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Traditionally, political stories like this one start with an anecdote. An illustrative example, that is, that sets the stage for the BIG IDEA. This story, for example, is about how the progressive cause is advancing thanks to BLOGS.

The Revolution Will Be Blogged 

Its one big progressive soapbox out there on the Internet.

Traditionally, political stories like this one start with an anecdote. An illustrative example, that is, that sets the stage for the BIG IDEA. This story, for example, is about how the progressive cause is advancing thanks to BLOGS. It has the secondary purpose of alerting you that two of the most acclaimed progressive bloggers in America, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (of DailyKos.com) and Jerome Armstrong (who started MyDD.com), are coming to town. They’ve co-authored a book, Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics, and they’ll be at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh this Friday at 7:30 p.m. So I think I’ll begin with the tale of how our Raleigh congressional election suddenly jumped up on the national radar screen last week thanks to a bunch of local blogs and the biggest national one, DailyKos.

The problem is, anecdotes tend to be a little—well, S-L-O-W. You know, like traditional journalism?

But if this one is going to convey how the political blogosphere works, it’s got to go F-A-S-T, like bloggers do. No wasted words. What happened is—

Republican Vernon Robinson, the self-styled “black Jesse Helms,” is running against Democratic congressman Brad Miller in the 13th congressional district. Robinson runs this amazingly trashy radio ad, all about how Miller is personally letting illegal immigrants in from Mexico … and wants their gay partners let in too … and is OK with them burning the American flag … and waving the Mexican flag … and it’s set to a mariachi tune. Very catchy. The ad is supposed to be over the top. It’s way over.

Miller counterattacks. He e-mails supporters and the press with a link to Robinson’s Web site, so they can hear the thing for themselves. Soon, progressive bloggers are posting the link. I put it up on indyweekblogs.com/dent, our political blog. BlueNC.com posts it too, and gawd knows how many others. The reaction is immediate—

“Please tell me this wanker is a plant from Lorne Michaels,” comments “Natasha” on dent. Lorne Michaels produces Saturday Night Live.

The MSM (mainstream media) isn’t that interested in Robinson, or his ads, which are hard to describe. He’s an “outspoken critic,” says The News & Observer in a bland, he-said, she-said article, who has a knack for getting media attention. No, he’s completely outrageous, which bloggers have no trouble demonstrating by reproducing his stuff in its entirety—

On DailyKos, “getmeoutofdixie” posts a diary entry with a PDF copy of the Vernon Robinson mailing her formerly Republican husband just received. On one page: Robinson’s trademark gay-bashing and attacks on illegal immigrants. On another: a picture of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, labeled “Brad Miller’s San Francisco soul mate.” Moulitsas is further described as “a 35-year old musician.” Miller, meanwhile, is dissed as “a childless, middle-aged trial lawyer” … and that’s the nicest thing Robinson says about him. The fact that Miller and Moulitsas are both married men (and Moulitsas has kids) is somehow omitted in the stream of innuendo and snarky put-downs.


“The same tired gay smear” is the first comment in, from “Hamish in CT.” “I dunno,” responds “CreamPuff Parent.” “I find it particularly disgusting.”

Moulitsas—Kos—isn’t in San Francisco right now. (Or Berkeley, where he actually lives.) He’s traveling cross-country promoting his book, which is about bloggers saving the Democratic Party, then the country. Nonetheless, he’s read getmeoutofdixie’s diary—which I haven’t—and tells me about it when I interview him by phone from Minneapolis last Tuesday—

I ask Kos if he’s following any N.C. congressional races. No surprise, he names Kissell vs. Hayes (8th C.D.) and Shuler vs. Taylor (11th C.D.), which are the two that Democrats view as possible ’06 pickups from Republican incumbents. I am surprised, though, when he names a third one “that’s kind of creeping up”— Vernon Robinson vs. Brad Miller. “Did you see the diary about it?” he asks me, chuckling a little. Robinson’s putting it out that he and Miller are having “a homosexual affair.”

