An innocent child
Once again I find myself trying to find words to express the sense of tragedy that our community feels in the wake of another killing. This time a baby girl, Maleah Williams, was struck and killed by a bullet fired from a car leaving the parking lot of the apartment complex where she lived.
It is difficult to imagine a more heart-wrenching reality for this family than this: a mother mourning the death of her child, while most of the community celebrated Christmas. This death of an innocent child should have never happened, and I honestly wish I could feel confident that I might never again have to repeat this message. We cannot view these killings as something that happens to others without the danger, as a community, of becoming numb to them and eventually accepting them as part of life.
We do not know all of the facts of this incident, but this type of blatant disregard for human life cannot continue to be tolerated. All it takes to totally transform a family, a neighborhood, a town is to excuse this type of behavior. The bullet that struck Maleah did not know what path it took, but the person who fired the gun displayed a total lack of concern for the tragedy their actions would cause.
This lack of respect for life and community should cause all of us to work for a safe and peaceful place for everyone. Orange County will continue to work with our elected and municipal law enforcements agencies to ensure the safety of all of our residents.
As Mayor Pam Hemminger said, “We have a right to demand this as a community.”
On behalf of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family of little Maleah, and ask for prayers for her and her family in their time of grief. May God bless Maleah’s memory and use it to strengthen our resolve to come together as a community for change.
Orange County Board of Commissioners
A polarizing debate
The discussion about America’s gun violence problem on the Opinion page of the Chapel Hill News on Dec. 30 demonstrated how polarizing is the Second Amendment. The commentary exclaimed that “the gun situation is not hopeless” while one letter complained about the gun lobby’s “amoral politics” next to a letter promoting more citizens to carry and be armed in order to decrease crime. And “Our Toon” parodied “The Guns Make Us Safer Myth.”
Having this discussion in public forums may eventually show that a correct reading of the Second Amendment and fully understanding the Supreme Court’s Heller decision could lead to common ground. Heller does affirm the right to possess a firearm and to use it for traditionally lawful purposes. Yet Heller also affirms that the Second Amendment is not unlimited and that prohibitions on possession by felons and the mentally ill and forbidding carry in sensitive places such as schools and imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms is not restricted by the Second Amendment.
If there can be agreement on those two points, maybe there is hope for the gun debate leading toward at least détente – and hopefully, civility. Then we can get to the serious business of making all of us feel safer.
Professor emeritus, Duke University
In your December 30 “What You’re Saying” section, a letter from Don Holloway contained some interesting data. Unfortunately, they are incorrect and misleading. A quick Google search can reveal sites, supported by the gun lobby, that contain the “information” Mr Holloway used in his letter.
One site, “americangunracts.com,” contains all the misinformation in Mr Holloway’s letter. If, for instance, one looks for the data of “researcher Gary Kleck” that is mentioned in americangunfacts.com, a review of Mr. Kleck’s book will be found. The review debunks Mr. Kleck’s claims of “fact”! Also, and more importantly, “researcher Gary Kleck” still came to the conclusion that only federally licensed people should be able to sell guns, that a background check should be performed on every gun buyer and that there should be a modest expansion of our gun control laws. Our present Congress, however, has even refused to disallow those on our “Do Not Fly” list from buying guns.
Further research on the Internet reveals how dubious are the other claims of “fact” on the multitude of pro-gun sites (or should I say, pro gun-manufacturers and NRA sites).
Valid statistics do support the notion that having weapons in the house protects homeowners from intruders. However, with all of the misinformation on the Internet and our government’s banning its support of research on the pros and cons of gun ownership, it is difficult for us, as nation, to make rational choices regarding gun laws.
Perhaps the Chapel Hill News should take the time to review statements of “fact” before publishing them (and, at least, adding an editor's note to questionable statements). Indeed, we all need to be more skeptical about “facts” that bombard us daily from all sides of the many debates now raging in our nation.
Public shut out on Legion Post site
The town agreed with the local American Legion Post in 2005 that If the post decided to sell its 36-acre tract on Legion Road, the town would have a first right to buy this unique, undeveloped site for public purposes.
On Sept. 30, 2015, the town manager received a letter from a developer who had obtained an option on this property, asking if the town would like to exercise its right to buy it.
This letter should have started a lively public discussion by the council and the public about the best course of action. But the manager kept the letter under wraps. The council held a closed session on the matter on Nov. 9. No room to explain the details here, but there is no doubt that this decision could have and should have been discussed publicly. Instead, the council chose to stretch the open meetings law past the breaking point and decide to give up this opportunity in secret.
Even more disturbing, the town manager signed an agreement with the developer, showing a site plan with 600 apartments and an access road that appears to cause a safety problem for the adjacent school and town park. Although the agreement does state that the town permitting process will govern the development, it is just wrong that the town has given implied approval, secretly negotiated, to a big project with big impacts on our town that the public has not even heard about.
The manager continued to keep this decision secret, only releasing the information on Dec. 18 when it had begun to leak out.
This conduct by the previous council leadership and by the manager shows contempt for the principles of open government and for Chapel Hill citizens. The whole thing stinks to high heaven.
Town must communicate better
In reading the Dec. 27 column, “Chapel Hill Must Bring Missing Voices to the Table” (CHN, http://nando.com/36e), I wanted to shout “Hurrah!” Someone is asking for a better way of letting the town citizens know what is happening at Town Hall. The manager and Town Council have voted for development proposals, including a 9-acre tract, originally meant for needed cemetery expansion, and none of us had a say.
I am sure several citizens will say that the town manager does not have a vote in council decisions, but he does have a strong power of persuasion before the council does vote.
Speaking of town managers, the former manager, Cal Horton, and the Town Council had arranged to have a first-choice agreement to purchase the American Legion 36 acre tract at 1714 Legion Road. In November 2015, at the last meeting of the former Town Council, it voted to pass on the opportunity to purchase the land for $9 million. Waiting in the wings, a developer purchased it for $10 million. This property would have been a wonderful park area, and it came with a 8,378 square-foot building that could have been an indoor recreational area. Now, we may have up to 600 apartments – just what we needed.
I hope this new Town Council will see that there is better communication with the town citizens it serves. I, and other citizens, would like to be informed regularly in the public media as to what the Town Council has on its plate, especially when public land is to be sold or developments are beginning to surface. We could sign up to receive this information and also be sure our public media are informed.
Also, why can’t we have town public meetings on Saturday mornings? Of course, some citizens have to work on Saturday, but it is not usually a working day for most people so possibly we could have more input from citizens.