Community Policing or Ferguson Show of Force

A new model of policing needs to occur in many locations in the United States.   Gone should be the days of a militaristic style policing where a “show of force” and a “me against them” attitude prevails.

Social problems, individual problems, a feeling of helplessness and inability to express our feelings, has been something that different groups of people have felt routinely over time, and has not been adequately addressed by our society with community programs, outreach, and professional help.     People who are in pain have a need to express their feelings, whether it be in their home or in public.   Such is the beauty of our constitution that allows for freedom of assembly and the right to petition our government. We have this first amendment right!

Where though, is the line drawn for safe expression of our rights to assemble and free speech, and the potential for being considered a “riot” in the making, or an already existing riot.       That “fine line” is something the police are used to hearing about, that line of which some things should not be crossed.   That line should be a recognition of the police that not all assemblies or multitudes of people with strong opinion, is a group of fanatics that need to be controlled with nerve gasses, armored vehicles, and shot guns displayed and pointed at crowds.   That term “riot” has been used pretty loosely of late!

How is our country to feel safe in its constitutional right to peacefully protest, express our feelings, when the threat of military police force is in the air? Why arrest the press and cut off their cameras? What is it with the police riding atop armored vehicles with rifles drawn? Where do we live?  Where is the first amendment?

What has happened in Ferguson and other parts of the country not getting this press coverage is reminiscent of old Soviet style government control of dissenting citizens opinions. When I was in Russia in August of 1991 and the government was being overthrown right before my eyes, tanks were in the streets, small bombs were going off in front of embassies, the United States Embassy in particular. Russian citizens and I were cut off from all reputable news sources. Regular international news stations were blacked out and a musical symphony performance took the place of information that people so desperately wanted to have. I appreciated our country then and its freedoms like at no other point in time.

Community policing may seem like a vague term, but it is a term that I hope more cities across the nation pay attention to.   With community policing, there is a basic understanding that the freedom to assemble and express one’s opinion peacefully is within our right, and that police can actually be helpful in allowing those basic rights to continue safely.   A police presence ideally should not necessarily mean a “show of force” with guns drawn and arrests of journalists.     There is a difference.   Community policing is a police force that gets to know its community personally and truly understands what issues they are having.   Thus, when a protest occurs, there is less less likely to be an overreaction to a peaceful demonstration.   When is the time to show military equipment perhaps once used to take out Osama Bin Laden? Is it ever appropriate here?   Our town had its test with the Yates Motor Company incident several years ago. I believe that experience was a learning experience for everyone.

We are a democracy.   We are not a police state.   We abide by strict laws, but we have the ability to speak our opinions. We should not break the law. But let the first amendment continue to define us as a nation. Let it continue.   Allow citizens to disagree peacefully, without the fear of an unreasonable show of force.



We are not done with Towing Ordinance

Despite the recent NC Supreme Court ruling on the Town’s towing ordinance, there is much work left to be done on making sure the Town’s citizens are protected from predatory towing and unfair charges and towing policies.  See the N&O article for some background:

One of the key provisions to the ruling is that now towing companies must at least accept credit cards as a form of payment.  Prior to this, they demanded cash.   Who knows what books they kept for the IRS?  Who knows how many times they raised the price instantly and on the spot for angry people who discovered their cars were hooked up and being carted off out of town limits in the middle of the night, without any control over the matter?    I heard stories of people saying they were obviously mad and tow truck operators would keep raising the price for retrieving their cars with every heated statement they heard the “customer” make about the matter……hundreds of dollars later!   “If you complain one more time, you owe another $100..”   And yes, it did happen according to citizen statements.

The fee that a tow truck operator would have to pay for a credit card transaction should not be unreasonable or excessive.   I understand when I go to some gas stations that I must purchase a ~$5 minimum before they use a credit card (or whatever amount), because the business owner must pay a small fee.   But that charge to the consumer must be reasonable and frankly, only the amount that the business owner would find reasonable to recoup their fee.    I fear that this fee is not set and that some business could take advantage and charge whatever they wanted for someone to use a credit card, if they were in fact forced to provide this service.    In fact, a towing company representative stated in the N&O article that “”We’re happy to use the credit cards if we can break even doing it.”   Give me a break!!   Tell that to the myriad of gas stations requiring a nominal purchase for the ability to use a card…$5 minimums for instance.   Can’t break even???? on a several hundred dollar expense??   That is total BS and suggests future abuses of this scenario.

