Tuesday, November 23, 2010


On November 22, 2010 the Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill Committee presented their petition to the Chapel Hill Town Council to create a memorial in Chapel Hill. The following is what was presented to the Council:

The Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill Committee Petition


The veterans of Chapel Hill and surrounding area have expressed an interest in a Veterans Memorial in the Town of Chapel Hill. The interest has grown and reached a point where it is necessary to return to the town council with a veterans’ memorial site recommendation.


On November 23, 2009, a petition was made by Jim Merritt, a Chapel Hill Town Council member, to create a Veterans Memorial in Chapel Hill. The petition was accepted by the town and sent to committee. There is no existing town memorial.

A committee was formed of local citizens and veterans groups’ representatives to consider options, possible location, and funding.

(See committee website at: http://www.chapelhillmemorial.org/)

In October 2010, a decision was made by the Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill Committee to recommend the use of Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery as the site for the memorial.

On November 10, 2010, the Committee presented a proposal to the Chapel Hill Cemetery Committee to site the veterans memorial at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery. The proposal was voted on and accepted.

The Cemetery Committee joins the Veterans Memorial Committee in this petition.

Memorial Site:

After reviewing several possible town locations and the acceptability, accessibility, and cost, the existing “memorial” plaza at the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery was selected as the most viable location. Changes to the existing site would include:

-Restoration of the existing cemetery memorial plaza to create a “go to” site at an entrance to Chapel Hill.
-Add flagpole, solar-powered lighting, a monument, seating, and landscaping.
-Modify existing walkways’ entrances.
-Solicit design proposals as part of a Master’s Program or Arts Council project.
-Rededicate the existing site as the town-sponsored site for annual Memorial Day commemoration (similar to UNC Chapel Hill’s ROTC sponsored Veterans Day event.

Financial Considerations:

Current Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation plans are for a programmed restoration of the core existing infrastructure.
Funding for an actual co-located veterans memorial would be from private, civic, and corporate donors.
Once the memorial is added to the existing plaza site and dedicated, maintenance and upkeep of the memorial site would continue under the sponsorship of the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department.

Petition Request:

The Veterans Memorial at Chapel Hill Committee, joined by the Chapel Hill Cemetery Committee, petitions the Town of Chapel Hill to approve the siting of the proposed memorial at the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery memorial plaza.

Submitted November 22, 2010

Colonel, US. Army (Retired),
Vietnam Veteran
Committee Chairman

Friday, November 12, 2010

VETERANS DAY 2010 (A WCHL Commentary)

As I went through our Sunday newspaper, I can’t say that I was surprised to see the ads encouraging us to take advantage of Veterans Day specials. I guess the best time to buy a mattress is November the 11th or on the holiday often confused with Veterans Day, May’s Memorial Day. Is this the best we can do?

Our County has a program on Wednesday the 10th at 10am in Hillsborough and the UNC ROTC units will have a ceremony at 11 o’clock on Thursday, and that's great. We have about 22 million veterans in the US and about 1.5 million are women. In North Carolina, we have nearly 800,000 and almost 8,000 in Orange County. If you add all of the VA payments and retirement checks from the Department of Defense paid in North Carolina, it’s amount one-fourth of the state’s total budget. This is all to say that veterans are a real presence in our state. But are we supporting them?

Many of our veterans have health issues; many need jobs and it’s estimated that some 23% of our homeless are veterans. Because of our two current wars, we are continuously adding veterans with severe disabilities. Many businesses are aggressively advertising s their support of veterans on Veterans Day, offering meals and other services. But what else can we do? A simple “thank you for your service to our nation” goes a long way, but what’s needed more is for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable for what is done to support veterans, and especially for those in great need.

Remember, a veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life. I am honored to be a veteran. Happy Veterans Day!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

SALES TAX, Part II (A WCHL Commentary)

OK, the dust is settling from the election and the good news is that we have once again shown what makes our American democracy so strong. The other good news is that those horrid campaign ads will no longer be on TV. I’m somewhat disappointed that the quarter cent sales and use tax was defeated by a little more than 1000 votes.

