Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Scott Mill rezoning vote postponed a third time

There have been many developments in the Scott Mill rezoning struggle since July, and below is breaking news.  Basically, negotiations between community members and the developer resulted in a list of committed elements that are acceptable to the community.  There are still ambiguities and new issues, so the Commissioners rightly decided that they should not vote on it now.  One big problem is that an updates site plan, including the new committed elements, has not been received and reviewed by the planning department yet. 
Several community members (including the president of the Lyon's Farm homeowners' association) and representatives of the developer (and one pro-development speaker) spoke at the public hearing.  NE Creek Stream Watch was represented.  Also, the group now has a website, www.necreek.org, soon to be added to the links section of this site.  
I heard Sunday evening from a second person that Commissioner Becky Heron planned to vote no on the rezoning because of the methods used by the developer.  Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow has gotten more involved in this and also seems to be on the side of the community.  Commissioner Philip Cousin seems most favorable to the developer, saying that there are two sides and that this is taking too long to be settled.  Cheek was concerned with streamlining the process by making rules to prevent future problems.  Page might be supportive of development.  Some would like the site to be preserved as green space, but the community is resigned to development, but wants it to be more in harmony with the site and neighbors.  The committed elements go as far as possible for environmental concerns, although the plan still isn't very green or innovative.    
There is lots to say, but this is a quick note.  This is an important issue because of the environmental concerns and as a case study of how development occurs in Durham, which is an issue of interest to progressives, as I said before.  Another issue I might highlight in the future is sedimentation and threats to three rare plants and a rare salamander species in the area around Hobson Rd, Alston Avenue, and Highway 55, at the crossroads of Genlee, on the edge of RTP. 
I thought two more rezonings were up for discussion, but either I missed those (I doubt they were settled before 7:15) or one was in the brief discussion with a Chapel Hill town council member and Durham resident about walkability around the new Creekside Elementary School by Epheus Church.       

Friday, August 11, 2006

Imperialism discussion August 26th, 3-5pm

The rescheduled imperialism and monopoly discussion will be
Saturday, August 26th, 3-5pm at Durham's Southwest
Library (3605 Shannon Rd. in western Durham).  The Library can
be reached by turning south onto Shannon Rd. from
University Dr., across from where South Square Mall
used to be, now a Super Target, or north onto Shannon
from MLK Parkway.  The meeting room is off of the
front lobby.  

The readings are the same as before (all of
Imperialism, chapter 1 of Monopoly Capital, the Smithfield
Foods case study, and the rest of Value, Price, and Profit).
It would be best to read everything, but you can
participate without reading everything, since the
discussion is usually general.  

It would be helpful to read the rest of Marx's Value,
Price, and Profit
, though it might not come up
directly (the first 7 sections were suggested for the
June meeting).  Imperialism:  The Highest Stage of
, is a major work on this subject.  My
edition has 123 pages, but unless we have more than
one meeting on this, reading the entire book will be useful for
the meeting (but the most important chapters for this meeting are probably
chapters 1-5, 7, and the last chapter).  We could focus on the
economics of imperialism at the August meeting and
look more at the superstructure and politics of
imperialism later.  It is probably still in print from
International Publishers and it is online at
www.marxists.org/archive/lenin /works/1916/imp-hsc/index.htm.
The Marx reading is also available at
www.marxists.org .

Monopoly Capital, by Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy, is
about American monopoly capitalism and was written in
1966.  It builds on the Lenin reading and argues that some features
of capitalism have changed since then.  The chapter on "The Giant Corporation"
is informative for the upcoming meeting.

As practical example of monopoly we could look at
short article from a few years ago on how
Smithfield Foods is an example of monopoly capitalism.
Smithfield is a mainly pork producing company
and is illegally and violently opposing unionization
of its huge pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North
Carolina.  The article is available online at:
www.allianceml.com/paper/2004/carolinas.html .  
For more recent updates, covering the labor and environmental
situations, see
www.allianceml.com/indexpages/whatisnew.html; the
links are under the current issue, labeled as a series
on monopoly and agriculture.  There is also an article
on the unionization struggle at Case Farms, a chicken
processor, in western North Carolina.  Smithfield is also the topic of
the main front page article in this month's
Triangle Free Press (www.trianglefreepress.org). 
Also, this Saturday a bus will be leaving from NCCU by the student union at 6am for the
national protest in Washington of Israeli aggression in Lebanon.  Tickets are on alse for $25
(scholarships are probably also available) at The Know Bookstore and probably The Regulator Bookstore
and Internationalist Books.  At 2pm the monthly anti0torture vigil will be going on along Highway 70,
near Smithfield, and there will be carpools from Brightleaf Square and Falconbridge at 1pm.  There are also
the usual peace vigils, most likely with many Lebanon related signs now, at 5pm in Chapel Hill and Raleigh 
and Saturday at 12pm in Durham.   

