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Donnabeth Leffler


Very few of us will ever get to prove our strength of character on a public stage. We may make moral and brave choices but most of us will do so in a situation known to only a few and, very likely, that decision will impact very few (unless it’s a Butterfly Effect situation). One man has the opportunity to be brave right now and probably at some sacrifice. House Speaker John Boehner has the power to end the government shutdown, but he doesn’t have the courage to do so. It appears that if he brings a clean (non-Obamacare-related)...

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A Bright Idea

Forgive me for the title.  I do love a pun but when it’s particularly apt, well, I just can’t resist. This post is about some of the work being done by the Town of Chapel Hill to cut costs during this difficult budget time.  But, as explained by Energy Management Specialist Brian Callaway, it’s cost-cutting in a way most of us won’t necessarily notice. Callaway works in the town’s Office of Sustainability and he’s been working on various projects where cutting costs doesn’t mean simple and overt maneuvers like turning down the thermostat; rather he searches for ways of using new technologies (or old ones in new and different ways) to stretch the town’s energy budget.  Aside from the budgetary benefit, which I’ll outline in a moment, you may have already experienced the first large scale change in our public facilities if you park in the Wallace Deck.  The lights there are always on and in May of last year, the town switched the stairwell bulbs to LED’s, which use less energy but also give off a crisp, white light.  While the LED bulbs cost more to buy, they last longer so replacement cost is down, as is the maintenance cost because they need to be replaced less often.  Callaway says the town is on track to be paid back for this investment within seven years thanks to that...

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Muted Joy

We’ve had a fairly chilly and frequently gray holiday season here in Chapelboro.  It seems fitting, not only to the calendar, but to the events that marked the end of 2012.  From the destruction of Hurricane Sandy to the devastation in Newtown, CT, the end of this past year seemed blighted.  As I write this, the chilly gray weather continues, but I expected the psychic gray to lift and not just because the calendar turned a page.  I couldn’t believe men and women paid to represent this country would dare be irresponsible enough to let the year turn without protecting our fragile economy.  I was sure I’d awake to not only a new year but to a new deal (if not a New Deal) that would, in varying degrees, ask the wealthiest to pay more, lower the deficit and create a framework to cross the idealogical divide in our nation.   And so I did.  But now that wee-hours agreement struck in the U.S. Senate is under threat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  This makes me feel gray but see red.  How dare they be paid by us and show fealty to an ideology only and not to the citizenry? Do they care more about the ideology than the nation’s credit rating?  Do they care more about the ideology than the economy’s need for solid footing?  Apparently they...

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Consumer Rights – Your $$ Update

When last I wrote, I shared my tale of customer service woe about a e-tailer’s gift certificate that somehow couldn’t be used in conjunction with a discount.  The long version is here.  The short version is that I went to happily spend a gift, only to find wouldn’t let me use my gift certificate and the site-wide discount even though the checkout page had two distinct fields for it. After repeated attempts to hear back from the company, my email that included excerpts from state consumer protection laws regarding gift cards and certificates led to me hearing from a customer service representative.  While agreeing to make an exception in this case and manually configure my order to allow both the discount and the use of my money (in both forms: the gift certificate and my credit card), the Shoebuy representative explained the reason the company doesn’t allow both to be used, saying some gift certificates are bought at a discount.  Well, my gift certificate has a unique code attached to it so couldn’t the company attach a real value to the code?  Why put the recipient in the position of the sour feeling about the gift? Further, the representative explained, the gift certificate buyer should have seen the fine print telling her that the gift would not be allowed to be used with a discount.  Sure.  I know...

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Does a Gift Certificate =$$?

A friend from out of town gave me a gift certificate for an e-tailer dedicated to one of my passions: shoes!  I received the gift a few months ago but our recent cold weather had me hungering for boots so I visited the site to see what I could find.   Imagine my delight when upon my visit to, I found not only a pair of boots I liked but also a site-wide promotion for 20% off.   With my gift certificate, that would still leave a small balance remaining for me to pay but that was fine. The website form wouldn’t accept both the promotion and the gift certificate despite there being two clearly marked and distinct fields in which to enter them.  Oh, a tech problem, I thought.  I called.  Talked to Rodney.  Nope, he said, pleasantly, you can’t use both.   “But I’m not trying to use a second discount,” I explained.  “It’s not a coupon.”  Yes, he said, but he couldn’t help me.  He suggested I write an email, which I did, and call back, asking for one of two people, which I did. I never heard back from that email and when I called back was never able to speak with the two people I was told to seek out.  Instead, I was told that my gift certificate, which I understood to be my...

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Talking Turkey

Turkey seems to be at a crossroads.  No, this isn’t a joke about how it gets to the other side to be with the chicken.   Turkey breast, turkey meatballs, meatloaf, turkey burgers and more all seem to have found a place in frequent dinner rotation for many people.  What was once a holiday-only regal bird is now frequently found on regular tables.  In fact, the National Turkey Federation reports that in 1970 50% of all turkey consumed was during the holidays; today that number is down to about 31% as more people enjoy turkey year-round.   On the other hand, this year, I’m hearing more people eschewing turkey at their Thanksgiving tables.  Please allow me to thank you for reading a sentence in which I wrote a form of “eschew”; it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  (My bucket list is sadly simple).  Whether it’s because a beloved family member just doesn’t like turkey or- more commonly heard: “It’s too hard to not end up with dry white meat”, I know families sitting down this year to tables groaning with everything from pasta to prime rib.   My observation is anecdotal only so maybe I’ve become acquainted with a more adventurous group of cooks and/or hosts and nothing’s changed at all.   When I’m a guest, I’m just happy to not have the pressure of the main course...

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The Color Purple

Estimates of the total spent on the election we all just survived hover around $6 billion.  No, that “B” is not a typo.   How many transit systems could be modernized with that money?  How many more cancer research studies could be funded?  Or, perhaps more on point for some, how much could the nation’s deficit have dropped?  For those who funded SuperPACs hoping to influence the way this country works, isn’t there some sort of direct funding option?  And maybe that direct funding has the benefit of being a bit less divisive and perhaps even actually creates jobs instead of talking about doing so?   In raising the questions above, I am joining the finger-pointing fray and so I take myself to task.  In the words of a very smart friend, “It’s time to move forward.”  Chapel Hill resident Vicki Threlfall was not parroting slogans when she said that, as she continued to say it’s time to “focus on improving- not winning.”   She’s right, Congress.  She’s right, State Legislature.  No more gamesmanship and no more brinksmanship.  No more late night votes, no more digging in and being unwilling to negotiate.  It’s time to do the job you were elected to do:  work for the betterment of this state and this country.   It’s time to get out of some schoolyard mentality and stop the bullying.  Americans are...

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