Yes, Robinson’s putting it out there to the right-wing, but it’s Miller who’s working overtime to make the 13th C.D. race a national progressive cause. Two days later, Miller posts his own diary on DailyKos, entitled “Markos and I Are Just Good Friends.” It’s a joke—Miller says he’s never even met Kos. But Robinson’s antics are no joke, Miller warns. He raised almost $3 million in ’04, running in a different congressional district in western North Carolina, and must be taken seriously—

“… I really don’t need even one more thread about how outrageous Robinson is. If you want to show your revulsion to Robinson’s campaign, there’s a real simple way to do it. You can volunteer if you live around here, and you can contribute wherever you live.”

The words “volunteer” and “contribute” are, of course, live links. Click on them, and you’re taken to the BradMiller.org Web site, where a credit-card donation is welcomed.

Bottom line: Robinson’s ads, and mailings, are playing to his base. But thanks to the blogosphere, Miller could also play to his base—and it cost him virtually nothing. DailyKos gets half a million readers a day, and they include every other major progressive blogger in America. Under assault by Robinson, and with the MSM yawning in disinterest, Miller’s gone straight to the netroots—the activists who get their news from the Internet—and made himself famous.

Within a few hours, Miller’s post gets 90 responses, including—

From “CitizenX”: “Just sent you a little cash. Would have sent more if you really were involved with Markos.” And from “RickBoston”: “Doesn’t it bother anyone in NC that Robinson is clear batshit crazy?”

The Netroots Mature

It’s called a blogswarm. A blogger ferrets out a ripe piece of news and posts it, and other bloggers find it and link to it, which brings swarms of blog readers to it all at once. It happened again last week, with comic Stephen Colbert’s skewering of President Bush and the Washington press corps at the White House Correspondents Dinner. The MSM ignored it, even though it was televised; but once CrooksandLiars.com got the video of Colbert’s performance posted, blogs everywhere linked to it, and millions of readers swarmed to watch and laugh.

To Kos, it was the latest example of the “maturity” of blogs as a reporting and organizing tool. “The press ignored it,” he says. “But we didn’t need them any more.”

Maturity? It’s only three years since the original blogswarm, which occurred when Howard Dean, the little-known ex-Vermont governor running for president, electrified the Democratic netroots with a single speech that the blogosphere grabbed and ran with. At a time when all the leading presidential candidates were cowering in fear of Bush’s popularity, Dean followed them to the stage of a California Democratic Party meeting to demand: “What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the president’s unilateral intervention in Iraq?”

That was in March 2003. By December, Dean was leading the presidential field, and the reason was the blogs—they’d helped him raise $50 million in amounts averaging just $70, and they’d put his antiwar, “Democratic wing of the Democratic party” message out to the masses while the MSM was still thinking Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman were Democratic front-runners.

Dean, of course, didn’t win. The party establishment turned on him, as Kos and Armstrong relate in Crashing the Gate, and chose the hapless John Kerry instead. Armstrong, who started MyDD back in 2001 (DD stands for “direct democracy”), understands what happened as well as anyone; as a consultant, he helped forge the Dean campaign’s pioneering Internet strategy, which used local “Meetups” (Meetup.com) and a blog of its own to build the national network of Deaniacs. Kos, too, understands; his blog covered the Dean campaign, and the emerging progressive movements within the Democratic ranks, better and more comprehensively than anyone else. As a result, by 2004 DailyKos had emerged as the most-read progressive blog by far, a status it still retains.

click to enlarge CS.crashing-the-gate-5.10.jpg

Crashing the Gate, though, isn’t about how they did it, or how to do it either, for that matter. People who read it thinking they’ll learn how to be blogmasters will be disappointed. Instead, it’s about the potential of the blogs to transform the Democratic Party.

click to enlarge Gatecrasher Markos Moulitsas Zuniga - PHOTO COURTESY OF DAILYKOS
  • Photo Courtesy of DailyKos
  • Gatecrasher Markos Moulitsas Zuniga

