SWAT, Interlopers, and a Lingering Sense of Bias: Lack of Political Leadership, or Incompetent Governance?

In the sleepy dual township of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, NC, we like to think that our thoughtful brand of progressive leadership provides an homogenous and caring exemplar of efficient local government. Events of the past few months have left me wondering if the reverse is true.

We are not homogenous. Not in our demographic or political make-up. Nor even in our alleged single brand of caring progressivism.

In Carrboro, all we imports (I am from England, by way of Rhode Island, Georgia, Texas and South Carolina) have become so taken with our over-enthusiastic efforts to engineer a social and artistic nirvana, that we quite forget to ask if we have the permission of the many thousands whose families have been living here for generations.

We build what we delightfully call a vibrant commercial center, without noticing that most of those who shop in its centerpiece (Weaver Street Market Co-operative – where I work and advocate) are white and well heeled. As one pithy YouTube observation noted, most of the ethnics are to be found in the kitchens or behind the counters.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen, good men and women true, believe they are reducing the tax burden for local residents when they attempt to increase the commercial tax base by encouraging higher-rise downtown developments. But they don’t stop to consider what this might do to land and rent values for the surrounding, long-standing shop tenants and residential renters.

We talk of affordable housing. But we mean policies that will allow even more imports to knock $100,000 of their brand-new $300,000 McMansions. We’re not referring to finding ways to allow those imports from further shores to pay a rent that permits them three bedrooms, not just one, for their large families.

We blather about democracy. But we happily appoint our fellows to serve alongside us, rather than engaging in open, even elective processes. We bleed tears (finally) for those immigrants whom we wronged by introducing an unconstitutional Anti-Lingering Ordinance (I opposed it, back in 2006). But we forget to notice the abuse being suffered by our sisters and girlfriends, when they are harassed by some doing the lingering.

Our very own southern slice of heaven, Chapel Hill, prides itself on having moved far away from ugly scenes of segregation. Yet, we don’t seem to realize that the sight of armed Policemen, assaulting a group of residents on Franklin Street, on a Sunday afternoon, rekindles those same ugly memories for some.

What’s more is we don’t appear to want to find out precisely what was going on in the minds of folks, most of whom are neighbors in this town, that would inspire them to initiate such an aggressive confrontation among themselves. Why don’t we want to know? What’s clear is we don’t. At least, not those of us who oppose an independent review of the events surrounding the Yates Garage incident.

But heck, I’m an outsider (only been living in Carrboro for 6 years). What do I know? Well. I know what I see.

I know that I go into bars up and down the main drag in Chapel Hill, a block over from an historic African-American neighborhood, and I wonder why I am not partying alongside black drinkers and black dancers. I ask a friend who has lived here for 30 years, and she tells me, with a knowing wink, that things haven’t changed much – they just got quieter.

Well, until November 13th that is.

I know that I read a detailed account of the firing of two African-Americans from the employ of the Chapel Hill Town Council, in a newspaper that prides itself on its title The Independent, and what I read tells me that this bastion of progressive municipal leadership likely condoned class bias, racial discrimination and retaliation for dissent, while demonstrating, for all to see, the very essence of political indifference.

Chapel Hill and Carrboro like to play a pretend game. They both like to pretend that they do not contain distinct and different communities. Black, white. Rich, poor. University, secular. Moreover, they both like to pretend that there are not distinct and different brands of progressivism – if you don’t agree with the progressive line of the established progressive community, then it simply pretends that you are not progressive at all.

But, how can the powers-that-be in the two communities possibly admit to such distinctions? To do so would undermine the carefully-cultivated notion of a single strand of progressive ‘rightness;’ that same righteousness that validated censorship on the local flagship forum of progressivism, before an editorial panel was created in the past few years.

‘Othering’ may be less pronounced within that forum now (although, please note, this contribution is unlikely to find its way to the front page of that forum). But it still exists in other political arenas, in both Carrboro and Chapel Hill. And it is just as much a form of unprogressive political segregation as any other experienced in these two townships.

So it is that any political candidate who is not a part of the progressive mainstream (or should that be one-stream?) in both Carrboro and Chapel Hill is ‘othered’ on a regular basis by those offering political punditry and endorsements come election time – and on other occasions, too.

