Missed the podium

We can’t blame town attorney Ralph Karpinos’ go-for-the-gold spirit on the Olympics. The issues he pressed forward on that landed the town on the wrong side of lawsuits began long before the qualifying rounds began. And as gymnast and Olympic silver medalist McKayla Maroney found out yesterday, sometimes despite all your preparations and efforts, you fall on your butt at the most inopportune moment.

In the past year, Karpinos has urged the town to continue with its Voter Owned Election program, only to have the Supreme Court strike it down. Actually, the judges of the highest court in the land knocked over Arizona’s VOE law, and that had a domino effect on VOE programs all over the country.

Then Karpinos lobbied for a cell phone ban, despite a letter from the state attorney general’s office saying that the town’s ban would get shot down. And it did, last Thursday, when Judge Orlando Hudson issued a permanent injunction against the ordinance. Karpinos and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt are huddling this week to figure out what to do next.

Karpinos could learn another lesson from athletes in one Olympic sport – women’s badminton. You’ve got to bring your best effort to the court, or you’ll likely be disqualified.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Gene Pease

     /  August 9, 2012

    To be fair to Ralph, the Council (a majority, but not all of us) directed him to work on both the VOE and the cell phone ban. If blame is to handed out, I believe it should be directed at those Council members who pushed for this legislation.

  2. PhSledge

     /  August 9, 2012

    I’ve always thought that the Town Attorney’s role, among other things, is to advise council of their legal rights, obligations, and, in the hopefully rare case, bad legal decisions. He failed to warn council away from the unenforceable. He failed to make a legal stand and instead bent to council’s will. On my dime.

  3. Steve Wells

     /  August 10, 2012

    Now that the cell phone ban is struck down, I am back to being me.

    Let’s begin to try to work on issues that affect our Town. I don’t care about Food Trucks and Cell Phones. I do care about Bus Service (it should be free), Schools (what’s up with the Principal at Chapel Hill High School?) and creating a Franklin Street and Chapel Hill that balances the needs of the University, the poor, the working class and the people like me who pay over $6K in taxes, but get ignored.

    Chapel Hill has so much to offer its citizens, but we lose that community spirit, because of trying to be what the town was like back “when [I] was at UNC.” We can respect the past, but the future has to include people who pay taxes, students, families with children and our most neglected group, teens.

    Now that we don’t have to buy signs for an unenforceable cell phone ban, can the Street Scene Teen Center please get WiFi and a sign letting people know where it is? It says something about a Town that its Teen Center is in an unmarked basement, but its Senior Center looks like something designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

    It really comes down to priorities. I am not saying you have to move Street Scene out of basement across from two bars with no parking, but it might be useful to at least give it a sign. Otherwise, it does seem that Chapel Hill has no interest the teenagers here or their parents. So, let’s take a moment and Think Globally and Act Locally to help the people who live here first.

  4. Nancy Oates

     /  August 10, 2012

    Think back to when you were a teenager, Steve. Wouldn’t you rather have hung out with your friends in an unmarked basement room rather than a building with all the windows the senior center has?

  5. Fred Black

     /  August 10, 2012

    Small but important distinction Steve, the Town does not have a senior center, Orange County does. (It says something about a Town that its Teen Center is in an unmarked basement, but its Senior Center looks like something designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.)

    Support of our teens was a key discussion point in CH2020 (Place for Everyone) and suggestions about what should be done are incorporated in the report. A good number of teens participated and added a great deal to our discussions.

  6. Steve Wells

     /  August 10, 2012


    Excellent point. Actually, we destroyed the Sportsplex in the same way. Now it has a Senior Center and the skating on Friday and Saturday ends at 10 PM. So you are right, it is a County problem.

    But someone please explain to me why the Teen Center didn’t have updated computers and doesn’t have WiFi.

    And Nancy, no. I have a teenage son and he went with me to the place. The Chapel Hill Underground Bar across the street is better lit and has a better feel (also in a basement). That is the problem, we have our idea of who teenagers that is based on something that doesn’t exist. They are as diverse, with as diverse interests as the rest of this Town.

    You hit the nail on the head though. People with their ideas set from “when they were teenagers” are making very bad decisions about what to do in Town. As for the Teen involvement, it’s nice, but again those teens interested in Government are a small cross-section of teens.

    We ignore teenagers and working families and bend over backwards for Seniors. I am just asking for fairness and for Council to serve the whole Town and not just students and Seniors. By the way, it’s that kind of attention to detail that makes me hope you, Fred, will apply for the Council seat.

