Fireworks Show at Town Hall

There are a variety of hot topics on the the Chapel Hill Town Council agenda tonight. I won't be there in person, but I'll be watching on TV and will report semi-live on this thread as the meeting is in progress.

A few highlights:

Oh, also there's a petition "to Keep the Historic Name of Airport Road, or Consider Renaming to Ronald Reagan Boulevard." Should be interesting!



I floated this idea on the MLK Blvd. thread elsewhere in this blog, but seeing that we're talking about the renaming here too I thought I'd raise it again for any additional comments.

Here's the idea: the University, with the blessings of the Philosophy Department, the CH Preservation Society and the local flying community, all motivated to honor both Dr. King and the local history of the airport, and in the interests of community harmony, would rename the Horace Williams Airport to "Martin Luther King Airport."

The Town would then rename the road "Martin Luther King Airport Road." Dr. King would have a major road and an airport named for him. Perhaps the other ideas for naming other local public facilities (library, park, school) would come to fruition as well.

Road signs and public maps would change immediately upon the renaming, but business stationary and privately produced maps would change over time. The post office would know what to do with mail addressed to whatever address the sender uses. Some in the community will continue to call it Airport Road, but officially that would not be its name. Others will call it Martin Luther King Airport Road, or MLK Airport Road, or MLK Road, or just MLK or Martin Luther King ("take Estes from Franklin to Martin Luther King, turn south and you'll see the Y on your left"). After/if the airport closes, the road name would remain and be a major route to Carolina North or, as the old timers might continue to refer to it, the Horace Williams tract.

It was such a pain when National Airport in Washington, D.C. was "renamed" Reagan National Airport. Those of us living there were laughing when riding the metro saying we were headed to National Airport , I mean, Reagan Airport. What was wrong with National Airport? Can you imagine the THOUSANDS (tens of??) changes that needed to be made as a result of this change, nationally and internationally. But it was done. We lived with it. We adjusted. It is okay now.

After years the name sticks. Only people new to Washington or haven't been in the U.S. lately have to immediately adjust.

People don't like change. Also, it is much easier to "name" than to "rename." There is inherently some problem with the original name if it has to be "renamed." That is not the case, here. Airport worked well, served its time. Now is the time for change. The hundreds of people along the road will adjust. They will live with it. It WILL be okay, after a while. They HAVE been heard. Their concerns are legitimate. The renaming committee was not some political coup to rename the road. The new "process" allows time and healing. MLK Blvd. will prevail. Patience is needed during an emotional change, a financial change.

The painful point is: what will our kids look back and read about this in Chapel Hill History. If it is not renamed, they'll look back and say "there was too much public opposition in Chapel Hill to rename Airport Road after MLK." Can you imagine? We need to do RIGHT by Martin Luther King and all he stood for, and leave THAT for our children to read about. Yes, there was public opposition. But everyone was heard. The council voted to rename. And people adjusted. The name stuck.

But the Carroboro Aldermen did their naming without having committed themselves in a public forum to do so six months earlier -- as at least 5 of the Chapel Hill Council did.

And without having started a process that would end up being deemed by the mayor who started it as insufficient.

And without having the chair who drove that insufficient process and who brought the proposal forward in the first place suddenly offering all kinds of alternative proposals and engaging in stalling tactics until finally saying the process hadn't worked.

The finger of blame points straight. You know who they are.

Perhaps the token King Street could be renamed after Reagan with a bronze plate reminding us all that he opened his presidency with a pro-states' rights (you understand the code here as much as he and his audience did) speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

That would put a strong and accurate point on his legacy.

So, Carrboro gave Chapel Hill a swift kick in the ass on Tues when they named their new park after MLK. Predictably, it passed unanimously with little debate.

Let the record show that it was within just the first 24 hours of Chapel Hill's "Delay MLK" policy when a neighboring jurisdiction took one of the most popular "alternatives" (naming a park instead of a road) right off the table.

:...The anger in the streets results from the discriminated's powerlessness at city hall, and a sense that those with power are passive and uncaring. . . ."

with all respect to Carrboro, naming a new (as yet unnamed) park can hardly be considered equivalent in impactor process to renaming a major road. I daresay doing the same in Chapel Hill would be as simple.

When Carrboro passes a proposal to rename Jones Ferry Road or Weaver Street in the same 10 minutes as they did the nameless park, that's when the Board of Aldermen can justifiably wear their haloes.

Feel free to tell me it's none of my business, as I haven't lived in Chapel Hill for going on 16 years, but I can't really think of a good reason not to rename Airport Road after MLK. It seems like an appropriate honor, on a major thoroughfare, and frankly more than a little overdue given the leader and the town we're talking about. Some inconvenience would occur for some along the road, but that's true for every renaming -- and surely we aren't going to commit never to rename roads.

