Chapel Hill residents spoke up Monday about what they want to see from the rebuilding and restructuring of much of the Ephesus-Fordham District.
Residents have complained in the past about the lack of space for walking and confusing traffic patterns. On Monday night, the Town of Chapel Hill said the goal is to change that.
Tony Sease is the founder of Civitech. It’s a planning and design business for walkable communities. He will be designing the architecture of the new plan, and led the meeting. Sease provided pictures of features he says would be important for Ephesus-Fordham. Sease said, “Both buildings close to the street to help create some spatial definition; a very important component as well is street trees to provide shade and canopy.”
Sease also asked that residents provide their own examples of what would be important in the area. Requests included more separated bike paths, modeling similar to Meadowmont and an elevated walkway between Franklin Street and Ram’s Plaza.
Residents also voiced concern about whether their opinions or requests would matter in the end. Chapel Hill Director of Planning Ben Hitchings says the town is taking all thoughts into consideration during the building process. “I think we’ve got a process that will help us improve the framework in a substantive way so that we can get the place that we want.”
Hitchings also says even though they are listening to anyone and everyone, there are over 190 acres to restructure. “Know that this is a long-standing process. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take place sort of bit by bit throughout the district.”
The town will host a follow-up meeting as planning continues for the area. It will be on September 7th at 6:00 PM at the Chapel Hill Public Library.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/chapel-hill-residents-speak-out-on-ephesus-fordham-district
“Town leaders aren’t listening to the people.”
We heard that claim repeatedly from several candidates running for public office in Chapel Hill last fall. With the promise they would listen to the people, several of those candidates have now been elected officials for almost a year.
Of the 59,000 people who call Chapel Hill home, which ones are worthy of town leaders’ ears? Is it okay for town leaders to ignore any of our residents?
“Of course not,” you say, “everybody should have a chance to be heard.”
Unfortunately, the current method Chapel Hill’s town council uses to solicit our needs, concerns, and dreams for our community systematically shuts out everyone from parents with young children to nurses working second shift. That’s because the only way to make sure town leaders hear your voice is to go to town hall at 7:00 P.M., sit in an uncomfortable chair for meetings that can last past midnight, and give a three-minute speech in person to town leaders whenever they call your name.
It’s bad enough that we ask residents to surrender four hours of their lives for the chance to make three minute speeches. However, if you have a child you can’t leave at home, if you have to work or study, or if mobility or health challenges prevent you from spending all evening at town hall, you don’t get to participate at any price.
The result is that the people who participate at most public hearings in Chapel Hill are more likely to be older, more likely to be Caucasian, and more likely to be long-time homeowners than the citizens of our community as a whole.
It’s not intentional. It’s just the way it’s always been.
“If you’re not a part of the solution,” they say, “you’re a part of the problem.” With that solutions-focused adage in mind, here are four random ideas how Chapel Hill’s elected officials can listen to more of our people:
1) Let citizens give their three-minute speeches via video messaging on their smartphones. According to Edison Research, 76% of all Americans and 84% of 25- to 54-year-olds now own Smartphones, all with built in cameras. With video apps from Skype, Facetime, Periscope, Google Hangouts and YouTube Live, the technology exists today to let residents who can’t make it to town hall in person participate from home. Seriously, it’s 2016. If we can Skype Japan for free, certainly the smart leaders of Chapel Hill can figure out a fair and efficient way for people to participate via video conferencing.
2) Hold public meetings and information sessions at places where people are already gathered at times they’re already there, such as the Library, University Place (you’ll always be U-Mall in my heart), or the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning when people are already gathered there, instead of weekday evenings when they’re not.
3) Create dedicated Facebook pages for big issues so citizens can stay up to date and share with their neighbors. People don’t hang out on the town website and the local newspaper paper isn’t what it used to be. People are gathered on social media. By creating dedicated pages for big issues facing our community, people could easily share updates with their neighbors, discuss opinions, and keep up to date on the latest official information.
4) Individual council members could hold regular “join me for lunch/dinner/coffee” sessions. Lee Storrow routinely held such events, but he was always at the Yuppie joints downtown. I’d do it at K&W Cafeteria.
