“Them” and who else?

Apparently, I’ve become one of “them.” Nancy Oates

At the reception the town hosted thanking Matt Czajkowski for more than seven years of public service before his final council meeting, Michael Parker caught up to George Cianciolo, who was heading into council chambers, and asked, “Who picked up the tab for all of this? The town? Or them?”

Scanning the crowd, I saw council members and citizens grateful for Czajkowski’s leadership. Presumably, Parker’s “them” referred to the latter, a cohort of which I’m an unabashed member.

You might be asking yourself, “Who’s Michael Parker, and why should I care what he thinks?” Those who know Parker, and some who don’t, expect him to run for a seat on council in the fall. I’m sure during his campaign he will try to present himself to the public as someone different from the wag who made that divisive remark. But that comment has colored my perception of him indelibly

Town politics is more polarized than I’ve ever experienced in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in Chapel Hill. We’re reverting to the days when council votes were unanimous. Council meetings were short back then, rarely going beyond a couple hours, because everyone on council thought alike and perhaps had made up their minds on how to vote as soon as they read through the agenda.

When Matt Czajkowski joined council, he asked questions to determine exactly what was in the best interest of his constituents. He knew about finances, negotiations and business, and what questions to ask to get the data on which to base decisions. He was a strategic thinker who examined possible unintended consequences.

Developers got nervous. They brought slick, marketing-based presentations with them when they applied for rezonings and special use permits. They packed council chambers with an intimidating array of lawyers and investors and local consultants to sway council members. They contributed heavily to some council members’ re-election campaigns. They tried all sorts of tricks: hiring the law firm where a council member’s husband worked so as to force her to recuse herself from votes; subdividing land on major developments to make it impossible for adjacent property owners to file a protest petition.

Some council members began to take differences of opinions personally. They spoke disrespectfully to colleagues they disagreed with, and some closed their minds to ideas and concerns voiced by colleagues they deemed as belonging in the “them” camp.

One of the points the mayor made in his proclamation of gratitude for Czajkowski referenced Czajkowski questioning conventional wisdom, “And what could be more Chapel Hillian than that?” the mayor said.

We need council members who can talk with and listen to their colleagues and constituents. We don’t need someone who shows such disrespect for residents who question conventional thought as they advocate for the best interests of the community.
– Nancy Oates

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
Previous Post
Next Post
Leave a comment


  1. George C

     /  March 30, 2015


    If you had heard the entire conversation (and perhaps you did but chose to ignore the earlier part) you would know that Michael’s question wasn’t an unreasonable one. I had asked Michael whether he was there for the reception and he said no, that he was there for the Council meeting. He then said that he didn’t even know there was a reception for Matt, at which point I said that I didn’t even know about the reception until I read about it in your column that morning. So his question was not out of line given the fact that I shared with him about how I learned of the event.

  2. Nancy

     /  March 30, 2015

    George, I was disappointed that the town didn’t announce the reception publicly beforehand. It had been in the works for days. I chewed on Parker’s remark for a while, trying to find some saving grace, because I did not expect such a divisive remark from him. I would like to see candidates whose sole motivation for running for office is public service, making the town a more livable, fiscally sustainable place to live. If Parker were concerned that his tax dollars were being frittered away on something he disagreed with, he would have made a different comment. His phrasing revealed an “us vs. them” mindset that I wish wasn’t there.

  3. Don Evans

     /  March 30, 2015

    Good to hear that Nancy’s column is keeping Town Council members informed. Sounds like the town sure isn’t!

  4. Fred Black

     /  March 30, 2015

    Who paid for the reception? If it came out of Town funds, then all of us “thems” paid for it. I think you are reading much too much into Michael Parker’s comment.

  5. George C

     /  March 30, 2015

    Nancy, I don’t think Michael was concerned that tax dollars were being frittered away. I think he was simply asking who arranged the reception since it was announced on your blog.

    Dan, I was disappointed that the reception wasn’t better publicized. And although I didn’t often agree with Matt (but there were times we did), I would have liked to see a more robust reception (although I heard the cake was very good but I am trying to lose weight). Whether one agrees with someone or not, 7 years of Council, committee, and advisory board meetings is a very significant contribution of time and energy and we all have only so much time to give so every minute or hour is valuable.

  6. Buffie Webber

     /  March 30, 2015

    My assumption is more people would have been in attendance to appreciate Matt had the opportunity been widely publicized. Arriving at the end of the occasion, I was pleased to see people with diverse views committed to planning for our town’s future. Matt has generously volunteered his expertise and time to strive to make our lives better.

    I applaud Matt’s commitment in bringing his talents to east Africa and hopes to addressing one of the most divisive issues of our time — access to water.

    Reconciliation in Rwanda is based on finding common ground. I answered the phone to hear the caller from Kigali stating, “the river is red with blood and the bodies are heading down river like logs to a sawmill, send help.” It is stunning to realize how easy and quick it is to inspire genocide.

    It is much easier to be divisive than it is to do the work of builing a community. My heart and good wishes are with Matt.