Wednesday, November 28, 2012

CHARITY (A WCHL Commentary)

Thanksgiving has come and gone and of course, we witnessed even more hype this year over holiday shopping with some stores opening on Thanksgiving Day.  Apparently, the economy is picking up, as we read about record sales supporting what we now call the “season of giving.”  Yes, ‘tis the season to give and yes, we are very giving people.  But I think there are some who give all year long who we don’t thank enough and that is our local businesses.    

We are truly blessed in our community with businesses small and large who give back in ways that many of us simply take for granted.  The support to the community by businesses may not be well known to all but the recipients of their largess are truly appreciative.  From hotels and restaurants to small family businesses, they, and all those in between support the schools, churches, charity groups and even individuals in need.  Of course, they do charitable giving to groups and causes because they care about their community, and are able to do so because of the support they receive from us consumers.  

 So in this season of giving and throughout the year, let’s remember our local businesses, and what they do for our community.  And we can help them by remembering that they need our support for them to continue to support us. Yes, let’s be thankful that we have such generous and caring businesses in our community and show that we care by acting like we care. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

THORP (A WCHL Commentary)

On September 21st, we went up to campus to attend the noon rally that was billed as an effort to persuade Holden Thorp to stay on as chancellor.  We didn’t go thinking that a grand plea had any chance of getting him to change his mind, but we went because we felt the show of support would lift his spirits and let the entire Thorp family know how so many felt. 

We stood there with our “Thank-You Chancellor Thorp” stickers among hundreds and hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alums and townsfolk, and we felt a lot of excitement, enthusiasm, and energy that came from the crowd that surrounded us.  There were people leaving messages on a roll of butcher paper that ran down the sidewalk, people with signs like the clever one that said “Keep Holden On,” and most impressive of all, the speakers from all sectors of the university and community who made the case why the resignation was wrong for Carolina.  

 I respect Chancellor Thorp’s decision and I accept his rationale.  Moreover, I also understand that leaders have to make the decisions that are best from them and their family.  I now wonder, given the environment that Chancellor Thorp had to operate in over the last couple of years, who we will find to lead UNC in this new normal and under the conditions that seem toxic enough to challenge the very best and most talented leaders.  

 I’m hopeful that we will find the right woman or man to lead us forward, and if we’ve learned nothing else, we know that the leader we get will not be able do it alone.Who will help?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


We were recently on Interstate 40 East, returning to Chapel Hill from the Hendersonville-Ashville area. About the time we started to climb up into the Pisgah National Park, the sky opened up and a torrential rain peppered us.  I had the wipers on the fastest setting and even so, it quickly grew difficult to see.  I noticed that at least a quarter of the cars going west and those passing me had no lights on, creating an even more unsafe situation.   

About the time we reached the bottom of the mountain the rain let up, but my anger didn’t.  Just what is the problem with these drivers who put others at risk?  Is it a case of not knowing that the law requires you to turn your lights on when operating your wipers?  Common sense ought to tell you that!  But what about those who know and for whatever reasons, just don’t do it?  But worse yet, what about those who really don’t know or don’t remember the rules required to get their driver’s license?  Those who just don’t know things like the “lights on” rule might also be unaware of other important things that they should know, and their ignorance can affect not just them, but the rest of us too.   

I’m not sure how we upgrade our civic education and do better to enhance the transmission of critical information in this information age, but clearly, there’s enough antidotal evidence that we have a lot of work to do to ensure people are aware of just basic stuff, not to mention the nice to know stuff. Just drive around Chapel Hill when it’s raining and note the lights that are out! Love to hear some solutions!  

NOTE: After this commentary was recorded, the N&O did a piece on this topic and offered some reasons why the law isn't working. Read it here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


When the votes were counted in the May 8th primary, we learned that our Town Council member Penny Rich had won one of the two primary spots on the democratic ballot. Barring a successful write-in vote, Rich should be elected on November 6th and take her new office in December. After the vacancy is declared, the Council will accept applications, possibly interview candidates, and make a selection. 

