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Our town
Thanks for the excellent commentary on what my once-lovely town has morphed into [Burtman, "Habitat for Whom?" June 18]. I'm not talking about The Homeless; I'm referring to the hypocrites who shed whatever humanity they once had when they became amazed at, and then consumed by their individual net worths and decided to end their years as Quaint Village People.

One of the things that drew me to Chapel Hill when I left the Army for graduate school in 1969 was the vibrancy of Franklin Street. We had one of the best independently owned bookstores on the East Coast that sold texts to students and popular fare to everyone. The wooden floors creaked and it wasn't because some clever architect had put that in the specs. We had some great eateries where it was good enough to offer a moisture-beaded can of Budweiser with the fare. The Julian brothers sold clothes across the street from each other and the Post Office was a center of social contact.

Best of all, people mingled. It wasn't just students who ate at Harry's. It wasn't just business people who lunched at the Carolina Cafe. And everyone walked the worn wooden floors of the Intimate. Somewhere along the line, someone wrote us up in a magazine for retirees. As they have elsewhere, the retirees came because we were quaint. It was nice to have them join us. But I think that they work a little too hard at making our town over in their own sanitized vision of what would assure them comfort after dusk.

There are many aspects of Franklin Street that I wouldn't have wished for. I'm sad that American retailing has homogenized Franklin Street as it strives to emulate Southpoint, the venue that strove to emulate Franklin Street (but cleaned up for those tender sensibilities of affluence and dominated by the comfortably familiar catalog names). It seems an obscenely ironic twist to suggest removing the street people from the street. Apparently, what's a thrill in Rome is anathema at home.

Do Street People threaten our safety? Or do they just annoy us because they embarrass us? Who on council will speak up for the realities of life and the humanity that Chapel Hill once stood for?
Kurt Jenne
Chapel Hill

Riddle solved
In response to Barbara Solow's "Medicine or Ministry" [June 18]: Are women who seek out "free services" for "abortion alternatives" and find a "Christian ministry" offering such services--are those women who are on the cusp of making a decision about abortion? Are recognizing a "fetal heartbeat" and seeing a "baby develop" something that should be kept a secret from a pregnant woman? Ultrasounds are imaging equipment that don't lie.

Is it "medicine or ministry?" is a sophomoric question. The answer (I hope this doesn't come as shock to anyone) is that it's a ministry--blatant, unencumbered, willful, joyful and heartfelt. It really isn't a mystery.
Mike Beaty

Missing the point
Richard Hart's column about North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care misses the mark [Up Front, June 25].

North Carolinians for Affordable Health Care does receive support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Anyone can go to the group's Web site ( and see the connection.

Hart's column missed a crucial point: Health care costs are going up, and no one is leading the charge to point it out. Certainly not The Independent. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the increases were driven by the remarkable increase in the cost of prescription drugs, which went up 11 percent between 2000 and 2001. Hospital prices rose 7 percent between January 2002 and April 2003. Health expenditures rose 24 percent between 2000 and 2003.

Where is The Independent's outrage over that? It's a lot easier to kick around corporations. That doesn't take any research, or facts.

By the way, Adam Searing, the leader of the N.C. Health Access Coalition cited in Hart's column, has assisted business-driven coalitions in the past. In fact, he led the Coalition Against the Consumer Drug Surcharge in 1998. That coalition had another very active member: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Did that make that coalition's work suspect? No.

Mr. Searing was on the right side in 1998, fighting pharmacists who wanted to charge unlimited co-payments for prescription drugs. Maybe he has forgotten about the rising cost of health care, but this coalition hasn't.

We welcome Mr. Hart, Mr. Searing, the N.C. Health Access Coalition and anyone else interested in this issue to join our 200-plus members in our efforts by visiting our Web site (
Hank Estep

Editor's Note: Estep, a former Blue Cross of North Carolina employee, is now an independent health insurance broker and consultant.

In the Restaurant Beat column on June 25, Rick Sordahl was incorrectly identified. He is the executive chef for The Fairview Restaurant at The Washington Duke Inn in Durham. Naomi Njogu is the chef/owner at Safari Cuisine, 101 Chapel Hill Road.

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