A sitting incumbent, who was offering himself for re-election in the recent Chapel Hill Town Council Elections, was listed as an afterthought in endorsements recommended by the aforesaid Independent newspaper, notwithstanding the fact that this same incumbent came close to winning the Mayoralty barely two years ago. He won re-election by the way, ‘independent’ endorsements for others notwithstanding.

My own brother-in-law, a resident of these parts for 20 years, and an acknowledged and active supporter of all causes progressive, was demonized as anti-progressive, when serving as co-host on a community radio chat show we fronted on WCOM a couple of years ago, simply because we had the temerity to ask local established progressive politicians to answer questions we put to them – questions they didn’t like.

We are not homogenous in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. We are different. We are diverse. If we want to put an end to the political fracking now threatening to wreck our two communities, it is incumbent on those who claim to be our progressive leaders to stop merely taking about diversity, and to start demonstrating real diversity in their thinking, and in the way in which they include diverse peoples’ diverse thoughts and concerns in their decision-making.

The latter cannot be achieved, however, unless and until there is demonstrated competence in local governance and up-front leadership among our politicians. Both, in my opinion, are lacking.

When we all get happy-clappy about progressive issues, and dance around the Weaver Street lawn, praising ourselves for patronizing a co-op, rather than Wal-de-Mart, but forgetting to look at the frowns on the faces of our exploited co-op workers, it is just as easy to forget that the first duty of government is to manage itself competently.

More often than not, that comes down to the question: who is in charge – the staff or elected representatives?

I fear that close examination of the Yates Garage incident, the history of Carrboro’s Anti-Lingering Ordinance (here yesterday, gone today, who knows where tomorrow?) and the sacking of the Chapel Hill Sanitation Two may well reveal that years and years of self-congratulatory Kumbiyah have left our twin municipalities firmly in the grip of our municipal employees.

Whose advice were the Carrboro Board of Aldermen listening to when they began their ill-fated journey into the land of constitutional hell, and passed the original Anti-Lingering Ordinance back in 2006? And why did they allow that advice to overcome what they have now demonstrated as being their better political instincts?

Why do progressives on the Chapel Hill Town Council kow-tow to their own staff when they know that injustice has been done in respect of the Chapel Hill Sanitation Two?

And who gave what orders to whom with respect to Yates Garage? What was the established line of command? Was there one? What are the Rules of Engagement? And are the answers to these questions the reason why the local established progressive community are so opposed to the Independent Review Commission proposed by Jim Neal, who has eschewed political back-slapping, in favor of taking a stand for what he believes to be right. As did Town Councilors Sally Greene, Laurin Easthom and Jim Ward, when they supported Jim’s proposal.

All of those who work in whatever capacity in our local government do so, for the most part, because they have a genuine desire to serve and protect their friends and neighbors in the communities in which they live.

I do not criticize them for attempting to provide competence, when they are faced with a dearth of such competence by their elected masters. But the rule is as old as representative government itself. Leaders do not look to their staff to provide them with excuses not to lead. Elected leaders do the leading. Make the decisions. Set the strategy. Take responsibility for the failures. Staff are there, as conscientiously as possible, to offer only advice, and then to carry out the clear and stated wishes of those we elect to lead.

I can form opinions only on what I see. There may always be more to the story than I see, than I read or I am told. With that caveat, and subject to anyone responding differently, I’ll stick my neck out, and say the following:

I see such governing competence from the Mayor of Carrboro. He includes. He considers. He decides. And while allowing room for his fellow Aldermen properly to make up their minds, he doesn’t allow too much dithering. What’s more is, he owns up when he’s been a clown. That’s competence, pure and simple. Whether or not I always agree with the outcome. I see it from a few others. But not enough.

Diversity definitely plays a part in the way I vote. And I’m not talking ethnicity here. First and foremost, I look for people I think will be competent. But sometimes, I’ll just toss that criterion right out the window, and vote for someone simply because they say things that make us think – and I won’t care whether or not they can competently organize their way out of a wet paper bag.

Competence in governance is important. But so too is political courage. And I recognize that the two don’t always reside in the same skin.