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More on the Lebanon meeting

This is a quick note, but here are a few more things.  Price might have made a big admission when he said H. Res. 921 was a Republican attempt to split Jewish voters and the Democratic Party.  In my group people suggested that the influence of the Zionist lobbying group AIPAC might have been a big factor.  Overall the meeting spoke some of class (but weekly, referring the "elites," though I am guilt of this soft playing too, sometimes) and national sovereignty (though not of an overall Arab sovereignty, as opposed to Lebanese sovereignty individually).  Obviously this was not a Marxist meeting, and insight doesn't only come from Marxists, but I felt it was missing a practical class struggle or broader viewpoint (like connecting this issue to others, calling into question Price's positions and other things).  Maybe it didn't use the language I prefer, like national liberation, but there was also something objective.  Overall it was going in a good direction though.  
The workshop agendas might be up by now at the OCDP's blog, but I will mention them here.  The questions to be answered, were:  What should be the U.S. do short term?, What should the key principles for long-term US policy in the Mideast and L., and What can we do locally?  For my group, the ideas were 1)  stop sending arms to I, not vetoeing more security council resolutions, no new wars (?), humanitarian aid to L, and resisting plans to occupy L.  Actually, I can't type this now, so maybe more later or see OCDP.   

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Price defends his vote at teach-in in Chapel Hill

Earlier this evening I went to a teach-in organized by the Orange County Democratic Party at the Southern Orange County Human Services Center.  It sounds like more Lebanon discussion is going on at their blog, orangedems.blogspot.com, and proposals we came up with will be discussed there.  At noon the Womens' International League for Peace and Freedom and others held a one-hour protest in front of the post office on Franklin St.  When I decided to go the the teach-in I didn't know it was organized by the DP.  It was better than I feared, in that it was against Israeli aggression, but it also seemed too idealistic (such as that our policy should not be to maintain our standard of living) and I could see where conservatives would attack many proposals as pacifism (such as the example I just gave).  The crowd filled a large room at the Center, maybe more than one hundred people participated.  The crowd was mostly gray haired, but there were middle aged people and college, and maybe high school students.  The crowd was almost all white, with a few Arabs or others as the main minority.  The speakers were Sarah Shields (UNC), Akram Khater (NCSU), and Michael Hunt (UNC), with Jack (?) Sanders moderating.  The program gives contact information for our reps, charities to give donations to, and the websites of several peace groups, such as UFPJ, CodePink, Global Exchange, Gush Shalom, WILPF , Peace Now, and Tikkun (but not ANSWER).     
I arrived at about 7:40 and listened in after dropping off some papers and seeing the GRIM table.  There was a police man or guard near the door.  I arrived at the start of the question and answer session, just before Rep. Price was recognized and asked to speak briefly - which wasn't so short.  His comments were just like his letters.  He mentioned his ceasefire letter and didn't speak much about what Israel has done and he said nothing about Gaza (few people did, except for comments by a Palestinian man).  He said he had concerns about the bill (like a Bush signing statement, someone said), but blamed the Republicans and still gave his approval by voting for it.  He pointed out that he voted against a bill that would have cut off all aid to any Palestinian groups, as being too unbalanced.  He said that it is unlikely the situation will be any better for a ceasefire in 3-4 weeks.  He implied that stations like al-Jazeera are causing anger, even among US allies.  Price wants an international force, to stop "threats by Hezbollah" and "external forces" - doesn't he mean Israel?  He asked the panel why the "Cedar Revolution" wasn't talked about more and if it is "worth preserving."  They said it started about a year ago and Bush just took credit for it, saying that he often does that.  Price I think blamed Syria for the Hariri assassination and other events, but he might have criticized Bush's lack of engagement with Syria.      
The crowd seemed to be against Price's position.  A friend of mine in the DP was very angry about Price's vote and brought copies of H. Res 921.  He can't understand why we keep Price and how he could vote this way.  The Q&A went overtime and the moderator tried to cut it off but when asked the crowd voted to continue.  The moderator said something like 'Thank you; let's go to the next question.'  There was no talk of who started this (maybe I missed that).  
About 8:50 he cut off the questions for the workshops and three tables stayed for discussion.  My group ultimately had 10 people.  They included what I suggested, except impeachment, partly because I suggested it too late and it didn't fit under foreign policy.  I should have said end all aid to Israel, but instead I said military aid and that was accepted, though I mentioned the non-military, but occupation related, money we give them.  The groups had similar suggestions, some more pacifist than others.  I might post on this later, or you can read it at the OCDP blog.  
Maybe the problem with all of this was that it ignored Hezbollah, or maybe it's just me.  Price is pro-Israel, as some of the panel might be (I can't remember who said what on this).  The participants condemned Israeli aggression (except for one person at the end who I think was trying to make it look like we were excusing Muslim fundamentalism), but it felt like something was missing.  They didn't feel the need to blame both sides, but there was only talk of rights, not of the means to achieve this.  Many didn't trust our government, but at the same time we were talking about influencing that government to negotiate.  Will it do this in an honest way and what if Israel refuses?  I think it is very valid to ask if we can or should focus on influencing our government by expecting them to listen, but there also aren't too many options in the short-term.  After all, Price said he wants us to talk to him (questioned by a woman in my break out group), but he said he wants us to understand, not that he wants to understand us.  I'll think about this and maybe I will have a better analysis later.  
In other news:  I heard GRIM got a $500 dollar contribution yesterday, it's largest yet!              

