Racial & Economic Justice

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.

School board cries 'uncle'

When a recent attempt to make a technical correction in the Chapel Hill Carrboro School System's gifted program resulted in an hour of angry testimony from gifted parents, the school board simply gave up.

Board member Ed Sechrest said he would vote "against his conscience" to forestall the legions of e-mails he receives if he votes against what the parents of gifted students want.

"I don't want to read 20,000 e-mails from parents, saying you cheated us, you lied to us," he said. "So I am voting against my conscience."
- Chapel Hill Herald, 9/7/05

Congratulations to these parents who have proven that they are better organized and have more time and energy to spend on this issue than anyone else in town.

District Tax for County Schools: Will it Fly?

On Tuesday August 16th the Orange County Commissioners will make a decision about how to address the funding disparity between our two school systems. The current plan is to put a district tax on the ballot this fall, and let county school district voters decide for themselves.

According to the Chapel Hill News, the entire Orange County School Board opposes this referendum. And County Commissioner Moses Carey says "Obviously, what the school board thinks is important, but we won't base our decision solely on what they think."

Should the commissioners assume that the county school board is the voice of the people and abandon the referendum, or should they take the attitude that this is an activist school board that may not reflect the will of the people, and go forth with the referendum?

According to school board member Randy Copeland, the proposal will "put a tax on those who can least afford it." Fiscal conservatives want to leave things as is.

Buena suerte al Centro Latino

This weekend, Eric Muller's blog pointed me to a story in the Chapel Hill News about El Centro Latino. I'm not sure whether I should write that El Centro is having trouble again, or that their struggle continues.

There's no doubt their path has been rocky. From my vantage point, it's difficult to tell how much of these problems are from working with a low-resource population on problems that the majority of people may not know exist, and how much of it stems from poor management. It's likely to be at least a little of both. But having worked professionally in the nonprofit sector for over a decade, I have a lot of sympathy for the challenges of a brand-new organization just trying to get on it's feet while the problems it hopes to address are exploding. It's certainly annoying to see people take the time to complain about them instead of volunteering or donating to make the programs better.

Up Against the Wal

From Mark Barroso:

I would like to remind everyone of the citizen-organized meeting about a possible Wal-Mart in north Chatham on Thursday, 7/28 at 7 pm at the Dockside Restaurant in Cole Park Plaza. Former Chatham Commission Chair Gary Phillips will moderate the discussion. The Chatham County Planning Director and at least one commissioner will attend and answer questions.

Several presenters will explain the process and issues, we will organize our opposition and begin the fight to keep the godzilla of retail from stomping on our community.

Please come early and buy dinner at Dockside, in support of the owner who has opened his doors to us without charge.

For those who don't know, Lee-Moore Oil Co is planning a retail center with a Walmart, two restaurants and yet another gas station on the land between ALR and the new UNC park and ride. Here's a map of the area (cool new Google map feature learned at yesterday's Blogging Teach-In)

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