Civil Liberties

Perhaps because of the large number of outspoken and thoughtful people in our community, we have often found ourselves at ground zero in battles over civil liberties. In the 1980's Chapel Hill elected the first openly-gay elected official in the state, but Carrboro bested that by electing North Carolina’s first out mayor a decade later.

More recently, Chapel Hill grappled with free speech issues in the wake of 9/11, approved and then dismantled red light cameras in 2003-4, and was challenged by fundamentalists over support for gay marriage in 2005.

NAACP Honors McSurely

According to today's Herald,

the NAACP has selected Chapel Hill attorney Al McSurely as this year's winner of the William Robert Ming Advocacy Award. This is the highest honor the national civil rights group gives to an attorney.

McSurely is slated to receive the award July 11 at the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's in Milwaukee.

Congratulations to Al on this well-deserved honor. For background on McSurely and some of the many reasons why he is deserving of this award, read the Herald article.

McSurely's winning this reward should be a sobering as well as a celebratory moment for our community. After all, to win an award like this from the NAACP, one must be active in a community where there is persistent racial discrimination.

Misguided approach to teen drinking

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday May 14, 2005

It is certainly reasonable for parents, community leaders and officials to want to work to curtail underage drinking. But red flags go up when self-styled "vigilante mom" Dale Pratt-Wilson, organizer of the Committee for Drug and Alcohol Free Teens, makes wholesale charges of communitywide complacency and rails against our misguided "norms." That sounds a lot like the culture war rhetoric of Pat Buchanan and the moral values posturing of George W. Bush and company.

Consider the Kinahans, who were recently charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The incident occurred when police, responding to a noise complaint, discovered some teenagers drinking in their back yard during their son's birthday party. Before the party, these parents had talked with their child and his friends about rules and expectations. They stayed home to be available as an adult presence. They greeted guests at the door.

Rally today: no nukes in congress

There will be protests all around the country today to oppose The Nuclear Option- the Republicans' attempt to change the rules of the senate to suit their heavy-handed domination. Chapel Hillians will meet in front of the Franklin Street Post Office at 5pm.

Hope to see you there!

Peacefully Unite to Oppose Congress Going Nuclear at the Chapel Hill post office next Wednesday the 27th at 5PM! We will meet outside the Franklin Street Post office to peacefully protest the Congressional majority from Going Nuclear. Please bring signs, friends, and family as we join together in solidarity to demand that our minority's right to filibuster the right-wing-judicial takeover is preserved!

Council treads carefully on keg law

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday April 16, 2005

The Town Council adopted the prudent course in its response to the keg registration bill. The feeling was that, with or without Chapel Hill's encouragement, this bill was gaining traction elsewhere in the state. Thus, the town and its legislative delegation can best safeguard the privacy of consumers by adding strong language to that effect to Joe Hackney's and Verla Insko's House Bill 855.

A unanimous council was concerned about the need for keg purchasers to obtain a permit from the ABC board, the provision for criminal background checks, potential unintended consequences of requiring identification of where the keg would be consumed and the unnecessary intrusion into individual privacy from maintaining keg permits as public records.

Still, it was an odd process for Chapel Hill. Support for keg registration was proposed for a council legislative request by Jim Ward back in February. For most proposals, the town gets a report back from staff and receives citizen comment before taking action. Ward's timing pre-empted such input.

Avoiding the abortion controversy

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Carolina Women's Center's annual Women's Week, which concluded Saturday, covered a lot of topics: violence against women, gender-bending, women and war and mentoring, to pick but a few. The topic that stands out for its exclusion is abortion. This omission represents a significant decision by the Women's Center given the importance of reproductive freedom for college-age women.

Abortion has not always been kept off the program. In 2003, for example, there was a Women's Week forum on "The Abortion Pill: The Clash of Science and Politics."

This year, however, the desire to avoid controversy has left the issue entirely off the agenda.

The problem with this policy of avoidance was well-expressed by geography professor Altha Cravey: "Questions of choice should be front and center; women's control over their own bodies should be front and center.

The center should not alienate women, but the center should stand for something, and those two things are very different." Cravey also serves on the Women's Center's advisory board.



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