesn't like the idea of a swastika on an American flag, can understand that disagreeing with the messge doesn't make it illegal or even immoral. Just like flag-burning (in my opinion), it is just that freedom to state unpopular opinions that the flag itself represents.

Ruby, You wrote,

"I find it hard to believe that in a sophisticated community like Carrboro that folks wouldn't understand the role of such symbols in art and culture.

"In fact, I think it's more likely that they “get it” just fine, but find it's a useful tool for jabbing public officials about whom they have no other popular complaints. "

I read that last "it" as referring to my swastika position. If I misinterpreted your intended pronoun antecedent, I apologize.

Ed--here's a 10 years after report from Cincinnati (home of the infamous Maplethorpe exhibit)

"Ten years after seven photographs made Cincinnati the focus of a dispute between art and obscenity, the winners act like losers and the losers believe they won."

I'm sorry I've run with the bait on this one at this time. It's convenient to imply I oppose artistic freedom. I don't. It's about using government space for offensively divisive hate.

And does anyone imagine that this sort of behavior actually unites a community in tolerant beliefs? No way. I realized a few minutes ago that the elephant in the room here is homosexuality. In campaigning, I was confronted with people who objected to public officials who were homosexual. I told them I disagreed. Word evidently got out, because I didn't hear that kind of intolerance any more. The answer to hate is not more hate. I may have done more to cast self-doubt on anti-homosexual sentiment in Carrboro than anyone; maybe not. But I can tell you that it is not at all easy holding this middle position against offensive and divisive attitudes from all sides.

I'm glad we have spaces in Carrboro for the display of the most provocative stuff, and I'd oppose any lifestyle intolerance in a gallery or anywhere else much more vehemently than I did the swastika in Town Hall, but based on its content, not its existence or private accessibility per se.

I believe that there are more effective ways for local government to cultivate a community of mutual understanding. Others disagree. I respect that, and I wish they would respect my concerns as much as I do theirs, even while we draw opposing conclusions.

Hi Ed. I hate the message of the swastika but strongly support the display of the art. See http://orangepolitics.org/2004/09/carrboro-considers-annexation/#comment... And I don't think I'm unusual in that regard.

Jeff, you keep making stuff up about what I and others think or say. It's obviously a waste of time to try to correct your individual facts when you appear to be experiencing a different reality altogether. Perhaps you could stick to your own opinions and let others articulate their own.

I'm puzzled you would point me to that comment, Ruby.

"Not only do I think the swastika flag is OK, I think it's very apt statement for what the flag and our government have come to represent."

Perhaps you misunderstood my point. I meant that someone would find the flag offensive, but would still support its being displayed. It would appear you appreciate the artistic statement, but hate that the statement applies, in your view, to our government today.

(I myself think it's an overstatement, but I also shudder to think how we have slid in that direction in the last few years.)

(And I'm not concluding that you wouldn't support art you *do* hate. This piece does not test you, though, from your statement, in the way I mean.)

I do understand Jeff's point, though. Art and publicly financed displays are a tricky mix. It sets up a slippery slope of taste and sensibilities. Would an art display attacking racial equality or reproductive rights have a chance at being displayed in Carrboro's town hall? I hope not. Could it be considered art? Hateful art, but art? Maybe. Is the flag hateful art? Maybe. Who's to say what is or isnt art?


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