Locals Reach Out To Aid Immigrant Children

With more than 1,000 unaccompanied children crossing the southern border into the United States each week, local residents are looking for a way to respond to what some are calling a “humanitarian crisis.”

Jacqueline Gist, longtime member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, says she wants to reach out to help undocumented immigrant children being detained in shelters while awaiting deportation proceedings.

“Children who are far from home, coming out of very scary, dangerous, life-threatening situations- if we can’t find fit in our hearts to help those children, then I hate to think of who we’ve become,” says Gist.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have sought to cross the U.S. – Mexico border in the past eight months, fleeing violence in Central America.

The Department of Health and Human Services operates approximately 100 shelters near the border that can house the children until they can be settled with families to await their hearings. Due to the recent influx, three more shelters have opened in California, Texas and Oklahoma.

As the children have been moved from one location to another, images of angry locals yelling at school buses have flooded the media in past weeks, prompting some, like Gist, to offer a rebuttal in the form of an invitation.

“My original thought had been that our community could welcome a busload of these children who are being treated with hatred in other places where they show up, and help them through their resettlement process that they’re going through,” says Gist.

But while Gist says the response from the local community has been in favor of offering temporary shelter, federal guidelines stand in the way.

“[The Department of Health and Human Services] is not interested in a one-time thing, they’re more looking for what they call permanent facilities, that would be at least thirty-six months and that would pretty much be open to a steady stream of children,” says Gist.

To be considered as a shelter, a facility must be licensed by the state and run by a group home care provider. The deadline to apply is early August.

“I don’t think we’re in a position to provide a facility for these children. I think it’s too big and the time frame is too short. The actions necessary to get there would take months and months and months.”

Still, she says concerned citizens in Chapel Hill and Carrboro can find a way to help.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t anything that we can do, and I think what we need to do I find organizations in our region who are already helping or who are poised to help and see how we can support those.”

Gist says the Church of Reconciliation is already accepting donations of toys and Spanish-language books to offer children in shelters, and she expects similar efforts to gain momentum in the coming weeks.


Carrboro Aldermen Compromise on Drive-Thru Ban

A proposal to broaden Carrboro’s 1998 ban on drive-throughs at downtown businesses to include other areas of town brought several citizens out to Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

Most of the citizens that spoke at the meeting were against the idea, and in the end, the Board came up with a compromise.

“Drive-thrus located in appropriate areas, and under specified guidelines, like those enacted in 1998, are amenities. By denying them, you jeopardize the commercial growth that might have followed. Lack of commercial growth threatens the broadening of our commercial tax base, thereby continuing to overburden the residential property owners.”

That’s Linda Lloyd, speaking at the summer’s final meeting of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. Her husband, Gene Lloyd, is a member of the family that owned and operated Lloyd Electric Company on Main Street for more than 50 years.

The family also owns 40 acres across from Carrboro Plaza on NC 54. The property is currently under contract under the name Lloyd Farm Development.

Lloyd was one of several citizens, including Kristen Smith from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, who came out to speak against a proposed ban on drive-thru features at all Carrboro developments, with the exception of pharmacies.

New drive-thrus were prohibited in the center of the downtown business area back in 1998 as part of Carrboro’s Land Use Ordinance. The Wendy’s drive-thru at the corner of Main and Greensboro Streets pre-dated that rule by about 15 years.

But the new resolution would ban drive-thrus from developments in other areas, such as Highway 54.
Lloyd’s arguments against prohibiting drive-thrus were similar to others that were presented during the public comments portion of the hearing. People said it would scare off businesses; that it discriminates against the elderly, the disabled, and parents with small and/or sick children.

They said it creates an inconvenience for commuters, and would cause consumers to spend money elsewhere.

But a couple of speakers expressed their support for the ban. Retired UNC academic adviser Barb Stenross lives on Carol Street, near the Lloyd Farm property.

“It’s right where I walk around,” said Stenross. “I’m a senior. I walk. I don’t feel comfortable on a bike. I wish I still did. But it’s very important for me to have a community that has trees, that has a good environment, that does not have traffic emissions.

“I’m fine with having a pharmacy drive-in, because I think that does serve families and the disabled. But I think this is a good ordinance.”

Carrboro Planning Board member Catherine Adamson reiterated that board’s recommendation – which was not unanimous, she added – to prohibit all drive-thrus, including pharmacies.

When it was time for alderpersons to speak, Damon Seils said that he’s received a lot of phone calls, emails, and personal visits about the issue recently, and it’s caused him to re-think the proposal.