You might know of legal or logistical obstacles that stand in the way of implementing these ideas. Instead of saying, “that won’t work,” can you offer ways to make these ideas work?
You might note that these ideas leave out important segments of our community, including residents who aren’t tech savvy, are economically disadvantaged, or who aren’t fully proficient in English. Do you have ideas how we can reach these segments of our community and include their needs and opinions in the conversation?
You might simply think these ideas are dumb. Fair enough. What are your ideas?
If your answer is, “the system isn’t broken,” are you willing to look in the face of the parent home with their child, the nurse at UNC Hospitals, the graduate student at his work-study job, or anyone else who cares about our community but can’t spend all night at town hall, and tell them your voice is more important than theirs?
I have faith that almost all of our elected officials genuinely want to represent our whole town, not just certain parts of it. It’s also not fair to expect change overnight. However, if nothing in our community engagement process has changed by 2019, incumbents can’t run for re-election claiming they, “listened to the people.”
Let’s work together with town leaders to give them the chance to hear from the rest of us.
— Matt Bailey
Have a comment or opinion you would like to share? Submit your commentary or column for the Commentators, on WCHL 97.9FM and Chapelboro.com.
Michael Reinke has resigned his position as executive director of the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service – IFC.
Reinke issued his resignation in order to be closer to family after recent health concerns, according to a release from the IFC announcing his resignation.
Reinke is quoted in the release saying, “After my father’s heart surgery and spending time with my daughters, I realized that the needs of my family were such that I should find a way to be closer to them.”
Reinke’s resignation was effective August 22.
The IFC Board of Directors accepted his resignation and wished him well. IFC will now conduct a search for a replacement executive director.
In the interim, director of operations Kristen Lavergne, retired executive director John Dorward and the IFC board president, vice president and executive committee will lead the organization.
Reinke had been with the Inter-Faith Council since August 2015.http://chapelboro.com/featured/ifc-executive-director-resigns-to-be-closer-to-family
DHIC has been awarded tax credits for a second year in a row to develop an affordable housing community in Chapel Hill.
DHIC is a non-profit organization based in the Raleigh area that has worked for over four decades to develop affordable housing communities in the Triangle.
The Town of Chapel Hill has donated nine acres of land on Legion Road for DHIC to develop two affordable housing projects Greenfield Commons and Greenfield Place.
In addition to the donation of the land, the town is providing $450,000 low-cost loan to the Greenfield Commons senior-housing development.
President of DHIC Gregg Warren said the donations provided by Chapel Hill was the most crucial part of making the project happen.
“What really impressed us was our partnership with the Town of Chapel Hill to make this happen. We have been so pleased by the support we have received from both the town council and the town staff,” Warren said.
Warren said despite the normal high-cost of living in Chapel Hill, the town has been easy if not easier to work with than other towns in the Triangle.
“I think it’s no secret that it is difficult to develop in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill has very high standards for housing and any kind of development work, there is a vibrant public participation process that can take a while to get approvals,” Warren said.
Warren said the rigorous approval process may be keeping other developers away from the area.
“I think that some developers, maybe even affordable housing developers, choose not to work in Chapel Hill just because it’s what we call a high-barrier to entry market. But, we really felt that it was important, given the town’s commitment, to stand by the town to make this happen,” Warren said.
Greenfield Commons is the second phase of the affordable housing developments in Chapel Hill the only difference being, the age requirement of 55 years or older for the current project.
The development will be located off of Legion road with 69 apartments available. Click the link to learn more about the Greenfield Commons Development.http://chapelboro.com/news/dhic-awarded-second-round-of-tax-credits-for-chapel-hill-affordable-housing-development
About 30 protesters stood and sat on Eubanks Road outside of the UPS Monday evening. They were hot, and they were tired but they continued to wave signs at and chant to passersby and cars.
They’re protesting what they say is the mistreatment and discrimination against the employees of UPS. One of those protesters is Lucy Lewis. She’s a member of the Labor Committee of the Chapel-Hill Carrboro NAACP. She said UPS has created a hostile work environment for the elderly and for people of color.