I could go on about other issues here, but I sent the following email to the “mayor and council” email address suggesting changes to the current towing ordinance in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling.  Hopefully council will take up this matter and maybe even my suggestions.    It was weird sending a generic email to “mayor and council” given the fact I was a council member for 8 years.   But, that’s how it goes!  I do know that I always read all of those emails and weighed people’s concerns seriously in them, and I am hoping the current council does the same way with mine.

Mayor and Council:
     I am assuming that the Town will be revising its towing ordinance now that the decision has come down from the NC Supreme Court.

1.   Make sure there is language that states specifically that towing companies can’t charge more than the cost for them to run the credit card.   In other words, if it costs a business owner 5% to have their customer use a credit card, that particular cost and no more could be passed on to the customer.    This is not regulating towing fees and has nothing to do with impacting the towing companies’  “livelihood.”

2.   Revise the ordinance to state that towing companies can’t charge people differently for the same service (this would prevent an angry tow company employee instantly raising the price because the person getting towed got mad and was rude).     This isn’t “price fixing” or having anything to do with how much they charge.

3.   Make sure the ordinance states that towing companies must charge what is “reasonable” for any service.   Reasonable needs to be emphasized and suggests the fees they charge are in line with costs + a little profit and what other towing companies in the area charge (or in the state).



Are the “Courtyards of Homestead” Really for Seniors?

The “Courtyards of Homestead” proposal is coming before the town council at a public hearing on February 17…..

This is the third time that a development proposal has come up for this particular area.  Most council members criticized those plans for varying reasons, and citizens came out in opposition to the development due to its density and marketing to students in an area far from campus.    With this development, there are proposed single family homes (with pool and clubhouse!), and a different targeted market other than students, in fact quite the opposite…those over 50.

I don’t have an opinion on the development itself and whether or not it should be for seniors or younger single families, but if the developer is going to tout a “target market”, they should own up to that in a legal sense.   The reason for this concern is that our particular school system currently is almost at capacity and it is extremely important for the council to pay attention to what it approves and the resulting school impacts.

Is this development an official senior community or not?    An official senior community will claim an exemption to Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and officially comply with the 1995 Housing for Older Persons Act.  (That act also refers to the golden age of 55 not age 50 as the developers mention for this one).   If it’s not official, then I think it disingenuous to assume that a development with single family homes under 400K with a pool and clubhouse will not impact the school system with families with children, even though heavy marketing will be for adults over the age of 50.

Existing and future Chapel Hill families with adults under the age of 50 and  their children are in need of more affordable housing like this.    This development would be extremely attractive to such young families given the price point and how close they are to some of the best schools in the state.    If this development truly is to be considered a senior community that caters to seniors and falls within the 1995 HOPA (Housing for Older Persons Act), then more than 80% of the households would be required to have one resident 55 or older.   Is that what they are, in fact, proposing?

Here is the developer’s quote about the project:  ” The Courtyards of Homestead will target the over 50 buyer that wants to down‐size but remain in Chapel Hill or relocate to Chapel Hill to be near their children and enjoy the Chapel Hill lifestyle. They are predominately active empty nester adults that need or prefer
single‐story detached living in a vibrant community but want a community maintenance program for exterior yards and common areas.”   They go on to state:   “Epcon Communities typically do not include very many school age children lessening the impact on the community school system. There was only 1 school age child in the Epcon Communities surveyed in the Carolina’s….many of the residents are retired,” and “The demographic of the target market have few if any children, thereby minimizing impacts on local schools.”

