Tuesday, February 19, 2008

TOWING (WCHL Commentary)

What do panhandling, the men’s homeless shelter, and Kidzu have in common with the current towing issue? All these issues are related to the vitality of downtown Chapel Hill and the willingness of people to come downtown. Furthermore, each provides significant opportunities to demonstrate where we as a community stand when we have to prioritize competing values.

In the current towing discussion, the Town Council heard from citizens who believed that there is predatory towing. They also heard from those in the towing business who told their version of the story. So how do you balance the interests of the small business owners and not discourage people from coming downtown? No matter how you slice it, some will never be satisfied with whatever compromises our leaders implement, but whatever they decide, they will have to prioritize some value over another.

Some would be happy to require businesses to open their lots at night instead of towing those who purposely or not ignore the private property – no parking signs. Others think people should have to take responsibility for their illegal parking choices and pay for it. Where’s the balance point for you? For me, I oppose predatory towing practices and I oppose people parking wherever the desire. I want a vibrant downtown. I want us to do what’s right for everybody, and that’s the rub; just what is right?. What do you say?

Thursday, February 7, 2008


All of the faithful and loyal Carolina fans just knew that we would beat Dook last night. After all, it's just the way things in the world are suppose to be. When Dook comes to "our house," they are just required to have a long, painful and quiet ride those eight miles back up 15-501, reflecting in their loss and secretly wishing that they could have stayed in town to enjoy the celebrations on Franklin Street. Rumor has it that you'll find lots on Dookies on Franklin street anyway, as they have to come to us to party.

The odds-makers had Carolina by 6 points. How were they to know that our shooting would go cold, our defense would be sub-par, and we would make too many turnovers? They knew Lawson would not play, but they had UNC winning anyway. And it should have been as it should have been - we should have won!

Alas, we didn't! But March 8th is coming and we will beat them Dookies on their floor. That's why we play the game!

Monday, February 4, 2008


I don’t know how much money was lost yesterday because of the Super Bowl victory of the Giants over the Patriots, but I suspect that the upset involved a lot of money. Super Bowl XLII (BTW, do people really know their Roman numerals anymore?) was supposed to complete the Patriot’s “perfect season.” The Patriots even trademarked the line and variations on it to ensure they controlled the market for using it.

As a Giants fan, I was happy and had said in the weeks leading up to the game that the stats don’t really mean much more than what they are – stats; that’s why we play the game! If you were to fall for the hype, the Giants should have just sat at home and forfeited. Over and over, the media hype concluded that the so-called “greatest team ever” could not loose this game (another clue about the betting line being what it was!).

But it’s not just football’s Super Bowl and other sporting contests where this is a problem. Political contests are victims of the same kind of thinking. Phrases like “it’s a sure thing,” he or she is a “lock,” “no one can beat him or her,” “not worth the money to try to run,” and "they just isn't able to win" are all part of our political dialogue. Why bother having the election if all this so-called expert data is so accurate?

We have seen this problem already this year in the primaries, and of course, tomorrow’s Super Tuesday falls prey to the same thinking. Studies have shown that these reports in the media really do affect people. Why bother registering or voting, the winner is a foregone conclusion, some may believe. My one vote can’t change the outcome, others may complain.

Yet repeatedly, like last night’s Super Bowl, we are reminder why we play the game. Data is not supreme. We play the game because the underdog can in fact win. Human behavior is not and never has been a done deal. Stuff happens and underdogs do win. All sorts of things might explain why this happens, but it can never happen if we don’t accept this simple position – play the game and see who wins! Don’t let “them” tell us who the winner is! Let the efforts of the competitors answer the question, not the green eyeshade data manipulators!

Play the game!