“This is not the kind of workplace we want in our local community,” Lewis said. “We want a workplace where workers can be treated fairly.”
Reverend Robert Campbell is the President of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro chapter of the NAACP. He also said the conditions are unfair, but not only at the Chapel Hill UPS location.
“We will be going to Durham,” he said. “We will be going to Morrisville. And there will be other locations that we will be going to.”
Campbell said the local branch of the NAACP wants to have a sit-down with the management at these UPS stores to come to an agreement.
“They need to have quarterly, monthly meetings with the workers and the management to resolve these issues that come forth every week, every month,” he said. “There are people who have filed over 100 grievances that have been fired and re-hired, fired and re-hired.”
Minister and NAACP member Michelle Laws also attended the protest. She said many of the UPS workers have also had to work overtime without proper compensation.
“How on one hand can you say that America is great, but to hell with the workers who are making it great?”She said.
Until UPS agrees to have the sit-down, protester and NAACP labor committee member Lucy Lewis says she and everyone else will continue to fight.
“I’ve met with these workers a number of times over the last year and everything I’ve heard has made me more determined to be here today,” she said.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP said they will pursue legal action if UPS declines a meeting.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/chapel-hill-residents-naacp-members-stage-protest-against-ups
Discipline in Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools has been a focus of the Board of Education in recent years, as more data has shown that African-American students are disciplined at a higher rate than their schoolmates.
Interim assistant superintendent Dr. Rydell Harrison gave the board an update on the latest discipline data last Thursday night.
“One of the things as a principal I would always say to my staff, ‘In God I trust, all others need data,’” Harrison said. “I think that we have been a data-rich district, but we have not been a data-driven district in every decision that we’ve made.”
Harrison said it was important to tailor efforts going forward around data that the district has at its disposal.
A concern in recent years has been African-American students being disciplined for subjective reasons, including “disrespect.”
Harrison said “disrespect” has gone down as a source for Office Discipline Referrals, or ODR’s, but that other areas have taken its place.
“I think where in the past, there has been a lot of focus on ‘disrespect’ and us unpacking, ‘Well, that’s really subjective,’” Harrison said, “we’ve seen that almost be a nonexistent referral.
“While that process has happened and we’ve seen ‘disrespect’ go away, then you see things like ‘disruption’ and ‘defiance’ creeping up because, again, there’s some level of subjectivity in that.”
Harrison said that one way to measure the success of the district’s efforts with Positive Behavior Intervention and Support was to see if the method was helping reach 80 to 90 percent of students.
“When we look at what the data says, out of the 11,982 students, the number of students that we have with ODR’s was 1,016,” Harrison said. “So it’s working [for] 91.5 percent of our students, overall.”
But in those overall numbers, a common problem showed itself – 97 percent of Asian students, almost 95 percent of multi-racial students, 94 percent of white students and 90 percent of Latino students went without a discipline referral throughout the entire school year.
“And then we get to African-American, and almost 73 percent of our students had zero referrals,” Harrison said. “That’s really an eye-opener I think for us.
“We know there’s disproportionality, but I think that that is glaring for us to say, ‘This is not working.’”
Harrison said it was time to realize punitive discipline does not help the students and that new methods must be used, including restorative practices and interventions.
Harrison said some improvements were now being made as teachers were being required to take a two-day course on restorative practices as part of Project ADVANCE.
That training will be extended to administrators as well, the board said on Thursday.
Harrison said the next steps included reviewing the data with principles at each school and keeping track of the restorative practice training.
The board also emphasized equity as a cornerstone in its search for a new superintendent after citizen input.
The board is hoping a new superintendent will be in place in January.http://chapelboro.com/featured/african-american-students-still-disciplined-at-higher-rate-than-chccs-classmates
A scaled-back version of the original development plans for the American Legion property will go before Chapel Hill’s Community Design Commission on Tuesday.
The concept plan, which was submitted by Woodfield Investments on July 26, calls for a maximum of 400 multifamily units – down from 600 originally – on the approximately 36-acre property.