I'm not persuaded by the process argument, either. The magnitude of the harm just doesn't rise to the level of the benefit of the renaming.

On the other hand, I'm guessing I'd have some opposition if I pushed for another road in town to be named after someone I think advanced the cause of freedom in the world, as well: Ronald Reagan.

Duncan --

as we all know people really care most about what directly affects them the most --- unfortunately it is very hard to avoid NIMBY. When orange closes the landfill and ships our garbage to some other poorer county who wants our trash -- I see that as a nimby issue too. Why should someone else with a lower tax base take our trash just because they need the money? Are we not being NIMBY?

Certainly people who live on the road will be more affected than what a panhandling ordinance on franklin street does to them directly. There are probably tons of issues that get much less yaking time.

No doubt.

I would agree that process is important but process can also be seen from two sides. From the perspective of those requesting the name change, the process *as set out by the council* was followed. Changing the process after recommendations were made and public hearings were held is unacceptable. The mayor could have made his proposal a month ago and it might have been more palatable. But he didn't and last night was simply too late for stepping away from the process as it was originally conceived. In my opinion, they should have voted to rename the road and then made sure that future issues followed a more inclusive process.

Someone asked how this could be seen to be a racist process. I don't think it started out that way, but since there was no black opposition to the renaming, it became that way. When was the last time the black community in Chapel Hill wanted something this badly? Is the cost of changing some stationery really so high that it was worth alienating a whole segment of our society? A little inconvenience vs honoring a civil rights leader in a way that our African American population felt was most appropriate? Seems like it should have been an easy decision to me.

I have to say, the complaints (on the MLK Blvd issue) about "the process" and the alleged lack of "input" strike me as awfully disingenuous, whether it's one of the council members making the complaint or whoever had editorial writing duty at the Chapel Hill Herald the other day.

So, I thought it might be fun to start listing other issues that have come before the Council that have received only a fraction of the yack-yack time this issue has received, issues that some of us might think warranted more attention but were rushed to a decision by some of the very same people (and newspapers) who are now all a-panic about insufficient dialogue on the renaming of an f-ing street.

I'll go first:

1. Modifications to the town's panhandling ordinance, 2003.

Feel free to add on!

Ruby -- it is a bit reaching to say anyone on the council is against the naming.

I think they just want people who live on airport or own businesses there to buy into it and feel they have been heard and some of there suggestions incorporated (maybe they already have?).

It doesn't help to have council members quoted in the press saying they are racists and it is no inconvenience really --- they need to be a bit more clintonian in expressing sympathy than attacking the people who complain.

I hope the renaming happens but PROCESS is as important as outcome in elected official endeavors. You shouldn't just slam your agenda on others. The politics in general here lately has been the ends justifies the means on way too many issues. It does not have to be that way. Sometimes I think certain cohorts are looking for wedge issues and not the best outcome. The outcome can still be the same but the means or process could be better. I think that might be what wiggins is referring to in that only the NAACP was talked to.

It was not publicized widely that I can tell that there were pre-election promises or candidate questions re: airport road. It seems if a politician is running on an agenda they or the media need to publicize well it at the time. The red light camera stuff was an example of that being clearly publicized by the candidates.

I just wrote this on another thread ( ), but I think it should go here:

I am extremely disappointed to see Council members reversing their stated support for MLK BLvd. in the face of the vocal, all-white opposition. Not only did members of the naming committee change their votes (Edith Wiggins and Jim Ward). Jim Ward and Kevin Foy told the NAACP at a candidate forum last fall that they would support this. So now all of these Council members have demonstrated to the community how reliable their word is.

Oh and by the way, I don't think this is the first time (or the last) that the Mayor has brought forward a proposal at the last minutes with absolutely no public review and jammed it through the meeting. He still doesn't understand Robert's Rules of Order - and he's a lawyer! I am increasingly concerned about the direction (or lack thereof) of his leadership.

Wow, some stalwarts stuck around to talk about reserving school sites!

Jack Smyre speaks. I think he is representing the owner/developer of some targeted property.

Bob Blackwood represents with his military-style cap on. After an extended speech about the importance of the American Legion and "the greatest generation," he has finally requested that the site (near them? on them?) be spared.

Bob Patton, member of (American Legion?) Post 6. Let me guess... he doesn't want the school on their propoerty.

The Mayor is pointing out that the School Board (who choses the sites) is the place to take some of these concerns.