We have had ample opportunity to hear our local political leaders say the right thing in the past few months. But, few have stepped up to the plate. They have hidden behind political opportunity or municipal face-saving.

I do not take the same view as Alderman Sammy Slade on the Yates Garage incident. But I didn’t vote for Sammy Slade so that he would agree with me. I voted for him because he doesn’t sit well with crap. He is a walking, talking municipal conscience. He says things that me sit up and take notice. And he didn’t disappoint me on Yates Garage. Even though I think he’s full of it, on this one. That’s political leadership.

I attended the Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting when the Anti-Lingering Ordinance was repealed. I like Joal Broun. Always have. I liked her when she criticized Chapel Hill for allowing the Bank of America Monument … I’m sorry, I misspoke … the now empty and foreclosed Greenbridge Tower Development, because it was going to overshadow the neighboring historic African-American community.

[By the by, isn’t it funny how Joe Riddle gets around, and the Chapel Hill Town Council lets him? But, I digress.]

I liked Joal just as much last Tuesday, when she remonstrated with those progressives (including me) and immigrants who wanted repeal of the Anti-Lingering Ordinance. Not because she didn’t want repeal (she did), but because she wanted to make sure we understood that, once repeal was approved, we would all be responsible for ensuring better behavior from the harassers in the future.

I have not always agreed with Jacquie Gist. But she was pithy in her denunciation of those who do not respect their fellow residents who are women. She flew in the face of the prevailing sentiment that evening. As political leaders do. As also did newly-elected Alderman, Michelle Johnson. And Randee Haven O’Donnell. I just wish we saw it more often.

There are few who are able to demonstrate both competence and political leadership in government. I don’t expect miracles. But I would like to see a healthy and ongoing dose of both from at least some quarter within the pool of those we elect to govern us. There’s enough of ‘em, and we need both competence and political leadership right now, in both Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

What would such leadership look like? I don’t know. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Besides, I’ve not yet been elected to a position where I’m supposed to be the one having the answers. What I do know is that I see what I see, and I say what I see.

What I do know is that it would not look like Aldermen waiting to hear from staff before finding the guts to decide what is right; it would not look like Councilors hiding behind staff when things go wrong; and it would not look like the established progressive community running scared from transparency, because it might have to admit that someone else has a better answer.

And maybe that’s a good place to start. Not assuming that we are the only ones with the answer. Not assuming that only we know best. Asking, before deciding. Especially asking those who are protesting what we are doing. Especially if what we are doing is implementing yet more social engineering. Maybe slowing down on the social engineering. Smart growth, walkability, infilling, whatever. Maybe representing people a little more, and the latest social fad a little less. Maybe … ??



Some good questions in the mix here. The lack of fully-formed, game-ending answers to many of the questions may be due more to the complexity of the issues than the lack of awareness of the problems among the citizens and their reps.On the Independent endorsements (full disclosure: I think they've made several mistakes in their endorsements over the years), they are endorsements and it doesn't matter how someone fared in a previous election. But since you brought up Matt Czajkowski, the more telling fact of his popularity as a Council member is that he only managed to come in fourth out of four slots. Two who out-polled him had never stood for election before.

I half agree with your first paragraph, Mark. The lack of a fully-formed, game-ending rebuttal of the parts with which I do not agree is precisely because I do accept that many of these problems are complex and involve many different, opposing and equally important elements, which do not make for easy answers.Which is also exactly why I wish those who are in authority in our two townships would stop assuming that there are easy answers; stop assuming that they are the only ones who know the answers; and stop assuming that anyone who has a different point of view (reflecting one or other of the above-mentioned elements) is an enemy of progressivism.I believe it could well be that so many problems are currently expressing themselves quite so forcefully because the protagonists have been demonized for so long. So much more could be achieved going forward, in terms of uniting and healing, if we were all first to assume fallibility (all of us; me too). Listen. Take into account. Meet halfway. Throw labels away. And find consensus.And Ido not believe you will find consensus easily when so many political organs, which are supposed to be independent, take it upon themselves to endorse the established order.Yonks ago, when I was co-hosting 'The ESP Show' on WCOM, I wrote comments on this forum decrying such endorsing, and suggesting instead that those same organs would better serve the populace by merely publishing answers to questions, and trusting the voters to be able to make up their own minds.

