Weekend omnibus

Almost every day I note a news story that I want to blog about here and save it for later (because I'm usually at work). This week, things have really piled up and if I waited until I had time to write a whole post about them, they wouldn't be news by the time I posted them. So here's a wrap up of some interesting stuff from this week...

Carrboro approved a 6-month moratorium on development in it's northern area, and Chapel Hill moved a similar proposal forward by establishing the Northern Area Task Force . Orange Chat has extended coverage of the Carrboro discussion. I can't help but wonder if our northern areas would have such problems if they were planned to have pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and connective-streets instead of cul-de-sacs, but the best we can hope for now is to avoid more of the same.

The County acknowledged that their search process was flawed, but went ahead with a decision to locate a new waste transfer station near the existing landfill on Eubanks Road. The next step will be approval (or not) by the Chapel Hill Town Council so let's see how that battle evolves...

The Orange County School System is considering merging two elementary schools that are separated by two blocks and a huge gap in test scores, while the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System identified a site for a 10th elementary school near the western end of Eubanks Road.

Police say Chapel Hill and Carrboro are experiencing an increase in gang violence, and Orange Chat discovers the nuances of graffiti, from street art to tagging.

A developer planning to build 1,100 new homes on the site of the quaint-but-decrepit Daniel Boone Village is only proposing 20 affordable units. Residents of a trailer park on the site and the Hillsborough Town Board are not pleased.

I was quoted in The Washington Post today about John Edwards online social networking strategy!

And last, but in no way least, UNC women's basketball team has made it to the Final Four. Will we take to Franklin Street if they win the championship game on Tuesday?


I haven't read any of the articles about gangs, just the Orange Chat blog piece. but I'm a little skeptical. How do the police know? And what do they know exactly? Is a lot of this activity just kids fooling around?

I think about the school system requiring transparent book bags, the ban on bandanas, and the cops putting out the alert to local schools when the Grateful Dead was here in the early 90's that they shouold watch out for tie-dye clad drug dealers around the playgrounds.

There's ample proof of reality-handicapped police & community understanding of human behavior, especially from people that are different from them. Plus the mix of fear & romance that gangs evoke - it makes a good story and gives the cops a definitive adversary.

I'm sure there's some fuck-ups out there that are dangerous and dabbling in gang behavior. But I bet there's also a lot of behavior that is being interpreted as portending the worst when it is just some kids messing around. Then there's the fact that the more you talk about it, the more you help manifest it.

Rudy, the County did not have a flawed search process for the the Transfer Station. They had no search process period. I am not able to understand if this was by omission or commission (by incompetence or by design).

Go Lady Tarheels!!!

The police did a great job last Sunday of laying out the local gang-activity evidence for us. They gave us the history of gang development in the US and illustrated how the two macro gangs (Folk Nation and People's Nation) have morphed into smaller, local gangs that use the same symbology. My notes from the presentation are online.

How do they know this is gang activity vs imitation? Because they've been tracking the signs--from graffiti to behavior in the schools to a couple of local incidents, like the shooting outside the bar last year in Chapel Hill. Based on the triangulation of data they provided, and the signs that I've seen in Carrboro, I am confident that they aren't stirring up trouble where none exists. What purpose would it serve them to falsify or exaggerate this anyway?

Would you prefer they ignore the problem, like we did with the landfill, and then deal with the bigger problem in a couple of years?

Daniel Boone Village is almost in my backyard -- apparently close enough for the town to send me a map of what's up because I'm within 500 ft. I would really like to see more shops in the area, but I'd hate to lose the shops already there. I don't like the idea of a DIck's or Michael's; I wish we could get a movie theater (please?) or an outpost of Southern Season, or other local businesses.

One girl they quoted in the news piece said she liked living here because "it's historic, and if you build new things, it won't be historic anymore." Maybe not, but why do so many people fear change? Planned growth is good. Sprawl is bad. Stagnation, however, is worst.