“I have no doubt that there are negative environmental impacts of drive-thrus, and public health impacts of drive-thrus,” said Seils. “And that’s important to me. But as we know, there are also concerns about accessibility. And we’ve heard from several people both tonight, and in emails and elsewhere, about the importance of accessibility for people with limited mobility, and for their caregivers, which, I think, is another important point we’ve heard about recently.”

Seils made a motion to extend the ban to districts zoned for limited industrial use, as well as commercial uses that include wholesaling, storage, mail-order, auto-related businesses, offices and retail.

Areas include that part of Greensboro Street where Fitch Lumber is located; and the area along Jones Ferry Road near the Orange Water and Sewer Authority.

He added that drive-thrus in other areas should be a subject of future discussion.

Alderperson Michelle Johnson said that while she agreed with Seils’ motion more than the resolution before the board, she thought that everyone should be mindful that the environmental concerns of people like Barb Stenross, who live outside the downtown area, should not be dismissed.

“I can support what you’re saying, more than I could support a ban on all drive-thrus,” said Johnson, “because of the accessibility issues. And we’re all aging, too, so there’s going to be a point when we’re all rolling up to a drive-through, too, right?”

The Board of Aldermen passed Seils’ motion unanimously.

Alderpersons Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Jacquelyn Gist said they’d work together over the summer to plan some public forums in the fall regarding drive-thrus,to see what creative ideas may come out of that.


Carrboro Board of Aldermen to Vote on Drive-Thrus

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will vote tonight on whether to ban drive-through windows at all Carrboro businesses, with the exception of pharmacies.

Drive-throughs are banned downtown already, but a resolution being considered tonight would ban them in other areas such as Highway 54.

This has been a subject of lively discussion recently, both among the alderpersons and members of the public weighing in on social media.

Opponents of the ban say that it would hurt parents of young children, people with disabilities, and businesses.

Public comments will be received before a vote is taken.

The meeting takes place at 7:30 at Carrboro Town Hall, located at 301 West Main Street in Carrboro.


Carrboro Board of Aldermen to Vote on $21.3 Million Budget

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen has a busy agenda at its Town Hall meeting Tuesday – and one of items is a resolution to adopt the $21.3 million budget for fiscal year 2014-15.

As part of that package, there will be a vote to approve bonuses of either $500, $1,000 or $1,500 for town employees, based on annual performance reviews.

The resolution states that “the Board of Aldermen desires to provide all Town employees an annual salary at or above the local Minimum Housing Wage.”

The Board will also vote on whether to approve a two-percent cost-of-living salary increase for all full-time and part-time town employees, as well as appointed employees and elected officials.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall, located at 301 West Main Street in Carrboro.


It’s ‘Jaguars Men’s Tennis Day’ in Carrboro

It’s officially Jaguars Men’s Tennis Day in the Town of Carrboro.

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle performed a duty that she called “a lot of fun,” and she’s already done it twice during the five months she’s held the office.

That is, she’s twice had the honor of writing a proclamation recognizing a local high school sports team for winning a state championship.

“Now therefore, be it resolved that I, Lydia Lavelle, Mayor of Carrboro, North Carolina, do hereby proclaim Wednesday, May 28th as Carrboro Jaguars Men’s Tennis Day; and urge all residents of the Town of Carrboro to take every opportunity to congratulate these players and their coaches for their remarkable achievement, this the 27th day of May, 2014.”

Lavelle said that one of the fun parts was doing the research on the State Champion Carrboro High School Jaguars Men’s Tennis Team – and two months ago, she did the same for the State 3A Champion Chapel Hill Lady Tigers basketball team.

Here’s how Jaguars Day came to be proclaimed in Carrboro today:

“On May 17, 2014, the Jaguars captured their first state tennis title; a resounding 5-0 victory over the Brevard Blue Devils, and won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A State Dual Championship,” Lavelle said.

As Lavelle pointed out, the team had a two-year streak of runner-up finishes before finding that the third time is, indeed, the charm.

The mayor called all the players up front, one-by-one, to stand for a group photo.

While doing so, she singled out the accomplishments of Carrboro High junior Max Fritsch, who was selected as the State Championship’s Most Valuable Player, as well as Conference Player of the Year.

Fritsch is also the team’s most valuable player, as well as a state doubles champion, along with teammate Jacob Zinn.

The mayor also noted freshman Jason Wykoff, who received the State Championship Outstanding Sportsmanship Award, and is the team’s Freshman of the Year.

Jaguars Coach Jon Noyes was there with his team at Town Hall. He got up behind the podium to list the numerous honors that his team members racked up this year.

And then he said this:

“You guys did a fantastic job this year, and I’m really proud of you.”