The term "established order" sounds like some cabal took over and maintained power by their own designs. The fact is that our elected representatives were, in fact, elected. I know a lot of them and I can assure you that they struggle to find the best solution to particular problems. They share the general impatience to facilitate change that so many of us feel. Yet they are in the control room with the technicians and a book of rules, which adds another dimension to policy making. In the towns, I think the most effective contribution that can be made is to help craft ways to solve these problems. The county commissioners are a different story. The make-up of the BOCC is the least advantageous to progressive reform that we've seen in recent times. There needs to be some electoral house-cleaning.    

Mark Marcopolos stated that I finished fourth in the recent Council Election.  This is incorrect.  I finished third.  Apparently Mark ignored the Durham County votes (a common mistake made by virtually all of the press).  The COMPLETE results can only be found at the State Board of Elections web site. I received a total of 4,107 votes which represents approximately 55% of ballots cast.  This compares with the 2,932 votes I received in 2007 when I beat Cam Hill by 60 votes and which represented approximately 47% of ballots cast. Some may recall that there was confusion regarding the results on election night due to the Durham County votes not being shown on the Orange County BOE web site.  Compared to the margin of 60 votes in  2007, the margin between fourth and fifth place was 203 votes in 2009 and 545 in 2011.      

Matt,That's exactly what happened. I got the numbers from the Orange County web-site.  

Matt, you have been "othered" again! However, I have to give Mark and OP, credit. Mark calls things like he sees them, admits mistakes if appropriate, and quickly moves on. And OP provides an open forum within which all this can occur.

Period. This ranks up there with Mayor Mark's response to the OCH Yates picklement. Thanks for posting Geoff.

"Invesco, Ltd. announced in a press release Sept. 29 that two of its subsidiaries had joined two other firms to purchase 29 loans spread through 16 states from Bank of America. Shirley Norton, spokeswoman for Bank of America, wrote in an email that the bank no longer owns the Greenbridge property and that it had been part of the Invesco purchase." http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2011/10/chapel_hills_greenbridge_development_sold_to_new_owners

Hmm. I'm not entirely sure why we are welcoming Invesco Ltd., and its partners and subsidiaries, as the new owners of Greenbridge. A cursory examination (if I have the right company) indicates that they are a global asset-holding company, merely a side-step away from Bank of America - and with a rather seedy track record.They don't strike me as a warm-and-fuzzy, white knight of community care and concern. It seems to me that we have replaced a back street hustler from Fayetteville with a Wall Street hustler, straight out of Davos. Or, am I just having a case of the vapors?

Who is welcoming them?

I don't think many of us will miss Invesco when they're gone.

My original post was merely a correction to Geoff's point that Greenbridge is foreclosed & empty.

Could you perhaps summarize your observations or calls to action into a few bullet points?  Are you proposing a specific change? 

... Hang on. Did that come out right? Anyway:

  • We are all good people.
  • Most of us are good progressives in this part of the world.
  • Some of us worry too much that we are isolated, so we pursue one strand of progressivism, and regard all other points of view as interlopers, to be repelled.
  • Hence, censorship (er ... please note, this Note is still on the sidebar, not in the main body of OP), lack of open democracy, unwillingness to ask, listen, learn, include.
  • Result? Confusion, disgruntlement, exclusion.
  • Add to this a sense of righteousness about the one thread of progressivism, and you also have lack of attention to detail = bad decision-making.
  • Plus, lack of care with political leadership (who needs it?; we're right) = elected officials leaving too much to staff = flip-flop on Ordinance; Police running show with Yates; and staff being fired from progressive institution in circumstances with undertones of class and racial bias.

Answer: Start reaching out; asking; conversing; listening; paying attention; including; and finding a way forward based on consensus, not righteous cause.Now, please do not pick apart the 60 second version. Pick apart the 60 minute version!

:-)  Thanks, I get the jist of what you were trying to say now.

