Fellowship of the ring

When a politician divorces, or he or she moves out of the marital home, or he or she is seen gallivanting about with someone not his or her spouse, that is newsworthy. Why should our mayor be treated differently?

Obviously, readers of Chapel Hill Watch know much more about Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt’s domestic life than we do. My throwaway line about him no longer wearing his wedding ring struck a chord with readers and has aroused my prurient interest. But as long as Kleinschmidt shows up at council meetings, pays attention and otherwise attends to his duties, I’m not going to delve deeper into his domestic life or otherwise concern myself with it.

Wearing a wedding ring is optional – as is a woman’s decision about whether to change her name, but that’s a topic for another time. But wearing a wedding ring is a public statement, as is removing a wedding ring.

Until the local newspapers cut their staff by half, divorces were printed in the newspaper every week, along with other public record information. Because North Carolina doesn’t recognize Kleinschmidt’s marriage, he is saved from that ignominy. Unfortunately for him, his well-meaning friends have picked up a throwaway comment, put it in the spotlight and waved it around so that now everyone knows what Kleinschmidt perhaps had wanted to keep quiet.

My heart goes out to Kleinschmidt. With friends like that, he needs all the support he can get.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. John Kramer

     /  March 3, 2011

    Oh man that was perfect! Thanks for giving me a much needed laugh. You have hit the nail on the head as far as how the liberal community overreacts and calls everything they disagree with an attack. I think I have an all day grin working here!

  2. The definition of “prurient interest” that I found most often in my brief search was:”Shameful and morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion”. Mark’s lack of a wedding ring arouses that in you?
    Your blog would get a lot shorter if you actually did some research before you wrote it. Call Mark, ask him about the ring. Call Donna, ask her why she wasn’t at the meeting. It would inform you, you would learn more and (in theory) you could write a better blog. Or would that interfere with pursuing your prurient interests?

  3. Michael

     /  March 3, 2011

    Good post Nancy. While Kleinschmidt’s ring status is his own business, Bell needs to explain way she’s not on the job out of respect for the Council and for the community she represents. It’s pretty disrespectful not to explain regardless of the reason for being absent.

  4. Nancy Oates

     /  March 3, 2011

    Although Bell had not responded when I e-mailed her after she was absent from a council meeting earlier in her tenure, I took you up on your suggestion, Cam, and sent her another e-mail this morning. She replied that she had announced at a previous meeting that she would miss those two February meeting due to family obligations. She didn’t say at what meeting she made the announcement, but I’ll take her at her word. I’ve been watching council meetings on TV this year, and it’s possible I had stepped out of the room to microwave some popcorn while she made her announcement.

  5. George C

     /  March 3, 2011

    You mean Don doesn’t make popcorn for you? You haven’t trained him very well. 🙂

  6. gene pease

     /  March 4, 2011

    I can’t recall which February meeting, but Donna did tell the Council about her planned absences.

    Gene Pease

  7. Nancy Oates

     /  March 4, 2011

    Perhaps it was at the council retreat? That would have been the only time council met in February before the 2/14 & 2/21 meetings she missed. And if the retreat was televised, I didn’t tune in. In any case, I’d still advocate for the mayor or whoever is running the council meeting to acknowledge any council members’ absence with a general reason why: work, family, vacation or illness should cover most eventualities.

  8. Fred Black

     /  March 4, 2011

    I think you should petition the Council to make the change to their current policies to indicate a general reason. Of course, the “general reason” test then leads to the “is it valid” question some are sure to ask.

    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. ”

  9. Terri Buckner

     /  March 4, 2011

    Finally got a chance to call the Clerk’s Office and figure out where the text version of the council meetings are. The only text versions available online are from prior to May 2010. To find them, go to http://www.townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?page=958 and in the drop down box by each meeting date, there is a link to the minutes. Those minutes specify which council members and staff members that were present and the council members that were absent (no explanation for why although in the text of the minutes, I did see some explanations).

    As a note: it does seem to me that the town should be working to put the most recent minutes online first and working backward. Those minutes were all on the old town website. I’d hate to think that everytime the town changes website vendors that they are going to have to completely repost all of their historical records.

  10. Terri, I find the way the minutes are posted the most infuriating aspect of the new pretty but irksome site. Usability is highly constrained by the URL structure they adopted.

    So, instead of townofchapelhill.org/police it’s townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?page=76.

    Instead of minutes being posted in a way that is easy to tease out like they used to:

    townhall.townofchapelhill.org/records/minutes/2006/1025/ (minutes for 2006. 10/25)

    we have:


    Worse, it’s very common to get a “Minutes have not been generated” message for anything prior to 2009.

    Of course, this not only flies in the face of the Tech Boards usability recommendations but makes automated processing a true pain.

    Having attended more than a decade of Council meetings I can often recall decisions that were made, policy that was discussed, which I like to refer to in comments like this but the new site has made tracking that material down very difficult. I asked the Mayor’s committee on communications to look into this issue but have gotten no traction.

    Oh, and don’t get me started on the proliferation of URL shorteners like bit.ly (which is controlled by Libya) , tinyURL and others (which help track citizens access to documents) that staff are using throughout new content. Again, as recommended by the Tech Board, all Town documents need to be accessible via locally controlled means but that’s another issue the communications committee has punted on.

  11. Following up on my previous comment about bit.ly – it appears that Libya has taken 2 of its main DNS routers offline either deliberately or due to infrastructure damage.

    Here’s one of many articles outlining the problems with putting the accessibility of our Town’s documents in commercial or political hands:


  12. Last off-topic comment – turns out that someone is listening and the townofchapelhill.org/police now does go to the Police Dept. (it took a long time but it’s good to see some progress being made on usability).

  13. Mark Marcoplos

     /  March 5, 2011

    Thanks to Gene Pease for posting a reality-based comment. All the rest is speculation, spin, and an attempt to make something out of ordinary nothing.

  14. Terri Buckner

     /  March 6, 2011

    Although I have criticized Nancy for making gossipy observations, I want to make sure she and everyone else knows how much I appreciate the time and effort she puts into this blog. She culls the town meeting agendas, watches the hearings, and uses her professional writing skills to serve the community needs for local issues coverage. I’m sure that time could be spent with her family or on her paying job.

    Journalists always have their detractors, and they sometimes controversial judgments. But that doesn’t take anything away from the value they add to the community.

    Thanks Nancy!