By Donnabeth Leffler

Follow-up Questions: Towing, Teachers, & Opportunity Cost

By Donnabeth Leffler Posted August 24, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Word that Chapel Hill is going to continue the legal fight and appeal a judge’s ruling against a planned cell phone ban (including hands-free use) and a towing ordinance prompts a few questions:

First of all, I keep hearing and reading that downtown businesses must use towing companies and aggressive towing tactics in order to maintain spaces for their patrons.  If this is the reason, why does towing persist after the business has closed?  Why not resume it 30 minutes prior to opening?  Again, I ask, what’s in it for the businesses?  They not only allow it; they encourage it.  

Now to the appeal of the cell phone ban.  A recent Chapelboro news story quotes Chapel Hill Town Council member Penny Rich as saying town attorney Ralph Karpinos told the council the legal battle won’t incur any additional cost (emphasis mine) as it will all be taken care of by in-house attorneys.  I had written about the costs of pursuing this ban under my “Savvy Spender” banner, saying I believe the town has better things on which to spend my money. That was based on a pre-vote opinion from the N.C. Attorney General that the town would not prevail in court.  

I was no academic star in my required economics courses but I do remember the concept of opportunity cost.  Forgive my inability to convey this elegantly but as I understand it, opportunity cost is what one gives up when one chooses an alternative course of action.  So while the town may not incur any additional cost by using outside counsel, there clearly is some sort of cost in what else town attorneys won’t be doing.  In other words, it’s highly unlikely they’d be sitting around doing nothing if they were not tasked with pursuing this so, as a taxpayer, I’d love to know what’s not getting done instead?  That’s my cost.

Finally the start of school brings us to what is apparently the denouement in the saga of the involuntarily transferred teachers Anne Thompson and Bert Wartski.   They fought all the way to the courthouse and lost and are now leaving their longtime base at Chapel Hill High School.  I ask again the question I raised weeks ago:  In the case of Anne Thompson,  who is planning to retire after this coming school year and who just suffered the loss of her husband, why is there no mercy, no leniency, no ability to stand down?  

My exclusion of Mr. Wartski is due only to the more lamentable circumstances of Mrs. Thompson.  Shouldn’t Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools demonstrate a kindness that leadership must want to see from its students?   What a great way to set an example that the bigger kid doesn’t always have to win. 

If you can answer any of these questions, write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com

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