On being a team player

As if in answer to his own question ("Council hegemony" what are you talking about?), this week Councilmember Cam Hill was quoted in the Daily Tarheel insinuating that his colleague Laurin Easthom is not a "team player" because she is often on the losing end of 8-1 votes.

I will chalk up the rude tone of his comments to the DTH's patented 18-year-old filter (in which almost every direct quotation in the paper sounds as if it came out of the mouth of a college student) and instead address the substance. Ever since I have been on the Chapel Hill Planning Board, I have been on the losing end of many of the split votes we've had - usually 8-2 or often 9-1. And yet I don't believe a single member of the Board thinks I'm not working with them toward the many goals we share. In fact, my colleagues unanimously elected me as their chair last year!

What are the Really Free Market Signs made of?

Yesterday I was walking around Carrboro and Chapel Hill checking out the local candidates yards signs. Amongst all the political signs I noticed a sign not advertising a campaign. They were apparently home made signs letting us know about the Really Free Market, a "free event, where all are encouraged to give, receive, and create on their own terms."

I got closer to admire the hand cut spray paint stencil lettering, just as I would with a painting to determine its technique. Then I noticed behind the thinly painted white background was another sign. It was a school board candidate's yard sign repurposed! Knowing this I looked closer at more Really Free Market signs and noticed that other candidates yards signs had been altered this way too.

Leadership foibles obstruct process

Chapel Hill Herald
Saturday, December 11, 2004

On Monday night the Chapel Hill Town Council once again grabbed division from the jaws of unity. As was the case with the Airport Road renaming six months ago, the council seemed largely in agreement about the repairs that are needed for the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. Disagreements arose on how to schedule and pay for them. Somehow, once again, a 5-4 vote resulted.

Political observers who make a fetish of looking for divisions on the council tend to overlook the fact that this council usually operates near consensus. Monday night, after the cemetery vote, they went on to consider a number of issues including some potentially thorny questions regarding the university. The votes were unanimous.

Those fostering incivility, name-calling, and divisiveness on the council should have been called on it by Mayor Kevin Foy. The mayor is supposed to run the meetings in an effective, inclusive, and deliberative manner. Usually, he does a better job.

Should Keith Cook Resign?

Folks may have heard that Orange County School Board Chairman Keith Cook cribbed his commencement speech delivered at Orange County High School last week. This is a serious infraction given the problems with plagiarism among students and the efforts by teachers to prevent it. Cook surely ought to be a role model in such matters.

Perhaps even worse than Cook’s plagiarism is his continuing denial of it. He initially denied it to the Herald reporter. Moments ago, he told the WCHL reporter that it was not plagiarism because he did not know who wrote the speech and that what was important was the content. He might talk to any English or history teacher to find out just how important they would consider the content if a student turned in a speech by Donna Shalala.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Murray embarrassed WCHL by repeatedly agreeing with Cook that it was inadvertent plagiarism. Yet Cook admits to making a web search for “graduation speeches” and making liberal use of the one he found. That is intentional plagiarism even if he did not trouble himself to find out who the author was.

Nepotism or Politics?

The Orange County School Board just appointed a former board member, Susan Halkiotis, to fill a vacated seat until the next election. Halkiotis says she has no intention of running to keep the seat after the fall election. Sounds like an example of good government in action, right?

Problem is, Susan is married to Steve Halkiotis, who is the Director of Auxiliary Services for the school system, plus he's an Orange County Commissioner (they fund the schools). This means she could be in a position to vote on her husband's salary, among other uncomfortable situations.

Board member Randy Copeland reminded the board of the nepotism policy they recently put into place.

The policy, he said, should not allow husband and wife to hold positions so closely dependent on each other. "I believe we're placing ourselves in a position of saying, 'don't do as I do, do as I say do,'" he said. "I would be strongly opposed to seeking Susan, even though she's experienced."



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