Chapel Hill: Opinion

June 20, 2014

Your letters, June 22

William Price is right (“Saunders Name,” June 1, 2014) that the evidence for William Saunders’ leadership of the Ku Klux Klan is ambiguous and that Saunders rendered invaluable service in preserving North Carolina’s colonial records. All the same, Carolina’s Saunders Hall needs a new name.

Put name behind us

William Price is right (“Saunders Name,” June 1, 2014) that the evidence for William Saunders’ leadership of the Ku Klux Klan is ambiguous and that Saunders rendered invaluable service in preserving North Carolina’s colonial records. All the same, Carolina’s Saunders Hall needs a new name.

While there is no smoking gun, contemporary letters in UNC’s Southern Historical Collection strongly suggest that Saunders played an intimate role in advising the Reconstruction-era Klan in its work of terrorizing black voters and seeking to restore white supremacy. So too does Saunders’ repeated refusal to answer questions about the Klan when asked by congressional investigators in 1871.

Changing one name doesn’t require changing others, nor will anyone forget the dark side of southern history if UNC decides to emphasize that times have changed. In the South’s painful past, the Klan’s deeds fall in a special category and so should Saunders Hall.

The fundamental question is not about the past, however, but about the future and how the university should present itself to coming generations. Even if we interpret Saunders in the most positive light possible, a building named for him will always need a footnote to explain why UNC doesn’t really endorse racial terrorism. Why should the university shoulder that awkward and self-defeating chore, when there are far more effective ways to teach historical complexity? Far better to put this endless controversy behind us with a name that accurately represents the Carolina of today and unifies the campus and its friends.

As for Saunders personally, his name will always be inseparable from the Colonial Records series that Dr. Price mentioned. That should be monument enough for anybody.

Harry L. Watson

Atlanta Distinguished Professor of Southern Culture

Department of History


Town’s missed chance

An expensive Texan consultant was hired to develop a form-based code for Chapel Hill in the Ephesus-Fordham area. Our town manager and mayor did a hard sell to the council and public. Except for Matt Czajkowski, Jim Ward and Ed Harrison, Town Council members adopted the re-zoning plan substantially unchanged.

In his book “The Research Triangle” Professor William Rohe, local expert on development, offers free advice on dealing with challenges our area faces. His findings conflict with the adopted plan:

1.Encourage and support “collaboration among the public, civic, nonprofit and private sectors ... consulting a wide range of interest groups including faith-based organizations, neighborhood associations, art organizations, and, ... developers and downtown business groups.” The plan was drafted without community input, tailored to suit the narrow interests of developers and property owners.

2. “Don’t attempt to solve the problems with the Special Use Permits (SUP) simply by eliminating them. Use other options ... to maintain flexibility.” Town staff eliminated the SUP replacing it with rigid regulations. Development proposals can be evaluated only on the basis of physical form, not on how well they meet community goals such as affordable housing, public open space, or environmental stewardship.

3. “Condition the approval of new development on the ability of the existing or planned infrastructure to accommodate that development. If (for example) school facilities or road capacity is found to be inadequate, development should be stalled until that capacity is achieved.” There is no plan for phased development related to infrastructure needs. The plan is top heavy with residential development (58 percent) adding massive population influx. Chapel Hill is broke; we can’t even afford the new buses we need for existing residents.

4. “Lack of new affordable housing ... means that many workers are forced to commute from outlying areas, (adding) ... to traffic congestion and air pollution and costs those workers a substantial proportion of their salaries.” We are demolishing low-income housing without replacing it with viable alternatives.

The citizens, planning board, and design commission made great efforts to make the plan better, all to no avail.

Terry Vance

Chapel Hill

E-F bait and switch

In his recent letter (CHN, May 7,, Bruce Henschel provided a good summary of the bait-and-switch process that planning for the Ephesus-Fordham (E-F) redevelopment became.

It was sad to watch a good and necessary idea for fixing poor traffic flow and tax underperformance in this area evolve into a developer’s wish list of rule changes.

All that said, I remember that the announcement in this paper of citizens’ (last) chance to comment on the E-F plan appeared right above a request for citizen participation on several boards and advisory committees.

Citizens gave detailed and sound input regarding the E-F plan and got a few extra bike racks and a promise to address some watershed problems that are already causing flooding – i.e., squat.

How enthusiastic should we be about serving on those boards and committees? Perhaps the town manager could just handle that since he is much more interested in what his consultants suggest anyway.

Charles Humble

Chapel Hill

Towing fees excessive

If the local populace heard reports of a towing situation like ours occurring in New York, New Jersey or Chicago there would be a cluck clucking about such big city corruption and criminality. The offenses that might come to mind are extortion and racketeering.

In our southern part of heaven, the towing company can demand a fee to recover your vehicle which greatly exceeds the usual and customary distance-based towing charge. Though you are not threatened with bodily harm you are threatened with loss of personal property upon failure to pay.

Look up the legal definitions of extortion and racketeering. Perhaps these are the pertinent legal issues in the towing caper and not whether the town can regulate the process.

Elliott Mills

Chapel Hill

Follow parking rules

I’m glad the see the courts have decided on the side of the tow companies and businesses. If I go to an establishment twice and I can’t find parking, I don’t go back. I shouldn’t be parking at one place and shopping at another.

I see a very dangerous situation on Columbia Street in front of University Baptist Church every Sunday. Ninety-eight percent of the parishioners are gone by 12:45. Cars are still in this hazardous street well after 1:00, 1:30 and even 2:00. These people are abusing this lane and risking an accident so they can go somewhere else. This lane was given to them only during church services and they are abusing it.

There are signs everywhere in town. Why aren't there signs that say “No Parking after 1:00”? The town must think it’s OK to risk an accident than offend church people. You would have me towed if I parked in your driveway and went to visit your neighbor.

Also, why should law breakers decide on their punishment? If you even have rules at home and your child breaks them, does the child decide on his or her punishment? Maybe I shouldn’t ask that question in Chapel Hill.

Drivers, taxpayers’ money is being used in courts because you are acting irresponsibly. Put those mean towing companies out of business. Obey the rules!

Faye Blackwood

Chapel Hill

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