Be Very Afraid

The Mayor of Chapel Hill has been gradually taking money and power away from the Downtown Commission and directing it toward this new body, Chapel Hill Downtown Economic Development Corporation. It's quite clear from yesterday's Chapel Hill Herald article that the University is involved deeply with this new body - not that they weren't pretty influential with the old one, for that matter. But the suggestion that the first staff person for this corporation should be hand-picked by the University is too much. And if you weren't sure whether to be suspicious, I have two words for you:

Nancy Suttenfield, UNC's vice chancellor for finance and administration, and local developer and UNC trustee Roger Perry are representing the university on the new board. The council appointed attorney Bob Epting, Investors Title head Allen Fine, Parks and Recreation Commission member Andrea Rohrbacher and Carolina Car Wash owner and developer Tom Tucker to the other seats.
- Chapel Hill Herald, 6/30/04

Now I like and trust Bob, Tom, and Andrea, but it would take about ten of each them to balance out one Nancy.

I can't think of anything nice to say, so I'm going to stop right there.




I believe there was talk about putting together an advisory board(s) to help the new group involve all the constituencies you mentioned. I think that's important to the quality of the work, as well as the ultimate acceptance of the organization and its efforts. Hopefully, they'll both offer such a role to interested parties and reach out to all the stakeholders to be part of the process.

The alternative is to create a very large board, which has its own set of problems in efficiently and effectively managing the organization.

Any reaction to today's HeraldSun letter to the editor from Mike Powell?

I saw that letter yesterday and was initially very upset by its stupidity. But I don't think it's rational enough to merit a response. He's just upset, criticising everything in sight, and blaming the town for the actions of private businesses. He obviously can't be pleased, so why bother.

I couldn't find the letter in either Satruday's paper or today's--can you print the text? Or tell me where Iought to look? I certainly didn't see it on the editorial page...of iether the Durham Herald Sun or the Chapel Hill Herald.

And I looked twice.

melanie/maybe I'm blind...

Found it. It was in the Chapel Hill Herald on July 27, 2004. The letter is in the right hand column, about a 1/4 of the way down the scroll bar. Here is a link:

While I agree that Mr. Powell's letter is way over the top--the parking issue is a real problem. I've been ticketed when there was AT LEAT a minute left on the meter--because that is what was on the meter when I got there--and the ticket was in place. Didn't bother to fight it--I've heard from others that it isn't worth the effort. I know some folk pooh-pooh the idea that metered parking (as it is currently deployed) is a problem--but it CAN be. Particularly on the West End, where there aren't lots/parking deck as options, and all the meters have a two-hour time limit.


I don't have anything against any of these people personally. I don't even know most of them (and I like the ones I know). But in recent years, many University reps and boosters have acted as if the UNC's interests and the town's interests were not mutual, and I don't agree. I think each is dependent on the health of the other, and I've said so repeatedly.

There are probably a few perspectives missing from the Chapel Hill Downtown Economic Development Corporation - such as students, downtown employees, and prospective shoppers - but it seems to me that the biggest missing piece is downtown RESIDENTS. The conventional wisdom is that having people live here is crucial to the sucess of the downtown area, but I haven't seen this new corporation (or the old commission, for that matter) solicit imput from people who live here or who would like to. And I don't feel that my values or interests are being reprsented in the current direction of this body. Only time will tell, but don't say I didn't try to warn you.

Sorry--I wasn't the person who implied that high-end couldn't be funky. That, sir, was Miss Ruby. I can get my funk on ANY ole time. I was just wondering why Ruby felt the two were mututally exclusive?


MUTUALLY exclusive. Can't proof-read worth BEANS.



I'm curious as to what you think the University's "perceived interests" are downtown and why should we be fearful of them.

The downtown economy seems to be one area in which there should be converging interests. The University ought to want a fun, thriving, eclectic downtown - with a mix of upscale and "funky" establishments. After all, downtown is the University's doorstep, and it's important that there is something of quality and character for each of its varied constuencies - alumni, students, parents, prospective students and their families and prospective employees.

