Who reads this?

Blame it on the way I was raised – clamming up when accused of a wrong didn’t absolve me of the punishment. My parents’ strategy to raise responsible, contributing members of society didn’t include Miranda’s right to remain silent. They heard out my side, if I was willing to talk, then judged, ruled and implemented. It worked.

So I’m not swayed by the comments that imply I should not have written what I’d heard about 3 Birds if the company’s owners, the Judds, didn’t make time to weigh in. Probably the Judds figured, “It’s a blog. Who cares?” If I were a reporter from The Wall Street Journal, 3 Birds might have made my calls a higher priority.

Whether or not to get their message out, on a blog or an established news site, is the Judds’ prerogative. But if someone chooses not to comment, I’ll go with what I know or have heard from others. Most rumors have some grain of truth, and I try to stake out what I can verify. When I run information I haven’t been able to verify, the community lets me know what I’ve gotten wrong.

As for anonymous posts, I can think of several reasons people would want to participate in the conversation without revealing their real names. Recall how harshly readers criticized one commenter who spoke about a transportation topic that he knew a lot about because he worked in that field. Readers accused him of being biased. Well, aren’t we all?

When I worked on staff at a Triangle newspaper, I was not allowed to park in the company’s free parking lot because I had a Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker on my car. Nor was I allowed to put up any political candidate signs in my yard. Management’s rationale? “You work for a newspaper. We don’t want the public thinking we have a bias.” Not displaying bumper stickers or yard signs didn’t stop an employee from preferring one candidate over another, neither did displaying public endorsements mean that the preference would somehow spill over into the employee’s writing or editing of stories. But when you work for an organization, you obey company policy, especially in this tight job market.

At Chapel Hill Watch, I’m fine with anonymous posts, as long as you use the same pseudonym each time you comment. There are ways to game that system so I’ll never find out if you comment from different email addresses using different pseudonyms. But I don’t think many people will go to that effort to stuff the comment box on a blog. I suspect one comment about 3 Birds was not from an actual current employee, but reading it made me laugh out loud. I could use more moments like that in my day, and I thought maybe you could, too.

This blog is a place to share what you’ve heard and what you’ve thought about, even if you don’t want your real name to get the credit.
– Nancy Oates

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  1. DOM

     /  August 19, 2013

    “This blog is a place to share what you’ve heard and what you’ve thought about, even if you don’t want your real name to get the credit.”

    I know. That’s why I like this blog. Real freedom of speech means listening as well as speaking, no matter who’s saying what. And thanks for supporting that spirit.

  2. Bonnie Hauser

     /  August 19, 2013

    Nancy – lets add that whatever you are doing – its working to create discussion and debate – not to be confused with the echo chambers that have become the norm in town and in the county.

    I love that. Who ever I might be…

  3. Scott Maitland

     /  August 19, 2013

    I disagree about your ideas surrounding anonymity. I believe it leads to incivility, hyperbole and inaccuracy.

    Speaking of inaccuracy, although I completely agree with the analysis presented in this latest blog post about 3Birds, what would your parents say about correcting incorrect statements made albeit due to a lack of communication from 3Birds?

  4. Joe

     /  August 19, 2013

    Scott, have you considered why you’re one of the very, very few public-facing business owners that has a public online presence? I’d suggest that there’s a good reason for anonymity that you’re not understanding.

    I could make my point clear by asking:
    – Do you pay *all* of your employees a livable wage? If not, why not?
    – And, if not, how can you justify not paying all of your staff a livable wage, while yourself residing in a very nice, very expensive house in The Oaks?
    – And, if not, why should I continue to patronize your restaurant, Top of the Hill?

    I’m not actually looking for answers to these questions. I’m just making a point. Anonymity does have it’s place in public discourse, and not always for nefarious reasons.

  5. Many

     /  August 19, 2013

    Anonymity when sharing an opinion is a widely understood means of enabling people to speak truth to power and build consensus around fact based information without concern for reputation, official duties or affiliations.

    It is widely used tool in international relations to encourage openness and information sharing. See the Chatham House Rule: http://www.chathamhouse.org/about-us/chathamhouserule

    There are blogs that insist on knowing someones “identity”; whatever that means, but as I have pointed out there are still no guarantees. It is simple human nature that this sort of requirement inevitability leads.to an intellectually incestuous group think dystopia.

