Attention to detail

After Nancy wondered whether Town Council member Donna Bell, who has missed the past couple of meetings, might be lured back to the chamber by some free food provided by food trucks, a local blogger lashed out.

The blogger criticized Nancy for noting Bell’s repeated absence and for wondering why some council members’ absences are accounted for and others’ are not. And the blogger castigated Nancy for pointing out that Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt has not been wearing his wedding ring for a while.

At Chapel Hill Watch we keep tabs on town business. That means we actually watch the council meetings and make note of decisions. In that way we have a part in keeping readers informed about actions that affect all of us. And we can let readers know what reasoning was used to reach a decision.

When a public official steps forward to make public decisions, that person is inviting the sort of public scrutiny that Chapel Hill Watch provides, even if some local bloggers deem that scrutiny an outrageous intrusion in some instances but, curiously, not in others.

If Bell’s work or personal life affects her availability to attend meetings and make informed decisions on town matters, that becomes the voters’ business. Mark Kleinschmidt’s personal life is his own business, as long as it doesn’t impair his service to the town. But wearing a wedding ring is a public statement, as is taking it off.

The council has a lot tied to Bell’s presence on the board. The council members, after all, ignored a public vote so that they could appoint Bell to the board. That means the council, not the voters, are responsible for how Bell acquits herself on the board. If Bell can’t attend to the responsibilities of the post, then it looks like a bad decision by the council. Do that board’s members have a vested interest in not letting anyone know why Bell is repeatedly not in attendance?

Bell has been a valuable member of the board. She has asked many cogent and insightful questions during council debate. So not having her at some meetings does not do justice to the town’s public business. Our commitment at Chapel Hill Watch is to hold council members and town staff accountable for their actions.

–Don Evans

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  1. John Kramer

     /  March 2, 2011

    Well said, Don. You don’t owe the bloggers of Orange Politics anything. A lot of your commentary appears to be over their heads, based on their reaction. Nothing you can do about that except hit the ignore button.

    Thanks for all you do and keep up the good work!

  2. Terri Buckner

     /  March 2, 2011

    The details of an elected official’s private life are gossip, not town business. While Bell’s attendance should be questioned, Mark’s marital status has nothing to do with town business. I’m sure it was quite painful for him to hear/read that public exposure, as I’m sure any one of us would be.

    Handling the outrage through a thread on another town blog was equally over-the-top, as were the tweets that led up to that thread.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  3. John Kramer

     /  March 2, 2011

    By that logic then, it was inappropriate for anyone to criticize Mayor Chilton’s use of the F-word on facebook. That was a private statement too. Pretty ridiculous logic.

    You can’t have it both ways, sorry.

  4. Duncan O'Malley

     /  March 2, 2011

    Your site is has become a valuable asset to the community.

    Mr. Kramer and Ms. Buckner represent both ends of the local spectrum and getting each of them to comment on a regular basis shows you must be doing something right.

  5. I’m just catching up on this thread. Wow, disappointed in your comments on Mark’s personal life.

    You read a lot into a missing ring – to what end? It’s a petty comment not worthy of the reasons you guys started this ‘blog.

    Nancy and Don, commenting on the care and attention our elected folks put into their public work is fair game. While I don’t recall much being said by any of the local media outlets on the subject, it’s reasonable to evaluate the quality and quantity of public service being offered.

    I read each weeks agendas front-to-back, research issues and attend a slew of meetings.
    I know what kind of time commitment is required to serve. Sure, Council is a part-time job but we should expect Council members to show up and be fully prepared.

    But commenting on Mark’s personal status, as Terri says, adds nothing to public conversation.

    I don’t wear a wedding ring (I don’t even own one). What are folks supposed to read into that?

    Establishing credibility and integrity on-line is a tough achievement, it would be a shame to carelessly toss it away as other local venues have.

  6. Fred Black

     /  March 2, 2011

    Don, I think you appreciate the fact that how something is done is as important as the act and sometimes, more so. I think the “how” in this case was unbecoming to Nancy. Further, others are free to disagree but “food luring someone back to the meeting” comment was purely a cheap shot.

  7. Nancy Oates

     /  March 2, 2011

    I don’t know, Fred. Food, especially in the South, is a powerful lure. I have yet to attend a kids’ soccer practice, preschool board meeting or any other organized event since moving to North Carolina that someone doesn’t immediately pass around a snack sign-up sheet. And truth be told, if the snack table laid out for council members were open to the public, I’d still be attending the meetings in person rather than watching them on TV.

  8. John Kramer

     /  March 3, 2011

    Cheap shot? Your comment is a cheap shot, mr black. Nancy is right.

    Maybe Owasa can put some sense of humor pills in the water supply, it is badly needed. And I could use it when I get their ridiculously high bill, too!

  9. Fred Black

     /  March 3, 2011

    The Council Procedure Manual states:
    “Quorum. Five members of the Council are necessary for a quorum. The Mayor is counted in determining whether a quorum is present. Each Council member is asked to notify the Mayor if he or she will be absent. ”

    Note that nothing is said about validity. If there is a desire to have the reason for an absence stated publicly then a petition to the Council to change their procedures would be in order. Of course, in some prior elections incumbent candidates missing Council meetings and/or board/commission meetings were points of interest by some voters.

  10. John Kramer

     /  March 3, 2011

    Why are you making excuses for someone mr. Black? How sad and strange.