How would that goal be out of sync with what anyone else would want?


PS All I've ever heard about Miss Kenan is she continues a very generous tradition of the family in supporting so many good causes, many of them at the University, of course, but extending well beyond there. And, as a property owner and business owner, she certainly has a stake in making our downtown as good as it can be, and keep it appropriate for Chapel Hill.

If you have to ask what funky is, you can't know. It's just one of those things.

At least three of your non-funky establishments are, in fact, pillars of the funky side. But you have to be funky to know this.

I will, of course, have my funk card revoked for actually using the word "funky."

Ummmm, Ruby? Have you noticed that Fine Feathers is ON the West End of Franklin? AND very successful? In fact--many of the shops that are doing well on the West End are shops that cater to higher end customers...I'm thinking of the Wine Bar, Uniquities, Modern Times, Hill Country, Trillussa, DB Sutton and Co (salon), Moshi Moshi (another salon), Elaine's, The Lantern, and 411 West Main. I guess the "fun and funky " crowd would contain : HazMat (head shop disguised as a skate place),Knight-Campbell Hardware , Time After Time, Peace and Love, University Massage(!), Internationalist Books, and the Book Shop. Would it also include the Avid Reader's empty space? McDonald's?

Hey, I just hope they get the repaving done soon so we can once again PARK on the West End. The No-parking bags on all the meters have GOT to be hurting those merchants!

BTW--best investment I EVER made in furniture was at Hill Country. Locally made--BEAUTIFULLY made--will pass those chairs down to my great-grand kids. Would you rather I'd gone to High Point?


Well it looks like after their "extensive" search for someone at UNC to fill the last seat on the Commission, they have selected Betty Kenan. Although she's not on the payrolll (that I know of) she'll probably be quite loyal to the University's percieved interests. And as the proprietor of Fine Feathers, she really has her finger on the pulse of the type of shoppers they would like to bring downtown (very very rich ones).

At this point, my best hope is that they ignore the West End and let it be it's own funky, healthy self. I know it's unlikely, but I can dream!

That's what friends are for - to speak the truth.If you can't tell friends how you really feel about things that they do or say, are they really your friends? When we are using public funds, it's no longer about hurting someone's feelings or careers. Just can't have it both ways.

Well, I guess I mis-stated the situation a bit. What I meant is that I am on speaking terms with the presons in question. I am not friends with them. I suspect that I would not be on speaking terms with them if I signed this post. I think the Downtown Commission folks are important people with a lot to offer, and I would rather not isolate myself from them. But the truth is just what I said before about the Commission. And I am not asking to have it both ways. My comments are not disingenuous. I think the public statements from people at town hall have been disingenuous. They are the ones who won't admit the real reasons for dumping the Downtown Commission.

Because I am friends with a lot of the Downtown Commission folks and I don't want to change that, but the truth should come out somewhere. What the hell difference does it make who I am, anyway? If you think I have described the situation incorrectly, then tell us what is really going on (in your opinion).

Clearly, as Terri obviously suspects, there is another agenda at work, besides the one being stated in the paper. If it is not the Downtown Commission's overall ineffectiveness, then what is it? I really just posted here to help Terri see that there is nothing terribly Machiavellan about it . . .

Hey "Downtown" and "Too Much To Drink," it's great that you have opinions about others that you are willing to share with us. Why not show a little fortitude, demonstrate the courage of your convictions, and use your own names. Oh, I forgot; anonymous critics here are only protecting themselves from all of the severe backlash and threats to their lives, liberty, and fortunes - in the grand tradition of the “Founding Fathers."

"...what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it. If this spirit shall ever be so far debased as to tolerate a law not obligatory on the legislature, as well as on the people, the people will be prepared to tolerate any thing but liberty. Such will be the relation between the House of Representatives and their constituents. Duty, gratitude, interest, ambition itself, are the chords by which they will be bound to fidelity and sympathy with the great mass of the people. It is possible that these may all be insufficient to control the caprice and wickedness of man. But are they not all that government will admit, and that human prudence can devise?"