I have school age children.  I am not in the 50 + year old bracket (yet).   I think it would be very attractive to live in a lower priced new single family home as proposed, with pool and clubhouse, running trails nearby, within walking distance to my kids’ schools!      This development will only attract the over 50 retired folks?

If this developer is going to actually live up to the claim that this development will not impact the school system because the target market is older people, then they should make it official and state they will be complying with the HOPA of 1995 and directly market to those over the age of 55.   At that point the community knows that 80% of the homes will in fact have residents over the age of 55.

Our schools and the community need that level of assurance.


It’s that time of season again! Municipal election season. I would like to open up this post to respectful comments on candidates, their platforms, differences and similarities, and what they would bring overall to a seat on the Chapel Hill Town Council. Even though I am not running this time (as I am midterm), I expect to attend many of the forums and keep up with the whole process. I love this season because of the interesting debate about general Town issues that sometimes gets lost in the day to day business of the Town Council. So what do you think? Who is going to run? Who won’t? ETC! What do candidates think are the pressing issues of the day? (Chapel Hill Town Council only please).


I recently learned that OWASA is considering clear cutting and thinning out of large parcels of woodlands that it owns, in order to preserve water quality.

OWASA’s hired expert True North Forest Management Services has a website that prominently displays the article : “How to get the best price for your timber”. I know that OWASA wants this to be revenue neutral, but this was worth noting. According to this expert, there would be a “maintenance schedule for each tract, beginning with the removal of damaged, old and low-quality trees, like red maples, dogwood and beech. Other steps could include controlled burns, herbicide application and reforestation.” I shudder to think that my red maples and dogwoods in my backyard are poor quality and pose a problem for water quality.

What do herbicide applications, controlled burns, and chopping down trees have to do with improved water quality?

Studies from literally all over the country, specifically California, have looked at logging and its effects on water quality: I summarize:
• Increased sedimentation, nutrient loading
• Increased stream temperature
• Injury to fish, amphibian and other wildlife populations
• Water yield changes
• Increased high flows from storms and spring run-off
• Decreased low flows in summer, negatively affecting riparian and aquatic habitat

And in some studies, even drier conditions are created by deforested areas because complex mechanisms of photosythesis and reflection of energy are disrupted.

I know OWASA is trying to do the right thing, but I encourage and and advise them to please do more major research prior to a final plan. Please consider minimizing or eliminating the destruction of our forests in the name of water quality. There MUST be another way.


Sadly the Chapel Hill Museum, housed in the Town’s old library building on Franklin street has announced it is closing its doors because the Town Council could not fully fund its request for this year. The museum has maintained the Town ‘s history for fifteen years, and sadly will no longer exist. How ironic and odd that the Chapel Hill museum resides in the same building our library once did before it moved to its current location. This year the council decided to spend 16 million dollars to expand THAT location, and decided to assume another one million dollars annually for IT’S operating costs. The library I must add was never at risk for closing its doors.

It’s hard for me to understand how the Town could not afford 50,000 dollars this year for the museum that maintains it’s history but could find 16 million dollars in construction costs and 1 million in annual operating costs for the library. Not a dime of the library construction cost and very little of the operating costs actually comes from tax payers outside of the Chapel hill town limits. PERHAPS THIS IS A CASE OF being financially penny wise and pound foolish.

I think the values we hold in Chapel Hill are reflected not just in our desire for excellence in education and library services, but are reflected in our appreciation of our history as a town as well and our willingness to pay for all of those things. I am sorry that the museum that housed our history did not have priority this year and hope the Council will be consistent in their funding sustainability and equity expectations for the library.

I am willing to work very hard with our museum as it exists to perhaps keep them open or delay this closure. I attended a meeting with the Museum Board last night (June 22) and they are requesting a meeting with Roger Stancil and Mark Kleinschmidt to explain their predicament and help everyone understand how they HAVE provided performance criteria and financials and that they are a viable institution that had every intention of remaining solvent, with a little help from the Town. They aren’t an “unaffiliated nonprofit” and consider themselves the keepers of the only history the Town has. They are also having a hard time understanding how they will tell thousands of school children they cannot attend programs there as a part of their curriculum. They intend to state that they had every impression and every intention of one day being “absorbed” by the Town and had worked in recent years towards that goal. It was their most recent petition asking a nominal amount for the next year that was a “first step” .

