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.

(Dis)Enfranchisement

Enfranchisement and its dissing is an interesting problem. Consult the Federalist Papers and you will learn that the Founding Fathers were concerned about the "tyranny of the majority" under a pure democracy which might lord it over (or disenfranchise) a minority that nonetheless had the vote. Of course, the minority they were concerned with were the wealthy people who owned the country ("The people who own the country ought to govern it"--Hamilton). Today, we see that they crafted the system very well as 215 years later the wealthy remain firmly in charge.

The situation in Carrboro could be very similar to that feared by the Federalists in terms of the nature of the majority and who it is tyrannizing over.

Town Council: "No" to the PATRIOT Act and to Sprinklers in Hell

Although I was at the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting in person tonight to present the Horace Williams Commitee's report, I dashed home to watch the exciting conclusion from the comfort of my sofa rather than wait it out in the Council Chamber which was filling up with hard-drinkin' lovers of civil liberties. And a TV camera! Did anyone see channel 17?

I think at least a dozen local residents spoke to the Council against this proposal to require expensive sprinkler systems in just three bars in town... which are not coincidentally in the same building downtown on East Rosemary Street. This proposal was made in the name of safety after the tragic fire at a club in Rhode Island. What the requirements fail to do is protect us from pyrotechnics and blocked fire exits, which were two of the main causes of the fatal fire.

Please Leave Ms. Coulter Alone

So, Ann Coulter is speaking at Carolina tonight, and I'm already getting the hives imagining the news coverage: the protesters, the earnest critics with their well-researched and relevant questions who will be brushed aside, the outraged haranguers lobbing their accusations only to have them turned into punchlines. Is there anything about Ann Coulter that should prompt anyone with any knowledge of history (or of patriotism, or of good manners, or of treason) to go out and see her speak?

Are we safe yet?

The Chapel Hill Herald reports that the Town's red light camera program, instituted almost a month ago, has brought in $2 to the Town and $48 to Affiliated Computer Systems, the company that runs the program. That is to say one person has been caught running a light and paid the $50. There was no community outcry about the scourge of red-light-runners before this program was instituted. It was sold as a revenue producer for the town.

This 12-page letter from Chapel Hill resident Will Raymond (PDF) highlights many of the problems with red light cameras. The Town has requested a response from ACS.

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