Can you say 'boondoggle?'

I was baffled last week when the Town Council debated putting 59 people on a committee to decide whether to rename Airport Road. As if the whole committee thing hadn't slowed down Martin Luther King Blvd enough, appointing five dozen people would be sure to put the kibosh on it. Well it seems they are going to stick with the original plan to have just 20 members, but the mayor is still trying to turn this into the Chapel Hill Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"The charge of the committee is challenging," he said. "The immediate issues and underlying issues that inevitably must be discussed are difficult to discuss in an open, honest, civil and constructive manner."- Chapel Hill Herald, 9/12/04

Good luck!


Good luck, indeed!

Tonight's Council meeting did not bode well for the new committee. For those of you who missed it, Mark Kleinschmidt questioned the delay caused by the need to only now begin searching for a facilitator for the committee. Mayor Foy got really testy and laid into Kleinschmidt. Foy can give Dorothy Verkerk credit for an assist ("any sort of criticism is not worthy of being stated"--sort of what they say about the Pope, isn't it?). If the Mayor cannot maintain civility in the face of criticism from the mild-mannered Kleinschmidt, what are the prospects for a 20-member committee with Foy as its leader? (And don't forget that according to Foy's statement in June, he and Kleinschmidt are in agreement that Airport Road should be renamed. So where's the heat coming from? "underlying issues"?)

Wow, such restraint! Last night the Council appointed 17 people.

The residents named to the committee include four members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, which asked the council in January to rename the road as a way to honor King, the civil rights leader who was shot to death in 1968. Those appointees are Jesse Gibson, L. Gene Hatley, Mae McLendon and Ashley Osment.

The council also named four people that were Airport Road residents or business owners, including Bruce Johnson, David Kroninger, Sheila Mikhail and J. Darren Thompson.

In addition, W. Fitzhugh Brundage and Aidan Smith were appointed to represent people who said they were familiar with the history of Airport Road, the community and broader, related issues. And seven "citizens-at-large" were named: Brenda Brown, Justin Coleman, Chris Harper, Joe Herzenberg, Creighton Irons, Tom Jensen and Chuck Stone.

Thank you Dan. I want to make sure everyone knows what I was questioning tonight. The Mayor distributed a memo to Council that recommended the creation of a committee made up of himself, Edith Wiggins and an unnamed Council member that would be charged with identifying an appropriate facilitator for the committee. Oddly, the Mayor didn't reference this part of his proposal when he spoke about his recommendation. Instead his discussion centered on the facilitator that he already identified (at a cost of at least $15K). As I said tonight, I believe it is important that the Council have options in hiring a facilitator (including the possibility that we don't hire one).

The Mayor's memo clearly implied that the search for a facilitator would begin after tonight's meeting. But his words tonight indicated that he had no intention to enter into such a process. He only come on board after the questions of cost and the need for the Council the be comfortable with the facilitator were raised by a number of Council members. After the Manager indicated it would take at least 10 days to find open up the search for a facilitator, I expressed disappointment that his memo proposed a search process this late into the game that was going to keep us from getting a recommendation from the committee until January or later. I reiterated my interest in maintaining the schedule he established in June. The Mayor's response to my concerns was "I don't know what you're talking about." I was flabbergasted. I actually thought he was going to apologize for including a process proposal in his memo and then deciding it wasn't necessary, or at least acknowledge that he'd changed his mind about how the facilitator would be chosen. Instead, he seemed to disavow the proposal that appeared in his memo.


How many stakes do you have to drive into a vampire before you kill it? I was hoping that the powers that be, had understood that Airport Road had history to the people that live on or next to it, and respected their desire to not have to change their addresses.

I guess I was wrong and the powers feel that someone has to be inconvenienced to appease the NAACP.

So let's be democratic about it, rename all the streets in Chapel Hill to Martin Luther King Blvd. Then no matter where you go you will be reminded that he was the only black or white or brown or yellow man or woman that should be honored.

Oh, by the way, if you oppose this suggestion, you just might be a racist! :0)

Anybody know how many of the "citizens" on this committee are not citizens of the town? Wonder who isn't and why they were appointed. Don't see any reason for our elected officials to be appointing non-citizens to tell us what to name roads.

