Town-gown forum misses the mark

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday April 23, 2005

It's not often that the mayor of Chapel Hill, the chancellor of UNC, a key UNC trustee, an outspoken councilman and several prominent residents address town-gown relations at a public event. That's just what happened last Thursday during the first panel of WCHL's "Building Bridges" community forum.

You might have expected the following to have been discussed: the pending rezoning of part of the Horace Williams property, the also pending modifications to the OI-4 zone of the main campus, the town's stellar job hosting the celebration of UNC's men's basketball championship and the mysterious delay in the agreed-upon improvements to South Columbia Street, a delay that panelist Bill Strom recently laid squarely at the feet of the university.

But if you expected the forum to have much to do with what's actually going on, you were surely disappointed.

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Here in southern Orange County we have a lot to be proud about when it comes to community resources. For example we have a fantastic bus system, public meeting places, community art, and municipal wireless Internet access a.k.a. wifi. The great thing about wifi is the massive diversity of its uses. Not only can you send email or surf the World Wide Web you can also learn from the experiences of millions of people. Our increased connectedness to one another electronically augments our individual power. When we "speak" with each other with software tools - like Orange Politics - we share energy with each other. This energy empowers us to be become better at many things. So in thanks and respect for all that I've learned from you all I'd like to give some back.

2005 Forum on the air Thursday

WCHL will hold its third annual Forum tomorrow, putting folks from around the community on the radio for a marathon of local issue discussion. Last year's forum was pretty interesting, especially the hand-to-hand combat between UNC administrators and local elected officials.

While I have to repeat my now-annual complaint about not publishing the forum schedule on the website in advance, I will give WCHL kudos for putting the entire 2004 forum audio archive online after the broadcast.

Here is this year's schedule as it was relayed to me in the mail:

8:00 Town-Gown Relations10:00 Suburban Growth11:00 Civil Rights & Equality noon Carrboro 1:00 Downtown Chapel Hill 2:00 Violence & Crime 3:00 Affordable Housing 4:00 Education 5:00 Young Adults

Open letter to UNC students

The Daily Tarheel ran a pretty good article on Wednesday about student involvement (or lack thereof) in town issues. In 1991, I got appointed to the Chapel Hill Transportation Board and I helped get a fellow undergrad, Mark Chilton, get elected to the Town Council. Ever since, I have been advocating for a greater student voice in local politics. There can be no doubt that students are impacted by town policies (transit, sidewalks, housing, downtown businesses, University development, just to start.).

But many people forget how very much students have to offer the rest of the town. Students created what would later become the municipal bus system in in the 1970's. Students have brought many important social causes to the community's attention, from apartheid and sweatshops far way, to housekeepers and cafeteria workers and the civil rights movement here at home.

Live from Chapel Hill... it's Wednesday afternoon!

The Al Franken Show on Air America will be broadcast live from Chapel Hill from noon to 3pm today! You can go and see it for free in the Auditorium of the UNC Student Union, or listen in on WCHL 1360 AM or online.

I have it on good authority that some of our local elected officals will be making appearances on the show. Check it out!



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