The Federalist Papers by Publius aka Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay

Of course, Ms. Whiggins could be removed in the next election (if she was running), but with the UNC administrators we have no similar recourse.

It reminds me of the British parlimentary system, lampooned in the BBC series "Yes, Minister", which showed how the civil staff really ran their country.

If some of their latest decisions weren't so destructive to the community one could maybe laugh at their hubris.

If the original downtown commission was a business organization and the new one is an economic development commission (the mission statements of neither make such a clear distinction), then why was funding taken away from the first to give to the second? If they serve separate functions, then the first group shouldn't lose support/voice in order for the second to operate.


That is a problem. The DTC is left as little more than a volunteer organization which will only be able to act as an advocacy group.

Either the new group will have to pick up the merchant promotion activities or they will be left largely undone.

Recognizing this, the DTC asked for continued funding (out of the special downtown tax) but that money has been reallocated to the new corporation.

No one yet knows what will happen to the functions the DTC managed now that there aren't funds to support those efforts anymore.

I'm not clear on what good deeds for which I should be thankful to Ms. Sttenfield, but I'll keep my eye out for them. Meanwhile, feel free to disagree with my opinions, but keep in mind that they are based on 15 years of experience in dealing with UNC administrators.

Terri, I realize most people haven't been following this issue, except throught the newspapers, so let me help you out. The Downtown Commission doesn't do much of anything. They spent years employing a guy who did little more than walk around downtown Chapel Hill and shake hands with all the business owners. It was a total waste of tax money and was so ineffective that downtown Chapel Hill has declined into its present state.

No one wants to come right out and say what I just said because no one wants to hurt people's feelings or careers, but those are the facts. The Downtown Commission has been replaced by this new entity in order to get rid of both staff and board members who had no vision for downtown or for the Downtown Commission.

Sorry if that sounds harsh.

Is it just me or do you read today's Chapel Hill Herald editorial that same way I do? While the reporting in the same paper has clearly shown that the Council, save on member Edith Wiggins, was ready to pass at least a short term permission to allow drinks with dinner on the sidewalk, the editorial writer is advising the entire Council to do what the heck they wanted to do in the first place!

Hey Ray! Why not call down the person who is causing the problem? it's not the Council clearly. It's Wiggins. She not only blocked the proposal and the Mayor's wise compromise, but she claims to have other members that she's protecting -- but no reporter has found any Council member who agrees with her.

Thank you for expanding on your comments, Ruby. It's also my understanding that the Downtown Commission (started when I was a downtown business owner) was meant mainly as a merchant's association to promote downtown as a destination point and not as an economic development and/or revitalization group.


I'm glad you call a spade a spade, but has the University done relative to this new organization that warrants your diatribe?

You may someday be able to crow 'I told you so' but not based on any action or even statement of the University so far. In fact, if you have a habit of giving "credit where's it's due, including to the University" then you ought to be giving praise to them for stepping up, even if you add a caution that you're going to be vigilant to ensure their motives are and stay pure.

Instead, your knee jerk reaction was to lambaste the University and skewer Ms. Suttenfield. You really should tape your guidelines above your keyboard and "try to criticize ideas instead of people." That dictum is so often abused on this site, and you are one of the worst offenders. Of course leaders set the tone, don't they?

Why don't people realize that arguments are much more effective when they are based on fact instead of innuendo. Resorting to personal invective always seems to be a smokescreen covering the lack of a substantive point.

In this case, the Mayor was the the force behind the initiative. The University was simply responding to his overture. The Downtown Commission was very good as a merchant association providing services (such as cardboard recycling, beautification projects and safety issues) and promotion (festivals, parades, concerts). The Downtown Commission was never set up to do economic development either in structure or makeup. One needs to have the town and university involved to make things happen in that area.

Of course it remains to be seen what agenda the new organization sets for itself and how effective it is. But their meetings will be open to the public and they will invite broader participation and commentary from the community at large. And if we don't like what they do, the Council can stop funding them.

But why must you cast stones before any of this gets started, before the group has done anything at all? Your operating assumption that if the University is involved there must be something nefarious going on is terribly destructive. It contributes to the decline of civility in our community. And your default to conspiracy theory is getting quite tiresome.

