May 2007

Downtown Internet Gets a Little Hotter?

Ran into Bob Avery, the Town's IT Director, on Franklin St. today. Turns out he's surveying Downtown with an eye towards deploying a small pilot program of free Internet hot spots in the near future. The pilot would use Clearwire as the high-speed wireless backhaul. The only resources needed are power and location.

I cautioned Bob not to limit his planning to publicly owned infrastructure like the old Townhall. Over the last four years I've spoken with more than a few Downtown business and building owners willing to provide a small chunk of space and the minimal juice for access point deployments. BrianR and I have explored using solar-powered, weather-hardened rigs, strategically meshed to cover a wide area. If the Town used this environmentally sound and quite economical approach, the only remaining requirement is a decent position to throw signal.

Orange wants Chatham to help with park

Orange County Commissioners on Tuesday night asked their Chatham County counterparts to kick in money for a park planned near the county line.

Moses Carey, chairman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, said Chapel Hill's Southern Community Park -- designed with soccer fields, basketball courts, picnic shelters and other amenities -- is expected to draw plenty of residents of Chatham County, and Orange would rather not have to keep them out.
- | Chatham aid sought for Chapel Hill park

We have an early discussion going on about whether Chatham County should kick in some bucks for the new South Chapel Hill park. One poster wants to know if Chatham contributes funds can we get the sales tax dollars we spend in Chapel Hill back. :)

Making the Community Garden grow

As published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Saturday, May 12th:

Carrboro Alderman Dan Coleman recently told me that his town is always looking for programs that combine a grassroots economy, community building and environmental stewardship.
The new Carrboro community garden, which will be at Martin Luther King Jr. Park for at least the next few years, certainly fits the bill. This project is a natural for a town that is already home to a cooperative grocery, a community radio station and a housing cooperative.

I recently chatted with Sammy Slade, April McGreger and Jay Hamm of the Carrboro Community Garden Coalition about their plans for this new town initiative.

Hamm told me that they plan to plant basic Southern vegetables, things like squash, tomatoes, okra, beans, peppers, melons and sweet potatoes. They're committed to making sure that nothing they grow goes to waste and will distribute their yield in a variety of ways, including distributing fresh fruits and vegetables to needy people in the community.

Preservation vs. "Sustainable Growth"

I know, I'm starting to act like a velvet hammer, but, well, there are some college towns that haven't shied away from the idea of preserving really nice tracts of land, in perpetuity.

I'd be interested to hear from all the masses from UNC and the towns who visited Madison last summer. Did you visit the Shoreline Preserve and the U Wis Arboretum? That's nearly 2000 acres of land in Madison.

Check out the mission statement for the preservation of the preserve!

I think it's time we all stop feeling like there's nothing we can do to refocus UNC on offering Carrboro and Chapel Hill a very different and sustainable endowment for the future: the preservation of the Horace Williams Tract, permanently.

An article with, I think, some solid models for preservation, as opposed to "sustainable growth."

Let Robert Speak

Some folks who enjoy the public announcements of U bus driver Robert Moore were very unhappy to see him silenced after a recent complaint. So much so that they started a petition:

Dear Mayor Kevin Foy

For the duration of his ten years of employment with Chapel Hill Transit System, bus driver Robert Moore has consistently used the vehicle's intercom system to speak to the passengers on his various routes. These verbal exchanges involve Mr. Moore wishing riders well as they board the bus, exit the bus, and inspiring them with positive, self-affirming encouragement during the actual commute. Some of the addresses take on a call and response format between Mr. Moore and the passengers, for those who wish to participate. There is no coercion used on passengers who do not wish to speak, nor are there consequences of any kind for those who choose not to participate.

Congressman Price Seeks Review of Fire Enforcement of Nuclear Plants

Here is the press release that I sent out on behalf of the six local government delegates who participated in the recent meeting with Congressman Price on nuclear safety.

May 14, 2007

Congressman Price Seeks Review of Fire Enforcement of Nuclear Plants

Local officials applaud David Price, and reveal further delays at all Progress Energy plants

Officials from six local governments in North Carolina thanked Congressman David Price today for seeking an investigation into the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's enforcement of fire safety regulations at nuclear power plants. The officials also revealed new information showing that Shearon Harris plant owner Progress Energy has again fallen years behind in its latest promise to correct longstanding fire safety violations – a prime risk factor for a nuclear meltdown – at Harris and at the company's other four reactors in the Southeast.

Bike to work

It's Bike-To-Work Week, and Meiling Arounnarath at the N&O points us to several related events going on this week. Unfortunately two of them were yesterday, but one remains:

“Bike-In Movie Night”: 8 p.m. Friday, meet in the gravel lot behind Back Alley Bikes, 108 N. Graham St., Chapel Hill.

I'd love to participate, but it's hard to bike from my bedroom to my office down the hall. Are you biking to work this week?

"Schools predict budget slashes"

The title of this post was Tuesday's Chapel Hill News headline. The News' quote from School Board member Lisa Stuckey speaks volumes:

"I think we're caught in a situation where our district continues to grow, the state continues to implement pay raises which are badly needed by teachers and other employees," said school board member Lisa Stuckey, who is serving on that committee.

"And it would be quite ironic if in meeting the demands of growth and in working to bring staff wages to appropriate levels we would then have to cut staff positions," she added. "And I see that as quite likely this year."

Read the whole story for more details. Or read the fine column recently published by Mark Peters.

There was also a column in Wednesday's paper by schools superintendent Neil Pedersen. I could not find a link to it online.

Northern Area Task Force begins meeting

Growth in the northwest part of town has been one of the most discussed issues in Chapel Hill during this Council business year.

I expect that the Council will approve a six month moratorium on development in this part of town at its meeting on Monday night. During this time the newly appointed Northern Area Task Force will craft a new vision for the area.

I am serving on this task force as are fellow OP'ers George Cianciolo, Marc ter Horst and Laurin Easthom. It is being ably chaired by Del Snow.

We had our first meeting last night, and I was pretty happy with it.

A few key goals that folks enumerated:

-Taking measures to make the area more friendly for bicycle and pedestrian uses.

-Ensuring that as redevelopment occures in this quadrant, folks are not priced out of town.

-Taking a direction with new development that emphasizes transit more.

NCDOT and Chapel Hill Fund Traffic Signal Fiber

According to the Chapel Hill eNews, the NC Department of Transportation and the Town of Chapel Hill will share the cost of "rehabilitation and expansion of the traffic signal system serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro." Part of this project includes the replacement of old copper wire with fiber optic communication cable. This means hopefully sometime in 2011 we'll have a fiber network to deliver broadband Internet connections to people via wireless. Now we need to stop legislation built to prevent municipalities from building networks.

From the Town of Chapel Hill eNews: (subscribe here)

- Rehabilitation and Expansion of Traffic Signal System: The Council approved a plan for the rehabilitation and expansion of the traffic signal system serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The $5 million project with the NC Department of Transportation requires a local cost-share of $450,000.



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