  6. DOM

     /  August 19, 2013

    And who the heck is this CitizenWill character who keeps posting anonymously? (Just kidding)

  7. Sub Rosa

     /  August 20, 2013

    Am I Marcopolos — or is Marcopolos Sub rosa? If I am Marcopolos who is Marcopolos? Are we all Many?


  8. Bruce Springsteen

     /  August 23, 2013

    I understand that anonymity can be abused but I think overall it is useful and the more politically homogenous the area it is used in the more important it is. Which means it is pretty darn important in this area.

    I am trying to be completely anonymous now, although maybe I’ll fail because of lack of technical expertise (if I thought I’d fail for sure I wouldn’t even have posted), but I’ve been non-anonymous on local message boards in the past and the results have at times been chilling. You start off anonymous just because you don’t particularly want your info out there and then they goad you into revealing your identity with an appeal to fairness and then after you reveal your identity they plunge the knife and there is nothing remotely fair about it. And I’m not just talking about non-politicians, which would be bad enough, but about elected officials too. This area is not safe for open dissent outside a very narrow political spectrum.

    Anonymity can be abused so I don’t mean to give people using it carte blanche. But it is usually pretty clear when people are being anonymous just so they can be an a-hole without repercussion. Those people deserve the ridicule they get but otherwise the option of anonymity is useful IMO.

  9. BS points out that there are serious repercussions to “small-d” democracy when dissent is not only not tolerated but punished.

    I can attest to the effects of running against the views of that “narrow political spectrum”. It’s a shame that even thoughtfully produced commentary (not just being a dick) is heresy for the local punditry and political class.

    That said, why are we surprised? Left or Right, self-proclaimed progressive or intolerable bigot, those in power appear to fall into this trap (I’ve watched the trajectory of the most idealistic, altruistic becoming the most petulant, self-serving, intolerant of “public servants”).

    In today’s America, it’s a rare leader that can entertain and consider conflicting input (especially when it runs against their own philosophy) and synthesize it into good public policy.

    We do have such local leaders but, unfortunately, they are in the minority (which will further shrink given this year’s candidate slate). A real shame for the wider community, a troubling portent for Chapel Hill’s future.

    Given that perspective, I understand why BS and others seek relative anonymity on these pages.

  10. Many

     /  August 23, 2013

    I agree with Will, it is troubling and I agree with his assessment of both the polarizing extremes.

    However in Chapel Hill it is clearly the self proclaimed “progressives” that have cornered the market on contemptuous behaviour. Intolerance cloaked in opposition to injustice and inequality is hypocrisy of the highest order. People need only to look back to Madison Grant to see the true arrogant apex of the self proclaimed “progressive” intolerance.

    There are a lot of good ideas, questions and conversation that are just dismissed out of hand because of the intolerance of a few vocal and well connected, well known, self proclaimed Chapel Hill “progressive polymaths”. With the recent actions of the NC Leg, I can see those self defined “progressives” circling the wagons, fingers in their ears shouting “LA-LA-LA” at the top of their lungs from here.

    BTW, although I respect a lot of her work and share some but not all of her opinions, I think Ellie Kinnard’s resignation is a pretty pathetic example of that same intolerance. People did not vote for her to turn tail and run when confronted with an unwinding of her agenda. Reminds me of contemptuous reaction by “progressives” (which I shared) to Sarah Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska.

    Now the choice of Kinnard’s replacement is left to a lopsided partisan insider group rather than the voters. It would complete the travesty if they appointed someone like Mark Chilton, but I don’t think even they are _that_ stupid. (are they?)

    My disgust and contempt goes equally to the extremists of both parties who’s epic failure of leadership has been recognized by the voters…………and perhaps they will figure out how to react in a meaningful way……someday.

  11. Many, I respectfully and thoroughly disagree the Sen. Kinnard “turn[ed] tail and r[a]n when confronted with an unwinding of her agenda”.

    I agree we didn’t “vote for her to turn tail and run”.

    She isn’t. As we would want from any leader, she realizes that her time in the Senate has served its purpose and it’s time to move on (I wish some local pols would learn the same lesson).

    She has worked hard for this community and our State, ran a responsive constituent-based operation and managed to move the yardstick “progressively” forward in-spite of very tough opposition from both the Republicans and her own party. Quite understandable how distressing it is for her to see that work flushed down the drain (though, she should take solace in knowing she help set a standard we can use as a guide if and when policy turns back around).

