December 2004

Piling the $$$ on Cemetery Repairs

According to the right, liberals love to throw money at things. This is just what Dorothy Verkerk and Edith Wiggins did with the cemetery repair issue last Monday night. There was controversy over how to spend the $150,000 allocated to the repairs, so they came up with the idea of spending another $70,000. And, thanks to Mayor Foy's readiness to bang the gavel, a $40,000 cost savings proposed by Cam Hill was not even discussed.

Here's how Cam Hill described the problem in a letter to Foy:

I had met with Gaines Steer (of the Last Unicorn) and Bill Wyatt (an associated welder) and they had assured me of two things:

#1. That the Di/Phi fences are in no immediate danger of irredeemable deterioration. We need not be in any hurry to restore these fences; we can explore all possible options.
#2. There are lower cost alternatives to the proposed $52,000 restoration proposal.

Leadership foibles obstruct process

Chapel Hill Herald
Saturday, December 11, 2004

On Monday night the Chapel Hill Town Council once again grabbed division from the jaws of unity. As was the case with the Airport Road renaming six months ago, the council seemed largely in agreement about the repairs that are needed for the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. Disagreements arose on how to schedule and pay for them. Somehow, once again, a 5-4 vote resulted.

Political observers who make a fetish of looking for divisions on the council tend to overlook the fact that this council usually operates near consensus. Monday night, after the cemetery vote, they went on to consider a number of issues including some potentially thorny questions regarding the university. The votes were unanimous.

Those fostering incivility, name-calling, and divisiveness on the council should have been called on it by Mayor Kevin Foy. The mayor is supposed to run the meetings in an effective, inclusive, and deliberative manner. Usually, he does a better job.

Good luck, Rickie

Guest Post by Terri Buckner

Rickie White, one of OP's founding authors, is moving on to a great new job in Washington, DC. While we will miss Rickie's knowledge of and love for Orange County's environment as well as his progressive views on issues of social justice, we wish him all the best in his new job and his new home. Thanks for everything, Rickie.

Paying our dues

Well I guess it's time to begin the annual hand-wringing over Chapel Hill's budget. The manager often overestimates any anticipated tax increases so that the Council can easily find a way to reduce or eliminate the increase. But this year they are talking about a 20% tax hike! I personally agree with George Lakoff who points out that taxes are an investment in our future (and when it's municipal, that's the not-too-distant future). "Taxes are the way we support the common good," says Lakoff.

Historic Preservation

Guest Post by Terri Buckner

The recent debates over the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery and, to a lesser extent, the protection of 3 unmarked graves behind Brewer Lane in Carrboro illustrate the importance local residents and elected officials place on historical preservation. Rather than discussing the protection of a particular building or site, let's explore historic preservation in more detail and see if we can't come up with some recommendations of our own to provide local officials.

Change is afoot downtown

On a recent walk to the Post Office I noticed quite a lot of changes in retail storefronts downtown. In the former Strong's/Roastery/Judge's Coffee space (which I remember as Barrel of Fun arcade when I was a kid, and maybe a laundromat before that) something called "Jack Spratt" is hapenning. Anyone know anything about that? Also on the 100 block of East Franklin is "Polo," the new Ralph Lauren store. Just what we need now that the Gap is gone (joke!). Nothing seems to be happening in the Gap space, which used to be a movie theatre when I was little.

Open meetings in the information age

Two members of the Hillsborough Town Board are accused of communicating via their PDAs during a meeting. It's unlikely they really did unless they have really fancy PDAs (most of them don't communicate with the outside world independently). But what are the implications of the open meetings law when you have open wireless networks in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro Town Halls?

If a member of the Board or Council posts something to a website or sends an e-mail during a meeting, would that be a violation? What if one of their colleagues also visited that public website during the meeting? What if a constituent sends an e-mail to their repsentative lobbying them on a issue they are voting on during the meeting?

News roundup

Good news: The end of the Bell Award at UNC. Congrats to Yonni Chapman and others who have been working on this for years!

Bad news: Carrboro cops lie and cheat to catch accused murderer. Is it OK if he's really guilty?

More bad news: New landlord evicts dozens of poor latino families right before Christmas. Now that's real christian of him.

Talk amongst yourselves, I'm going on vacation...

Collective bargaining testimonials

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, December 18, 2004

Two weeks ago, the International Worker Justice Campaign and UE-150, the N.C. Public Service Workers Union, sponsored a public hearing on the need for collective bargaining rights for public sector employees. The testimony at that event, from numerous university and Chapel Hill employees, was unsettling to say the least.

It has been pretty well established that certain blue collar job categories both at UNC and with the town have historically had a disproportionate number of African-American workers. These workers have suffered under difficult working conditions, poor pay, discriminatory promotion policies and grievance procedures that are often stacked against them.

Those were some of the topics discussed by workers at the recent hearing. Particularly harrowing were the descriptions of the effect of some of the chemicals that cleaning crews are required to use at the hospital. Exposure to these chemicals has caused respiratory problems, nosebleeds and other health problems. Some workers were coughing up blood.

Last open thread of 2004

Is anyone left here? I sort of like the ghost town that Chapel Hill becomes at the holidays (and summer, wonderful summer...)

Anyone want to share best-of-2004 stories? Keep it local and keep it positive, I'm going to be strict on this like the endorsement threads.



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