October 2006

Shearon Harris blows up on Tuesday

There have been many interesting topics I haven't had time to blog about lately. One of them was the Chapel Hill Town Council signing on to the growing regional movement to ensure that Shearon Harris (the nuclear plant just a few miles from Orange County) is operated in safe manner that does not threaten the health of its neighbors and the state of North Carolina.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Orange County Board of Commissioners will be considering the same issue Tuesday. Here's some info from mega-activist Pete MacDowell:

The Carrboro Bd. of Aldermen: 7:30 at Carrboro Town Hall

County Commissioners: 7:00 in Gordon Battle Courtroom, 106 East Margaret Lane, Hillsborough.

Dear Orange County Members and Friends of NC WARN,

Unsung Founders discussion

Guest Post by Yonni Chapman

I want to make sure everyone knows about the panel/debate/discussion on UNC's Unsung Founders Memorial this Wednesday, Hanes Art Center 121, 5-7pm.

Criticism has now pushed to the surface and gained momentum along the same lines that was noted here on OrangePolitics and elsewhere at the time of the dedication--the memorial to slaves is long overdue and welcome, but the implementation is pathetic. It pacifies and "midgitizes" the contribution of black workers. The biggest problem is that, once again, white people spoke for black people, and got it wrong. The descendants--actual and figurative (black campus workers)--were not consulted during the planning process. One or two black students were involved, but everyone else was a white professional. Diversity at UNC is quite superficial.

Fear of heights

It's disappointing to see the Chapel Hill News this week stoking our fears of skyscrapers instead of adding some new ideas or perspectives to the critical dialog about the nature of growth downtown.I am so tired about hearing people simply exclaim over the number of stories a building has without discussing its design, infrastructure, relationship to other buildings to the street and to the sidewalk, impact on transportation, or public service features. It's not that height doesn't matter, but it's meaningless in isolation. You can have an ugly 3-story building or a beautiful 10-story building. We need to move past this one-dimensional focus on height into a more sophisticated vision for the future of Chapel Hill. I am hoping that the upcoming revision of Chapel Hill's Comprehensive Plan will be one venue for this discussion.

Closing the case of the disappearing attorney

Remember John McCormick? The lawyer for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (and the money that went missing with him) hasn't been seen since his abandoned car was found at Duke Forest on July 11. The School Board fired McCormick after his disappearing act - only about a decade too late, in my opinion - and now they're hiring a replacement to advise and represent the school system.

2006 seems to be the year of new executive staff at at our local governments with the managers of Chapel Hill and Orange County retiring as well.

Representatives of the three firms will participate in one-hour interview sessions with subcommittee members on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 4-7 pm at Lincoln Center. The subcommittee is scheduled to meet at 6 pm on Oct. 17 at Linclon Center [sic] to determine its recommendation regarding legal counsel to the entire Board. That recommendation is expected to appear on the Board agenda on November 2.

Stein Volunteer Mixes Campaign Signs and Highway Beautification

As printed in the Chapel Hill Herald on October 7th, 2006:

I never knew how much trash local residents throw out on the road until I spent last Sunday putting up yard signs with Chatham County resident Staples Hughes.

Hughes, who spends his weekdays advocating for low-income accused criminals in the North Carolina Office of the Appellate Defender, has spent many weekends over the past 15 years putting up signs for candidates he knows or respects along the roads of Chatham County.

The lucky beneficiary of Hughes' handiwork for this election cycle is Superior Court candidate Adam Stein. And there is no doubt that Stein is lucky -- Hughes has this banal but necessary part of local election campaigns down to an art form.

He knows most every intersection in Chatham County and how many signs should go at each of them. He knows that you should ideally put seven staples each on the left and right sides of the folded sign to hold it together.

Superior Court 15B Candidate Forum Wednesday Night

The Orange County Young Democrats will hold a forum with all four candidates for Superior Court on Wednesday, Oct 11th at 7pm in Room 4085 of the UNC School of Law.

Directions to the Law School are available at www.law.unc.edu. Parking is available in the lot adjacent to the law school after 5pm and additional parking is also available in the School of Government lot.

The County wants you to know about District Elections

Since this is Orange County and since the primaries are already over, it's easy to think that the November election will be another ho-hum approval of the Democratic slate. This year that is not the case. In addition to a very competitive judicial race, Orange County voters will be asked to weigh in on a ballot measure to change the way we elect County Commissioners.

While I am quite ambivalent about this proposal, the County is not. They have appointed a District Election Education Committee (meeting Wednesday 10/18 at 5 pm at the OWASA building on Jones Ferry Road), will be holding two public forums on the proposal (7pm 10/18 at OWASA in Carrboro & 7pm 11/1/06 at Battle Courtroom in Hillsborough, and have established a website (http://www.co.orange.nc.us/OCCLERKS/DistElectWeb.htm)!

In 1954 the Orange County Board of Commissioners was expanded from three members to five members. Prior to and since that time, Commissioners have been elected “at large,” which means all registered Orange County voters could select from all candidates.

Welcome, Ms. Manager

Congrats to Orange County for doing what no other government in the county has accomplished: hiring a woman as the top executive.

Here are stories in the Chapel Hill Herald and Daily Tar Heel, and here's the full press release from the county:

The Orange County Board of Commissioners has agreed to hire Laura Blackmon as the next Orange County Manager. Ms. Blackmon comes to Orange County from Osceola County, Florida, where she has served as assistant, deputy, or acting county manager since 2001.

Ms. Blackmon is an Alabama native and has a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Political Science/Public Administration from the University of Florida at Gainesville. She began her professional career as a high school Social Studies teacher before entering government administration.

She is married to Jerry Walters and she is 53 years old.

What's up, BUB?

So has anyone used the new Blue Urban Bikes yet?

For a $10 annual membership fee, riders can rent one and roll out for up to 24 hours.

"For people used to driving everywhere, this is an easy, cheap introduction to public transportation," said Chris Richmond of the ReCYCLEry, an amateur mechanics collective that will maintain the fleet.

The ReCYCLEry runs the bike-loan project with the Carrboro-based environmental group SURGE, which stands for Students United for a Responsible Global Environment.

Similar initiatives have cropped up in other college towns such as Davidson -- home of Davidson College -- Austin, Texas, and near Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.
- chapelhillnews.com | Cup of java and a bike to go, please

The Housing Gap at Carolina North

The Leadership Advisory Committee on Carolina North had an interesting discussion about housing as a part of Carolina North this afternoon.

Here are some prepared comments that I presented as a way of launching the discussion:

The housing problem at Carolina North is, in short, that the new workers at Carolina North will either live at Carolina North or they will live elsewhere and need to commute to the campus. There is not a great deal of vacant housing currently available within the Chapel Hill Transit service area (although there is some), so new employees will either have to occupy housing that is to be built in the Chapel Hill Transit service area, or they will have to live outside that service area and commute. Let's take a look at the scale of the problem:

The Ayers/Saint/Gross Development Plan commissioned by the University proposed to build the following:



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