Thursday, December 29, 2011

A NEW YEAR (A WCHL Commentary)

This is Fred Black.  With the coming of a new year, some follow the tradition of making resolutions that are intended to guide our behavior or motivate us to again try to do things we said we would do in the last year but didn’t do.  It’s pretty obvious that most who engage in this practice don’t do a very go job of making the resolutions a reality, but we still start the new year with the best of intentions.  One of the important things that will happen in 2012 that will have a significant impact on our local community is the comprehensive plan.  The Town’s 2020 Chapel Hill process is designed to include as many voices as possible, indicating what they would like our town to look like in the coming years.  There are themes covering a variety of issues and all have been invited to share their opinions.  There have been three discussion sessions and more are to come.  A lot has been written about the feeling that some have about the feeling that not all of the voices that need to be included are present.  We need this process to include everyone so that all points of view are considered.  Even if you can’t attend the meetings there is a website where opinions can be shared.  Just go to to learn more about the details, and go to  to read blog posts and to leave your own comments.  If you haven’t already participated, I hope you will include doing so a priority for 2012.  When the process concludes, wouldn’t it be great for you to say, We did a good job because the “we” included me.  This is Fred Black.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

PATIENCE, Part II (A WCHL Commentary)

In a commentary in March of 2008, I spoke about patience.  We had just experienced a horrific murder of an amazing , inspirational young woman who was the president of the UNC student body.  So here we are, 1 thousand, 3 hundred and 86 days later, and now after two convictions, justice has been served.  No it wasn’t like TV where there’s a crime, the police investigate, the perp is apprehended, the DA conducts the trial, and the jury comes to a decision, all in one hour, including commercials.   

Yes, the search for justice for Eve Carson took over 3 years and 9 months, but justice was served when the jury came back with a guilty on all charges verdict.  I think the jurors did a great job, as did Judge Baddour, DA Jim Woodall and his staff, and all of the law enforcement leaders and agencies who were involved.   

Some still might wonder why this case took on the life that it did and has so much emotionalism associated with it.  I think we were shaken to our core because we just couldn’t believe that someone would come into the community with the express purpose of committing a crime and end up murdering the victim.  Our disbelief was obvious back in March of 2008 and we realized our personal security was as fragile as it was.  Those things just didn’t happen here …., or so we thought.  

 So the verdict might bring some comfort and closure to the family, friends and all who live here, but we still must remember, we do live in the real world, and one where we do see that in this case, justice was served.  May the same be true in all cases.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

VETERANS DAY 2011 (A WCHL Commentary)

11/08/11 was Election Day and in many communities throughout our nation, citizens exercised one of our most cherished rights and voted.  Of course, some exercised their right not to vote.  In either case, Americans were adhering to an honored tradition.   
At 11/11/11/11, that is at the 11th hour of the 11 day of the 11 month of this year, 2011, all across our nation we will pause to remember and honor all who served, both the dead and those living, who served honorably in wartime and peacetime.  Remember Election Day?  We can exercise our rights – or not, because of what generations of veterans have done to keep our nation free.   

Today, we have many of our veterans hurting, they are unemployed, suffer tremendous health issues and feel that our nation has not cared for them as promised.  George Washington told us many years ago "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."  I shudder to think about a future where our young people are no longer willing to serve.  

Fortunately, those from our community and others like ours are willing to put their lives on hold, leave their loved ones, and sacrifice while serving all of us.  It’s nice when someone says “thank you for your service, but it’s even nicer to know that we will honor our commitments to our veterans and appreciate them.  Demand that our elected leaders at every level of government take proper care of our veterans.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Every time I think I can’t be surprised or shocked by something in a political campaign I’m proven wrong. When I first read the flyer attributed to the Wolff for Mayor campaign committee that warns parents that their kids will be assaulted, molested, kidnapped or killed in the park if the IFC facility is built near Homestead Park, I was first disappointed, than angered that anyone running for office would choose hate, fear and scare tactics like in that flyer to get a few votes.

Citizens in Chapel Hill would not fall for this I thought, then someone told me the other night that plenty of people agree with the flyer’s sentiment. Let’s hope not and let’s hope that people don’t believe that electing one person can reverse town policies. This kind of campaigning is just wrong and unnecessary.

Reflecting on this caused me to remember a bit of Native American wisdom.

A Grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt. He said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart.
One wolf is the vengeful, jealous, angry, violent one.
The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one."
The grandson asked him, "Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?"
The grandfather answered, "The one I feed."

