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Fred Black

Enough Already!

In 1996 I had the honor of being appointed to serve on the Chapel Hill Public Library Board of Trustees and later was reappointed to a second term. During my tenure, I also served as the Board’s chair. In addition to our normal responsibilities, we also began the planning for expanding the library since our’s was already too small for our need the day the doors opened (but that’s another story for later!). One of the more vexing issues on our agenda was funding support by Orange County, and guess what? It’s still a vexing issue.   I’m repeatedly asked why we just don’t solve “the problem” by merging the two libraries. To understand our situation we have to know our history. Prior to 1958 citizens used the University Library or drove to Hillsborough. A study by the Community Council, an organization of more than 60 local organizations concerned about local library resources, recommended to our Board of Aldermen (now called the Town Council) that Chapel Hill establish its own library.   When we started the library in 1958, we did it knowing that Chapel Hill citizens had to foot the bill. The evidence was there that citizens thought a library was important enough to warrant additional taxes to pay for it. Knowing that libraries are a county function and not believing that Orange County provided the service that Chapel Hill citizens demanded, the town-funded facility opened at...

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Good to Great

Good organizations with visionary leadership all seem to want to move from good to great, and that’s just what our PTA Thrift Shop is doing. In early May, I interviewed executive director Barbara Jessie-Black (no relation) on Who’s Talking, and she mentioned that there was some exciting news about the store coming in the near future. And is it ever exciting!  To move from good to great the PTA Thrift Shop has launched a campaign to redevelop their Carrboro site.   The plan is to do a $5.1 million expansion that will replace the current Carrboro store with a facility with a plaza and erect a new building on the site of the current office. That new space will be leased and generate additional income for the 501(c)(3) non-profit. If you have been to the Carrboro store, you know that they can use the additional space to display, store and sort merchandise.   The Thrift Shop Board is looking to raise about $1.7 million in donations and Barbara Jessie-Black feels positive about the challenge of raising that kind of support from our community. That money, plus loans and investor dollars will make the dream of a cost-efficient, green building under one roof a reality. Furthermore, the new facility’s landscaped grounds will create a plaza that can serve as a community meeting place, and of course, help beautify the neighborhood.   Best of all, this...

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Why Do They Do It?

Memorial Day is over and it was well celebrated by many citizens in our community. Lots of work went into the activities and more than a few lent their time and energy to make all of the events a success. Why do they do it, some may wonder. There’s really a pretty simple answer; they do it because they care! Who’s “they?” They are the members and the auxiliaries of The Veterans of Foreign Wars, C.V. Cummings Chapel Hill Post 9100 and American Legion Post 6 and community volunteers. Each year they work long hours to ensure that Memorial Day is properly celebrated and that those who died in battle are properly remembered. Planning begins early to make the event a smooth and efficient operation. On the Saturday before Memorial Day, Boy Scouts, veterans and family members gathered early in the morning at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery to drape flags on more than 500 graves of local service men and women. When they completed the task, they conducted a short, public memorial service in the cemetery with the help of the Boy Scouts. Later Saturday morning, The Veterans of Foreign Wars distributed poppies at University Mall from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The tradition of handing out poppies goes back almost 100 years and the poppies are now the symbol for the Veterans of Foreign Wars in remembrance of...

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The More the Merrier!

Until Carlo Robustelli made me aware of it, I did not realize that there was another big graduation held on the afternoon of Wednesday May18th. Carlo as you may know is the Director of Durham Technical Community College’s Orange County Operations in Hillsborough. This was the College’s 50th commencement and over 800 students received degrees, diplomas, and certificates during the ceremony at the Durham Performing Arts Center. The graduation speaker was our 4th District Congressman, The Honorable David Price, a man who truly values and fights for education funding. Congressman Price said it well when he asked, “Does education work? Here in this room is all the evidence we need.” For those of us in “Chapelboro” land, we know how much we value education and the strong commitment we make. Thus, opening a Durham Tech campus in Orange County in 2008 was a big deal because it made it easier for local folks to take advantage of the opportunities to gain the education they needed to realize their dreams. For some that degree is an associate degree that will allow them to qualify for a particular job and for others, it is the opportunity to transfer to a four-year college or university. Programs include more than the associate’s degree in arts and sciences. Some pursue degrees offered in business and public technologies, health technologies, industrial/engineering technologies, and information systems...