Its thesis, argued in a chapter called “This Ain’t No Party,” is that the Democrats are hamstrung by their single-issue constituencies—who want gun control, or abortion rights, or gay rights, period—and by an aging cadre of campaign consultants like Bob Shrum, 0-for-8 in presidential campaigns, who are in love with TV commercials and blind to the new, Web-based media. (In love with TV ads, and making huge amounts of money on them, Crashing charges, by the fact that they buy too many and charge candidates a flat, 15-percent commission on every single one. Republican consultants, the authors say, charge a fee per campaign, not per ad.)

The weakness of the single-issue groups, Kos and Armstrong say, is that they depend on a small number of true believers for contributions while leaving out huge numbers of generally progressive folks who are not, however, totally into their issue.

What’s worse, their isolation leaves them open to ridicule from the Republican/Vernon Robinson/Rush Limbaugh “noise machine.” In their vernacular, environmentalists are just “tree huggers” who don’t care about jobs. Pro-choice women are “insensitive” to the emotional toll of having an abortion. And gun control advocates? “Wimps.”

“To their detriment,” Kos and Armstrong say, “progressive organizations feel comfortable advocating policy-based solutions to problems. Meanwhile, the other side is waging an ideological war. Their narrative is the protection of the American way of life, the creation of jobs, the growing of the economy, the march of progress. The environmental movement [for example] has no competing narrative, only narrow ‘policy fixes.’”

This won’t do, they say. Fortunately, the Internet is the perfect way to reach out past the groups, and the MSM, to the progressive generalists who were the heart of the Dean campaign. And if Dean’s ranks proved too small for the task in 2004, two years later Kos and Armstrong estimate that the number of progressive blog regulars has grown to 4-5 million folks, who read 60 million pages a day on the top 70 progressive blogs. By 2010, they think 20-25 million regulars is “not inconceivable,” especially given how the Republicans are screwing up in Washington.

So what’s their narrative? Kos and Armstrong say that’ll come from the netroots, not from them. Armstrong, who’s left MyDD again to start Netroots.com, thinks the message “must come from a candidate, not a focus group, not even from the bloggers.”

Right now, he’s helping former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a potential ’08 presidential contender. Warner’s talking about a “post-ideological, pragmatic statement that government is essential to a lot of things in our lives,” Armstrong says. No, it won’t fit on a bumper sticker—yet.

The perfect Kos-Armstrong candidate, though, would be a lot like Paul Hackett, the lawyer and political neophyte who last year jumped into a seemingly hopeless Ohio congressional race—it was for an open seat—after serving in Iraq as a Marine Corps reservist. Hackett, they write, was a “straight shooter” who ripped Bush’s war, was generally liberal, but also turned aside loaded questions with answers like: “Gay marriage? Who the hell cares? If you’re gay, you’re gay. More power to you. What you want is to be treated fairly by the law, and any American who doesn’t think that should be the case is, frankly, un-American.”

No policy fixes there.

Hackett was embraced by the “online activists” to the tune of more than $500,000 of his $850,000 campaign total. Local bloggers talked him up first, then some bigger ones like SwingStateProject.com, and finally the majors came aboard with stories—including DailyKos and MyDD, among others. Hackett didn’t win. But he came within 3 percent in a heavily Republican district—which was “shockingly close,” Kos and Armstrong say.

They see him—a soldier, patriotic—as a template for populist-type Democrats everywhere.

The Local Netroots

What the big blogs are to national politics, littler blogs are becoming to local issues in the Triangle. And just as their larger counterparts come in many varieties, so too do the local progressive blogs.

There’s JimBlackMustGo.com, for instance, where ex-Democratic campaign consultant Joe Sinsheimer collects the newspaper stories about—and publishes his own investigations on the fund-raising peccadilloes of—embattled N.C. House Speaker Jim Black.

Friends of Ty Harrell helped him win the N.C. House District 41 Democratic primary with their scathing Web site about his opponent, WhoIsChrisMintz.com.