I agree that staff have probably been making some of the more controversial decisions (Sanitation 2 and Yates) recently. The problem is that staff are professionals and they are full time. Elected officials don't always have the background knowledge of staff so it's hard to know where to draw the line between 'technically correct decisions' and 'politically correct decisions'. That's why I think it is vitally important to have the third party investigation into the Yates Motors debacle. Relying on staff to investigate themselves is not in the best interest of the community, IMHO.

Mark [Chilton] and Mark [Marcoplos], now that we’ve done the obligatory tit-for-tat (!), I would like to take up your point(s) a little more … um … comprehensively (who said ‘long-winded’?).Mark [Marcoplos] earlier made the comment that the most effective contribution that can be made is to help craft ways to solve the problems in our two townships. I agree. I think that can best be achieved by helping to craft meaningful conversations in our community.If there was purpose to my original Note (and there was), it was to start a process of exploring possible ways we citizens, together with those in authority in our two townships, can help to craft meaningful conversations about the important issues facing us.And I use the phrase ‘those in authority’ carefully. I don’t just mean the two municipal entities. Power, potential power, power in the form of authority, but also in the form of communication vehicle or community interaction, is wielded by other important institutions in our two towns, e.g. OrangePolitics; Weaver Street Market Co-operative; WCOM; The Peoples’ Channel; The Sierra Club; the Farmers’ Market; and so on.My introduction to civic life in this area has been two-fold: ‘The ESP Show’ on WCOM, and my advocacy within and for Weaver Street Market Co-operative. In both instances, my primary objective has been to try to assist in creating space for meaningful conversation – even if others have doubted that intention.I have learned that conversation can only be meaningful if:1)      It is conversation, not confrontation. I know some may immediately roll around, saying I’ve hardly been a wallflower in either venue.But an essential part of meaningful conversation is recognizing that there is a reason for the conversation. Namely that someone feels something can be improved.I would have thought that it follows, as night follows day, that a prerequisite for the conversation is, therefore, an examination of the premise that something can be improved. And that implies a level of criticism.Provided any criticism is honestly offered, then it stands the best chance of leading to meaningful conversation if it is honestly received. With constructive rebuttal and engagement, for sure. But perhaps without too much huff and puff, and defensive, snippy back-chat? And certainly, without being just completely ignored.All I can say in my own defense is: (A) I don’t know how to ask a question or make a point other than bluntly; and (2) If I become confrontational, it’s generally because some years have been spent suppressing conversation. Otherwise, I’m generally a pussycat.2)      The conversation is welcomed.I know it sounds obvious. It’s not. And it kind of flows from (1). I don’t want to make this all about WSM, but the experience is valid because WSM forms a part of the same progressive … what? … power structure in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, and the experience is not dissimilar to what I set out in my original Note.Namely, good people, with good intent, and a driving vision to create a progressive end result. But a vision so driven that, over time, input from others becomes less welcome. A defensiveness develops, to protect the purity of the vision from any deviation.In the case of WSM, that insularity led, in my opinion, to a disastrous experiment in expansion and borrowing, which might not have occurred if there had been full conversation, where opposing points of view were taken into account, not merely tolerated.And so, we in WSM find ourselves in the difficult straits we do today. I’m not going to explain all of those. You know what they are. I talk about them elsewhere, not least on my co-op blog.But I think the experience is a salient and objective lesson for other progressive entities in this town: for the want of meaningful conversation, the co-op was almost lost.Do we welcome real conversation in our two towns? Among ourselves, and between citizen and authority? If so, where? If not, how can we help to craft it?Maybe start by comparing the processes that led to the original decision to enact the Anti-Lingering Ordinance with all of the processes that preceded its repeal.In respect of the latter, sure there was criticism. But it was, for the most part, good-natured, well-informed, and with good intent. Folks made an effort to understand the various conflicting issues (harassing –v- law-breaking –v- freedom to make a living). We reached out to those looking for a job. We reached out to residents. Real understanding and the beginnings of a sense of community in that small part of Carrboro have now begun. Let’s learn from that.And translate it to the consequences of Yates Garage. This was an incident of huge moment for both our towns (both Police forces were used). It behooves us properly and openly to begin a comprehensive conversation. Not just about what happened, but why. Why did folks want to protest that empty building? Why do we have large empty buildings?Which (oops, I’m failing on the long-winded front, aren’t I? – sigh), which brings me to the point about Greenbridge. I would love to have a conversation about smart growth and its consequences. Open-ended. Along the way, we would necessarily need to examine why Greenbridge lies empty. Why it is now owned by an out-of-town, global asset-holding company, which is not likely to care too much about community development in Chapel Hill or Carrboro.But examination for the purpose of learning how to avoid getting there again – especially since so many more developments are on their way in the two townships.Now, before that examination, there needs to be investigation of what happened with Yates Garage. And that investigation and the ensuing conversations need to be open and welcomed.The investigation can only be open if it is conducted independently of all of those who were involved, or should have been involved. That means independent also of the Community Policing Advisory Committee and the Justice in Action Committee, two advisory groups appointed by the Chapel Hill Town Council.The conversations can only be meaningful if all are invited to participate – and that is where those involved (including the Community Policing Advisory Committee and the Justice in Action Committee) can have their public say.An Independent Review Commission would offer a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that our two townships welcome open and honest conversation about important issues.OP provides an important platform for similar ongoing conversation on other subjects. But is that conversation really welcome? When some contributors are limited to the side bar, and a chosen few make it to the front page?This is not about me. This is about offering the same welcome to all in our town, on an equal footing, so that all feel included, so that meaningful conversation occurs, so that consensus may be found, so that there is less dissonance, better decision-making and fewer mishaps in our judgment calls.This thread has so far attracted some 988 reads (and counting). Clearly, someone somewhere is interested in what is being said. Why then make it difficult for them to find it?3)      Conversation is allowed to be consequential.I am a firm believer in the premise that elections do not offer a binding and comprehensive mandate. Not least because the winner(s) rarely achieve a plurality of the electorate. And even if they do, there is often still a large minority of the electorate who do not deserve to be disenfranchised because of a perceived mandate.I believe the polarization in Washington is the direct consequence of both political parties demanding that their time in office be dominated by an insistent and exclusionary implementation of their chosen social engineering premises, with little real regard for consensus. I’m not sure we aren’t seeing similar toxic consequence in our two townships.It is my belief that a more responsive and democratic consensus would be achievable locally if those elected took the view that their mandate was simply to lead an ongoing democratic conversation in between elections.A friend recently sent me a link about the constitutional changes in Iceland, where, as a result of the banking collapse, and subsequent citizen revolt, a government fell, the people overrode austerity measures, and then took it upon themselves to design a new constitution.Is it beyond our wit to craft in our two townships democratic conversations with equal effect? Using the process behind the Anti-Lingering Ordinance as template. And an independent review of Yates Garage as a starting point?