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Have you met any really special people lately, people that make our community the special place that it is? Monday the 16th was one of those great days where I saw many special people doing some important work. Monday was a collection day for PORCH. “People Offering Relief for Chapel Hill Carrboro Homes,” or PORCH, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to feed the hungry in our community by organizing monthly food drives. The food they collect restocks the shelves of several of our local food pantries and cash donations they receive are used to purchase fresh produce for distribution to identified families in need. The group celebrated the first anniversary of PORCH on Monday and officially kicked-off the fresh produce program called “Food for Families.” Debbie Horwitz, Susan Romaine, and Christine Cotton are the three founders of PORCH and serve as directors. Their boundless energy and fine organizational skills created the structure behind this movement to provide hunger relief in our community. Over 1,200 folks in over 100 neighborhoods now participate in the monthly food drives. When I arrived at the Romaine home Monday morning, their garage was already half-full with bags of food. As more and more cars drove up with donations, the corps of busy volunteers unloaded them and then helped to sort. Some people were in the garage and others were in the yard, all busy with their assigned tasks. One...

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It’s Just Not That Simple!

Being at Town Hall on Monday May 9th, I observed the Town Council as it struggled with the Special Use Permit (SUP) for the Inter Faith Council for Social Service’s (IFC) proposal to build a new men’s 52-bed transitional facility and a 17-cot emergency shelter at 1315 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. In the four hours that the public hearing lasted, there were plenty of things I heard that were on one hand, encouraging, and on the other hand very disappointing. During the comments by Rabbi Jennifer Feldman of the Chapel Hill Kehillah Synagogue, she was asked by councilmember Matt Czajkowski if she thought the faith community would be willing to each house 17 homeless men for 4 to 5 nights a year. She said that she had some experience with doing this from her days in Philadelphia and that it took a good amount of time to be able to do so. Rabbi Feldman also indicated that her facility just wasn’t equipped to do this, as they didn’t have showers. Czajkowski then pointed out that she would have 2 to 4 years to resolve that problem. Being aware of the IFC’s history and its roots in the faith community, I know that it was in 1985 that the shelter program began in local churches and then moved to the old jail. In 1990, the New Community House opened...

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Who will be wearing one of those spiffy new “True Blue” robes on Sunday? Maybe it will be a future Nobel laureate, an innovative business leader who comes up with the next big thing, or that dedicated classroom teacher who reaches students in such a way that they excel in life and maybe become teachers themselves. Perchance sitting out there will be future pro-sport super stars, dynamic military leaders, lawyers, medical professional, and practitioners of the arts who will bring us joy and delight. Likely sitting out there in Kenan Stadium are future professors, research scientists, religious leaders, and graduates who will raise families and another generation of Tar Heels. Yes, Sunday is such a special day because not only is it Mother’s Day, it is also graduation day for the Class of 2011. Each year we have the opportunity to congratulate the graduating class for their academic accomplishments, and I think it is just as important to thank them for how they rounded out their classroom education by making so many contributions to our community. Many of the students graduating made some amazing contributions while they were with us, and most of their contributions are unknown to most of us. We should know more about their amazing record of service! That’s why I was delighted to see Chancellor Holden Thorp’s April 25th Blog. He wrote specifically about the...

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Our Town Council struggled with the decision to allow OWASA to retain the ability to tap Jordan Lake water in case of emergency. Being able to do this will also allow OWASA to remain part of the regional group that would set policy on the lake’s future. As a board member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, I voted to put the Chamber on record to support OWASA retaining the five million gallons per day allocation because it made sense to me. Some on the Council were strongly opposed to the OWASA plan, so I wonder, does supporting OWASA on this mean that I’m all wet? On Council member said that the lake is polluted and that the lake did not even need to exist. As I listened to the presentation by OWASA to the Council, I heard them say that this was an emergency “stand-by” action, and if we didn’t participate, we would lose our voice in future Jordan Lake decisions since we would no longer be at the table. I am one of those who believe that having an insurance policy is a prudent action, and that’s why I buy life and property insurance. Why shouldn’t OWASA? They want to use Jordan Lake during any future droughts, but the agreement in effect restricts usage to emergencies unless the local governments agree to non-emergency uses. Given what...

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Are We Being Bullied?

I suspect that no matter your age, at some time in your life you felt bullied. Sure, most of us endured the schoolyard or school bus bully, the playground bully and even the neighborhood bully that hardly anyone was willing to stand up to even on a good day. As we move through life, we find that the bullies are still out there. They just don’t go after kids; they care not about your age. Lately, as I read the news from Raleigh I feel like I’m being bullied. As an educator and being married to an educator, I feel strongly about our schools. Our local K-12 system builds the solid foundation that prepares our kids for life. For some that might mean entering the work force and for others it means attending institutions of higher learning. The news about proposed state budget support for our school systems is not encouraging. I appreciate that money is tight, but I have to wonder if those engaged in a political war that has us all caught on the battlefield are bullying us. Not let’s be clear. A budget is a plan to allocate resources. It tells us what they expect to take in and how they plan to spend it. When the state prepares a budget, it is clothed in the politics of the day. The governor has a proposed budget...

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