Other local blogs include PamSpaulding.com on Durham and gay issues, mainly; stinging-nettle.blogspot.com by Raleigh’s John Burns; ThePoliticalJunkies.net; and the Indy’s political blog “dent” (indyweekblogs.com/dent).

In a different vein entirely, lawyer-activist Mark Kleinschmidt has been trying to save his client’s life, and win him a new round of DNA testing, with the help of his “campaign” blog, JerryConner.blogspot.com. On it, Kleinschmidt provides a podcast interview with the defense team.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—or blogosphere—around here.

Only a handful of local blogs, however, attempt to do at a community level what a DailyKos does nationally, which is gather and comment on all of the local news you need to be politically aware.

One that does, and is probably the best at it, is OrangePolitics.com. It’s the brainchild of Chapel Hill’s Ruby Sinreich, who in real life works—like Armstrong—as an online advocacy consultant too. (She helps nonprofit groups master the Internet as “Web maven” in a Washington, D.C.-based firm, Netcentric Campaigns.)

Sinreich started OP with the help of a few other contributors in September 2003. Her purpose wasn’t to “build” the progressive community in Orange County, which already predominates. Rather, it was to get them paying attention, not just to the war and big national issues, but local government too.

“I love local politics, because that’s where we can have the most impact,” Sinreich says. “I wanted to frame the local issues for progressives and say, ‘If you’re progressive and you share my values, here’s what I think about obscure local questions like garbage and bus transportation.’”

At times, Sinreich admits, OP can have “a little bit of the old water-cooler feel about it,” with the same old antagonists going at it over whatever’s the issue of the day. But it’s also a forum where progressive “insiders”—like Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, one of the founding writers, or Kleinschmidt, a Chapel Hill Town Council member and another founder—feel comfortable making their views known. Sinreich herself is on the Chapel Hill planning board.

And when news is happening, as with the shootings at the Apple Chill festival recently, lots of people weigh in: The post by Sinreich on it drew 146 comments, a pretty good measure of its value in town.

Moreover, OP’s a place where candidates for office really must show up. “Who’s David Marshall?” Sinreich posted, insider-like, when he filed to run in Carrboro. Soon Marshall was blogging away, charming readers with his nice-guy approach but also, Sinreich says, proving that he didn’t know that much about the issues in Carrboro. He lost the election—but OP made him lots of new friends.

And if he keeps reading it faithfully, as 300-500 folks do daily, according to Sinreich, he’ll soon get an education on everything from conservation overlay districts to how the local school systems are funded. For local progressives, and office-holder wannabees, reading OP is de rigueur.

Other “community” blogs, however, are as different from OP as, say, Raleigh is from Chapel Hill. Take BelowtheBeltline.org, for example. It’s not only not the product of Raleigh insiders, it’s written by two anonymous outsiders, who use the pseudonyms “Lunsford Lane” (he’s famous in Raleigh history as a slave-turned-freeman) and “Dr. Walter de Gama” (whose only response to the questions I e-mailed was that the Dr. is for “Doctor of Love”).

BelowtheBeltline’s authors, whoever they are, pound away at the grip of Big Real Estate on Raleigh government, with special attention to the members of City Council, how they vote on rezoning applications, and how much money they get from developers. They’re fed up with Republican Councilor Philip Isley and Democrat Jessie Taliaferro, that’s clear. And lately, they’ve added Democrats James West and Joyce Kekas, and Republican Tommy Craven, to their no-good list, citing their opposition to bigger impact fees on developers. Those five members voted down Mayor Charles Meeker’s attempt to raise the fees to Cary’s level, opting instead to leave them less than half of what Cary charges. “Sticking the taxpayer with this giveaway to the building industry is why,” Lunsford Lane said.

