Raise A Glass on Franklin Street

On tonight's Chapel Hill Town Council agenda, Mayor Pro Tem Edith Wiggins will have the opportunity to undo the action she took in July to singlehandedly stop local restaurants from serving alcohol to customers dining on the sidewalk. The Daily Tarheel points out the cost of this misstep to local restaurateurs, I would just add that there is a cost in the goodwill of downtown merchants and consumers as well. Since she has not raised an actual objection to the idea then or now, many feel confident it will pass unanimously this evening.

But I have to wonder why Wiggins is blocking proposals that she claims to support. Does she have other objections that she doesn't care to state publicly or is she just flexing her Pro Tem muscle?



I don't see the need for conspiracy theories. According to the articles, Wiggins only pulled the proposed ordinance from the consent agenda so that it will get a comment period, which will happen at tonights meeting. I fail to see how she “will have the opportunity to undo the action she took in July” or “is blocking proposals that she claims to support”. Does the author of this item oppose public comment periods? What criteria should be used if not the judgment of the council? (Obviously some topics are excluding from consent agenda by law.) If proponents were so intent on having the change for the summer, perhaps they should have proposed it before the last meeting before summer break.

The other interesting thing in these articles is that apparently our restaurant owners don't bother to look at local ordinances when they open up shop (I assume they become familiar with the land use and zoning ordinances through the planning office.). They are not all that large and only get complicated on the fine details. Maybe we should pro-actively send all new businesses a copy as a welcoming gift.

“On tonight's Chapel Hill Town Council agenda, Mayor Pro Tem Edith Wiggins will have the opportunity to undo the action she took in July to singlehandedly stop local restaurants from serving alcohol to customers dining on the sidewalk.”

For those unaware of the background, it might help to know that the ordinance requires that actions of this sort (consent agenda) must receive a unanimous vote. Do you think these things should be approved by a simple majority?

“But I have to wonder why Wiggins is blocking proposals that she claims to support. Does she have other objections that she doesn't care to state publicly or is she just flexing her Pro Tem muscle?”

Her answer was that she felt that before voting to revise the ordinance, people ought to receive notice and have the opportunity to comment. She also wanted to know what the experience was in other communities. Is that a bad thing? Should we get into the habit of just assuming what people want or don't want? Does the fact that no one has objected to date mean that no one should have the opportunity to do so?

Don't understand the “pro tem muscle” bit, as any member could have voted against it with the same result. What does being the “pro tem” have to do with it?

Might things have been different if the petition had not been presented at the last meeting before the summer break? Could someone believe that the timing was part of a conscious strategic plan? See, there is no end to the possible conspiracy theories!

"Pro tem" things, like demanding a special vanity "pro tem" parking sign?

Fred, do you just feel more comfortable with single party rule? Do you just pine for a government that marches in lockstep? I mean, first the "5 to 4" thing and now "Do you think these things should be approved by a simple majority..."? What "things"? Martini, wine and margarita "things"? Of course, I remember the days when it was legal to wander around Chapel Hill with an adult beverage so I have a hard time seeing why this issue demands a unanimous chorus of opinion.

So, Fred, to pick an example, when RLCs were approved by less than unanimous consent, its OK? But, to use the same example, when they're removed by a 5 to 4 vote - big problem!

Drinky pooh - unanimous consent. Usurpation of fundamental Constitutional rights - simple majority. A strange calculus you practice Fred.

I think there is a place for unanimous consent - just as there is a need for filibuster - it just seems like you'd want to reserve it for questions of great import (whatever that might be - you know - your basic "eye-of-the-beholder" "thing").

I imagine when the new ethics guidelines come up for approval we'll see another split (5 to 4?) and maybe a further call for a complete consensus. I can almost hear the pleas for unanimity when four of the council members are faced with having to tacitly repudiate their former, proven, bad behavior.

But maybe that's just my fervid imagination.

Will, I think you are confusing how a petition is handled and how other items on the agenda are handled. A 5-4 vote was not possible on the petition as it had to be unamious. Thus, your examples are in error. It sounds like your argument is with the Town ordinance.

So please explain wht the "pro tem" thing has to do with it?

When any item (resolution, request for services, ordinance change) comes before Council, a single Councilmember can delay action until it appears as a regular agenda item. This is a Council policy, not a law.

The fact that it was an ordinance wasn't relevant to the delay this particular procedural move.

My understanding is that the fact that it was an ordinance could have been relevant if the vote tonight was only 5-4. In that case, we would have had to come back to Council for a second reading. At a second reading a 5-4 vote would be sufficient to pass the item.

It seems this issue was perfectly appropriately placed on the consent agenda. Since Wiggins' delay, I haven't heard a single criticism of the idea from any direction. It's such a no-brainer that last night it passed almost without comment: http://herald-sun.com/orange/10-519850.html

In the original post I was drawing a comparison to the MLK Boulevard issue (albeit not clearly enough). Recall that Wiggins chaired the committee that recommended the renaming, then voted against it on the Council. And the the "pro tem thing" is what's known as a question, not an assertion, Fred. You tell me.

Mark - Do not the Town ordinances allow the Council to make its procedural rules? If Will does not like the procedure that you and the Council followed in this situation, as well as other similar cases, it seems like the Ordinances would also allow the Council to also modify or change its procedures.

Ruby- When was this issue on the consent agenda? In June (30th?) it was in the petitions by citizens on items not on the agenda. Last night it was Agenda Item # 6.

I still say that because we have heard no objections before last night, it doesn't mean that people should not have had the opportunity to do so.

