August 2005

A Concept Plan for Carolina North

Guest Post by James Carnahan

A Concept Plan for Carolina North, the June 29 presentation by the Village project, will be re-broadcast Monday, August 1, 7 to 9pm on local cable channel 18 in Carrboro & Chapel Hill. This concept plan represents a year-long, unfunded effort by the local non-profit walkable community advocacy group to offer an alternative view of how UNC's Horace Williams property might be developed.

Not meant to be definitive, the presentation is primarily intended to answer the question, "what would Carolina North look like if citizen input were incorporated?" and to encourage the University to utilize a facilitated collaborative process to further develop its plans for the new campus. Key differences are a multi-modal transportation approach making possible greatly reduced parking and dependence on the automobile, 4 times the housing proposed in the Ayers/Saint/Gross plan, and a half-mile long reservoir for holding rainfall harvested from rooftops, that doubles as a outdoor recreation space.

James Carnahan is the Chair of The Village Project.

Buena suerte al Centro Latino

This weekend, Eric Muller's blog pointed me to a story in the Chapel Hill News about El Centro Latino. I'm not sure whether I should write that El Centro is having trouble again, or that their struggle continues.

There's no doubt their path has been rocky. From my vantage point, it's difficult to tell how much of these problems are from working with a low-resource population on problems that the majority of people may not know exist, and how much of it stems from poor management. It's likely to be at least a little of both. But having worked professionally in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, I have a lot of sympathy for the challenges of a brand-new organization just trying to get on it's feet while the problems it hopes to address are exploding. It's certainly annoying to see people take the time to complain about them instead of volunteering or donating to make the programs better.

Reasons not to shop at Wal-Mart

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday July 30, 2005

The prospect of a Wal-Mart in northern Chatham County provides an opportunity to reflect on questions of economics, workers rights and the future of our society. Most importantly, it allows us to contemplate our own ethical responsibilities.

Consider the following: Sexist discrimination is business as usual at Fortune's "most admired corporation." In her book "Selling Women Short," Liza Featherstone documents rampant sexism at Wal-Mart, denial of promotion opportunities to women, underpayment of female employees and the prevalence of exclusive, men-only meetings.

Rather than pay a living wage, Wal-Mart encourages its employees to make ends meet via public assistance programs. Along with their paltry paychecks, Wal-Mart employees receive instruction on how to apply for food stamps, state health insurance for the poor and other welfare programs.

A congressional report found that a 200-employee Wal-Mart costs federal taxpayers $420,000 a year, an average of $2,103 per employee.

Election central

There are three days left to file for office, and so far the School Board, Hillsborough Town Board, and Chapel Hill Mayor are all running unopposed! Where are the challengers?

By the way, a geek who is watching the Orange County candidate filings page closely noted that OP reader Katrina Ryan filed for Carrboro Board of Aldermen today!

All of this and more can be gleaned from the new OrangePolitics Elections 2005 page!

This page will be the place to get information about all the races in Orange County. Please share it with your friends. Lots more info will be added as the race progresses. What would you like to see there? What info would you need if you knew nothing about local politics?

Help wanted

I'm interested in having one or two interns help out on OrangePolitics during the elections this year. This would be a great opportunity for a young person to learn about grassroots politics, local government, and the trendy new world of political blogging! We can't offer money, but may be able to arrange academic credit.

Here's the job description:

Local Government Watcher, Civic Engagement Specialist, and/or Local Politics Blogger

OrangePolitics is an online community which exists to encourage residents of Orange County, NC to get involved in local government and civic activities by offering progressive perspectives on local and regional issues.


Must be registered to vote, preferably in Orange County!
Must be interested in politics or advocacy.
Must be articulate and able to write clearly.
Must be comfortable with online research and eager to learn about about new issues.
Blogging experience is a plus, but not required.

Position description

Lackluster school board race

Does anyone know what became of the many "diverse" candidates who were vying for the empty school board seat back in December? It's not that I'm unsupportive of Pam, Lisa, or Jeff, but I can't think of anything that differentiates these three on any issues.

Is the public just worn out by school controversy? Does no one want to think about our ailing schools for awhile? It's a shame. "No Child Left Behind" is leaving our children behind. We are spending too much time and money measuring, and not enough time teaching. We're losing sight of the social, cultural, and spiritual needs of our children.

Kevin vs. Kevin

Today's eagle-eye award goes to Tom Jensen who notes that a Kevin A. Wolff has filed to run for Mayor of Chapel Hill! Anyone heard of this guy? I can't even find his voter file.

Last dance

Today is the LAST day to file to be on the ballot for this fall's election!

Filing actually closes at noon, but I will be pretty busy until about 1pm, so please keep your eyes on this page, my friends, and report what you see! Thanks.

Also, feel free to ruminate on this: what do you think of candidates who wait until the last minute to thoroughly assess the field before they declare? Are they being strategic or just chicken?

Lessons from Einstein 60 years later

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday August 06, 2005

Today is the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. This is a somber moment for humanity to reflect on the destructive potential of our weapons and on the apparent inability of our political systems to render those weapons obsolete.

Albert Einstein, Time Magazine's "Man of the 20th Century," was the author of a 1939 letter to President Roosevelt that spurred America's search for atomic weapons. Later, he wrote again to Roosevelt urging that he not drop the bomb on Japanese cities. After the war, Einstein became a leading proponent of nuclear disarmament.

On May 24, 1946, Einstein sent a telegram to prominent Americans saying "the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."

Einstein was clear that the bomb itself did not represent a fundamentally new problem for mankind, only one which unalterably raised the stakes. "The release of atomic energy," he wrote, "has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an 'existing one.'"

County website evolving

Orange County's Information Technology group, in conjunction with departmental webmasters and the office of the clerk to the Board of County Commissioners, has developed and deployed a new search tool for our website ( This tool was developed to help the public quickly locate information and services of interest.

To use it, go to, type search terms into the left frame's search window and click "Go," much as you would a traditional occurence search engine. Results will appear in the right frame.

We would appreciate any feedback on this tool. In particular:

  • Is the tool intuitive?
  • Did you quickly find what you were looking for?
  • How does it compare to a traditional occurence search engine (e.g., google, yahoo)?
  • Do you have any suggestions for improving this tool?

Thanks in advance for helping Orange County better serve the public.



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