Still, though BTB’s clearly got some readers, is good at seeing what the MSM doesn’t, and bothers Democrats like Taliaferro by “blogging for a progressive Raleigh,” its authors’ anonymity, and their policy of not publishing comments, makes BTB just about useless as an organizing tool for the progressive community. In Raleigh, progressives need an organizing blog too. So does Durham.

But what’s really needed is a state progressive blog, one that pulls together the best information from all the small and local blogs while multiplying their readers. Or it was needed, until BlueNC.com came along.

James Protzman, a Chapel Hill businessman who’s financially able, at 55, to work about half-time at his other enterprises, literally jumped at the chance to help start BlueNC.com. Like Kos and Armstrong, Protzman thinks the progressive community is “fragmented,” such that “its whole is less than the sum of its parts.” The various North Carolina issue groups he’s backed over the years—pro-choice, environmental, social justice, fair elections—“they all have great content” on their shelves and their Web sites, he says. “But no one sees it.”

A statewide progressive blog could amplify their voices, Protzman thought.

And between DailyKos and OrangePolitics, he had two good models—one national, one local—for making it work.

So far, so good.

Protzman credits a third-year law student at UNC-CH, Lance McCord, for starting BlueNC and being its “whiz kid,” the one who keeps it clicking and who invited him to be in on it. Lately, though, with McCord and a second law student-founder, John Livingston, tied up with schoolwork, “Anglico” (Protzman) has been BlueNC’s most effective voice.

Anglico’s favorite pastime is making fun of Raleigh moneybags Art Pope, whom he calls “the Puppetmaster,” and the various cogs in Pope’s “Puppet Show,” including the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, a political advocacy group there called Civitas, which is headed by former state Republican party chair Jack Hawke, and various GOP campaign committees.

Pope, whose family is loaded, is the one “pulling the strings” when people like Hawke and JLF President John Hood start to move their lips, Protzman maintains. They always say the same thing—that free markets work, and government doesn’t—but nobody ever answers them, Protzman says. So he does—with sarcasm and parody.

“They argue that eventually the markets will take care of everybody, and protect the environment eventually. But there’s just not any evidence that that’s true,” Protzman says.

(Anglico, incidentally, is short for Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company—what Protzman did in the Navy. He chose it because “we [progressives] are in a war. I wish the metaphor didn’t apply, but it does.”)

Right now, BlueNC—like DailyKos—is focused on electing Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives, where the Republican majority—given Bush’s unpopularity and the scandals surrounding ex-Majority Leader Tom DeLay—is starting to look shaky.

Two North Carolina Republicans, Reps. Robin Hayes (8th C.D.) and Charles Taylor (11th C.D.), are considered vulnerable, so BlueNC is going all out to give space to their Democratic opponents, school teacher Larry Kissell and ex-football quarterback Heath Shuler, respectively.

Shuler’s pro-life, which is a problem for some local activists, but not Protzman, who agrees with Kos that “a pro-life Democrat will always be better than a pro-life Republican.” (Why’s that? Because he won’t vote for a Democratic House leadership that’s so solidly pro-life, Protzman says.) Still, most folks around the Triangle never heard of Kissell or Shuler, he adds. “So they appreciate getting the information.”

BlueNC’s also giving space freely to a local blogger in Taylor’s district who goes by the name “Screwy Hoolie.” Taylor, a wealthy businessman, has brought a bunch of ethical complaints down on himself over the years, plus his recent problem: He was the congressman blocking federal aid for a memorial to the 9/11 passengers who died aboard United 93. Screwy Hoolie had a field day with that until the new movie came out and Taylor changed his mind.

So far, BlueNC is building itself slowly, cautiously, with about 1,000 visitors per day (3,000 page views) and just four regular contributors (other than Hoolie).

But the goal, Protzman says, is to make it a business, perhaps with sister blogs in other southern states (McCord’s taken a job in Atlanta, for instance).

Could BlueNC someday launch a progressive candidate into the governor’s office, or a U.S. Senate seat?

