March 2005

The Grocery Shopping Project: Whole Foods or Whole Paycheck?

In January I wrote about my first experience shopping at Weaver Street Market for my major grocery needs. I've been an owner for several years, but primarily limited my purchases to single meals at the cafe, doing the majority of my shopping at the neighboring Harris Teeter.

I thought I'd follow that up by shopping at the Whole Foods in Chapel Hill. Not as convenient to me in Carrboro as the Harris Teeter or Weaver Street, but after having a friend laughingly call it "Whole Paycheck," I decided to put my paycheck on the line and see how it compares.

This experiment was never intended to be rigorously scientific, but I did bring my standard grocery list of cold cuts, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, granola bars, mixed nuts, crackers, chips, bread, milk, juice, eggs, morningstar products, and room for anything else that might catch my eye. Since I go out to eat (and drink) fairly frequently, I tend to avoid purchasing some pricer individual items like beer, wine, and meat.

Addressing chronic homelessness

The annual regional tally of homeless folks has been completed and it does not look good. According to the Chapel Hill Herald, "In Orange County, the survey counted 230 homeless people. That number included 38 children and 70 chronically homeless." They found that the Triangle (Orange, Durham, and Wake counties) has higher than average rates of chronic (repeated or on-going) homelessness.

These results were announced along with a 10-year regional initiative to "end homelessness." Now, I am all about the continuum of care that is needed to address the many complex layers of poverty - from short-term shelters and food pantries to transitional housing and long-term counseling. Having sustainable affordable housing and jobs that pay a living wage are also keys to not having families fall over the edge financially.

Chapel Hill Supports Collective Bargaining for Public Employees

Those who hold out the hope that local government can have a progressive impact beyond its immediate and often parochial borders must have been pleased with last night's Town Council meeting.

At Sally Greene's initiative, the Council placed the repeal of GS 95-98 on its legislative agenda. This is the unfortunate law that prevents collective bargaining by public employees.

This is not a case of liberal Chapel Hill taking a stand on its own. While Chapel Hill is the first, UE-150 is taking its campaign statewide and expects other communities to also stand up for the repeal. It make take years to prevail on this issue but a growing NC labor movement may ultimately succeed.

Bill Strom also deserves credit for encouraging UE-150 on this issue. He, along with Greene, was a member of the worker's rights board that took testimony at December 4 hearing on the union's International Worker Justice Campaign.

Good News on the Beer Front

Pop the Cap has been lobbying since at least last summer's World Beer Festival in Durham (which I highly recommend) to remove the 6% alcohol cap on all malt beverages produced in or imported to the state of North Carolina.

Currently only 5 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina) have this limitation, and removing it, as the argument goes, shouldn't contribute to underage or binge drinking due to the expense and rarified taste of these beers. Several establishments in Orange County stand to benefit, including Tyler's Taproom, Carolina Brewery, and Top of the Hill as well other "progressive" bars, breweries and restaurants with a hankering for Scottish Ales, German Bocks, Russian Imperial Stouts, and Barleywines.

Schultz Returns to Head N&O Bureau

The Independent reports that veteran journalist Mark Schultz will be returning to Orange County:

The N&O has also lured away longtime H-S reporter and current metro editor Mark Schultz, who will be in charge of both the Orange County bureau of the newspaper and its community paper there, The Chapel Hill News.

This can only be good news for the local news. It indicates a serious commitment to our area by the N&O and a willingness to compete with the Herald for coverage and circulation. The competition should keep both papers engaged in Orange County, much to our benefit.

From a reader's perspective, Schultz did a great job when he previously edited the Chapel Hill Herald. He is a fitting replacement for Ted Vaden.

Welcome back, Mark.

Where's the pot?

Many entertaining theories were hatched in an attempt to explain what happened to the almost 5,000 pounds of marijuana that disappeared while in the custody of the Chatham County Sheriff's department in 2001. Just to give you a sense of scale, that's 80,000 oz. Most recreational users buy a quarter of an ounce at a time. Maybe someone had a party and generously smoked out every single person in Chatham, Orange, and Durham counties. Probably not, but they could have with that much pot!

When it comes to our wild theories, it appears that the truth may be stranger than fiction.

...former Chatham County Deputy Dan Phillips is suing former Chatham County Sheriff Ike Gray for wrongful termination.

Phillips claims the sheriff fired him Jan. 18, 2001, because he tried to bring attention to racism at a Chatham County high school and because he took an informant to the FBI who had information about thousands of pounds of seized marijuana that went missing from the Chatham County Sheriff's Office.
- Chapel Hill Herald, 2/26/05

I'll Kiss Ed Harrison

at Monday night's Town Council meeting if that's what it takes to demonstrate Chapel Hill's commitment to gay and lesbian rights.

My intro is glib but the issue is serious, especially in the aftermath of the recent attack on a gay UNC student. The Herald reports today that "A Christian activist group plans to bring 200 to 500 people to Monday night's Town Council meeting to protest the council's stance on same-sex marriage." Groups like this live off and in turn breed the intolerance that leads to hate crimes.

As I discussed in my Chapel Hill Herald column of 4/3/2004, there are over 1000 automatic federal protections, benefits, and responsibilities that come with a marriage license, many more at the state level. All Americans, and all North Carolinians, should have an equal right to these privileges and responsibilities.

Here is Equality NC's action alert:

Sustainability matters

Guest Post by Sarah Myers

With Chapel Hill debating how to spend extra transit money, Carrboro looking at several major downtown development projects, and Carolina North looming over it all, encouraging integrated transportation is a hot topic and one important to the entire community. The UNC Sustainability Office has invited Spenser Havlick to speak Monday, 3/7. This is a great opportunity for Orange County residents to learn more about transportation strategies from a well-known expert in the field.

Blurb from the UNC Sustainability Office:

Student self-determination

Maybe I am overly swayed by the convincing arguments for children's suffrage laid out on last week's West Wing, but I think that a recent proposal from the Chapel Hill High Civics Club to have a student serve on the school board makes a lot of sense. This would probably be a non-voting position, but I have also heard of students getting elected directly to the board (which is pretty impressive considering few of their peers are old enough to vote).

Locally, students have been active in board discussions -- although not as members. Most recently, Chapel Hill High students complained that they hadn't been more involved in a discussion of changing the high school schedule.

Students have lined up to speak at recent school board meetings, and hundreds attended a forum they planned at Chapel Hill High to tell district officials they didn't want block scheduling.

Live from Town Hall - gay rights edition

Tonight the Chapel Hill Town Council's regular meeting will include the Town's legislative agenda, which contains support for gay marriage, and protecting GLBT people from hate crimes. "Christian" activists will be coming in from out of town to speak against this agenda.

The Wilson Assemblage is also on tonight's agenda, stick around to see if the Council buys the developer's giant drive-through proposal.

Anyone who is at Town Hall, watching the meeting on TV, or would like to be here is welcome to post their comments here.



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