So if you see a Jaguar from the Men’s Tennis team around Carrboro today, tell him you are, too.


Carrboro Aldermen to Vote on $75K Grant for Recycling Carts

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will vote Tuesday on whether to accept a $75,000 grant for curbside recycling carts.

Stemming from an inter-local agreement between Orange County and The Towns of Hillsborough, Chapel Hill and Carrboro that was approved by all parties in February, nearly $168,000 from Orange County would be added to Carrboro’s $75,000 grant from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, for a total of nearly $243,000.

That money would go toward ensuring that every household in Carrboro is equipped with a curbside recycling roll cart.

Under the inter-local agreement, the Town is required to pay Orange County an amount equal to any grant it receives for the project.

That’s just one of the items on a busy agenda for Tuesday night’s Aldermen meeting, which takes place at 7:30 at Town Hall, located at 301 West Main Street in Carrboro.


Chaney Joins Aldermen

The newest member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen was sworn in Tuesday night at Town Hall, and then she got right down to business.

Carrboro Planning Board Chair Bethany Chaney took her seat next to Mayor Lydia Lavelle – who moved from that seat, back when she was elected Mayor – at Tuesday night’s Aldermen meeting.

The swearing in was performed by Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour, and was preceded by a reception with food, friends, and lots of supporters.

After Baddour made it official, Chaney stepped behind the speakers’ podium and thanked a lot of people – including her new colleagues on the Board of Aldermen.

Chaney won the seat in a three-way race with Talal Asad and Theresa Watson on May 6, and on Tuesday night she credited the Alderpersons for treating all three candidates equally.

She said that helped make the special election a real race.

“Talal and Theresa and I all appreciated your mutual support,” said Chaney, “and the opportunity to meet each other and learn about each other, and compete with each other on the campaign trail.”

When it was time for the Mayor and Alderpersons to speak – including a vacationing Michelle Johnson, who sent a video – there were praises for Chaney’s work with the Planning Board, as well as in the areas of affordable housing and climate change.

“I’m just looking forward to learning from you,” said Alderperson Damon Seils, “because one of the experiences that I’ve had that’s been special to me about getting to know you on the Planning Board, and since that time, is that I do learn from you.

“And I think that’s what a lot of us have the ability to do up here. That’s the best part of this job — I think it’s when we’re able to learn from each other and learn from people in the community about how to do things better.”

Afterward, the Board unanimously appointed Chaney to join Seils as the Board of Aldermen’s second representative to the Transit Partners Committee.

Chaney joins the Board of Aldermen just as they are working on the budget for Fiscal Year 2014-2015.

Only four members of the public stepped up to speak about the recommended $29.5 million budget on Tuesday night. Most of them were there to thank the Board for various actions.

Mary Jean Seyda from the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness asked the town of Carrboro to create a dedicated funding source for affordable housing – a request the Partnership is making to all local municipalities.

Alderperson Sammy Slade replied that the Affordable Housing Task Force is currently making that a priority.

Some of the votes Chaney participated in on that first night included the unanimous approval of a walkup ATM at Carrboro Plaza; and the unanimous conditional approval for a text amendment to change the designation from affordable homes in the Legends subdivision, to benefit current owners struggling with HOA dues and other costs. They want to be able to sell the homes at market values.

Chaney also nominated Carrboro community organizer Quinton Harper to a seat on the Board of Directors of Orange Water and Sewer Authority. That also passed by a unanimous vote.


Alderman Hopefuls Meet In WCHL Candidates Forum: AUDIO

With early voting currently underway for the May 6 primary, WCHL hosted a forum Monday featuring the three candidates for the open seat on the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.

The three candidates are Talal Asad, Bethany Chaney, and Theresa Watson. They’re running in a special election to finish the term of Lydia Lavelle, who left her seat on the Board when she became mayor in December.

Aaron Keck hosted the informal forum during Monday’s afternoon newscast. During the hour, the candidates talked about topics ranging from building heights to affordability to parking and bike safety.

Listen to Part 1 of the forum, in which the candidates talk economic development, budget and tax issues, and how to retain existing businesses while attracting new ones.

Listen to Part 2 of the forum, in which the candidates discuss how to make Carrboro a more affordable community, how to manage transportation, how to promote environmental sustainability, and (to borrow a slogan from Austin) how to “keep Carrboro weird.”

The forum will re-air on WCHL on Tuesday evening at 6:00 p.m. Early voting is underway through Saturday at five locations across Orange County; primary election day is next Tuesday, May 6.


New And Young Leaders Learning To “Disagree Well”

CHAPEL HILL – Orange County has seen a great deal of recent political turnover, with a newer, younger generation of legislators and community leaders emerging to replace the old.

