Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I had to stop and ponder the news that the pioneering Wall Street Chief Executive at Merrill Lynch & Co. "retired," even though it was clear that he was fired. Stan O'Neal will walk away with $161.5 million in restricted stock, options and retirement benefits! He will also get Merrill-paid office space and an assistant for three years. Not bad for a firing, oops, retirement!

As this community of Chapel Hill has a lot of rungs between the top and bottom of our income ladder, I can only imagine what even 10% of that package could do to address some of our more pressing social issues.

If we had that kind of money to spend, it would in fact cause of to say, is this a great country or what!

Monday, October 22, 2007


Good question to ponder! We flew from RDU to Chicago on a packed plane Friday morning for a weekend visit with our daughter who lives in Rockford. She has been working at the Belvidere Chrysler Assemble Plant as a labor rep for two years, and this was the first time we have been to see her.

From the moment she picked us up until she returned us to O'Hare International this morning, we had a really great time. When we got to her home, her two cats, Jax and Katy, immediately established that they remembered that I don't like cats, so they did what cats do - tried to get me to change my mind. Didn't work, but it was sort of fun to play with them.

We spent Saturday morning at an apple orchard that is very popular in her area. Edwards Apple Orchard is a great family place. They feature picking your own apples and pumpkins and in their barn, they feature a variety of apples for sale, cider, a donut kitchen and a gift shop. For kids, they have a petting farm, pony rides and play area. There was also a maze and tractor ride. The weather was beautiful and it helped to make the time at the orchard really fun.

We also took in a movie - Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" - which is interesting to see with your unmarried daughter! Lot's of interesting dynamics in the movie that seems to be doing well at the box office thus far. Major downer - Janet Jackson can't act! My wife's theory is that her face has been tightened so much, she can't change expressions. The "star" lost me when they said that she was a college professor!

We had some great meals, watched some football, spent time talking, and just hung out. Sunday afternoon, we got the phone call that we had all been waiting for --- her brother, and our son, made it home to his wife and family for his home leave from Iraq! When we spend a coming weekend with him and his family, we will surely know what makes for TWO GREAT WEEKENDS!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


For my birthday today, my wife took me to the State Fair. I thought it was a good way to help our area because every year that we have gone, it has rained! Well, that didn't happen this year, sorry to say.

Other than not raining, what else was different going during the day was that the place was packed with families and what appeared to be a lot of school trips, given the number of school buses. The place also seemed cleaner and there were many more rides.

All of the food vendors were there as usual, offering unlimited artery clogging delights. We stayed away from the fried stuff mainly because we couldn't find the fried Coke, Twinkies or peanut butter and jelly.

We saw lots of award winning produce and animals. When I saw that Harris Teeter paid $10,000 for a hog and $5,000 for a turkey, I could only hope that was a charitable purchase and not something that they planned to pass on to us!

Even though it was on the warm side, we had a great time watching people lose their money on games of chance and scream while on the rides that are designed to make you lose whatever was in your stomach, fried or otherwise.

We broke down and played the $2 "guess my age" game. The guy thought Sylvia was 56 so he wasn't withing 3 years. She selected an inflatable baseball bat for our grandson. We went to another one who thought I was 54! I selected a stuff animal for our granddaughter. Not a bad guess for this 61 year old guy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Do you know the secret? There are signs at almost every intersection that serve as a hint! Yes, we have an election on November 6th. It’s a municipal election this year for the Chapel Hill Town Council, the Carrboro Board of Alderman, and the School Board. We may not be electing our president, governor, US Senators or representatives, but this is an important election – simply because all elections are!

The regular registration period is over but you can still register during Same-Day Registration at the One-Stop No Excuse Absentee Voting Sites that are operational in Hillsborough beginning 18 October and in the downtown Chapel Hill Post Office and the Carrboro Town Hall beginning October 22. Early voting ends at all of the sites on Saturday, November 3rd, at 1pm.

I hope citizens will get informed about the various candidates and where they stand on the important issues. There have been numerous election forums that are now available online for review, and they can provide a lot of information. Get prepared and then vote early or on Election Day on November 6th.

In the 2005 election, our turnout was about 15%. We ought to be troubled that so few citizens participate. If we don’t vote, our voice isn’t heard. Will it be heard when we complain about what the elected bodies chosen by others do or don’t do?

Monday, October 15, 2007


Tonight, we completed our training. The focus was on the "advocating" portion of the program. The major pitfall is assuming the role of the parent and trying to solve all of the parent-student-school issues as a mentor. Our discussions and exercises produced some very frank views and people were comfortable enough with each other to not pull any punches.

Clearly, we have an excellent school system but the perception is that all students are not served as well as some others. One person mentioned that sometimes parents of color go to the school and are treated as invisible. Our role as mentor-advocates is to help, and that was a useful discussion because we could see the lines we didn't want to cross.

I've attended lots of training programs but I must say that these hours with Graig Meyer and Lori Clark were some of the most productive and well structured of a lot of former training sessions.

In a couple of weeks we will get to meet our mentees. I do not plan to Blog about it, but later on I might share some of my "lessons learned" and significant experiences.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Today (Saturday) was a full training day. We assembled at 8:30 AM at the Lincoln Center Board Room and began the session with an "ice breaker" to get to know the other volunteers. After the exercise, we participated in several role-playing exercises that reinforced some of the key points in successful mentoring.

We got to hear from some students who are being mentored, veteran mentors and parents and all shared their various perspectives on the program. All of them reinforced the point that getting to know each other was key and engaging the mentee in activities that are fun and developmental is critically important.

We also discussed the importance of race, culture, and class in the mentoring of African Americans and Latino students. To give us a feel of where the students participating in the program live, we took a bus tour of those neighborhoods within Chapel Hill and Carrboro. It was interesting that some who also live in the community were unaware of some of the neighborhoods where there is public and "low cost" (for our community!) housing.

We finish our training on Monday!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


On April 1, 2007, I wrote this column in the CHH on the Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program (BRMA).

Now, rather than being an observer of the program, I began my training program to become a mentor. The twelve hours of training is spread over three days. After we complete the training, we get matched with our mentee.

Based on what we did tonight, learning how to meet this critical community need is going to be fun and challenging. The other mentors who are training with me all seem committed to helping kids reach their full potential and advocate for them. It will great to join the established mentors in helping these young people achieve their goals.

Follow the journey here as I post my observations and impressions of the program!