What does the vote tell you about Chapel Hill? First, the town is not as liberal as it is portrayed in the press. Say what you will about Durham and its racial diviseness is out in the open. Second,

politicians don't keep promises when it gets hot. Finally, Chapel Hill has become Raleigh and Cary. Expensive homes, but no soul. The symbolic gesture of the refusal to the keep the promise and to study it further only means that it will not happen at least not with the five who voted against the re-naming. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Hey guys. Spoke with Aaron Nelson after his presentation and asked him what could be done to make the ordinance reasonable. He said if it applied to people living outside the community (people for which Dororthy and company weren't their reps.) he'd be OK with it.

I thought it was wild that my comment of Mar. 23 (

came true, that is that Duke Power would have a problem with

the ordinance.

Yes, they're a large taxpayer. Yes, they employ a lot of people, some that even live in Chapel Hill.

Oh, yes, they're also one of the town's largest vendors - so shouldn't their communications be open and available for review? They have a right to talk to the council and staff - just not secretly.

While Mr. Gardner was speaking I was thinking of an incident about a year and a half ago when a citizen came before the council and wanted to know why the town wasn't regulating the spraying of the electric right-of-way behind his house on Sunrise Rd.

I believe he was frustrated in his attempts to find out what communications Duke and the town had on this issue. Shouldn't there be some way for him to dig into the relationship - good or bad - the town has with one of its largest suppliers?

Overall, it's tough to see how this will pass when someone like Mr. Harrison, who so willing participated in the ACS fiasco, says he just doesn't get it - that he just doesn't understand what's the big problem.

UNC Development Plan Modification #2. I was the only person on the Planning Board to vote against this. (Typical!) The University consistently gives inadequate, incomplete, and sometimes incorrect appplications to the Town for these huge projects. I don't think we can responsibly approve such proposals when they have shown that their word is no good.

Linda Convissor says that the UNC folks who are omcing to speak are not there yet. Jim Ward has some questions about the reservation of a future fixed guideway corridor. He says it's not identified. She says it's on the Master Plan. (That's the *University* Master Plan, which has not been reviewed by the Town. Why they keep thinking that their plan is an adequate response to Town questions, I do not know.)

Bill Strom wants to make sure they don't approve something that would preclude a possible transit technology for this corridor. Jim Ward is also expressing concern about ruling out possibilities. he wants "a line on the map" that he can count on being available in the future.

[Ha ha. Good luck getting reliable assurances from the University.]

The Manager says that heavy rail is not an option here, but a busway or street car could work. Light rail is a question. Kumar Neppali (Town Transp. Engineer) is addressing this, but is difficult to understand. The Mayor asks about what language could be included to specify the transit options we want to hold open.

The UNC crew has just arrived (10pm). Some blonde adminstrator is speaking. I should know who she is. Has she changed her hair or something?

Ann Wu (my favorite UNC development henchman) has a presentation about pedestrian bridges. I used to be on a committee with her (10 years ago) and I thought she had a good sense of humor.

The Council just approved the Development Plan Modification with no major changes. Now on to the UNC softball field which there isn't much to complain about.

Is anyone still awake?

The Council is now hearing from consultant (John Stainback?) on the proposal for lots 2 & 5 (and the Wallace Parking Deck). He is asking the Councilt o adopt a concept plan. He seems a little weasely about the costs of all this milti-level, undergound parking.

The plans look pretty good. There is way too much data to process. They're just rough sketches so there's not a lot to object to except the proportions. They size of these (now three) development si pretty stunning. I can see all of this hapennign eventually, I hope we don't try to do it all at once.

Comment from Aaron Nelson: he thinks this concept is "extraordinary." He wants to "heap praise upon this Council." There is no other discussion from the public or the Council! All the motions of approval passed. I think t his is good, but I'm sort of amazed there isn't more public scrutiny of something so huge. Then again, it is getting late...

I'm kind of awake. I can't help but seeing the concept plans through the prism of the Rosemary St. parking deck. The exuberant promises I've so far heard on the lots really reminds me of the failed promises on the deck (like what a wonderful public gathering space it would be, etc.).

I wish we could do something with Lot #5 that would bridge West End with downtown ala Weaver St. Market.

The Library's Internet Safety Policy, there are three options for how much filtering to put on the computers.

A. Optional filters for kids, parents can turn it off.

B. Unfiltered. (ALA's position.)

C. Required filters for children (adults have full access).

The speaker points out that filters are not perfect, and they may "overblock or underblok speech."

No-one is signed up to speak. There is no Council discussion. The public forum will remain open until June 30.

Oh my god, they are just now up to petitions!