There are so many people who work in Chapel Hill can't afford to live here. I personally think their input into this process is quite useful and neccesary. We have people on the Planning Board from outside of Chapel Hill because we make decisions that affect them, I don't think this is any different.

The committee is so very toothless, I'm not sure why y'all still feel it's neccesary to attack it.

Why are their ideas “necessary.” We are changing the names of our streets to accommodate the desires of people that don't live here, but just work here? How many Hispanics were named to the committee? When does this type of thinking end? How about changing street names to humor students, since they “study” here? Or tourists, since they “visit” here? Or politicians, since they “campaign” here?

After the day is done, they all go home. So, let them change the names of the streets in the cities that they live in.

I have had a change of heart, regarding changing all the streets to MLK Blvd. We have had such a surge of Hispanic workers in Chapel Hill, I think there will be eventually be a proposal to name streets after Caesar Chavez. Why not save a lot of time, money, and racial finger pointing, by skipping a step and changing proposed Martin Luther King Blvds. to Caesar Chavez Blvds. now.

If the committee was truly “toothless,” they would not have been created. They will continue to stir up emotions. Some group will have hurt feelings. History is history. Leave the streets as they are. Grow up, and change the future.

To me, their ideas are necessary for several reasons. First, we live in a very wealthy community where many African American and Hispanic families cannot afford to live in large enough numbers to have equal voice in decision making--even though they make up a large part of the workforce. Second, because we live in a multicultural world in which different perspectives on the world impact ALL of us everytime we turn around. If we continue to pretend that only the wealthy, white concerns of this town matter, e.g., the cost to residents of renaming is too high, we perpetuate the racial tension that underlies this whole issue.

For what it's worth, I find it hard to believe that 59 individuals signed up because they care so much about a street name. Clearly individuals are coming to this committee with different mindsets, a context which does not seem to me to be conducive to negotiation.

Does anyone know what the specific charge of the committee is? I couldn't find anything about the committee on the town website.


The June 14th minutes, page 9, includes the text of the Mayor's Motion to create the committee. Unlike the other minutes, these minutes are saved as a pdf file so I can't just copy inro and paste. Here's a link:

At the Sept 7 meeting the Mayor proposed a meeting schedule for the committee. Despite some comments at the meeting that implied a much broader charge, I felt that the general consensus was that the committee stay focused on making a recommendation about possible re-naming or suggest some other MLK memorial to submit to Council, maybe in Dec., maybe in Jan., maybe in Feb -- the timeline was unclear.

In short, the "charge," as well as it can be determined is both narrow in its specificity about renaming or creating some other suitable memorial, and very broad in regards to the expectations some c-members have that it will help heal some of the wounds opened up by the process to date.

I didn't support this process because I think it is too flawed, I have doubts about the committee's ability to accomplish either its narrow or broad objective. That said, I do sincerely hope it's successful.

Mayor Foy read his motion:
That the Council appoint a special committee to consider the petition submitted
by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP and to develop
recommendations for appropriate memorials to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. by appointing a committee composed of:
• Members of the Council
• Members of the NAACP
• Residents of Airport Road
• Diverse group of citizens at large
• Persons familiar with the history of the community, the facilities involved,
the person(s) being honored, and other contextual issues.
who would meet to arrange and conduct public forums, workshops, and such
other meetings as would be useful in developing options and recommendations
for the Council's consideration; and that the opportunities for participation by
citizens interested in participating in the proposed re-naming and any related
matters be widely publicized through multiple media; and that the Committee
conduct its business at the deliberate pace necessary for effective civic process.

BTW, Terri and I, through our involvement in the CH TechBoard, to get the town to start producing documents that aren't locked into a noneditable or nonsearchable format.

Hmmmm, "to develop recommendations for appropriate memorials to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." sounds much more involved than determining whether or not to rename Airport Rd. Do you think all 59 of the volunteers understand the scope of this task?

Does the town have a set of decision making tools and/or practices for the committee to use?