My limited experience with local government is it careens between apathy and indignation, where its difficult to get anyone to serve on boards or even show up to meetings.  The average person will most often show an interest *after* a lengthy decision process has concluded and the result wasn't what they wanted, and then the input is angry rather conversational.  In the case of anarchists the chance of starting a conversation is even harder since they don't believe in the legitimacy of democratically elected public representatives, and their main goals are not how best to solve a particular local issue, but how best to bring down the government through confrontation.

Geoff, is it possible that the CHPD had a good reason for their actions?  Perhaps there is also a reason why they have not been more public about the whole thing.  Even in a democratic society, not every issue can be discussed in great detail in public - for example police investigative files are necessarily not open for public inspection.  Those of us on the left side of the tracks are naturally disposed to view authority with suspiscion, but that does not always mean that our suspiscions are well placed.Some folks are fond of referring to the protesters at Yates Motors as a bunch of non-violent, unarmed students.  And indeed that appears to be correct when viewed with 20/20 hindsight.  But how clear was that at the time that Chief Blue had to make the call about how to handle the situation?  I know, I know: An independent investigation might answer that question.  I think the question is how an independent investigation could be accomplished without undue risk of leaking sensitive (perhaps highly sensitive?) investigational information.  Chapel Hill's failure to articulate why they are not having an independent investigation implies (to me) that there are good, but confidential reasons why they handled the situation the way they did, that these same reasons are why they have not yet explained themselves publicly, and that these same reasons are why they are never going to agree to an external independent investigation.  For CHPD (and for the Town Council), this incident is not such a mystery as it is for the rest of us.   Probably the Town Council consequently feels that an independent investigation is not only unnecessary, but affirmatively injurious to ongoing investigations.  But it all looks very bad to those of us who are on the outside looking in.I keep reading comments on the internet from critics saying: How could a good progressive Democrat like Mark Kleinschmidt do this?  Mark K is literally a card carrying ACLU member (a former officer in the local chapter IIRC), a death penalty litigator who has dedicated his life to defending the rights of the accused (and even of the convicted)?  How is this possible?  Has he turned into some evil monster?  I can answer that question: No, he's still a dedicated Civil Liberties advocate.  But when you ask why he let this happen, he doesn't answer.  Why? Because he can't answer - for precisely the kind of reasons I outlined above.I don't know what all information CHPD was operating on and I suspect that I never will have all of that information.  But I do know who the people making the decisions on this are and none of them are over-eager cowboys looking for a reason to test out their fancy police equipment.  They're people who care about this community A LOT and who totally get the values of this community.  That their actions were at odds with some of those values is surprising (shocking even), but I find it highly likely (indeed perfectly logical) that there were good reasons for it and that they are simply not at liberty to say what those reasons are.Do I expect you to be satisfied with that?  No.  But if I am right about why this incident happened as it did, then we are definitely never going to find out the whole story.  Meanwhile some folks will undoubtedly try to use this incident to bring Mark K's public service to an end.  I think that would be a real shame, as Mark K is a really great advocate for civil liberties as well as many other progressive causes.  He's just in a really difficult spot.


Mark, I'll grant all your points are true, but couldn't the response be "I can't answer that for a good reason" instead of just side-stepping questions?  It seems a lot more defensive when the questions are ignored instead of acknowledging there are good questions not being answered because of a valid reason.  This leads to speculation that they made a bad judgement call and don't want to own up to it. My sense is most people would be willing to forgive if they felt they were getting truthful answers (even if incomplete if it was obvious why they were incomplete answers) -- I know I would.