Which truth do you have in mind? That Wiggins accepted the charge to bring the naming forward then worked constantly to subvert that very proposal? Or that Ward and Foy who both said that they supported the naming when up for election, so quickly turned against it? Or that the committee and process set up by Foy and run by Wiggins became "flawed" by no one's action or poor planning?

I lay the blame, in my own wooden headed and cowardly way, on Wiggins and more on Foy for this fiasco and insult to King and to Chapel HIll.

(and Fred, we agree on the proposal and vote counting. I only wish that Foy had been smarter earlier in the process).

Mark Kleinschmidt is asking if a nonprofit that is funded by Town would be penalized for lobbying for funding (i.e.: their survival).

Sally Greene has a suggestion for how to address Mark's concern.

Bill Strom is asking about the staffing implcations of the proposal. The Manager thinks there will be additional staff time spent answering questions, 2-10 hours/week.

Sally Greene responds to Aaron's question about whether to count time spent preparing for communication. It seems the answer is no. She's suggesting raising the threshold from $800/year to $1,000 or more.

Jim Ward is asking how if might reduce the paperwork bychanging the reporting timeframe.

Ed Harrison has been a paid lobbyist (for Audubon), and he is having trouble seeing the need for this locally.

End of discussion. The hearing is now recessed to June 30. Much as I love traffic calming, I will be taking a dinner break from the agenda.

Fred, unless I heard wrong, Scott introduced himself as "Duke Power Government Relations." Either way, I have seen him lobby the Council on behalf of his employer.

But Mark, I love my house and I'm sooo close!

I think his title is District Manager. The reason that's important is the example from the last great ice storm when the Town and Duke Power worked together closely during the crisis. Think about the proposed ordinance and if it had been in effect at that time. Could the "give and take" and "thinking aloud" conversations that the Manager, the Mayor, Council members and other Town employees had with the Duke District Manager on what the parties could do be considered lobbying? It's not clear as I read the proposal and that's its problem.

Isn't Scott Gardner the local Duke Power manager?

You don't have to get annexed, Ruby. You can just move.


Charlie Fisher (anti/?): He is the chair of government relations comittee (of the Chamber, I guess).

Delores Bailey (anti/$): She waited over 2 hours to speak, even though she's sick. Thinks this proposal will jeopardize her ability to do good for the community as an employee of EmPOWERment.

are any overweight old white guys going to dare write an article that Council member Wiggins isn't black enough for them?

or did they learn their lesson?

If you closed your eyes you could imagine you were in a Durham city council meeting.

not following rules, disrespecting each other, and overtures of racism. how low can we go.

nice job mark, sally and bill.

Cam's original observation was right it is not creative to name a road for MLK.

SPEAKERS (position/are they paid to be here?):

Scott Gardner (anti/$): Um, he works for Duke Power Government Relations.

Aaron Nelson (anti/$): Um, he works for the Chamber of Commerce.

[I'm so pissed the University is exempted. They put the most pressure on the Council members!]


Seems to me that the Mayor's proposal would never had hade it into Friday's Council packet if he had not already counted four other votes. Is there really surprise over this?

Now the attorney is introducing the proposed ethical guidelines for toen lobbyists. His speech is riveting as always.

For the record:

Voting to pass the renaming resolution:

Kleinschmidt, Greene, Strom, Hill

Voting to postpone making a decision:

Foy, Verkerk, Harrison, Ward, Wiggins

Real firewirks! Ms. Cotton-Laws is standing up and blasting Ms. Whiggins renouncing her support!

Mark Kleinschmidt points out that the members of the re-naming committee agreed to rename and some of them are now changing their vote. This undermines the work of Town committees.

Sally Greene agrees with Mark that they should go ahead with re-naming now *and* initiate dialogue. She points out that the committee shoudl include people with strong historical knowledge of the community and Dr. King.

[I'm feeling that the re-naming is actually ...

Michelle Cotton is interrupting from the audience. I can't hear her, but she is pissed off! The Mayor gaveled her, and she left the chamber.

That was fast. The Mayor's proposal just passed. There is some pandemonium in the Chamber and they are now taking a break.

Anyway, I was going to say that I think this commitee's function will be to get more community buy-in to the re-naming idea. Martin Luther King Boulevard will come to pass, but most of us will have moved on to other important struggles by then. If they can't get this done, it will reinforce my hope to get my lot annexed by Carrboro. (I can dream!)

The Mayor restates his proposal.

Edith Wiggins says no-one would like to see a road named after Dr. King more than her. She doesn't think they have had enough discussion about the renaming. She thinks the proponents have used a "in your face, I don't care what you think" approach. Supports the Mayor's proposal. [Shock.] She says we should discuss until we're unanimous about it.

