Economy & Downtown

Chapel Hill's downtown has long benefited from its proximity to a captive audience of University students without cars. While downtowns around the country have been failing, ours has survived fairly well. However, we have seen an increase in the number of chain stores locating downtown, and instability in the Downtown Economic Development Corporation. In the near future, we will see new Town-directed development on two major parking lots have a big impact.
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Carrboro's downtown has also done better than many towns of comparable size, thanks largely to the presence of Weaver Street Market and progressive shoppers from the rest of the county. The Board of Aldermen has been addressing the evolution of the downtown, and have established a number of community resources in the downtown area including free wireless Internet access, and a low-power radio station.

Signs of the times 2005

I have long felt that the placement of candidates' yard signs can tell you a lot. Each of us tends to put signs in places we think people are likely to see them, usually based on places we ourselves feel likely to see them. For example, if there are gaps in signage, we don't notice them unless we see the gaps ourselves.

Since most yard signs are put up by friends of the candidate, if not the candidate herself, they tell us a lot about the milieu of each candidate. Do they spend a lot of time near local schools, downtown, the mall, the grocery store, parks?

Today I went on a walk to see what yard signs are up in my neighborhood. I walked about a mile west into downtown Carrboro and a mile east into downtown Chapel Hill. Here is what I saw...

Here are SOME of the many signs I saw in downtown Carrboro:

Local governments tackle affordable housing

During last week's Sierra Club forum in Carrboro, candidates were asked what they felt needed to be done to increase the stock of affordable housing in town. Each of the 4 candidates who addressed this question agreed that it is the most complex problem before the BOA.

Both Carrboro and Chapel Hill work from a version of inclusionary zoning that requires new developers to include affordable units along with their market priced units. In Carrboro developers who comply with the "small house ordinance" are given a density bonus to help them recover some of their lost opportunity. In Chapel Hill, developers can provide payment in lieu of compliance. New units developed through the Carrboro plan are deeded over to the Orange Community Housing and Land Trust as a means of ensuring they stay affordable. Buyers own the dwelling but not the land upon which the dwelling sits. Chapel Hill is currently clarifying the legal the language around their affordable housing options.

Ending capitalism, er, homelessness

Chapel Hill Town Council Member Sally Greene has tons of great info on the local community efforts to "end homelessness" on her blog. After the most recent homelessness forum, she posted the text of Mayor Kevin Foy's remarks, which attempted to put this economic struggle in context with the recent debacle in New Orleans and to encourage out community to strive for something better. Foy said, "it is possible to have a society as rich as ours based on moral values that does not accept that some people just will be homeless."

After reading her report on the second Homelessness Roundtable back in February 2005, I was impressed by the effort, but confused at the presence of Philip Mangano, the federal "homelessness czar," touting the Bush Administration's efforts. He was back again this time.

Still free in Carrboro

This just in from local organizer Vinci Daro:

Carrboro's third "Really Really Free Market" to be held Saturday, September 17, 1:00-5:00 PM at the Carrboro Town Commons

What: The Really REALLY Free Market, a celebration of alternative economics.
Where: Carrboro Town Commons
When: 1:00-5:00pm, Saturday, September 17.

Everyone is welcome at this free event, where all are encouraged to give, receive, and create on their own terms. This free and open market will be a celebration of the cooperation and gift-giving that make life possible beyond the constraints of capitalist markets. The event is self-organized by everyone who participates. No authority rules over the RRFM. As at previous events, we trust that people sharing rather than competing will be able to find their own ways to cooperate with each other and function smoothly.

Weigh in on wi-fi

Guest Post by James Protzman

The idea of communitiy wi-fi is emerging as a potential local election issue -- and would seem to warrant broader public discussion as well.

Some say wi-fi should be a purely commercial undertaking left to the private sector. Others (like me, for example) see wireless connectivity as an increasingly critical part of community infrastructure -- similar to sidewalks, parks and public safety -- services that support the common good.

My view is simple: we cannot allow the issue of connectivity to become yet another element in the growing "digital divide." That is, no one should be disadvantaged for not having resources to buy high-speed access for their homes and families.

There are plenty of ways to think about this and many experiments going on around the country. Some of them are reported here . . . and I'm sure there are other good resources. If you know of any, please share them.

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