The press is invited to that particular meeting as far as the museum is concerned. I have contacted Roger Stancil and have asked him to coordinate a meeting with everyone within the next two weeks. Hopefully a meeting will be a good airing out and a discussion of where everyone is, and maybe, just maybe there is a small pinpoint of a light at the end of the tunnel that suggests that the council revisit their request in the fall….if it isn’t too late. I hope it isn’t too late. I will post an update on when that meeting will be.

UPDATE June 24: I received a call from Stephen Rich from the Museum Board inquiring as to a meeting with Roger and Mayor Kleinschmidt. I let him know that Roger was informed and that he was coordinating a meeting with the mayor, but both of them were out of town currently. Mr. Rich said that despite the article in today’s N&O, there was no hope in keeping the museum doors opened and the meeting to occur was merely to know about next steps on transitioning out of the building and figuring out what to do with some of the programs for the kids; also to inform the Mayor and others that the museum was led to believe for some time that they would in fact be absorbed by the Town and they feel completely let down (quite the understatement). I asked him wasn’t there a there a glimmer of hope if they could just wait until September, and he said based on the letter that Roger wrote Mr. Boulton, they had no idea what the Town’s intentions were, the amount of money the Town allocated was not their request and was not enough, and they could not continue to operate in this manner (Roger indicated that one of the results of the September lease re-negotiation meeting could be the Town would completely take over the building).

I completely understand! and would feel the same way. I am not sure that this part of the letter reflects the spirit of the council’s budget discussion nor its intent in wanting to keep the museum open (majority of council) , however one could argue that if the lease was not acceptable to both parties in September that the result could be the Town indeed taking over the building. I would NOT have been a council member supporting that position, and I’m sure that there are other council members who probably feel the same way (at least Matt C for sure).

Again, when I hear back from Roger about when the meeting is scheduled, I will let everyone know.

The meeting between the Town staff and Mayor and Museum Board will occur on Wednesday, July 21 from 9-10 a.m. at Town Hall, presumably in the Mayor’s office. (This works for mayor, Roger, museum, unfortunately for me though that is my day I work in Raleigh all day so I am hoping that another museum supporter council member like Matt C will attend this meeting, but also hope some of the council members who do not support the museum would attend too to learn more about the museum and the reason it says it needs to close). I still have a glimmer of hope within me that maybe we could work something out with the museum but maybe it’s false hope.

“No Evidence of Disease” Performs February 27

The band N.E.D. is made up of six surgeons (two from UNC) who take the healing arts to an entirely different level. They are all gynecological oncologists who spend their days helping women (and their families) with cancer.

The name of the band itself and their self-titled debut CD, “No Evidence of Disease”, represents the hope that every gynecological oncologist has for its patients–the end of the patient’s treatment is the end of their cancer.

The mission of N.E.D. is to raise awareness about gynecological cancers through the power of music. Learn more at

The band will be performing on Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Cat’s Cradle at 8:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at They also will be performing on Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh. Tickets for that performance may be purchased at

Corporate sponsorships are available for these events. If you are interested in that please email me and I can send you to the right person.

Proceeds will benefit women with gynecological cancer by creating the N.E.D. Patient Support group for UNC/REX hospitals and by supporting the N.E.D. Fund, Marjie’s Fund and the Gynecological Cancer Foundation.

Why is this on my website? No I don’t have this cancer thankfully but I care about those that do…..and the lead singer of the band is my very good friend, John Boggess, MD. I am doing everything I can to help him help those that are in need.

Please join me in attending this event…I am going to the Feb. 27 Cats’ Cradle show. Their CD is absolutely amazing and very very very good!! CD’s are available for purchase, too……they are fantastic and I hope they go on to make more albums. This band is SO GOOD that I hope they don’t quit their day jobs because we need them desperately (I know they won’t).