Now we are blogging!

If you're just reading this and have a chance to listen in, I suggest you do. Mayor Foy is speaking with conviction and strength about bringing the community together over this issue and going beyond this and establishing a dialogue - that the dialogue is the real benefit.

Mark and Bill are clear that a vote on dialoging is a vote on deferring.

Dan made an excellent point about the dissipative qualities of putting this into committee - 'justice delayed isn't justice' (to paraphrase) - but I guess you'd have to believe that putting this into a dialogue today is equivalent to what happen when the Public Accommodations issue was shelved years ago. I would hope this isn't the case, but maybe it is.....

The Mayor doesn't like being told that he is less racially enlilghtened. he is indigantly defending his proposal for dialogue.

Mark Kleinschmidt pointed out that a substitute vote is essentially a vote against the main motion.

Sally Greene says there is merit in the Mayor's proposal, but she was very ikmpressed with Dan Coleman's view from history. She says it would be better to vote now after the all the discussion we've had.

Jim Ward feels the process has not been adequate. Supports the Mayor's resolution. [He was asked by the NAACP if he would support this when he was running for re-election last year, and agreed to. Oh well.]

Ruby, this is great coverage! Thank you!

As to the substance of this issue: Steve Sherman has a good point about the world's view of Dr. King as an American. And to extend that thought a little, we can justly be proud of Dr. King and his legacy - at a time when there are many Americans to be ashamed of (mostly in the White House). America does stand for peace and justice and democracy - at least the America that Ruby and Dr. King and I belong to . . .

In the middle of an unjust war is probably the best time to remind ourselves that Dr. King once said: "America [will] never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continue to draw [its] men and skills and money"

Cam Hill wasn't very into this idea at first, but the more he has learned he has become convinced it is a good idea to rename. He grew up in Chapel Hill, his family went to the Community Church where there were no black people. He was raised by black maids who worked for his family African-Americans have been let down my Chapel Hill over and over, doesn't want to disapoint them tonight.

Ed Harrison supports the Mayor's proposal. Doesn't think it says "no." He says that he would have supported this before he was on the Council, but now feels obligated to address the concerns. [i.e.: He's running for re-election next year.]

Cam had a great recap of his personal history with the racial divide in Chapel Hill over the last 50 years. I think that his point that part of our community, a part that has contributed so much to all of this community, has come before the council and the community as a whole and been disappointed time and again - that now is the time to move forward - that the time for waiting is over. Definite murmur of agreement.

An earlier speaker made the same point - that time after time this part of our community has been disappointed by a lack of movement - and this was just another disappointment.





Cara Baldwin (B/pro): Wants to see Dr. King honored. "Help us keep the dream alive."

Mary C. Johnson (W/pro): African-Americans are seventh-generation Americans. She has no problem with renaming. She sugegst naming Carolina North after Dr. King, and quotes from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Steve Sherman (W/pro): Dr. King is one of the most revered Americans of the last century. People appreciate his basic message and his nonviolent method. Would like to see a major street named after Dr. King, Airport Rd. is a good choice. It will inconvenience some people, but so do lots of things the Town does. This is not that big of a deal.

Michelle Cotton Laws (B/pro): Lived in Chapel Hill almost her whole life. She's saddenned to see the controversy about this in our community. It appears that when issues come from a groundswell in the black community that we have to discuss and negotiate endlessly. Stay the course and decide tonight.


Brenda Brown (B/pro): She has been listening tonight, didn't plan to speak. Dr. King may not be Jesus, but he walked with Jesus. She says we should read the book "Black Like Me." Where is this talk of prejudice coming from? Why are peopel saying not to look back? Wants the future to be guided by what she learns from the past. Airport Rd. doesn't belong to it's residents, it's the community's.

[End of speakers. AtLeastGetItRight, they can't hear you even though you're shouting.]

Council discussion begins...

Mark Kleinschmidt moved resolution A to kick things off. He says this process has actually been going on for a long time. Encourages the Council to support renaming.

Bill Strom supports renaming. Mayor's proposal for dialogue is good, but he doesn't want to say no to the petition to rename. Roads are a growing national monument to Dr. King. He's ready to vote.

More Council discussion...

Dorothy Verkerk supports the Mayor's proposal. She makes a substitute motion! Now the Council has to vote on whether to substitute the Mayor's proposal for Resolution A.

I hope the Council decides to follow the advice of Yonni Chapman. The process was flawed, but it's too late now to go back. Prolonging this decision is a win for those who are trying to stop the renaming.

Is there anyway to change skin color? I'm embarassed to be a white Chapel Hillian tonight.



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