Good point.

From where I'm sitting they haven't sidestepped any questions-- there was a press conference, and they answered what they knew at the time, and the staff is now preparing a written document.  As far as an independent investigation goes, I'm for having whatever  civilian community board that already exists handle it.  The reason:  if citizens are that concerned about police policy and procedure they should be involved on an ongoing basis.  Its hard enough to get people to volunteer for that type of thing already, and if they're immediately dumped the first time anything controversial happens then there's no point in ever participating in local government.

Blimey. Where to start?Mark [Chilton], cast your mind back to my Facebook post on the day after the Yates Garage incident. My preliminary position was, and remains, that, if the Police did not know what they were getting into (windows covered), and if there were continuing threats (signs, verbal abuse, sentries posted on the roof), then it was not only right that the Police were empowered to enter the premises fully protected and fully armed, the Town Council might well have faced litigation if they had denied the Police full protection and one or other of them had been harmed.That is not my concern, nor the reason for my support of Jim Neal's proposal of an independent investigation. Frankly, I'm not sure why the notion of an independent investigation strikes people as so strange. I was an Assistant Counsel at The (UK) Scarman Inquiry into the London Riots of 1980. An open inquiry is pretty much standard procedure for events surrounding controversial use of Police. And this is controversial on the face of it. Not because of any of the component parts, but simply because it is unusual for SWAT to be on the streets of Chapel Hill. Period. The only argument against (to be honest) is if there are legal proceedings pending. Since no-one was significantly injured, no property seriously damaged, and the charges are of misdemeanor status only, I really can't see why we can not clear the air for a thorough and transparent review of the issues by dropping the charges and making submission to any independent inquiry dependent upon agreeing not to bring any legal proceedings possibly arising from information revealed.Beyond that, I really cannot see that there are any matters that ought to be protected by any sort of privilege when we are talking about citizen policing citizen.All of the other points about whether the Police action was necessary, whether anarchists were a threat, who was reading what, whether marshmallows were on the menu, is immaterial. There was unusual use of Police on the streets of Chapel Hill; it should be standard procedure for the public to be able to determine for themselves why and how.Michael C., I do not agree that this should fall within the purview of one of the existing advisory committees. It seems to me (again, without personal or in-depth knowledge of their workings) that their role could also become part of any investigation, e.g. if they did or should have had any input to overseeing Rules of Engagement which might lead to use of SWAT. That represents a potential conflict of interest.I have never met the Mayor of Chapel Hill. However, even though I could not vote for him (live in Carrboro), I made it clear to him that I supported his bid for the Mayoralty.Judgment is for another time. But I agree with James. The right positon for the Mayor to take, in my opinion, is fully to support those for whom he is primarily responsible (his staff), until such time as anything proves otherwise. To arrange for an investigation - whether internal or independent (an internal investigation is under way). And, at that point, to refuse to answer any more questions until any investigation is concluded and the findings made public - and to make it clear that is why he is not answering questions (a point I do not believe he has made, or has made clear). On which topic, I think that the air would become a lot clearer if we knew the categoric answer to one simple question. Maybe it has been answered. If it has, I stand corrected. And that is, did the Mayor authorize use of SWAT, or was that someone else's decision?  This whole thread began with my contention that governance is not only about political stance (for which I have never faulted Mark K.). It is also about competence.To be honest, Mark [Chilton], and in my personal opinion, I am currently watching someone who is not coping too well with the matters before him in this instance. It makes me uncomfortable - for him. But I'm not one calling for him to go. That is for the electorate.But, if I was a closer friend, I'd be giving him as much advice as he would allow me.

