Chapel Hill: Opinion

What you’re saying: Allison Mahaley, Katy Lang, R.L. Juliano, Fred Lampe, Julie McClintock, Yvonne Mendenhall and Ken Larsen

A moral litmus test for school leaders

In August 2015, the Rev. William Barber brought historian and author Timothy Tyson to Hillsborough to speak about the Confederate flag rally being held in Northern Orange County. The removal of the word “Confederate” from the Orange County Historical Museum had prompted a pro-flag waving response. Hillsborough got some international attention as a backwards place.

The irony of that moment was the motivation of the liberal white transplants who call Hillsborough home wanting to have a counter-protest, even though the NAACP asked that it be ignored. Leave those in favor of honoring a false symbol of Southern heritage alone to do so without an audience or fanfare. It sparked a debate and a small movement to address racism in northern Orange County. Northern Orange Conversation on race sought to move the needle toward a more just and racially equitable community – in other words, one less segregated and more welcoming for people of color.

The painful history of segregation and desegregation and re-segregation in Hillsborough is convoluted and complicated. There is no denying that institutional racism exists in all our institutions, but where we can’t find consensus is exactly what to do about it.

The recent request of Latarndra Strong to have the Confederate flag banned from Orange County Schools has exposed a festering wound. This wound has been festering for the Orange County African-American community since Orange High School was integrated and race relations were forced to “quiet down.” Quelling the anger and frustration of the marginalized can sometimes look like peace-keeping and can sometimes look like survival.

To most of the world, there is no doubt that the Confederate flag is the symbol of choice for the Dylan Roofs of the world. For most people looking in, a ban is obvious. For us here, it is overdue.

Allison Mahaley,

The writer is founder of Orange County Strong, a local community organization to support public education

Grateful for transit

I am a car-free resident of Orange County and have lived without a car since 2010. I walk and take the bus (GoTriangle routes 400, 405, 800, and CHTransit routes J, D, NU/NS) almost everywhere I need to go: work, social activities, community meetings, exercise classes, and errands. I support the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project.

I am grateful that Orange County voted yes for transit in 2011 and that we are already seeing the bus service improvements provided for in the Bus and Rail Investment Plans – especially nighttime and Sunday service. One of the misunderstandings I hear about the DOLRT project is that it will “take all the transit money” away from bus to light rail, and that is not only untrue but misconstrues the benefits residents are already experiencing and will continue to experience as bus improvements are made.

An integrated mass transit system must incorporate multiple modes – including bus and light rail – for the greatest connectivity and mobility. Doing nothing/the status quo is not a viable solution for our growing region. Right now, our bus systems are adequate but not sustainable for our future growth. Moreover, a fixed-route transit line like the light rail has the unique opportunity to position and direct development investment along its length, mitigating sprawl and providing denser land uses where they are most needed: job centers, schools, hospitals, and denser residential. This enables transit riders like myself to get around more efficiently.

Katy Lang

Carrboro

Transit plan must benefit all

I have been following articles on light-rail plans in The Chapel Hill News. I appreciate the perspective of Carrboro Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell and the county commissioners’ need for more financial details. I wonder how the light rail will benefit citizens throughout Orange County.

As a gerontologist, I am especially aware of the increasing transportation needs of our county’s aging residents. As a resident of Meadowmont, I have long benefited from a diverse “transit-oriented” development.

I strongly support Orange County developing, building and completing a transit plan to serve our community and connect regions. I recognize that light rail has popular appeal, however, the high (and growing) costs of light rail for Orange County appears to require a disproportionate percentage of the plan resources. It seems the current narrow focus on light rail may delay implementation of immediate and growing needs for transit service that would serve the broader county and residents.

All of Orange County is paying (already for several years and continuing) for this transportation plan. We deserve an appropriate distribution of the current and future services needed and available to all of Orange County with a balance of costs versus benefit for citizens.

A livable community needs good access to transportation across the community for most of its citizens. Our County transit plan, should not be a “Light Rail Plan,” it should be a diverse Transit Plan for our diverse citizenry. If light rail can fit into such a diverse plan including benefit, access, efficiency and economy, that will be a positive Transit Plan.

Learn about, be alert to, and be involved in this and other local government decisions. Share your opinions, whatever they are!

Yvonne Mendenhall

The writer is a Project EngAGE senior resource leader for the Orange County Department on Aging.

DOLRT predictions

If DOLRT continues, then I predict the following:

▪ DOLRT will become a campaign issue for the next 50 years.

▪ DOLRT will siphon vast amounts of money away from other projects while the debt for DOLRT is being paid off (which won’t be until the year 2062 ... 45 years from now!)

▪ Property taxes will rise to pay off the debt.

▪ Low-income people will move out of Orange County to escape the rising taxes.

▪ Property values along the route will rise. This will result in gentrification along it.

▪ The people most in need of public transportation won't be able to live near the route.

▪ People will be frustrated by inadequate station parking and the cost to park.

▪ Many people dependent on public transportation won't be able to find adequate amounts of it because many bus routes will be sacrificed to pay for the DOLRT.

▪ Public transportation ridership will plummet.

▪ Traffic and car accidents will rise due to the over 40 at-grade sections of the DOLRT.

▪ By the late 2020s, people will be more connected than ever to their cars, because by that time many cars will be self-driving.

▪ The DOLRT will be obsolete/dead-on-arrival/DOA when it is finished in 2029.

▪ People will demand that the tracks be ripped out.

▪ In 2063 (after the loans are finally paid off) the tracks will be ripped out, and the route will become a walking/biking trail. That’s how the American Tobacco Trail came about. It was a “rails to trails”project.

▪ In 2065 walkers and bikers will cheer, because the DOLRT will have become what they wanted all along ... a trail with pedestrian bridges over many busy roadways.

Ken Larsen

Chapel Hill

High tech begins to bud in Chapel Hill

Some time ago (Oct 2, 2016) we co-wrote a Chapel Hill News column that was somewhat critical of town and UNC leadership for not doing more to promote high technology businesses in Chapel Hill. Happily, with the coming of spring, high tech is beginning to bud in our town! The Chapel Hill Town Council is on the road to approval of a new light industrial district on Millhouse Road that will be attractive to many types of businesses that support the research and health-care missions of UNC and Duke.

Perhaps even more significant is the recent Innovation Summit hosted by Mayor Pam Hemminger that brought together a variety of innovators and entrepreneurs, including UNC scientists, a number of young entrepreneurs who had successfully “graduated” from the LAUNCH incubator facility, real estate people, and a number of town and university staff. The goal was to create an Innovation Council to help shape plans for the future evolution of Chapel Hill as a dynamic center of high technology.

As interested citizens, we applaud these actions by the town's leaders. Further development of sophisticated technology businesses in Chapel Hill will have many benefits to the town including adding high- quality jobs and helping the town budget by bringing more revenue than the cost of services needed to support these businesses.

R.L. Juliano

Fred Lampe

Julie McClintock

Chapel Hill

Letters policy

Please send up to 300 words to editor@newsobserver.com. All submissions, online comments and posts to editor Mark Schultz’s Facebook page may be edited for space and clarity. Thank you.

  Comments