It’s not that I love to pay more taxes; I supported it because it was a better option than trying to raise the same funds from property taxes. The expected $2.3million would have helped us solve some serious issues. Opponents say the County Commissioners should cut their spending and do all of these things with the money they already get from us. Well that sounds very good and I hope that the citizens who line up at County budget hearings will remember that when they plead their case.

We are at the point where we will now do less with less and if for a moment I believed that there was even a tiny consensus on where we should cut spending, I would sure feel better. Services that some believe are critical will be cut. Programs that we have come to view as so necessary may have to go. Staff and things that make our County really special will clearly be impacted. OK, it’s great to say live with what we have, and of course, we should.

We will see how the residents of Orange County will react to trying to do all of the things we want done without raising taxes. One thing I can guarantee — it’s going to be a very taxing process.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SALES TAX (A WCHL Commentary)

Very soon, we will begin early voting and Election Day is November 2. Along with the normal ballot items there will be an opportunity to vote for a small increase in the County sales and use tax. Note that I said COUNTY. Yes, it will add a quarter of a cent to our current 7 and three quarters sales and use tax.

There may be some confusion out there; it doesn’t add a quarter to the current tax, it adds a quarter of one cent. Thus, we are talking about 1 penny on a $4 purchase or 25 cents on a $100 purchase. It will not apply to food or medicine and anyone who buys things in Orange County will pay. This is one of the reasons I support this small increase: it captures taxes from visitors and retains the dollars for Orange County priorities. Another benefit is that the dollars from the tax are already targeted.

Of the expected $2.3 million dollars raised, 42.5% ($975,000) will be spent annually on economic development and local job creation; another 42.5% ($975,000) will be spent annually to support Chapel Hill-Carrboro & Orange Co. Schools; and the remaining 15% ($345,000) will be spent annually on improving emergency services and libraries. All of this will cost the average consumer $20 per year. Doing this reduces the need for future property tax increases and it prohibits future Property Transfer Tax increase referendum.

Yes, I fully support this very small increase because of the very big things it will do to help our schools, the business environment, and services like EMS and libraries. Please vote in this election and please vote FOR this to support Orange County’s future

Thursday, September 2, 2010


It’s September again and you know this is the month that those government named big storms that come in alphabetical order love to visit us. If you watched any of the recent coverage of the Hurricane Katrina five year anniversary, maybe you were struck as I was with the number of people who said that they now regret their decision not to comply with the evacuation order and how they will never refuse to evacuate again. Maybe, maybe not.

The government mandates, requires, and directs many things, but we all know that some people are just not the complying types. Here in North Carolina the Governor has started a push to call attention to the need to be prepared for this busy and potentially dangerous storm season. Gov. Perdue has proclaimed September as Emergency Preparedness Month to encourage everyone to be disaster-ready at all times. Since I’ve lived here, hurricanes in 1996, 1999 and 2004 stand out as reminders of how devastating these things can be.

Yet in spite of all of the pleas to get prepared, some just won’t. I guess they believe that it just can’t happen here again or it won’t affect them. We all need an emergency plan, and an emergency kit. The state has a site up to help, www.readync.org. Lots of good emergency prep info is there, as well as several useful links. Hope is not a strategy, and as much as we might hope for no storms, we all still need to be ready if one does comes. Trite as is sounds, it’s still true that failing to plan is planning to fail.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Someone once said that our perceptions are reality. The problem, of course, is that it matters not whether our perceptions are factually based. Different people perceive different things about the same situation. But more than that, we assign different meanings to what we perceive and might even make things mean something else.

Chapel Hill’s downtown seems to be something that people perceived differently. Recently, there has been some attention paid to a criticism of our downtown by a UNC alum who also happens to be the mayor of another North Carolina city. Holding aside the breach of tradition in political circles where leaders don’t criticize other jurisdictions, the alum’s perceptions just don’t hold up to factual scrutiny. So why is it that so many think that we have a terribly low occupancy rate, no parking, unsafe streets, limited shopping and dining opportunities, or that one will face a host of unpleasant experiences if they venture downtown?