I just don’t believe people in Chapel Hill are confused about what’s right for this community and we will not support hate and fear. Please vote and encourage others to vote too.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Wow!  Sunday we celebrated Festifall on Franklin Street and what an amazing event it was!  Big thanks to all of the Parks and Rec staffers, other town staff members, volunteers, the entertainers, and all of the folks who operated booths.  The weather was beautiful, the booths offered all sorts of arts and information, ant there were events for kids of all ages.  The entertainment was varied and appealed to a variety of tastes.   

The four hours we spent walking around and talking to friends and neighbors was just plain fun.  It was good to see some of the Franklin Street businesses open and they seemed to be attracting customers.  I have two observations though that I want to throw out.  First, it didn’t seem that the street was as crowded as it has been in prior years.  I don’t know if there is attendance data available that can confirm or refute my observation, but it would be good to find out.  Second, there just didn’t seem to be as many Chapel Hill citizens participating as I would have hoped.  Nothing scientific about this observation either.   

It’s great that visitors come to support our event, but where were the people of Chapel Hill?  It just seems to me that since we only have one street event a year, we would support it.  I would hope people would come to a downtown event that they pay for and I hope they harbor no negative impressions of our downtown.  I don’t know if that’s relevant in this case, but it would be great if we supported the Town, the staff and volunteers through our participation.  Festifall was a ball!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Of all of the thoughts that I might have today, doing away with Division I athletics at UNC is not one of them. I will let others build their arguments to support their desire to throw in the towel to excise what they consider an evil so awful that the only solution is expunging it all together. Sure, there are problems from time to time in an intercollegiate sport, but the solution is not to quit. When faced with a challenge, the solution is to use our collective brainpower to solve the problem.

Quitting is contagious and habit forming. Once you learn to quit it is so much easier to do it when you face the next challenge. Therefore, I’ll be in Kenan Stadium on Saturday cheering on the Tar Heels. I will applaud those men who are out on the field representing our university, as they learn about life and living, lessons that reinforce what they learn in the classroom and lessons that enhance their character development, personal growth, and mental toughness. Quit the ranks of Division I Football? Not a chance.

I hope our community rallies around our team, this program, and our University leadership as we begin this new season, and let’s not forget about being great hosts to the fans that will pour in to our community and be a major component of our economic well-being. Being active fans and supporters does not mean that we ignore what needs to be fixed to make us better or that we condone bad behaviors; it means that we won’t quit in the face of challenge.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A Way to Serve

I heard a news report the other day that Orange County wanted people to know that there were vacancies on some of their boards and commissions and they wanted people to apply. With over 40 different boards and commissions that provide opportunities to serve, citizens have an opportunity to bring their skills, knowledge, abilities, and common sense to a wide range of issues and make recommendations to the County Commissioners.

As of early August, the county was looking for almost 80 people to serve. Chapel Hill also relies heavily on citizen volunteers to serve on the over 20 boards and commissions that they appoint people to. As of July, they had almost 30 appointments they needed to make. Carrboro lists 29 boards and commissions and they too are looking for a few good citizens. Each of the governments provides information on the positions and have their applications online.

I think service in this way is meaningful and really does contribute to our towns and county. Making recommendations as a board or commission doesn’t mean that the elected officials will accept that recommendation but it does mean that you and your fellow members provided input.

Let’s hope that enough citizens will volunteer and fill all the vacancies and continue this significant tradition of public service. And let’s also hope that our elected leaders will appoint the right people for the right reasons.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fireworks! (A WCHL Commentary)

One of the wonderful things that the Internet allows us to do is to keep up with things while you are traveling. While away, I read that the Chapel Hill News gave the Town “Raspberries” for what they called a “shortsighted decision to do away with the July 4 celebration and fireworks show this year.”

We happened to be in Indianapolis, Indiana for the 4th and we had the pleasure of viewing two firework displays. The first followed a great minor league baseball game and it was a delightful display of good old time 4th of July fireworks. About the time that show ended, another one began in the downtown area. This display was the end of a series of events held downtown to celebrate the 4th, and the fireworks launched from the roof of the Regions Bank building were truly spectacular.

A local resident told us that the year before the celebration was close to being cancelled because of funding, but Regions Bank and others in the business community stepped up and made it happen.

