Seating chart

Mark Kleinschmidt started his second term as mayor by shaking things up a bit. But the tech crew almost upstaged him by turning the mikes on before the meeting started. Those of us watching at home saw the agenda on the screen but heard council members chatting. No gossip to report, and eventually the audio guy flipped the switch to mute (maybe someone tweeted him?). Though either all the bugs weren’t quite worked out or the audio guy didn’t vote for Lee Storrow, for when Storrow was introduced and the audience began to applaud, the mikes went mute again, just until the applause ended.

After accolades to Sally Greene following her good-bye speech, the council took a short recess, and when the cameras returned us to Town Hall, Donna Bell was the only one in the same seat. Kleinschmidt had shuffled the others, as is the mayor’s prerogative. Now council members are lined up, left to right as you’re facing the dais: Bell, Penny Rich, Matt Czajkowski, Ed Harrison (the new mayor pro tem), Kleinschmidt, Jim Ward, Gene Pease, Laurin Easthom and Lee Storrow.

Judge Carl Fox presiding over the swearing in (Bell affirmed, eschewing the Bible) of everyone except Lee Storrow, who requested Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton do the honors for him. Once back in their new seats, those who’d been elected to new terms thanked their families, friends and supporters, and we heard the sound of youth-speak from the dais as Storrow said he felt “really, really” honored and that he owed a “humongous” debt to his family. To his credit, I didn’t once hear him use “like” as, like, a placeholder.

But change is hard, and Harrison will have to adjust quickly to his seat at center stage. He used to be nearly invisible, sitting along the edge where the TV cameras didn’t always extend. Now that he’s sitting where he’ll always be visible, he’ll need to practice looking interested, not sitting with his chin in his hand, looking down. (Is he learning to tweet?)

Kleinschmidt, who’d returned the night before from the International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference, seemed ebullient last night. For the first time I can recall, he spoke about being an openly gay mayor without mumbling and without a furrowed brow. Chapel Hill is the 10th largest city in the whole world with an openly gay mayor, he said. He seemed proud and happy and invited everyone out in TV land to come down to Town Hall for cake and punch after the meeting.

And before the mikes clicked off for the final time, I swear I heard the sound of hope.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Pancho

     /  December 6, 2011

    Anyone else notice Jim Ward and his ham-handed speech get slammed by Penny?

  2. George C

     /  December 6, 2011

    I think Mark has good reason to feel proud of the Town he leads and I think we should all feel proud, not only for the tolerance and inclusiveness our community has demonstrated in its choice of leaders, but also for the many other good things our community offers and represents. But our community will be faced with challenges in the coming year like none we have faced in most our our lives here in Chapel Hill. How we solve those challenges will really determine how great a community we are and how great a community we can be. We will either figure out ways to solve these immense challenges, working together, or we will push for solutions that satisfy only our own needs, and fail miserably.

  3. George, the challenges we face have been a long time coming. There are only a few Council members who have shown an inclination to avoid this year’s train wreck. They, unfortunately, don’t constitute a majority.

    One way our community will know if there’s been a sea change is if the Council creates the Community Budget advisory board I’ve lobbied for over the last 6 years to help come up with some sustainable fiscal solutions for not only 2012 but for the next 3-4 years.

  4. Road Warrior

     /  December 8, 2011

    Thinking about how many of my family barely spoke to me when I worked for Gay Rights (and sadly the HIV/AIDS epidemic that took my Cousin) in the early 1990s, it is very cool to live in a place where our Mayor can be himself.

    While this isn’t a Chapel Hill issue, per se, it is important that we stop the attack on Marriage and family that is the NC Constitutional Amendment banning Same-Sex marriage.

    Okay, soap box, put away. On another note, while I may disagree with him on some positions, he does work hard to hear all sides of an issue. It is a refreshing and encouraging approach to leadership.