  7. Steve Wells

     /  August 10, 2012

    For educational purposes here is what my son and the friends I know have said they enjoy doing:

    – Theater and Theater Tech
    – Volunteer at Internationalist Bookstore
    – Play in bands
    – Volunteer for the Republican Party
    – Volunteer for the Democratic Party
    – Poetry
    – Art
    – Play sports (too many to name them all)
    – Go for walks
    – Bike
    – Video Games
    – Make Films
    – Photography
    – Volunteer at The People’s Channel
    – Volunteer at the Fourth of July and Festifall
    – Attend Governor’s School (Music, Arts, Math)

    Now, I am only talking about the kids that I have met. Attempting to serve that entire community with a basement room in a Post Office is a little ridiculous. His friends are African-American, Chinese, White, Latino, Hispanic, Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, like Country Music, Rock, Dubstep, Hip-Hop, Metalcore and everything in between. Some are the children of published authors and others are first generation US Citizen. They speak Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Czech, English and probably a few more I have forgotten.

    We talk about diversity of our population, but then deny that diversity of our Teen population. We cannot be all things to all people, but because I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood where my closest neighbors (Parkside) are non-white, my son’s view of the world is dramatically different than the one I grew up with.

    The bottom line for the community is that an unmarked basement is a joke. We are building a nicer building for the Homeless than anything we have built for Teens.

  8. Fred Black

     /  August 10, 2012

    Many of those same desires appear on the list CH2020 participants produced for what they want in a teen center. Also point teens you know to the Town’s Youth Council as they are looking for members: http://www.townofchapelhill.org/index.aspx?page=541

    And for readers not familiar, here is the link to “Street Scene.” http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/parksrec/chat/StreetScene.html

  9. George C

     /  August 11, 2012

    Perhaps you didn’t realize (seems like a lot of folks don’t) that there is going to be a new teen space in the Library when it reopens in the Spring. I believe that the Library staff has been holding focus group(s) to get an idea of what the teens would like to see in it. It is, of course, going to have WiFi but one of the things the Library Foundation is interested in is what kind of digital hardware the teens might want (need) that it can target in its fundraising.
    Of course, the location is not as convenient as downtown, right off Franklin, but it will still provide some new and needed space for teens.

  10. George C.

    I did not. It is certainly welcome and needed. My son likes to go to the Library, as do his friends. I think you make an excellent point. We need to do a better job of advertising in our own backyard.

    We have great events, like Festifall, The Home Grown Concert Series, youth football and even RUGBY UPRIGHTS thanks to the Highlanders Rugby Club and the Town.

    Thank you for spreading the word. There is a view that teens are a mono-culture, but they are most certainly not. Also, it might be more convenient for parents with older kids who can drop them off and go shopping at the stores on either end of Estes.

    I hope the Town will spend some effort at self-publicity in Town. Over the last 13 years I’ve seen more about Chapel Hill visiting relatives in Virginia than I have seen locally. So again, thanks for letting me know, I will definitely tell everyone I know. Believe it or not, I am kind of a geek, so a better Library is exciting. 🙂

  11. Fred Black

     /  August 15, 2012

    I’m glad you will spread the word Steve, but I’m really curious about what else to do. This has been in the papers, it has been part of the library expansion discussion, been on the radio, part of CH2020 discussions, and even mentioned a time or two on this Blog and others.

    In my group in CH2020, a lady complained that Chapel Hill should have at least one swimming pool. Everyone just looked at her, thinking that the punch line was coming, but she was serious. I gave her my copy of The Guide to Chapel Hill Town Services. She was amazed by all of the entries, and especially the info on our swimming pools. She then asked why no one gave her a copy of the guide.

    Our group then devoted time to a discussion of how we get info out to people. In at least three sessions, we kicked this around and heard a range of suggestions. One participant offered that we can do all that we can to transmit, but it won’t make a difference if people won’t make some effort to receive.

    So what’s the answer?

  12. George C

     /  August 15, 2012

    When you spread the word there are some additional facts about our Library you might consider sharing:

    (1) The per capita usage at the Chapel Hill Library is twice the national average and four times the State average. And I suspect that number is understated because the Chapel Hill census figures include UNC students living within CH who probably don’t use our public Library as frequently as other citizens since they have their own libraries.
    (2) The nationally-recommended number of collection items (books, CDs, DVDs) per capita is four. The CH Library collections are now at approximately 3.2 per capita and a few years ago were at only about 2.6 per capita. So even though we use our Library at a rate that is twice the national average our collections are about 20% below the nationally-recommended level.
    (3) When the Library reopens in the Spring it will have about 4 times the amount of public meeting space that the old Library building had. That will provide desperately needed Community meeting space for various official Town and other group functions.
    (4) In both of the last two Town surveys, conducted by an independent consulting group, the Library was ranked the second most-valuable Town service, behind only (not surprisingly) Public Safety.
    (5) The operating budget for our highly-valued, well-used, and very efficient Library is only approximately 3% of our annual Town budget. Seems to me like we’re getting excellent value for the money.

