February 2005

Budget suggestions

The DTH reports that the volunteer committee to review the Chapel Hill budget has gotten underway. I'm often impressed by the graphics in the DTH and this story is no exception. But even with that nice visual aid, I stink at budgets. Basically what I can tell is this: the new Town Operation Center will cost a fortune. It's probably worth the expense to do it right in long run (and we don't have much choice), hopefully there's a little fat to be trimmed there.

One committee member suggests a temporary Town hiring freeze, but I don't see how that helps anyone. If we are to avert this tax increase (not just postpone it), we need systemic financial changes, not a quick purge. Since most of us are unlikely to get up at 7:30 on Monday morning to attend this committee meetings, let's discuss here. How would you cut the Town of Chapel Hill's budget? Or would you?

The Art of Place Making

Chapel Hill is holding a forum on public art:

Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission
The Foundation for a Sustainable Community
Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce

invite you to a Public Education Forum with
Ronald Lee Fleming AICP
Founder and Principal of The Townscape Institute

The Art of Place Making: Strategies for Thinking about Urban Design and Public Art

Thursday 10 February 2005
1:30pm - 3:00pm
Chapel Hill Town Hall
306 North Columbia Street
Town Council Chambers

New neighbors

We knew last summer that then-Senator John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth bought some property in Orange County just west of Carrboro. The picture became more complete with the announcement last Friday that Edwards has received a faculty appointment at UNC and will direct a new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.My first reaction: what a testament to the drawing power of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system! It can't help John Edwards' exponentially-growing political career to hail from one of the most famously left-leaning communities in the region. I guess they felt it was worth spending some political capital to get the best for Jack and Emma. Of course I'm assuming they will be in public school.Second thought: the Edwardses are certainly role models for the nouveaux rich yuppies by positioning themselves to pay county/school taxes but not town taxes.

Howard Lee: Still going strong

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, February 05, 2005

The spring of 1969 was a heady time for the U.S. left. Halfway between the violence of the Democratic convention in Chicago and the peace-and-love of Woodstock, it was a time when millions joined protests against the Vietnam War while increasing militancy turned the movement for civil rights into one for Black Power.

In Chapel Hill, a highly contentious mayoral race was at times overshadowed by striking cafeteria workers at UNC. Nonetheless, a coalition of blacks, liberal civil rights supporters, anti-war activists and those galvanized by the 1968 campaigns of Eugene McCarthy for president and Reginald Hawkins for governor waged an unprecedented campaign to elect Howard Lee as the first black mayor of Chapel Hill (or of a white-majority Southern town since Reconstruction).

In doing so and by also electing a liberal slate to the then-Board of Aldermen, voters swept out an old guard that had dragged its feet on civil rights, on establishing a public transit system and on support for the efforts of the Inter-Church Council.

Eyes on...

Today is Eyes on the Screen, nationwide grassroots screenings of "Eyes on the Prize," a very important documentary on the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. You can watch in Carrboro:

Community Realty
February 8, 2005 at 8:00pm
201 North Greensboro Street
Approx Capacity: 15. 13 people plan to attend.
Organized by: Scott Morningstar
Episode 1
Bring a folding chair if you can.

As an African-American Studies minor (OK, over 10 years ago), I can attest to both this film's importance and to it's watchability. It allows the individuals who collectively formed the grassroots of this critical movement to speak for themselves and document their own experiences. The result is compelling and educational.

Student body's loss could be Town's gain

I have only barely been following this year's race for Student Body President. Things have sure changed since I went to UNC over a decade ago. Fifteen student groups now issue endorsements, including the Young Democrats and the College Republicans. Both of those groups supported Tom Jensen, as did a couple of Town Council members, which I think is unprecedented.

Even with these and four other organizatons' endorsements under his belt, Jensen came third in a four-way race. Seke Ballard and Seth Dearmin will go on to a run-off election. I don't know anything about them - anyone care to enlighten us about these SBP candidates?

See you at the bus stop

How often are you near a bus stop and trying to guess whether it's worth waiting for the next one or just hoofing it? This happens to me all the time. Partially because it's hard to tell if you have just missed the bus or if it's just about to come - but that's only if you are actually blessed with knowing the schedule.

More often I am already downtown, and in a bit of a hurry. Knowing when the next bus is will make me much more likely to ride. Probably even more than the fact that it's free. Which is why I was so excited to read about Chapel Hill Transit implementing a new system to display this information at bus stops.

Chapel Hill Transit is preparing to issue a request for bids on a new high-tech system that will give transit staff and riders a wealth of information about how the buses move through their routes.

Among other things, it will let riders at certain stops know whether their bus has just left or whether it will be along in three minutes.

Blog Together

It's a big bloggy weekend!

The main event is a gathering tomorrow morning at UNC. I hope many of you readers will come. The Triangle Bloggers Conference 2005 (a.k.a. C.H.BloggerCon) will start 9 am in the auditorium of Murphy Hall. The format will be open but facilitated.

A Tale of Two Taxes

The Herald this morning reported that Carrboro is requesting that the legislature grant authority for two tax increase. The funds are apparently needed to support rising costs for the bus system.

The first is a doubling of the motor vehicle license tax to $30 per vehicle. In one sense, this seems sensible to add costs to a behavior that you want to discourage to fund one you want to support. Nonetheless, this is a regressive tax. The only people the extra $15 might hurt are those truly at the margins financially. Still, I wouldn't quibble over $15.

More problematic is the second proposal which is to increase the sales tax from 2.5% to 3%. The sales tax is notoriously regressive. Carrboro's working poor will be hurt by this tax.

Both these items are on the agenda for discussion with the legislative delegation and were placed there by a unanimous vote. It's truly shocking that none of the Aldermen voted against a resolution with the sales tax provision. Hopefully it will die in discussion with the legislators if not before then.

Moeser Wrong to Rethink Bell Award

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, February 12, 2005

Like so many Chapel Hillians, for many years I knew one fact about Cornelia Phillips Spencer: she was “the woman who rang the bell” to signal the reopening of UNC a few years after the Civil War. Southern history being what it is, I was not surprised to learn that there was more to the story.

The debate over the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award has brought out the best and the worst in UNC Chancellor James Moeser. A former academic himself, somewhere in his heart of hearts Moeser seems to have some sensitivity to the humanistic values of the university. But in his day-to-day life as chancellor, he often must bury that part of himself so that he can properly serve the financial necessities of nouveau academia.



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