When I read about the “Raspberries” given to the Town, I wondered why we seem to think that only the Town is responsible for the fireworks display. Maybe the Chapel Hill News could sponsor the display, or bring other civic-minded businesses together to sponsor our fireworks. Other communities seem to make this happen as we witnessed in Indianapolis, so why not here. I think a new sponsorship model could make this an even bigger and more popular community event!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Now that the period to file for the 2011 election has ended, we know who will be on the November ballot. In Carrboro, the mayor is un-opposed and four people, including two incumbents are running for three aldermen seats. In the school board election, seven people, including three incumbents are running for the four, four-year seats and one person is running for the two-year seat. Now in the Chapel Hill election, we have three running for mayor, including the incumbent and nine running for the four Council seats, including three incumbents. I think back in 2001 we had 10 running for the Council and 12 in 2003, so this might be as interesting as those elections were.

These are important times at all levels of government, and clearly, elections matter. Just because we also know that the campaign time can easily be referred to as “silly season,” that’s no reason for us to tune out. Thus, I really perked up the other day when I heard the “What You’re Saying on the Street” segment. People were asked if they followed the news surrounding local elections and if they were interested in local politics. Some answered affirmatively and explained why they follow local politics while some of our citizens indicated that they were just too busy, just not interested or elections just didn’t affect them that much.

Well, now is the time to get interested, so learn about the issues and the candidates, and register if you aren’t already. You have to be a citizen who votes. So come on people, elections do affect each one of us, so get informed and act as if our future depends on who is elected, because our future does.

Friday, June 10, 2011

OUR FUTURE (A WCHL Commentary)

This is a time of celebration and happiness for parents, family, and friends of our newest local high school graduates. From all indications, the Class of 2011 has done very well and many have been accepted to attend colleges in North Carolina and elsewhere. We should all be proud of their accomplishments. But we must also realize that every member of the Class of 2011 will not be attending a college or university. Some will be looking for gainful employment right here in Orange County. When they can’t find it, they will venture out elsewhere to find that elusive job.

Why should our high school educated children be our county’s largest export? We need jobs that will keep our children here and jobs that will allow those who obtain other degrees to come back home and work and live. That’s why it’s so important that we get busy with economic development. Like everything else, it costs money and there not a lot of it readily available right now.

To help fund economic development, we will have a quarter cent sales tax increase on the ballot in November. It failed by a narrow margin last time it was on the ballot, so now is the time to learn about the proposal and get folks behind it. Some of the money will also help with capital projects in the two school systems. Both of these endeavors are truly a case of we pay now or we will pay a lot more later, so we really should do this.

Do we really want to keep exporting our educated kids?

Friday, May 6, 2011

MOTHER’S DAY (A WCHL Commentary)

I guess it would be easy to assume that our Mother’s Day that we celebrate on Sunday is one of those greeting card company creations, but that’s just not the case. Its early history can be traced to the efforts of Ann Jarvis and women’s peace groups who came together to celebrate their sons who fought and died while wearing the blue and the gray during the Civil War.

Mother's Day as we know it today was established by Anna Marie Jarvis, following the death of her mother Ann Jarvis, on May 9, 1905, with the help of Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker. West Virginia made it an official holiday in 1910, and the rest of states followed quickly. On May 8, 1914, the U.S. Congress passed a law designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day and the next day President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother's Day as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war.

Nine years after the first official Mother's Day, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become and she spent all her inheritance and the rest of her life fighting what she saw as an abuse of the celebration.

In our modern tradition, we celebrate Mother’s Day as a time to honor our mothers and pay tribute to them for all that they have done. So let’s express our love and thanks to our mothers, and remember those who, though no longer with us, still inspire us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

2011 ELECTION: GET READY (A WCHL Commentary)

Can you believe how fast 2011 is flying by? Before you know it, it will be May Day, then Memorial Day, and much too soon it will be the 4th of July and Labor Day. Then we will go to the polls on November 8th. Filing begins on July 1st at noon and ends on July 15th, so we will know who the candidates are for the Chapel Hill Town Council, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the local school board, and we already know that the quarter cent sales tax will be on the ballot.

So why am I bringing all of this up now? Simple! I believe that our democracy flourishes when we have an informed and involved electorate. There are plenty of ways to be involved but being informed is hard work. And if you believe recent polling data, many say they don’t vote because they don’t know about the candidates or the issues on the ballot.

Now is the time to pay attention to the various issues on the agenda of the three bodies that will be on the ballot. Some of the candidates will be incumbents, so pay attention to them as they address the complex issues that they must decide in the coming months. Ask yourself how you would resolve the issues. Who knows, it might even motivate you to stand for election. Chapel Hill has the mayor and four of eight council seats, Carrboro has the mayor and three of six seats, and the school board will elect people to five of the seven seats.