    If you think you’re getting good value for that 3% of your CH taxes (which, BTW, are about 32% of your total tax bill so would amount to about $58/yr for your entire family) please let your friends and neighbors know. Libraries everywhere need their citizens’ support.

  13. Fred and George:

    First, thanks for the information. It would be nice if I we had a way to effectively communicate useful information to a broader group.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with your question about informing citizens. I think I get more information about Lindsey Lohan than I do about the Triangle from local news.

    It seems odd, but most people either don’t have the time or the intellectual curiosity to investigate what’s going on their backyard. I only know about things, because I ask. I got very frustrated back in 2010, so I decided I could sit on my couch and complain or volunteer for something I care about – Parks and Rec. Now I am on the Festifall Planning Committee for the 2nd time and emceed my first Watermelon Eating Contest.

    I wish I had answers or even ideas about how to get information (actual information like what you guys have provided here). I just don’t. The media isn’t doing its job. I don’t read the Chapel Hill paper, because it has more about Jump Rope than Town initiatives most of the time. The only time I heard about Chapel Hill 2020 was when a local political blogger made an inappropriate comment.

    WCHL is trying to fill this role and doing better than most, but it seems that people really only care about things they perceive will affect them and don’t realize how much the Town has to offer and actually tries to do. I have been involved with Festifall for 3 events and I still am amazed at how many long-time residents have no idea what it is.

    Sorry, for the long-winded reply. I don’t think Chapel Hill is alone. It might be something as simple as advertising on local cable and television or maybe you can get Robert Downey Jr. to appear at a Council meeting. People don’t read the paper anymore. Under 25 folks barely watch TV. It’s a struggle that everyone, not just the Town, fight with. In the interim, I’ll just keep spamming people with Town & WCHL posts on Facebook.

    Thank you guys for caring. It means a lot, even if many folks will never see it.

  14. Nancy Oates

     /  August 17, 2012

    WCHL soon can be heard on FM, at 97.9.

    And who’s Robert Downey Jr.?

  15. George C. and Fred Black commented on this post and posed a challenging question about reaching bedroom communities like mine, Parkside. I wanted to update everyone on where things are with Street Scene Teen Center. I decided to stop typing and start doing.

    I had a meeting last night at Street Scene with their new Executive Director, 25 yo – Alyssa De Caulp, their President – 64 yo – Robert Humphreys (also a musician in the Beach Music band – the Nomads), my 15 yo son, Nathaniel (Completely Off Balance and Chapel Hill HS Theater) and 42 yo me. I bring up the ages to make the point about this being a community effort. We all have a stake in the success of our entire community.

    First of all Alyssa has done an excellent job of brightening up the place and adding a larger art space. There is now WiFi and the P&R After School Program continues to do tutoring Monday through Thursday.

    Robert, Alyssa and I were discussing our plans to bring music back to Street Scene (as well as the idea from a Senior at CHHS about doing an art showcase – more on that later). The Sacrificial Poets now have an office there and are part of the changes, by the way.

    We, Street Scene Teen Center and my Emerging Artist Series (more information here http://www.stealingbread.com/emerging-artist-series-information/ ) are putting on First Saturday shows in November and December with Teen bands from Chapel Hill and beyond. This is an alternative to the “Raves” at Cat’s Cradle and the Oyster Bar where “All Ages” means you might find your 14 year old drugged and grinding against a 24 yo (clubs don’t have an age cutoff in most cases). Only teens and trained staff will be allowed at these events which are $5 with the bands getting 90% of that as an incentive. Drugs and alcohol are strictly prohibited and the Center Staff take an active role in ensuring that remains the case.

    So please support Alyssa, Robert and the amazing teen bands of the Triangle by bringing your son or daughter. As a parent, I would much rather no my son is in a safe, drug and alcohol free, environment with people his own age than hanging out in an “All Ages” club.

    The show will start at 7:00 and go until 10 or 11.

    As an aside, it was very cool to hear about Robert Humphreys’ first paid show 50 years ago at 14 while standing there with my 15 yo. As he reminded me last night, James Taylor played many shows in a basement in Chapel Hill. I don’t expect to find the next James Taylor.

    By giving young musicians and artists the chance to play, be heard, hang out and work together, we will definitely find a better community that works for all of our residents.

  16. Fred Black

     /  October 13, 2012

    Great news!

  17. George C

     /  October 14, 2012

    Excellent job Steve. Sounds like you’re having lots of fun doing this with your son.