Protzman pauses. “You know, despite my general cynicisms, I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t an optimist. It’s a lot to hope for. But I don’t think it’s too much.”


click to enlarge Political blogger James Protzman of BlueNC - PHOTO BY LISSA GOTWALS
BlueNC.com

What is it? Its motto is “Progressive N.C. Politics,” but the “Blue” is for Democrats. It links to (and comments on) stories about progressive causes, and progressive Democrats, all over the state.

When did it start? Six months ago.

Readers? It claims about 1,000 readers per day, not counting repeat visitors, and 3,000 “page views.”

Who’s behind it? The four regular writers include two UNC-CH law students, Lance McCord (“Lance”) and John Livingston (“Targater”), plus a Charlotte blogger named “Southern Dem” and “Anglico,” who is James Protzman, a Chapel Hill businessman and former CEO of the marketing research firm FGI. Other contributors are sometimes “promoted,” DailyKos-style, from the back pages.

How’s it read? Pretty well. It bangs on the Republicans with glee, but wasn’t afraid to bang on N.C. House Speaker Jim Black too, and he’s a Democrat. BlueNC did its own interviews with Democratic congressional candidates Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler before the primaries, as well as one with Congressman David Price, D-Chapel Hill, and his main Democratic challenger, Kent Kanoy. It doesn’t miss much, politics-wise. Needs to build itself up on issues.

E.g., from “Anglico”— “I’ve been surprised how little discussion there is around here about the Great Abortion Debate. And I don’t know whether that’s because we’re all in agreement (seems unlikely) or because it’s just not on the minds of those who spend time at BlueNC. After all, it’s not currently a hot topic in state politics, though it could flare up at any time.

“The reason I bring it up tonight is because of a discussion I had this afternoon with some friends who are strong Democrats and even stronger abortion-rights advocates. I told them I was doing what I could to help unseat Charles Taylor, which led to a discussion of Heath Shuler’s pro-life position. As you might imagine, they were not all that excited about working for a candidate who seems at odds with one of their key agenda items. I explained my pragmatic view that a pro-life Shuler was far better than a pro-life Taylor, and they understood that position. But it still left me a little uneasy. …”


click to enlarge Ruby Sinreich of OrangePolitics - PHOTO BY LISSA GOTWALS
OrangePolitics.org

What is it? It’s for Orange County progressives to talk about local issues, or how local notables (David Price, e.g.) are handling national issues.

When did it start? September 2003.

Readers? Currently between 300 and 500 a day; it goes higher when an election’s coming.

Who’s behind it? Ruby Sinreich, Chapel Hill activist, planning board member and Internet/blogging consultant to nonprofits, is the founder and moderator. She’s never taken an ad; won’t be compromised. Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton’s a regular contributor, as is newly appointed Carrboro alderman Dan Coleman. There are dozens of other regulars, who both post and comment on posts.

How’s it read? Just fine, if you have the time. Posters are respectful, but awfully long-winded sometimes. But they do cover the spectrum of local issues. Folks used it to run the red-light cameras out of Chapel Hill. They also embarrassed WUNC for balking at an “underwriting” ad that mentioned “reproductive rights.” And you read it here first, posted by wife Elizabeth, that new Chapel Hillian John Edwards, erstwhile vice president, was “wrong” to support the war. Edwards had ’fessed up in a magazine interview. Elizabeth gave us the scoop on OP.

E.g., from “Ruby”— “Did you blink? If so, you might have missed the Chapel Hill Town Council’s entire discussion and approval of rezoning a neighborhood near campus. This is intended to effectively immobilize any development of any kind there. This is ostensibly temporary while a Neighborhood Conservation District is developed for the Mason Farm neighborhood. I voted against this down-zoning on the Planning Board because I believe zoning is a long-range tool that is being applied here in a short-term way. ...”


BelowtheBeltline.org

What is it? BTB’s motto is “blogging for a progressive Raleigh.” But it’s more like a screed—or two screeds. They love the citizens who fight City Hall, hate the developers and lobbyists who dominate it, and plead with the Raleigh Council to have some guts. Oh, and they want fair treatment for Southeast Raleigh.