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

UNC's Daily Tar Heel smears Durham, overlooks CH's problems

I hope the editorial below from UNC's Daily Tar Heel newspaper (July 20th) isn't serious.  First, they show pride in Chapel Hill by insulting Durham, saying our downtown is a "crack supermarket."  Even if it is a joking insult to Duke, it hurts Durham's image and many people might believe it.  I'm sure there are drugs in downtown, but I haven't seen them. Downtown seems safe and I often feel more comfortable there  (and in Carrboro) than I do in parts of central Chapel Hill. I have more experience with Chapel Hill than Durham's downtown, but there seems to be a difference.  Durham's downtown is improving and not so bad, just not as vibrant as Franklin St.  It is hard to compare the two cities, since Durham is larger and  has a very different context from the relatively affluent college town of Chapel Hill.   It's more fair to compare Franklin St. to Ninth St., not to downtown.  Secondly, Chapel Hill has things to be proud of, but it hasn't solved every problem. Chapel Hill still has crime, homelessness, panhandling, hate crimes, unemployment, traffic and parking, pollution (carbon dioxide, smog, silt, runoff, rampant non-native invasive plants, etc.).  And it is still capitalist, so it can't solve many of its social problems, even though it is dominated by social welfare-minded social-democratic types.  I hope its editorial gets a response; unfortunately it came out at the end of UNC's summer session II, so the DTH won't come out again until late August or early September.       
Our blue heaven:  An editorial from another reality
Based on an analysis of local statistical data and the methodology of the American City Business Journals, Chapel Hill is the smartest town in the United States.


Just by looking around our bit of paradise on Earth, anyone can see that Chapel Hill is as close to perfect as possible. With a population of the best and the brightest, our town has conquered all of the major social issues of the last decade.

Some cities handle homelessness by pushing individuals to the margins of society and the municipality. They are ignored and forgotten.

Chapel Hill has erased homelessness by spurning economic growth so much that our unemployment level is less than 0.1 percent.

Coupled with an aggressive campaign to make Chapel Hill a community with affordable housing for all, none in our humble little burg struggle on without their basic needs being met.

Some cities have deteriorating downtowns that perpetuate downward cycles of poverty. Just look at Durham, whose downtown is best described as a crack supermarket. If only they had a first-rate university to partner with.

But in Chapel Hill, Franklin Street is a hub of commerce without comparison in North Carolina. Every store front is full of Earth-friendly goods to meet any and every desire. Fine vegetarian dining is never more than 20 feet away, and all of it is a smoke-free environment.

Some say it is the amble and cheap parking; others credit the wireless network that forms an information umbrella across all of Chapel Hill; some even say it is the tax incentives that have created the vast stretch of commercial success that marks Franklin Street.

Whatever it is, it has certainly brought a great deal of prosperity to the Hill.

It is hard to pick the one thing that has made Chapel Hill the mecca of triumph over social ills for the New South. Certainly, though, the strong bond between residents and students has led to a partnership that can conquer all.

A lot of other towns find themselves too caught up in the things that can divide and tear apart a community and do not focus on common concerns. Neighborhoods segregate themselves and are pitted against one another. Instead of welcoming new neighbors, folks try to get them banned. Those who should be friends are foes.

In Chapel Hill divergent groups of all sorts have come together to fight the social ills of our time. We've conquered economic woes and became a model of prosperity for the country.

We took our intelligence and dedicated ourselves to bettering our community. It took hard work, it took putting aside petty, personal interests, but we got it done.

We made Chapel Hill into our blue heaven.
[Also, I see that somewhow the blog has gotten out of order, with three repeat posts.]