But how do those new leaders navigate the political realm? How do they make a difference, in institutions still dominated by older legislators and older ways?

“I walk in, first of all, as a student – a student of the game,” says newly appointed State House Representative Graig Meyer. “How am I going to play this game? What do I need to learn? Who do I need to align myself with? Who do I need to emulate? Who do I need to stay away from?”

First-term Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils agrees, adding that finding one’s place involves not only the need to learn how to play the game – but also the chance to elevate the discourse.

“One of the things that I found myself doing – while not intending, necessarily, to do it – was to come to the role with a kind of posture of wanting to demonstrate how to disagree well,” he says. “I think that, in itself, has value.”

Other young or first-term legislators agree that ‘being the new guy’ also offers a rare opportunity to shake things up.

“I think all of us who are new elected officials have one opportunity, which is to really see how things have been done and to ask questions about why,” says first-term County Commissioner Mark Dorosin. “Why do you do something like this? Why is it like this? And maybe that’s the right way to do it, but you have the opportunity to say, ‘Explain it to me – and in doing so, explain it to the constituents.’”

Fellow first-termer Renee Price agrees. “If I have to say something that’s going to ruffle somebody’s feathers, I’m sorry,” she says. “Well, no, I’m not sorry, really.”

And first-term Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Palmer says she can also take advantage of her status as a demographic outsider as well.

“I’m an immigrant,” she says, “so sometimes I can say things that other people are too embarrassed or have been told all their lives you can’t say in polite company.”

Palmer, Price, Dorosin and Seils all occupy seats on elected boards that serve Orange County alone – so all four can say their own values adhere fairly closely to those of their fellow board members.

Not so Meyer, a Democrat in the Republican-dominated General Assembly. “I just drove back from Raleigh,” he says, “and I was in an education policy hearing…(and) most of the people in the General Assembly don’t know a darn thing about education. And I cannot believe they’re making some of the decisions that they’re making.”

Among other things, he says, those decisions include a continued reluctance to raise teacher pay – and, on Thursday, a task force recommendation to eliminate the Common Core standards.

Those moves and others have left him frustrated, Meyer says – and it can be no less frustrating for new and young officials seeking to make change in Chapel Hill. But despite the frustration, Meyer says it’s possible to be hopeful for the future, simply by looking back to the recent past.

“On the days that I’m mad and angry – and today sitting in chambers was one of the worst days that I’ve had – I tend to think about Terry Sanford and Bill Friday,” he says. “Those gentlemen came out of World War II together…and they decided that they were going to fight racial segregation and build the prosperity of this state based on having a strong public education system.

“And there is no reason why today’s leaders shouldn’t be able to come together around the same goal of building our long-term prosperity on a well-educated populace and the ability to stand up against the continued existence of institutionalized racism and other forms of inequity.”

And it’s that hope that sustains local leaders – young and old and newcomer and veteran alike – as they continue to push for change.

“Change is hard,” says Dorosin. “It’s very frustrating. But, you know, every day you start to push the rock up the hill – and you hope that today, it gets all the way to the top.”

And in the end, Renee Price says, that activism pays off in its impact on people.

“There’s something very interesting that happens, I think every single time I’ve had a meeting (where) I’ve been frustrated,” she says. “The next day someone will call me up, or they’ll see me in the grocery store, and they’ll just say ‘thank you.’

“And you know…it makes it worth it.”

Dorosin, Price, Meyer, Seils and Palmer made those comments in the “Tomorrow’s Newsmakers” panel of the 2014 WCHL Community Forum.


Carrboro Looks at Relaxing Setback Rules for Roofs

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen is considering whether to give builders a break regarding roof overhangs, when it comes to setback rules for buildings.

According to a current sub-section in the town’s Land Use Ordinance, setback rules apply to parts of any building including “overhead canopies and roofs.”

The language is important, because a roof overhang is included in the measurement of distance from the street.

Allowable distances are regulated according to a table in the ordinance.

The Planning Board recommends that the first three feet of a residential roof overhang should not be subject to building setback requirements.

But that recommendation only applies to internal setbacks of new major subdivisions.

The Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing on the matter during its regular Tuesday meeting at Town Hall.

According to an email to the town government from a citizen – which is included in the alderpersons’ information packet – the relaxation in the building rule would prevent the construction of buildings without proper roof overhangs.

The writer of the email pointed out that overhangs provide shade and shelter, as well as diverting water from the building.

The meeting begins Tuesday at 7:30.

Carrboro Town Hall is located at 301 West Main Street.