Tom Tucker is on the Board, one of two candidates recommended by the Downtown Commission (the only one selected by the Council).

How are the small business owners represented?

My biggest concern is that I have yet to hear any reasonable explanation of why this new Corporation had to be created while the existing Downtown Commission was unceremoniously put out to pasture. It makes me think there are some other agendas at play, and it makes me suspicious that those agendas are not apparent.

I think that anyone who has actually worked with me (on the Horace Williams Committee or Planning Board, for example) will attest that I always try to give credit where it's due, including to the University. But sometimes I also call bullshit out loud when I see it, which most people are too polite to do. Often people who think I am being too radical at first later come around to my point of view. Wait and see.

We had another discussion on this issue back in March:

What I still don't understand is the difference between the new commission and the old commission (other than the composition). I know there were some who thought the old commission was ineffective, but it seems like a total 360 shift to go from a business owner group to a political group. I'm not ready to criticize the university involvement in the new commission before I understand the motivation behind the mayor's decision to end one group and start a new one. I'm also curious about the relationship between this new commission and the group working on the parking lots. Anyone know?

How are the black business owners and land owners represented?

The students and faculty at UNC are a major economic force in downtown,the University is a major tenant of downtown property, as well as a downtown property owner, and the University/Downtown relationship is longstanding and has been of mutual benefit. Most of the rest of us who come downtown to shop/eat/whatever spend at least some time on the adjacent campus enjoying the walkways and open space so close to a commercial center.

It seems reasonable to me to include a representative or two from UNC on the development commission. Investor's title is the largest private employer in the downtown, according to the OCEDC, ( and I think they own their building as well) so it seems logical to include Mr. Fine. I like the other representatives as well, and think they cover a pretty good cross section. I would like to better understand your concern Ruby---could you expand on what kind of representation you wanted that isn't there?

When people complain our community no longer feels like the friendly, small town it used to be, you can point to decisions like Edith's on the sidewalk cafe issue as part of the problem.

All these establishments were asking for was the right to continue doing what they have been doing, responsibly and without neighbor complaint, for years. Even the Mayor's nod to Edith's insistence on bureaucratic procedure, offering to support only temporary permission to serve a beer of wine to patrons enjoying an outdoor meal with the promise to revisit the matter in the fall, was rejected by Ms. Wiggins.

Her position might have had some merit if the restaurants had been asking to do something new. But they just wanted to keep doing what they've always done.

Too bad for them.

Too bad for their customers (that would be lots of citizens).

Too bad for the employees.

Too bad for downtown.

Too bad for reasonableness.

Too bad for compromise and civil governance.

It's enough to drive one to drink.

Actually, Ruby, the Board will select the interim Economic Development director, after interviewing candidates solicited from UNC faculty (which has, as you can imagine, a number of folks with great experience and qualifications in this area) and other Board recommendations. This is being done for efficiency sake, on a short term basis only. One of the interim director's jobs will be to initiate a broader search for a permanent director.

The University has only two appointments to the new seven member board. The Town has four. (The remaining slot is chosen by the Board itself.) How you can read that as a Unversity cabal defies reason. But then, when matters involving the University come up, reason doesn't seem to guide your judgment.

Perhaps what you're actually afraid of is the University getting the plaudits it deserves for stepping up, in concert with the Council, to help bring a renewed vitality to our town center. It's a shame when your favorite whipping boy (in this case gal) doesn't act according to your script.

Perhaps someone can explain what was on Edith Wiggins' mind when she alone took profits from Downtown restaurant-owners and put a spike in the growing social scene on West Franklin Street.

On my set, everyone was nodding and glad to help out. Until Wiggins dug in on a minor point of order.

Now she claims that she was the only one brave enough to resist and was blocking the vote on behalf of other fearful Council members. Who could that be?

Wiggins has shown her clear mastery of delay and managing process in the MLK naming and now turns on local businesses. What the heck is going on?

Very disappointed by the close meeting stuff.



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