Good questions, Terri. That's exactly why I fear that this thing is doomed from the start. Based on some of the ignorant comments we've seen here and elsewhere, it may end up doing more harm than good by dredging up very deep problems without a mechanism to do anything about them.

But at least there are only 17 members on the committee.

Ruby, I don't think 17 people are enough to "develop recommendations for appropriate memorials to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” I don't mean that as criticism of the people who have been selected--just pointing out that the original task of determining whether or not to rename Airport Rd has grown in scope per the wording of the charge--recomendation(s), memorial(s).

59 is probably too many to decide the renaming, and 17 is surely not enough to accomplish the community-wide racial healing the Mayor has in mind with his big-view MLK legacy stuff. The problem is, which one is the goal of the committee? And which one did the community ask for? Neither.

For those interested, I discuss the NAACP and its role in this process in my column in today's Chapel Hill Herald:

For those interested, others discuss the NAACP and Dan Coleman's column in letters in Chapel Hill Herald:

Wow. One of them writes that "for the most part, the NAACP is obsolete." The other says "Coleman accused President Bush of trying to squash the black vote in Florida. He offered no evidence..."

What planet do these people live on? And can they please stay there?

Can someone please explain to me the "history" behind Airport Road. I am having trouble understanding why anyone would have a problem renaming Airport Road, so I fear that I may just not understand. I can understand that businesses would have to change letterhead, but that seems like a minimal problem. Maybe we should hire a cheaper facilitator and give money to these businesses to change letterhead. By the way, I have seen some of the most ignorant comments on this site and in the news regarding this issue. It frankly makes me sick that people in this town can still feel the way they do. I would guess that it is racism, and they are probably the people who say: "I have black (hispanic) friends." by the way, I am all for Caesar Chavez boulevard.

Heading:Rename Airport Road King Airport Road.
I had come to the conclusion that King Airport Road, would be a fine name change in the tradition of Rosemary Street, which I am told is named after two women.
The name of the road is important because the airport is important. Renaming the road is a way to make the airport seem less important.
Last time I thought about it to conclusion I determined that renaming Airport Road, King Airport and establishing an annual Pilot License Scholarship in honor of meritocracy and equal opportunity would be a part of the resolution of the future of the airport, and the name of the road to it.
The further off the ground we get, the less that race or even nationality gets.
What about King Spaceport Blvd.?
What about King Nanotube Space Elevator Road?
That Tuskeegee Airman Movie was inspiring. Certainly Martin Luther King, if he was still alive might think of their accomplishments if he was invloved in renaming the road here.
Might be interesting to call Corretta King and ask her what she might think her husband would want the road named, if he was alive.
I wonder how many airports are named after Martin Luther King?
How about moving Horace Williams airport to the Landfill on Eubanks, and naming the new airport Martin Luther King Airport?
Best- Russell Day

Here's a question you missed;

In how many airports, spaceports, or nanotubes was King beaten, set upon with dogs or fire hoses, or carted off to jail on behalf of his cause? It's easy to be glib when you overlook the sacrifices made by those in the civil rights movement and the injustices that continue to this day.

There's a reason that hundreds of cities across the country have honored King on their streets. Not only King's work but so much of the civil rights movement, including in Chapel Hill, took the form of marches, rallies, and sit-ins in the streets.

Renaming Airport Rd. to honor the fight for civil rights is a great idea. I don't understand the historical importance of the current name. So it goes to an airport. What's the big deal? Maybe someone can comment with something more than this one liner.

If the road it renamed to honor King, I hope it is a name that will avoid confusion with the one in Durham. Maybe just plain "Road" instead of "Boulevard."

Even better, someone suggested honoring Sojourner Truth. A great name for a road leading to a university. Is this commitee limited to only honoring King?

I will ask again. Can someone please explain to me the significance of Airport Road, and how is it part of town history? Is there realy any history behind it, or is that all BS?

I wonder if anyone has asked the highly paid facilitators if they have an opinion on whether to change the name. Shouldn't the facilitators be impartial?

You can have an opinion and still facilitate an impartial process if you are indeed a skilled facilitator. That's a big IF...


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.