Of course, there is already a variety of opinions as to who should be selected by the Council to serve out the remainder of Ms. Rich’s term that expires in December 2013. That’s to be expected, but I really am troubled when I hear someone say that the Council should appoint a woman to replace Ms. Rich. The argument is that over 53% of the Town is women and only having two women instead of three on the Council is something that should concern us. 

 My opinion is that we should exam the applicants and select the woman or man who is best qualified to serve on the Council. That should be the only criteria, who can best serve us, but we know historically that a person appointed to the Council usually has an advantage if they decide to run for a full term in the next election, so the appointment can have advantages. And a guy having a leg up in 2013 might be what the proponents of appointing a woman are concerned about. 

I think the Council ought to make their criteria for considering all of the applicants clearly known. Otherwise, they ought just to proclaim, “Men Need Not Apply!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

OUR TOWN (A WCHLCommentary)

Most may remember the old story about the stranger who arrives in town and asks a resident to tell him what kind of town it is.  The resident ask the stranger to tell him about the town he came from and the stranger replies, well people aren’t friendly, the gossip about each other, rarely take the time to listen to each other or work together in harmony.  The resident tells the stranger that the town is just like the one he came from.  The stranger thanks him and departs shaking his head.   

A few days later, another stranger asks the resident the same think and again, the resident asks the stranger to describe the town he’s from.  The strange says, well my town is full of warm and friendly people who come together to help each other, work hard to address their challenges together, and are as civil as any people you’ve ever met.   The resident tells the stranger that the town is just like the one he came from and the stranger goes away smiling.   

All during the public input phase of Chapel Hill 2020, it was possible to hear a variety of descriptions of our town.  And as the story illustrates, what exists in reality usually isn’t one end of the spectrum or the other.  The more that we are all involved in the life of our community, the more likely we will be able to tell a stranger who we are and what we are like.  Let’s be involved in helping to make our community what we would like it to be. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

OUR FLAG (A WCHL Commentary)

Today, June 14th is Flag Day.  It’s not a Federal holiday but a special day none the less.  In a time in our nation’s history where people wrap themselves in the flag as a way to advance their agenda, the importance of our flag can get lost in that kind of posturing.  Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on June 14th, 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress.   
The first public proposal for a Flag Day was made in the June 1886 when, Bernard Cigrand wrote his articles, “the fourteenth of June” emphasizing the need for an observance of a national Flag Day. His efforts finally paid off when the President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation in 1916 that recognized June 14 as Flag Day.  But it was in August 1949 when this day became official for the very first time when the President Harry Truman signed the legislation passed by Congress declared June 14 as Flag Day.  In some communities, parades are held in honor of Flag Day and some communities place emphasis on the proper display and treatment of our flag.   

The great George Cohen honored the flag in song, so on Flag Day it’s good to remember his words:
You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.

Let’s honor our flag everyday!

Thursday, May 31, 2012


I am really proud of our Town Council, as well as our Town Manager and all of the town staff who made an amazing thing happen at the meeting on Wednesday, May 30th. Our Council by a unanimous vote authorized the Town Manager and Town Attorney to develop and execute agreements in support of an economic development initiative to create a small business incubator/joint working space at 321 W. Rosemary St. to attract startup companies looking to work with others in a collaborative atmosphere.

The economic development initiative arose when 3 Birds Marketing, a local marketing firm, outgrew its current space on Rosemary Street and needed new space to accommodate their future growth. Key to the plan is 3 Birds’ relocation to Franklin Street and their use of the new public parking lot on Graham Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and during other hours, the parking lot would be open to anyone. Sounds complex? Yes, it is, and that’s why I’m proud of our council for being willing to move in unfamiliar territory and take a risk to keep a business, and in partnership with Orange County and UNC, create a space to help incubate new businesses.

