Residential blue light call boxes

This just hit my email inbox:

I am writing you because of your leadership and involvement in Carolina Open Source Initiative over the past year. On Monday, March 5th at 7:00 p.m. the Chapel Hill Town Council will take a critical vote on the installation of pedestrian-level lighting and blue light call boxes in Chapel Hill residential areas. This vote will allow the installation of these initiatives to begin immediately as proposed by the student body. These safety initiatives will increase safety around our campus in the residential areas that we live. The residents of Rosemary, Mallette, Church, Short, Ransom, and McCauley Streets will be the most effected by this resolution; therefore student support is vital. I understand that during exams times most are not able to come out to the meeting at the town hall, yet it is critical that the council hear your support of this issue.

I'm surprised I hadn't heard about this earlier. Seeing as I would benefit directly from having these call boxes installed, I'd love to see it happen, but the email left me wondering who would be footing the bill. Turns out the money ($40k) will be coming from UNC student fees, so town residents don't have to worry. See the meeting agenda here and this memo on the agenda item in question. I hope students and non-students alike will come out and support this item. Maybe I'll make it to the meeting.

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I'm surprised you hadn't heard of this sooner.  You should read the DTH more. :)

 -Doug

I just got a card in the mail notifying me of this meeting, and it was also the first I had heard of it. The card says the Council "will discuss recommendations for emergency call boxes and pedestrian level street lighting in your area." Given where I live, I assumed they were referring to Umstead Drive which BADLY needs street lights, for the safety of both pedestrians and drivers. The post card made no mention of student funding.

Now that I look at the meeting agenda (thanks for the link Cristóbal), I see that the proposals are for lighting in the Northside Neighborhood, McCauley Street, and Rosemary Street between Hillsborough Street and Boundary Street; and call boxes at Mallette Street and Colony Court, Church Street and Short Street, and a third location to be determined. Which makes sense given they are student-funded.

I would like to put in a plug for Umstead, which has many student residents - for example at Bolinwood partments. This road is a key link between a fairly dense neighborhood and the MLK Corridor, and is downright scary at night.

We need a lot of work on lighting in key areas.   I agree with Ruby, that area around Umstead is awfully dark and is indeed a big student area. 

  

I sat through over 2 hours of other stuff so I could tell the Council about the need for lighting on Umstead, although it seems very unlikely to be funded by this student effort. The current Student Body President and some members of her entourage spoke strongly in favor of the staff proposal which is to light three streets, put in two call boxes, and to continue discussing a location for a third call box.

There is a small group of very riled up residents of the Cameron-McCauley area who are vehemently opposed to any call boxes or additional street lights in their area. No surprise that residents of a Historic District would not like change, but their behavior is making me instinctively want to disagree. They make the college students look calm and collected. This is not an effective way to advocate your cause, folks.

The Council passed the staff rcommendation. 

On May 14th, the The Chapel Hill Herald had an editorial on this issue and made a strong case:

The town finally can begin work on improvements at Church Street, Northside and Rosemary Street, but alterations on Cameron, McCauley and Mallette streets must be approved by the Chapel Hill Historic District Commission.

That might be difficult to accomplish because some residents of the Cameron-McCauley Historic District continue to object to the call box on various grounds. They have said that they don't need them because the area doesn't have much crime; that students failed to communicate their intentions about the call boxes to property owners and communicate with them at an earlier stage; and that -- can you imagine? -- the boxes are an aesthetic eyesore.

It's clear that residents of the neighborhood feel they are somehow being dictated by "outsiders." In fact, that's what neighborhood resident Joyce Brown, speaking to the Town Council, called the students who live nearby and share our community.

This is a scarily insular attitude. Let us set apart, for a moment, the clear value of the emergency boxes -- and make no mistake, they would make the area safer, for all. Perhaps there is a good argument that can be made against them -- but opposing them because the idea comes from "across the boarder," sets up an us versus them mentality that fundamentally misunderstands the nature of community.

Students are a part of this community. Unless we understand that, we will always feel under siege.

Interesting that Ms. Brown sees students as "outsiders." Having only lived here 14 years, I guess I'm one too. What if UNC made the argument that the Town is the "outsider?"  As I've said in the past, town-gown conflicts are not unidirectional!

However, the students who live in the neighborhoods are transient and have a much narrower and shorter interaction with the broad range of the community.
 

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