Tom Jensen's blog

Breaking down the Residences at Grove Park (425 Hillsborough St.)

As published in the Chapel Hill Herald on September 23rd, 2006

In recent years there has been no proposed development in Chapel Hill that I have more mixed feelings about than the Residences at Grove Park, which would replace the current Town House Apartments on Hillsborough Street with a number of relatively up-scale condos.

On one hand this kind of development fits in perfectly with the direction Chapel Hill's downtown needs to go in. We want more people living near the city's core. This certainly accomplishes that goal.

Beyond that, the Town House Apartments are not particularly nice. This would be a step forward in terms of aesthetics.

On the other hand, this poses a major problem in the sense that it will remove a large amount of student housing near campus. Already the local housing supply is having trouble keeping up with the university's expansion and causing students to choose places to live further and further away from Chapel Hill.

New Carrboro leaders: So far, so good

As published in the Chapel Hill Herald on September 16th, 2006:

Carrboro saw some pretty major changes in its political leadership in the aftermath of last fall's election.

For the first time in 10 years its mayor is not Mike Nelson, as he chose not to run for re-election and was replaced by two-year Alderman Mark Chilton. Another veteran of the Board of Aldermen, Diana McDuffee, also retired after a decade of distinguished service to the town. Longtime Carrboro activist and popular teacher Randee Haven-O'Donnell was elected to take her place.

Most prominently, Chilton's ascension during the middle of the four-year term he was elected to in 2003 led to the need to fill his vacated seat. There was no clear procedure for doing so and after nearly three months of controversy, long-time local activist Dan Coleman was appointed by a divided board.

We're now nine months into Chilton's first term, and the full Board of Aldermen has now been seated for more than seven months. So how are the new guys doing?

How to bring more prominent liberals to UNC

As published in the Chapel Hill Herald on September 9th, 2006:

If you have a strong stomach and some free time on Tuesday night you can head over to Memorial Hall at 6:30 p.m. to hear John Ashcroft speak. Of course, you might have a previously planned date to wash your hair.

Ashcroft is just the latest in a succession of right-wing extremists to speak on the UNC campus. Other recent appearances have come from well-known conservatives like Ann Coulter, Alan Keyes and Patrick McHenry. There have also been the lesser-known folks like Rush Limbaugh's brother and a speaker billing himself as the "conservative Jesse Jackson."

There is a consortium of conservative groups on the UNC campus that sponsors these events. The College Republicans are often involved, and this week's event is being sponsored by the UNC chapter of the Federalist Society and the Committee for a Better Carolina.

A Challenge to Orange County Progressives

As printed in the July 29th Chapel Hill Herald

Folks are taught from an early age that if they have a problem with something that a governmental body is doing, they should contact their representative. It's safe to say a lot of progressives in Orange and northern Chatham counties have had a lot of problems with the actions, or lack thereof, taken by the North Carolina General Assembly during this year's session.
The most glaring disappointment is the lack of meaningful ethics/lobbying reform.

It's clear many legislators want to get as much out of their status as they possibly can and are not committed to making the real changes that could help North Carolina residents better trust their elected officials.

But this is by far not the only failed opportunity to make the state better during this session.

A full slate of good environmental bills have been killed by the moneyed interests around the General Assembly, ranging from strong standards to create cleaner cars to the common-sense issue of electronics recycling, for which the Orange County Commissioners have provided a great model.

Murder Downtown

WRAL is reporting that an individual was murdered downtown early this morning. The shooting was with a rifle, and beyond that there's not much more information.

Does anyone have more details about what happened? Any ideas on what the town can do to stop this trend of violent crime? It's become so seemingly routine that when some folks were robbed at gunpoint on Franklin St. a month or two ago it didn't merit any more coverage than a sentence or two in the Police Beat. I have a fair amount of faith in the Police Department and think they're doing the best they can, but I'm making it a point now not to walk by myself after about 10. Before this recent upswing (perceived or real?) in violent crime downtown I didn't give a second thought to walking anywhere at any time.



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