We will see a cash contribution from 3 Birds and they will engage in mentoring. This is exactly what we discussed in Chapel Hill 2020, and when we are successful in growing new businesses, we will benefit from the taxes that they will pay. I believe we are moving in a very positive direction, and as many of you have heard me say here on WCHL, “Chapel Hill economic development; open for business to business!”

Friday, April 6, 2012


I suspect the entire country knows by now that the Chapel Hill Town Council voted 5 to 4 to ban all cell phone use while operating a vehicle.  Prior to making this decision they heard plenty about why this isn’t a god idea, but they did it anyway.  It appears that logic and common sense was trumped by the desire to be the first to have such a law, even if it was uncertain that they stood on firm legal ground to do this.   

This action is also troubling because our police officers now have an even harder job.  If they stop someone and cite him or her for this secondary offense, the exceptions, discriminatory, counter-productive, and illogical as they are, will probably be used to get out of a ticket.  What’s the officer to do to prove that someone’s untruthful, snatch the phone and review the call history?  What about our many visitors?  This “only in Chapel Hill only law” will confuse them.   

Bottom line is that this unenforceable law will lead to less respect for the law, and it’s not clear that it has any chance of affecting the serious problem of distracted driving.  Many people will continue to drive while talking on their phones, and they will feel smug about doing so if some court throws it out.   

The five in the majority didn’t want to wait for the General Assembly to act, nor were they willing to wait to learn how much their education plan might actually cost the taxpayers.  If you respect our citizens, our police officers, and our visitors, is this a way to show it?  I think not.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


 I wasn’t at Town Hall on Monday, February 20th but I watched the proceedings from the comfort of home.  Too bad what I heard didn’t make me very comfortable.  I appreciated the emotional and heartfelt comments from those who want the Town of Chapel Hill to be the first jurisdiction in North Carolina to ban the use of cell phones while driving.  I get that driving while distracted is not conducive to the safe operation of a moving vehicle, and I also get that unsafe driving puts people at risk.
What I don’t get is how the proposed ordinance with various loophole exceptions solves the problem.  As a secondary offense, a police officer can only cite you for cell phone use if you are stopped for some other reason.  If that’s the objective, the fine of $25 isn’t much of a deterrent.  How will officers know if you were using a hands-free device?  I guess the officer can say your lips were moving, but do we want to place our officers in that position?   

The last thing we need is an ordinance that is overly difficult to enforce.  Moreover, we aren’t even sure that the proposed ordinance is legal.  I didn’t feel very reassured when I heard our Town Attorney say that he believed it could withstand a court challenge.  Of course that might mean we will have to spend money on another court case and surely, we have better things to do with our money.  Education is the key so let’s educate about all driving distractions and not pass an ineffective ordinance just to be able to brag that we were first.  Is there a disconnect here?  

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Boorish.  The word has several synonyms: rude, ill-mannered, impolite, coarse, rough, loutish, uncouth, crude, ignorant, base, and a few others that must be in the dictionary.  Why is it lately that we seem to have a spike in boorish behavior at sporting events?  Maybe I’ve been asleep during some Tar Heel events, but I just don’t remember hearing fans engaging in boorish behavior as we heard at the last two Tar Heel games.  Booing our Chancellor and our Governor when being introduced is just flat boorish, and all of those other words I mentioned above.  Nothing wrong with having issues with someone or even having a strong dislike for them, but it seems to me that we as fans attending a sporting event should be able to display the kind of decorum that is associated with class.  Sure, the booers were a small minority, but I wonder what those potential recruits thought when they heard the booing last Saturday.  And I wonder what young people in the Dean Dome learned as they heard some of their elders being childish.  Here we are in each case honoring folks who really deserve it and yet the proponents of rudeness mar it.  There’s a school up the road that has a bad rep because of the boorish behavior of their students during basketball games.  Do we want to be known as the place where adults just aren’t? 
PS:  For those who will want to remind me that people have the right to engage in boorish behavior and many other things, I know that.  I also know that everything we have a right to do isn’t necessarily right to do.