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the proposal was adjusted after community feedback.
The site has been a point of contention in the community since early 2016, when the original plans were being discussed. Community members have been divided between those supporting the plan to develop the land and those calling for the town to purchase the property and utilize the entire property as park space.
The previous version of the Chapel Hill Town Council voted in 2015 to forego the town’s right of first refusal to purchase the property for $9 million.
The proposal documents say that Woodfield has been in “ongoing discussions with the Town” regarding the potential development of the property. The development company also held a community meeting in January to allow citizens to voice any concerns they had of the development plan.
Hemminger said the scaled-back plans may not be enough for some Chapel Hillians to embrace the project.
“It scales back, [but] I think people were still hoping that there was an opportunity for something completely different,” Hemminger said. “I don’t know what that looks like.”
Hemminger said she was “interested” to see the presentation Tuesday night after the concept plan was submitted earlier in the summer.
Hemminger added the town staff had been busy over the summer collecting data including a needs assessment, the regulating plan for the area and other information. She said that means the Town Council will be very informed when the plan is presented to the council in September.
“By the time the council meets and sees this proposal itself,” Hemminger said, “we’ll have more information and a better grasp on what’s actually going on over on that side of town.”
The Community Design Commission meeting Tuesday night is scheduled for Town Hall at 6:30 and is open to the public.http://chapelboro.com/featured/american-legion-development-proposal-goes-before-chapel-hill-community-design-commission-tuesday-night
While the college football season is set to get underway for UNC next weekend, the official start date of the Carolina men’s basketball season has been announced.
UNC will host the annual Late Night with Roy event at the Dean Smith Center on October 14.
Late Night with Roy is full of sketches all leading up to the first sanctioned practice the men’s basketball team is allowed to have, which is usually in the form of a light-hearted scrimmage more fit for an NBA All-Star Game environment than a Roy Williams-led practice.
Kenny Smith, former Tar Heel and current analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA, served as host last of Late Night in 2015. ESPN’s Sage Steele also made a special appearance at the festivities last season.
The 2015 event also included a tribute to UNC alumnus and famous ESPN personality Stuart Scott. Scott served as the energetic host of Late Night with Roy many times but passed away in 2015 from cancer.
There is no official word on who will host the event this fall.
This year’s UNC team will be odd for Tar Heel fans with no Marcus Paige or Brice Johnson. But Carolina will return several key pieces to a team that lost on a buzzer beater in the National Championship game last season.http://chapelboro.com/featured/date-set-for-late-night-with-roy
Early-bird registration is now open for the 2016 Guardians of the Hill 5k race and Kids fun-run benefiting the North Carolina Special Olympics.
The Chapel Hill Police Department will be holding this event on September 25, at 2pm for a full day of fun for the family.
Chapel Hill Police Lieutenant Josh Mecimore said this event is a great opportunity to meet the members of your local public safety personnel in Chapel Hill.
“We think it’s a worthy cause and we’d certainly like to have folks come out and help us support it,” Mecimore said.
Register before August 30 to race at the discounted price of $20. Prices will increase starting August 31 to $25 for the 5k race.
Click the link to the Chapel Hill Police Department website where you can register online or print off a mailing application.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-town/registration-underway-for-chapel-hill-police-5k-benefitting-special-olympics
Former UNC guard Marcus Paige has signed a contract with the National Basketball Association’s Utah Jazz, the team announced on Monday.
The Jazz took the four-year Tar Heel in the second round of the NBA draft earlier this summer.
Paige averaged more than 13 points and four assists per game during his time in Chapel Hill, including leading UNC to the National Championship game as a senior.
Paige played for Utah’s summer league teams, where he averaged seven points an 1.6 assists while playing nearly 20 minutes a game over the nine-game stretch.
The signing doesn’t guarantee Paige a position on the full Jazz roster when the season starts, but it means he will have an opportunity to prove his worth as training camp approaches.
Paige will wear No. 16 for the Jazz.http://chapelboro.com/featured/marcus-paige-signs-contract-with-utah-jazz