On the WCHL “Who’s Talking” show, I recently interviewed the executive director of the Downtown Partnership. He said that his professional peers would love to have our downtown and its extremely high occupancy rates, the retail mix, the cultural opportunities, and yes, a major research university as an anchor. Of course we have work to do to improve the downtown, but if more people ventured downtown I’m willing to bet many perceptions would change, and for the record, using the free valet parking on east and west Franklin is really a good deal.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


That we are in a very serious recession is no secret, nor should it surprise anyone that many of our citizens are great needs feel the recession in very painful ways. The great truth is that in a recession we tend to cut programs that help those with the greatest needs. Many governments start new budget years on July 1st and they will struggle to balance those budgets in the face of lower receipts from taxes and their other major income streams.

What’s interesting is something that seems to occur at all levels and it surprises me not that right here at the local level you see it as well: we as citizens have no problem at all holding two conflicting opinions at the same time. We do it all of the time! What you might ask are these opinions? One is that we want government to do more. The other is that we don’t want government to raise our taxes.

Something has to give folks! We can’t do it all. All of our wants and needs have price tags. We elect folks to make tough decisions and maybe they might feel better if they knew exactly what we wanted them to do. Right here locally we have a discussion going on. We talk about spending bond money to fund the town’s library expansion and some are upset that we are not spending tax dollars to fund a local museum that happens to be a non-profit privately owned.

What do we want to do with these tax dollars? What is our preferred outcome? Do we want to cut things that are being funded right now? Do we want to raise taxes? How can we continue to expect our elected leaders to make these decisions if we’re not sure what we want? What do you think we ought to do?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


On Sunday May 9th the Class of 2010 will graduate and go off to continue to do great things. It’s a bittersweet time, as we can be happy that all of their hard work led to an academic degree. But I hate to see them leave because of all they have done while in our community. Every time I talk to executive directors who run service and assistance programs in our community, I am struck by their comments about the significant role of UNC students.

Through structured programs and a host of unstructured ones, students are helping to strengthen that special fabric that is so critical to the essence of this community. They mentor, tutor, coach, , build, plant, dance, sing, research, lead, and organize, all to make the community where they are studying a better place. Since 2003, The Carolina Center for Public Service has a program to recognize what students have done in the classroom and as volunteers. There are 190 members of the Class of 2010 have been honored as Public Service Scholars, and there are hundreds and hundreds more who we should honor for all that they have contributed.

As Chancellor Thorp has indicated, public service is part of who Carolina is. Yes, whether through a structured program or not, let’s thank all who have rendered outstanding service while in our community; they have been great role models and great citizens. Yes, their leaving is bittersweet, but the good news is that the Class of 2014 will be here and pitching in as volunteers before you know it; after all, service to others is a Carolina tradition. GO HEELS!

Monday, April 12, 2010

THEY! (A WCHL Commentary)

All over the US and even at our local level, there appears to be a lot of disgruntlement with government these days. Some think governments are doing things they shouldn’t be doing and other are unhappy that governments aren’t doing some other things. Lots of finger pointing, heated debates and passionate anger. What’s interesting about all of this is that no matter what side is making their case, it’s clear who’s to blame for every single thing; it is “THEY.” Yes, “THEY” did it or didn’t do it, “THEY” are responsible.

I checked the phonebook, the voter rolls and even Google, and nobody named “THEY” pops up. So just who is “THEY?” Well, “THEY” are the ones who will have another opportunity to maintain or take control of things because “THEY” will vote in the election coming up. Sadly, primary elections in the spring don’t bring out many voters. In the 2006 primary, an election most like this year’s, a whopping 13% participated.

Never mind that in these primaries, we are choosing party candidates for the US senate and house, state officials, county commissioners, county sheriff, county school board members and other county positions as well as nonpartisan judges. One-Stop Early Voting Begins Thursday April 15th and ends Saturday May 1st. Primary Election day is Tuesday May 4th.

If you don’t vote, is it really fair to blame the “THEY” who did vote? Let’s face it; “THEY” should be “US.” If not, “THEY” will always be making the decisions for US.

Friday, April 2, 2010


On March 22d the Chapel Hill Town Council had a meeting. Nothing surprising with that, but this was a long meeting, a really long meeting. It went on for five and one-half hours. That’s right, it started at 7pm on Monday and ended at 12:35 am on Tuesday. That’s 335 minutes, or 20,100 seconds.