"What purpose would it serve them to falsify or exaggerate this anyway?"

Police exaggerate gang activity in order to secure more funding for anti-gang programs. Gangs, police and the media all have incentives to inflate the numbers.

I'm not saying our police do this, but I do agree with Ethan. A perfect example is how Pres. Bush exaggerated the threat in Iraq to justify his actions there. It's not always that nefarious, though. Every cash-strapped non-profit (and these days, government agency) has to make the strongest case possible to justify the funding they need to operate.

The motivation is there, but I also think the local police have presented some fairly compelling information to show that folks have moved from imitating gang style toward actual gang activity. It's worth watching...

"Police exaggerate gang activity in order to secure more funding for anti-gang programs. Gangs, police and the media all have incentives to inflate the numbers."

Why do they want to start anti-gang programs? What are the police incentives to inflate gang activity? New programming costs additional funds and takes more staff time. There is no financial incentive to start a new program unless it's 100% funded--which they rarely are.

This is similar to public health issues for me. We can deny the existence of an emerging problem for a variety of reasons. But if we don't take early action, the emerging problem has potentially devastating outcomes for individuals who are caught in the cross fires.

You are right on target, Terri. Folks need to talk to engaged and involved people in the Northern Virginia suburbs about their experiences. They will tell you the mistakes that they made in ignoring the growing influence of youth gangs and their recruiting success. One of their big mistakes was to assume that the social-economic status of their communities was not consistent with gang recruitment. Another mistake was to assume that the "wantabe" kids would not evolve into hard-core gang members. They will tell you that the high costs they paid to catch up could have been greatly reduced if they had spent more resources early on.

This all brings us back to an old issue in this community: who is offering teens and pre-teens what activities and where? Are we doing enough or will something like what gangs offer be more fulfilling?

We ignore this issue and actually believe that our police are exaggerating gang activity at our own peril.

PS: I will forgo any foreign policy and national politics references since the editor told us to keep it local.

One thing that would certainly help on this issue (as on so many where parental involvement is key), is for the Chamber of Commerce to launch a campaign to get its members (and others) to pay at least a living wage. This would obviously help parents which would obviously help children.

This would be the most constructive thing that the Chamber could do for the "achievement gap", affordable housing, gang-activity, and sustainability. Have they even seriously discussed such a fundamental move?

Mark, calling for a "living wage" is one thing, making it happen in this market economy without hurting those you are trying to help, as well as employers is another. If you have ideas on how to successfully do this, why not share them.

If only everything was as simple as we want it to be!

I've read the article now and I have to say it paints a grim picture of the police -- starting with the racist ranting of a homicidal Aryan Nation member, then invoking 9/11 and comparing gang members to terrorists! That's not really a useful rhetorical line to take, unless you're trying sow confusion and fear. Was that really a big part of their presentation at the gang forum, or maybe it's just the way Schultz wrote the article?

The police do have some more sensible things to say further down, although the Chapel Hill gang numbers are very vague -- 8 to 11 gangs, most with 5 to 10 members? What's their definition of a gang?

I'm not saying that gangs are not a real problem -- I've lived in some neighborhoods in Chicago where the Latin Kings were pretty active -- but I also see it as a real problem to allow the police to define and lead a community response to gangs.


My approach with my employees is to simply pay them a fair wage. I'm not getting rich, but at least I can sleep at night.

And I do te same. But our definition of "fair" and what the maket says it is creates a real problem.

So how do you want the Chamber to solve this market problem and get their members to define fair based on your definition of the term?

The "hurting those you are trying to help" line is the oldest argument in the book when it comes to wage increases. It is trotted out regularly by the US Chamber and their Republican allies in regard to the minimum wage. There is ample research refuting it (search the ACORN or AFL-CIO for starters, if you're interested).

But why not turn simply to the words and experience of Costco founder Jim Senegal. He told the Washington Post recently:

The more people make, they better lives they're going to have and the better consumers they're going to be. It's going to provide better jobs and better wages.