Sorry Impressions, but “People get ready, there’s an election coming, you don’t need to bring no money, you just get informed and vote!”

Monday, March 28, 2011


Driving down Estes extension the other day I saw a group of good folks on both sides of the road filling orange trash bags with litter. Then I read about the 70 volunteers who cleaned up in the Rogers Road area, collecting just over 1 ton of trash and just short of 2 tons of material that can be recycled. Traveling around our town and state, I compare us to other places I visit and it’s very obvious that we have a littering problem.

Let’s be honest, we have some slobs who lack pride and concern for the rest of us and the environment. This behavioral problem costs all of us. I know we have anti-littering laws and that there are fines, but it sure appears that it is not much of a deterrent. We spend millions of Department of Transportation dollars cleaning up and many volunteers invest a lot of time and energy picking up this stuff others throw down.

Why? What can we do to encourage people to dispose of their trash properly? What can we to instill the civic pride that would make talking about this unnecessary? We are at the point where something has to happen. Would it help if we make this a topic of community conversation and emphasis and increase our education efforts? Any solution has to start with us and I hope that we can give voice to this real problem and all get behind solving our littering problem.

Talk trash as you support our Tar Heel teams but don’t throw your trash down!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

GO HEELS! (A WCHL Commentary)

Saturday night, March 5th, was a special night in these parts. Yes, the UNC men’s basketball team soundly defeated the Blue Devils at home after losing to them at Duke back in February. It was also Senior Night and Coach Williams followed his normal practice of starting all of his seniors, even though none had ever started before. After playing 95 seconds, they turned over a 3-0 lead to the 1st string. This surely was a risky decision in so important a game that would decide the ACC regular season champion, and as special as it was, to me it wasn’t the most special thing. To me, what was most special was that we witnessed hard work, determination, and perseverance paying off.

Much of the best of what we hope will come from intercollegiate athletics is reflected in that victory. Remember the last season and how much disappointment there was with the team? Remember the early part of this season and how every critic could pinpoint with laser-certainty all the ills of the team and their lackluster prospects? Well coach Williams took two freshmen, two sophomores, and a junior who had never played a complete season and drew on their big-time hearts and abilities, and did the same with bench players and produced a solid winning team. Well-documented adversities didn’t hold them back; they became champions by drawing on their sheer determination and commitment to hard work.

We don’t know what will happen from this point on but we should be proud to have this team in our community reflecting the best of what athletics should be about.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


It appears that a plan to relocate the Chapel Hill Public Library to University Mall is now unlikely to happen. I assume that this means that we will proceed with the original plan to use the bond money to build an addition on the current facility and operate temporarily out of U-Mal during the construction.

This was an interesting process that engaged many people and with varying opinions. But what did we learn from the process? First, it’s very clear that people in Chapel Hill are very passionate about their library, and from the letters, and other comments, they care where it’s located. Some like the current sylvan setting; some thought the mall would be more assessable, and others were on the fence. Second, it’s clear that whenever we have something like this come up, those who see a conspiracy in everything will be heard from. There were any number of conspiracies bandied about and as you would expect, some people believed them. Third, we should value that the manager and staff followed an analytical process to evaluate the proposal and that our Council let them work the process.

The possibility that the decision would be based on emotions or private business interests or anything other than what is the best use of our money did concern some people, but that was not how it played out. Last, I think we should have learned that the process we follow to make a decision is critical, and the more open it is and the more we deal with facts and not conjecture, the better our decisions will be. Now let’s get busy building our library addition.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


One of the things the President said in his recent State of the Union address was that the future is ours to win. I think that sentiment is just as true in our local community. Just look at the full plate that we have, everything from IFC Community House controversy, expanding the library or moving to U Mall, a new comprehensive plan and enhancing our downtowns --- to managing the budget crisis at all levels, fighting unemployment, increasing the stock of affordable housing, picking a new school superintendent, and meeting the growing demand for all sorts of social services.

So if all of this and much more is on the road to our future, what do we need to do to win? I think a few of the thing that we can do are not very difficult. We can get informed about the issues that concern us and use that knowledge. We can participate in a variety of ways, for example, by applying to serve on boards and commissions and even by running for office. We might also speaking before government, write letters, attend meetings, and volunteer with organizations that have interests we share. But being informed and involved is not enough; we must also have a commitment to civil discourse.

As Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said recently, we need to be civil and thoughtful as we work to solve the issues that face us. I think that more participation before decisions are made will make for better decisions and these better decisions can reduce the great divides we sometimes experience as we put decisions into action.