In other words, it went on for a long time! Why? Because there were lots of major things to discuss packed into the agenda, not to mention petitions and reports to the Council. There’s plenty wrong with meeting this long – any meeting over three hours is just wrong! The council members are not at their best, the staff has to still come to work in the morning, presenters have to sit through these things and waste a lot of their time, citizens tune out before the meeting is over, and worst of all, there may be some terrible decisions made by tired people.

I would encourage the Council and manager to take a hard look at their meeting agendas and work hard to keep them to three hours max, or better yet, two hours if possible. Sad to say, long meetings are real barriers --- a barrier for people who might want to serve on the council and still have a job, have a family or even want to have other activities in their lives. And it’s also a barrier to the public who wants to watch the process in real-time. We can and must do better!

Monday, February 22, 2010


Hero is a word that gets tossed about loosely a lot these days and many of people see sports stars, media personalities, and entertainers as heroes. But we seem to be confused at times about what a real hero actually is. Calling someone a hero ought to be reserved for very special usage, and for a extraordinary group in our community, it is.

On Valentine’s Day, WCHL had its Village Pride Awards luncheon to celebrate the men and women who were designated “Hometown Heroes” during 2009. Congratulations to these 250 selectees who were each honored for what they do right here in our community. My favorite definition of a “hero” is an ordinary person who does extraordinary things that benefit others. These people were selected because of the extraordinary things that they did in a whole host of endeavors to make our community an even better place to live.

Weekday mornings when I listen to the Pride Award segment, I’m just amazed by all of the different things these selectees from so many different segments of our community are doing to help others in so many different ways. The majority of these people are unknown to most of us, even though we might be familiar with the actions that got them nominated. They didn’t seek publicity for their actions; rather, those who nominated them thought that what they were doing was extra special.

When you listen to the Village Pride Award segment, you can’t help but conclude that real heroes actually do walk among us. If you know one, I bet the folks at WCHL would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

WHAT'S LOCAL? (A WCHL Commentary)

There’s has been a lot of discussion recently on what “local” means in classifying our business community. During the holidays, you probably saw the “BUY LOCAL” campaign, a way to keep our dollars at home. Buying locally makes a lot of sense, especially when many of the other ways that we could spend money dose absolutely nothing to help our local economic situation.

Then another face of the issue appeared when two members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen raised the issue about our local Chamber having state and nationally branded firms among the sponsors for its annual meeting. The problem to the aldermen is that the sponsoring corporations played a role in causing the economic crisis, contributes to global warming, and participated in domestic surveillance. As a Chamber member, I am not blaming the local entities for what others may have done. I’m very happy that some members of the Chamber agree to sponsor these events so that they are more affordable to the entire membership, and especially to us small business owners.

These state and nationally branded corporations operating locally in our community are good citizens; they participate in the life of our community, they hire local residents, their leaders live here, they pay local taxes and the give back to our community financially and in many other ways. I support them as good local corporate citizens and I will continue to do so until they don’t deserve support. Where do you stand?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


It's a new year and a new Council. I wish all of them well as they go about the difficult task of governing this opinion-gifted town. One of the things I hope our new mayor and council members work hard to do is to avoid mistakes of the past. Before former Mayor Kevin Foy left office, he did an interview on WCHL with Jim Heavner. Jim asked about defeats and Mayor Foy responded by stating that the biggest mistake was the renaming of Airport Rd. for Martin Luther King process because the Council didn’t do what it normally did, and that was to engage the public and having community dialogue before making a significant decision. When they backtracked and instituted a process, Mayor Foy said that there wasn’t a lot of trust.

Instead of learning from this mistake, the Council, he said, repeated it with moving forward with the health care debacle last year before getting community input. Since some of the key players in both mistakes are still on the Council, I hope that they don’t have to relearn this lesson once again. Conversation is surely time consuming and the process may even be frustrating, but as the Council says about the tedious development process, it produces a better outcome.

Keep that in mind, Town Council, as we are depending on you to do the right things for all of us. And just because you might not think something has a lot of interest to the community, give the community the chance to decide that.