Carrboro Supports Free Speech on Buses

Damon Seils's picture

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen tonight voted unananimously to support freedom of speech on Chapel Hill Transit buses. Alderman Dan Coleman introduced the resolution:

Whereas, a constitutional right to freedom of speech is meaningless without forums within which to exercise it, and

Whereas, public forums are being diminished in the United States as a result of privatization and increasingly restrictive policies at all levels of government, and

Whereas, the Town of Carrboro has a long tradition of broadly supporting the opportunity for and exercise of free public discourse,

Now, therefore, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen affirms its support for policies that create a public forum and support the exercise of First Amendment rights within the Chapel Hill Transit system.

Earlier this week, in an e-mail to activists Miriam Thompson and Peggy Misch, Coleman emphasized the importance of the Chapel Hill Town Council seeking direction from the transit partners committee.

The Town Council appears to have entered new ground here which I am trying to clarify. Technically, according to the agreement, the Transit Partners make "reports and recommendations" on transit policy to the Town Council. In practice, for the seven years I have served on the committee, the Partners have set policy which has been rubber-stamped by the [Town Council]. To be consistent with this practice, [Chapel Hill] should not have had a forum on this but should have referred it immediately to the Partners for consideration of the policy. ... So, the questions are: does the Town Council wish to appropriate the decision-making role on this or are they referring it to the Partners for that purpose? If they are only asking for comment, is it from the committee or from the respective bodies? If they do want comment, how would that pertain to the ultimate decision?

At this evening's meeting, Coleman confirmed that the Town Council is awaiting input from the committee. It is unclear how the committee's input will shape the Town Council's final decision.

 

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5 Comments

Dan Coleman's picture

Collaboration and partnership have been key

If you watch the Town Council discussion from Nov 5, Jim Ward and Ed Harrison (reps to the Partners Committee) stressed the importance of partnership, collaboration, and consensus-seeking among the transit partners. There is a very strong collaborative culture in place and it could be problematic to unsettle it regardless of de jure authority.Let me add that in our  participation on the committee Lydia and I represent the entire board and sometimes need to refer back to the BOA for direction. This has been true for Ed, Jim (and Matt C.) as well. 

Ed Harrison's picture

How this became an issue

It seems to have been lost in the mists of recent history, that the Town Council's consideration of the "bus ads" issue is due to a petition to the Council from an area resident, Adam Goldstein, which was received (and referred to staff)  on September 12 (the first meeting since June). It received some comments then from the public.The formal staff response to the petition occurred on October 11. Dr. Goldstein's petition, correspondence from the ACLU, and other writings are contained in the Council agenda packet, which can be found at:  http://chapelhillpublic.novusagenda.com/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=171&M...That packet also contained the draft version of the ad policies, developed in Spring 2011 for consideration of allowing exterior ads (which cost much more than interior ads). There was nothing about that version to flag it as the draft, since it wasn't labeled as such.  Dan asked me around then why the approach by citizens had been to the Chapel HIll Council (rather than to Carrboro's Board) , and my response was,  it isn't called Carrboro Transit.  The fact that the name Chapel Hill is on the buses is, I fully believe, the reason that the petition came to the CH Council.  There is clearly interest among Carrboro residents (and Aldermen) in the issue, and there should be. The Council does feel under pressure to resolve this before the holiday break, for a number of reasons. As the Mayor Pro Tem who ran the last discussion, I felt obliged to delay the item's final consideration until the three absent members could express their viewpoints (one had asked for this). I also felt obliged to respond to interest from Carrboro and UNC reps on the Transit Partners committee to have a discussion. Had I been in town to attend that body's October meeting, I would have advocated for beginning that discussion then.  Dan has asked Mark Kleinschmidt for a response on how this should handled in view of the Partners' interest. I have not yet seen a response.  Ed Harrison

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Kudos, Dan

Through Chapel Hill 2020, the Yates debacle, this, and other important issues in the past few years, most of my elected representatives in Chapel Hill seem to be worried about very different things than I am.