[It's good business sense says Sinegal.]

In my view, some of these industries that pay minimum wage are constantly turning their people over. They spend more on turnover than they would in paying the additional wages.

So the simple answer to Fred's question is that all the Chamber needs to do is adopt the Costco ethic and start advocating for higher pay for workers. Drop the paternalistic attitude that says "we'll watch out for your interests by keeping your wages down" and start paying a livable wage (around $15/hour for Orange County).

Costco is doing this successfully in a business where low wages are the norm. I haven't heard about any complaints from Costco employees in that regard. Surely, the smart members of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce can match or exceed Costco's achievement. Marcoplos construction apparently does so.

Let me add that the Chamber's report "Toward a Sustainable Community in Southern Orange County" considers wage levels to be a benchmark of "sustainable business practices."

Dan, Surprise.. I find myself agreeing with everything you said in your last post. It would be great to lure Costco into Carrboro or Chapel Hill. We all know that Carrboro could use the generated commercial tax revenue. And Costco has a social conscience.

How about your town government, Dan. Is every employee paid what they would call a "fair" wage? Does everyone make at least $15 an hour? If so, do they agree that $15 is fair?

A Costco in Chapel Hill or Carborro? If prior behavior is a good predictor of future behavior, then I don't think so! This is so easy to oversimplify.

I wrote a sidebar for the Independent on 11/9/05 that discusses these issues a bit more.

Fred - all but a few Carrboro staff are at or above the housing wage level. I met recently with our Town Manager and Personnel Director to review the pay grades and begin looking into how to bring the lower grades up to that level.

This is one of those discussions that drive me crazy! Of course everyone should receive a living wage. And I imagine most small businesses that don't have a big enough margin to afford to pay a living wage to adult workers feel awful. But if the cost of living here wasn't so high (and getting higher even for basic services), that small business owner might actually be able to pay a living wage. So which comes first--higher wages to cover the lack of affordability or attempts to achieve affordability that would reduce the burden on small business owners? To me this is a cause and effect problem. The cause is high cost of living and the effect is salaries that can't cover the cost of living.

Why is it only the Chamber of Commerce's responsibility to champion a living wage?

In addition Terri, governments who want to do right by their employees and pay a "fair" wage fund the increases the way they usually do, not by reducing other expenditures but by raising taxes on businesses and property owners. So when a small business has to let someone go in order to make ends meet, it's really the result of a fiction advanced by the US Chamber and their Republican allies.

It will be interesting to see what each of our local budgets look like this cycle and how much more we will all pay. Maybe some of our local officials will not accept the generous health benefits they receive so that those at the bottom of the pay scale can take home a fair wage.

Robert Jensen, an associate professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, will will speak tonight on "The Reality of Race, Gender, and Class Privilege: Beyond the Politics of Diversity" from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Southern Human Services Center on Homestead Road.


Well of course it's not "only" the CoC's responsibility, but as the biggest organization of local business interests, they should be expected to take the lead on such a bedrock issue.

Can someone explain something to me? If there is a 6-month moratorium on development in north Carrboro for the intent of determining how future growth should occur, why is the BOA annexing new land for high density development?

"David Hale, vice president of Priority Development LP, had asked the aldermen through a petition submitted Aug. 15 to annex the property, which is contiguous to Carrboro's boundary.

In August 2006, the aldermen granted a conditional use permit for the property, which is just north of Hogan Hills Road, for 64 housing units. Forty-eight are allowed by density, and an additional 16 units will be allowed under the density provision bonus for affordable housing.

Eight of the 16 will be affordable units, giving the developer an additional eight units that he can sell at the market rate."

Does the CUP override the moratorium?

Moratoria can only affect new development applications, Terri, per the US Supreme Court and the NC Supreme Court- not permits that had already been issued before the moratorium.


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