Will introduced something about the "pro tem thing" in his message. He said, "'Pro tem' things, like demanding a special vanity 'pro tem' parking sign?" Maybe he would be willing to share his source for this being a demand and link it to the sidewalk drinking vote. I still miss the connection. So I ask the question again, what does the "pro tem thing" have to do with it?

My bad - I thought it was on the consent agenda, but the point remains: The Council's procedure lets them approve things on the spot if they're unanimous on it, as they should have been on this no-brainer.

Yes Fred. The Council can change its procedures at anytime. Council procedures could easily be changed to require something less than unanimous consent to take action on something that isn't already on the Council agenda . This came to Council as a petition and wasn't on our agenda at the June meeting. That is the only reason why unanimous consent was needed in order to take action on it in June. (It wasn't on the consent agenda then or last night). The rules about ordinance changes, i.e. the requirement of a 2nd reading in the absense of a super-majority, those, I believe can't be changed as easily (not sure though). I'll be happy to find out. I only jumped in here, because the conversation you were having with Will seemed to need a little clarification.

Also, a little on the consent agenda.

Items go on the consent agenda by agreement of the manager and the mayor. They identify items they believe won't illicit any comment and that won't be controversial. The staff then produces an omnibus resolution that requires only one vote of Council. If any Council member actually wants to talk about an item, ask questions or vote against it, or if it is obvious that citizens have arrived at a meeting wanting to talk about the item, the item can be “pulled.” Once pulled, the item is eventually voted on separately from the rest of the consent agenda. At that time, the vote might still be unanimous, or 5-4. If it's an ordinance and it's only 5-4, a 2nd reading might be required.

FYI This thread was remarked upon in the editorial in today's Chapel Hill Herald:


Bravo for you Will!

As I remember the sequence, there was an editorial September 10th that supported her decision to not rush to a decision on the policy. In the editorial, there was this statement: "That's made Wiggins the target of some unwarranted criticism by posters on OrangePolitics.org, an online discussion board run by a member of the town's planning board, Ruby Sinreich. One post accused Wiggins of a mere exercise in "flexing her [mayor] pro tem muscle."

At this point she was told by several people that it was also alleged that she had demanded a special sign for her as mayor pro tem. Knowing that she hadn't might account for her response to you.

My personal opinion is that for the work they do and the little pay that they receive, the mayor, mayor pro tem and other council members having parking signs is a small act that clearly does not compensate for the "cost" of serving.

You may also be interested in knowing that the agenda tonight also included the approval of the procedures manual. This is where you find the requirement that concerned you:

"I. C. 7. c. It shall take a unanimous vote of the Council members present declaring a petition to be of unusual urgency for such petition to be acted upon immediately upon its presentation."

Earlier in this thread, I repeated a comment that someone else had made about Ms. Wiggin's request for a special 'pro tem' parking sign.

'Specifically: “Pro tem” things, like demanding a special vanity “pro tem” parking sign?'

I recently called Town Hall to see, after Mr. Black challenged my assertion that something special had happened for Ms. Wiggins, if the sign had been especially erected. I was told that the sign was new and that it had been especially requested, which turns out to be true. What I implied, though, inaccurately portrays reality. It turns out she asked Town Manager Horton for some extra relief, not a permanent sign, which I implied she did when I answered Mr. Black.

Tonight, prior to the Town Council meeting, Ms. Wiggin's was so concerned about my statement she confronted me. I asked her if she had read my statement, which, it turns out she said she hadn't read, and which she wouldn't read as it was on OrangePolitics, which, to quote her is "a web-site full of lies". She said someone (who I guess doesn't mind reading a bunch of lies) had told her of my two statements. She said that she had asked for a sign so that she would have a parking spot, but hadn't asked for a permanent sign. She said that Cal Horton had said "being Mayor Pro Tem should be worth something" and had said he'd have a permanent sign put up for her. When I asked if she felt that she should have this special treatment, she had no answer.

She then drug me over to Mr. Horton so that he could confirm that she hadn't requested a permanent sign - just a sign. He agreed with the outline of events that Ms. Wiggin laid out.

He also agreed with Ms. Wiggin's that OrangePolitics was "full of lies".

So, I was partially right and partially wrong. Ms. Wiggin's did ask for special relief. She was offered a permanent sign because Mr. Horton thought "being Mayor Pro Tem should be worth something" (which might be true) but that she didn't insist on a permanent sign. Further, she wouldn't say if this silly permanent sign was appropriate or not.

What started out as a snarky statement has ended up with me obviously hurting Ms. Wiggin's feelings. I meant to criticize her special treatment, so I apologize for hurting her. She obviously takes her title seriously and I shouldn't have made any kind of deal about her request for a sign - permanent or otherwise.

Finally, I hope that the little bird that does stoop to reading this site "full of lies" will tell Ms. Wiggin's that I did apologize and I did try to clarify the situation.

I guess this explains Edith's intense glaring at me during tonight's Council meeting, and her leaving the chamber when I came to the podium! (Although everyone needed a break after the graveyard discussion.)

Mistakes are made, of course. But "full of lies?" I think that's a silly thing to say, especially for someone who has not looked at the site. But she's entitled to her opinion - as are we all, especially on OrangePolitics. And I can live with disagreement, unlike some people.

I think it's unfortunate to see elected officials that expect people to agree with their policies and tactics 100% of the time. We have quite a few of those around here, and their politics run the gamut from left to right (OK, left to middle). In the long run it's usually not very effective as they eventually make enemies out of pretty much everyone who has to deal with them.

As for Cal publicly expressing any viewpoint at all, I'm simply shocked.

Ruby, did you notice a squarish object attached to....ummm, better not go there...


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