CHAPEL HILL- The North Carolina Supreme Court announced Friday it will hear the case involving the Town Of Chapel Hill’s cell phone driving ban and towing rules.
In 2012 the town passed a ban on cell phone use while driving and approved new regulations for tow truck operators that capped fees and mandated more signage in lots.
George King of George’s Towing sued the town in protest, saying the rules are unduly burdensome to his business.
Both ordinances were set to take effect last summer, but King’s lawsuit has put the regulations on hold indefinitely. A 2013 ruling by the N.C. Court of Appeals held that the town could enforce the ordinances, but King’s request for review by the state Supreme Court has put both on hold once again.
Fireworks at Kenan. (Photo by Susan Murray.)
CHAPEL HILL – Thousands of local residents turned out at Kenan Stadium Thursday night for another memorable July 4 fireworks display.
Ron Stutts emceed the event, put on by the Town of Chapel Hill in conjunction with numerous local businesses and organizations. Among the attendees were Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, new UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, and Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene.
“It’s a great time to take some time out to enjoy some fellowship and fireworks,” Greene said. “I’ve got my son and my husband here with me, and we’re really enjoying it.”
After a week marred by torrential downpours, the rain held off all night — save for a brief sprinkle right before the fireworks got under way.
But the rain could not stop the show on Thursday; in fact, WCHL News Director Ran Northam said it only got the crowd that much more excited.
“(There was) a little tiny bit of a sprinkle just before the fireworks went off — that was greeted by many, many cheers,” he said shortly after the show began. “People (are) loving it now.”
The fireworks got underway right on schedule at 9:30, following an evening of entertainment featuring music from Liquid Pleasure and a watermelon-eating contest sponsored by DSI Comedy.
The show itself was not without incident: “One fire official did have to go down and put out a little bit of a fire there at the end,” Northam said. “There were a couple small fires there.”
And attendees were also surprised by another round of fireworks that started up after the 25-minute show appeared to reach its end. That second round lasted several more minutes, even as the lights in Kenan had already come back on.
Still, the show as a whole was an unqualified success — especially for new Chancellor Folt, who’s still getting oriented to Chapel Hill in her first week on the job.
“It’s been great,” she said of her first days in Chapel Hill. “I’ve just been meeting so many people, and everyone’s friendly — I keep hearing what a friendly place (Chapel Hill) is, and it’s absolutely true.”
More than the fireworks and the camaraderie, though, July 4 is a day to celebrate America — and in particular the Declaration of Independence, a document that not only established the U.S. as a distinct nation, but also expressed the fundamental values on which it would seek to build itself.
And Sally Greene says this year is especially noteworthy in that regard.
“This is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg,” she says. “Abraham Lincoln gave an address for the ages when he gave the Gettysburg Address — and what he was doing there was cementing the Declaration as the founding document which the Constitution must interpret…
“He really was reinforcing the Declaration of Independence as the founding document that would bring forth all of our rights and ensure us those liberties to this day. So it’s a time to remember that — a time to remember what’s fundamental about our democracy, and a time to stand up and fight for it.”
The Kenan Stadium fireworks show is a longstanding annual event—but 2013 marks its second year back, after budget cuts forced the town to cancel it in 2011.http://chapelboro.com/news/entertainment/rockets-red-glare-caps-july-4-in-chapel-hill/
On June 4, the state Court of Appeals reversed the court’s ruling that struck down Chapel Hill’s ordinance. The town originally adopted the ordinance in March 2012, but the ordinance never took effect because George King, operator of George’s Towing, challenged the Town Council.
The new ordinance regulates and caps tow fees, it states that lots may not be located farther than 15 miles outside the town, and requires adequate signage for tow zones. Tow companies must also provide the person making the payment for the tow with a copy of the “Town of Chapel Hill Towing Information Handout”.
If a person returns to their car before it can be towed, the tow truck operator must return the car to the person without charging a fee unless the vehicle was already attached to the truck. If it was, a fee no more than $50 may be charged.
The ordinance also says a call to the towing company must be returned within 15 minutes of a message being left. Within 30 minutes of the call being answered or message being left, a person with the proper authority must release the location of the vehicle.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/ch-towing-ordinance-effective-monday/
It’s quite likely you’re reading this thinking that’s a great use of tax dollars: defending free speech. Well, you may be disappointed to find out Chapel Hill is on the receiving end of a reminder about First Amendment rights. The reminder comes from the American Civil Liberties Union and is about some controversial bus advertisements.
The ads were about U.S. military aid to Israel. As a recovering journalist, I can tell you there are two topics in the U.S. that if you cover them in any way, every single person reading/listening/watching will assume you’re biased. One of them is Israel.* And that assumption of bias occurs when you’ve tried to be as absolutely evenhanded as possible. In the case of the bus ads, there is a definite point of view. The sponsoring church wants to end U.S. military aid to Israel. So, a lightning rod subject with a definite point of view on the far end of one of the many spectrums in this multi-layered debate. No question, these ads were going to stir up a reaction.
The ads came down due to a technicality in the small print. If that sounds redundant, this is one of the few times I’ll defend my writing: It was a technical requirement that certain information be printed on the ad (all ads) that wasn’t included on these.
Despite the respite for the town in having a real reason to duck the controversy, it rages on.
While passionate people are debating the importance of Israel and the U.S. role in the region, I feel I’m watching a magician impeccably trained in the art of misdirection. There is plenty to debate about all aspects of the U.S. and every corner of the Middle East but it is our right to do so that is really in question here.
The right to express an opinion is why we’re all (I hope) voting in a few weeks and savoring the ability to do so. The right to disagree with an ad on a bus? That’s an absolute luxury folks, and one we should be embracing, not curtailing.
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.comhttp://chapelboro.com/columns/savvy-spender/follow-up-questions-towing-teachers-opportunity-cost/