    She is creating an opportunity for a new vigorous voice to step in and take up the overwhelming challenge any of our State leaders have before them – righting the regressive turn our State has taken.

    I’m disappointed in the timing re: appointment vs. election.

    This is, unfortunately, where “real” politics replaces good politics. Ellie has always struck me as a canny pol, I’m sure she picked a time that would give her the most leverage for getting her choice appointed. The electorate should be making the decision – it’s a shame that there appears to be a lack of confidence in them making a wise choice.

    That said, my hope is that Orange/Chatham Dems making the appointment realize this is an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to good leadership irrespective of local politics. It’s also time that the local Democratic apparatchik understands folks, like myself – who are thoroughly disappointed with the Democratic Party – are looking for some signal that the party can evolve.

    I don’t know all the candidates but of the ones I do, I think Valerie Foushee can best take the fight forward. It will be interesting (and informative) to see how this process works out.

  12. Many

     /  August 24, 2013

    Hi Will

    I agree with Foushee (What a bumper sticker, eh?)

    I think we also agree that its too bad and this is not how the process should work. As I said, I like & respect Ellie Kinnaird in many ideas and policies, she has even changed my mind on somethings, but most definitively I do not support this course of action.

    I also agree that Ellie Kinnaird planed her exit and is a canny pol, and expert an manipulating the system. Where we may or may not not agree is that it’s too bad the “canny” part has made loyalty to her party more important than her oath to “put loyalty to the highest moral principles and to country above loyalty to persons, party, or Government department”. In my book, the manipulation of the outcome of the last election to aid the party she represents in he next election falls clearly outside the boundaries of the oath she took.

    Where we can agree to disagree (and I am not so sure we are very far apart on this either) is that Kinnaird’s resignation is no different in political spirit or effect than Palin’s. Too bad to see Kinnaird’s standards have fallen that far. “Turned tail and run” may have been too strong, but maybe not. As a voter and someone Kinnaird is supposed to represent, I feel cheated. I will leave it to the reader to decide what her emotional state is:

    From Kinnaird’s email:

    ……..”What led me to this decision are the actions taken by the Republican majority in the legislature that has been a shocking reversal of the many progressive measures that I and many others have worked so hard to enact: measures that over the years had made North Carolina a model of moderate-to-progressive, pro-business but also pro-people public policy in the South. From the Republicans’ denial of health care security for our people to their failure to promote a vibrant work force through support for our education systems at all levels and from their tax cuts for the wealthy and their tax increases for the poor and middle class to their efforts to deny people their right to vote, they have been pursuing a divisive and, I think, immoral agenda. The needless pain and suffering the Republicans have brought upon us that I have written about add up to a huge setback for North Carolinians from all walks of life. My own personal sadness is the dismantling of my environmental, social justice and death penalty efforts.”……..

    Don’t blame or credit Chatham too much in the outcome of this process, they do not have very much say at all, and that is just one example of the problem.

  13. Bonnie Hauser

     /  August 25, 2013

    LIke everyone, I’m sad to see Ellie resign – but I respect her decision to shift to grassroots. Leave it to Ellie to resign a public office so she can better serve the public.

    I am also disappointed that this important seat will be filled by appointment. That seems to be the norm around here. Lydia Lavelle’s seat will be appointed too – even though there’s a legitimate election campaign underway. Of course none is as bad a Bill Strom’s decision to resign the day after filing ended.

    What’s the push for voter rights – when voter choice is so vigorously denied?

    Valerie’s great – but if she gets appointed – then who’s going to fill her seat? and so forth? Why are four democrats people be allowed to make these important decisions for 200,000 people?

    Why not leave Ellie’s seat were left open until the next election? Could Ellie’s assistant, Kathie Young handle constituent services.

    Nancy how about a blog post on this? It will all be over soon – maybe we can at least get a discussion going on “real politics vs good politics” .

  14. Many

     /  August 25, 2013


    Yes, I had thought about making the point that in Kinnaird’s email resignation “voting rights” was last in her list of reasons. Apparently she sees the hypocrisy…….just not enough to stick it out.

  15. Bonnie Hauser

     /  August 25, 2013

    My comment wasn’t about Ellie – ti was directed to the democratic party – who advocates for voter rights – and exells at ballot manipulation. Lucky for them, no one is paying attention

    If I were to use my alias, it would be “recovering democrat”