Naturally I don't know the extent to which Mark K was or was not involved in the tactical issues.  I can say for sure that I did not know that CHPD was going to use the particular tactics that they did.Your statement "The only argument against (to be honest) is if there are legal proceedings pending" is not correct in my view.  Pending litigation would be one reason, and pending criminal investigations would be another - which is precisely what I am suggesting is the issue here.  But I admit that that is speculation on my part.  If someone who is genuinely dangerous (as opposed to the people who were actually arrested) is being pursued by the police then I would not want CHPD to tip their hand in a way that would help him/her get away.  I'm thinking of a person who has a genuine intent to violently overthrow the government.  Someone like Timothy McVeigh.  I don't think there was anyone at the Yates building who was quite in McVeigh's league, but what do I know?

Point of explanation. I used the term 'legal proceedings' to cover both civil litigation and criminal charges. But, to continue with our play on words, I think that would fall in the category of 'side-splitting' ...As to whether or not more serious criminals are being pursued, and Mark K. is engaged in cover for that, hmm, I have no good answer.I'm reminded of the brilliant Israeli subterfuge in 1977, when the Israelis were planning a daring rescue of their hostages in Entebbe, but needed time to get their men on site.The Israeli Government merrily bumbled and blustered away, totally catching the hostage-takers off-guard.If this is the case, then Mark K. is doing the right thing. If. I still think that the need for internal investigation would be rendered pretty much moot if Mark K. would confirm if it was he or someone else who authorized use of SWAT.  

1) If Mark K. had a face-to-face meeting with Chief Blue before the action and thoroughly evaluated the situation, it's possible outcomes, and multiple scenarios in which the whole thing could have been defused.2) If Chief Blue & Mark K. had utilized all available sources of intelligence to determine the reality of the situation, by deploying an undercover investigator to go to the scene and check things out, checking in with the reporters that they must have known were there (if they didn't know that, then something is wrong). Possibly even going down there himself - talking about Mark K.3) If there was one bit of real (not cartoon-based "anarchists are bomb-throwing, violent psychpaths") evidence that there were armed people inside (and it seems pretty clear to me that Mark Schultz and other reporters were inside the building and could report that there were not the "anarchist" crazies of the CHPD imagination inside).4) If there was a timetable for moving in that allowed the initial tension to subside.5) If there was actually an incident that spilled out into the streets causing the possibility of public danger (police could have been watching so such an incident would not have time to cause harm). If these things were done, time was allowed to pass while deliberate options were weighed, and the understanding was that the public was not at risk while these people were inside the building (and thus police action not immediately necessary), then I'd be okay with the militaristic reponse.  


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