When did it start? January 2004.

Readers? N/A

Who’s behind it? Good question. “Lunsford Lane” claims to be an Inside-the-Beltline guy, while “Dr. Walter de Gama” lives outside—in North Raleigh? But both are pseudonyms. “Lunsford Lane” is an intriguing one—the real one was a slave born near Raleigh in 1803 who became a successful “tobacconist” (he even sold in the state legislature), bought his freedom, and was “expelled” from North Carolina in 1841, supposedly because he’d gotten too rich for a black man.

How’s it read? Like Zorro, says a city official who isn’t one of their targets. They’re like masked men who can tell the truth and not be muddied by the other side because nobody knows who they are. Mayor Charles Meeker and City Councilors Thomas Crowder and Russ Stephenson are their favorites. They “declared war” on Councilor Jessie Taliaferro, though, and don’t think much of the other four council members either. They TIVO the council and planning commission meetings, clearly, and read a lot of what’s on the city’s Web site. And they go way back in Raleigh, or talk to people who do, because they bring a lot of history to their blog. That, and righteous indignation.

E.g, “Lunsford Lane”—“There were two speakers worthy of special note that rose when the Raleigh City Council met last Tuesday night to consider raising impact fees for the first time in 20 years. The pro-hike crowd could not have found a better person to make their case than Cary At-Large Town Councilor Mike Joyce. Nevermind that he was there to rail against them. The very first speaker at the start of a long evening, Joyce related how Cary has been savaged at the hands of impact fees. Nevermind that the front page of the newspaper that very day reported that Cary is busting at its seams, with a record number of new houses to be built there this year—indisputable proof that impact fees don’t impede development. Nevermind that Raleigh is only considering raising its fee to a third of what Cary charges. Joyce recommended that Raleigh consider Charlotte’s policy of no impact fees.

“To which local Internet rabble-rouser John Burns replied: ‘I am amazed and astounded to hear that growth in Cary has stopped.’

“To which the crowd erupted.”


click to enlarge CaryPolitics.org's Don Hyatt never leaves home without his trusty Swiss army knife/jump drive - PHOTO BY LISSA GOTWALS
  • Photo by Lissa Gotwals
  • CaryPolitics.org's Don Hyatt never leaves home without his trusty Swiss army knife/jump drive

CaryPolitics.org

What is it? It’s a forum for Cary residents to vent, and exchange views, on anything and everything, from the TTA rail project to Patrick Kennedy’s driving mistakes.

When did it start? February 2002, which makes it the granddaddy of local community blogs; a new architecture replaced the original one in October 2003.

Readers? Some 400-500 folks visit “regularly,” meaning at least once or twice a week.

Who’s behind it? A dozen regulars dominate, ranging from “StanN” and “MattD” on the Democrats’ side to “Wuptdo,” “Don” and “DarylB” on the Republicans’. But the man in the middle—who gives the blog its personality of genial forbearance—is “dhyatt,” short for Don Hyatt. An IBM software developer manager, Hyatt runs CaryPolitics with a light hand, firing it up occasionally with a new post, or calming it down if someone gets carried away. Hyatt’s been on the planning board and ran for Town Council once. He might run again.

How’s it read? Good. There’s some smart people who post on CaryPolitics, on both sides. So it’s interesting and eclectic, put it that way. One day Hyatt’s posting his own water-testing results from Maynard Pond (not good, but no PCBs to worry about), the next day Wuptdo’s off on illegal aliens (again). But CP’s best threads in 2005 were about New Hill. With Cary bent on putting the new regional wastewater plant out there, New Hill’s residents needed to be heard. CP was the way.

E.g., from “dhyatt”—“I … will be changing my voter registration from Rep to Una after the May 2nd election. I’ve had enough partisan stunts and special interest driven elections. I’ve had enough extreme politics, period. …

“I’m an eternal optimist so it takes quite a bit before I become totally jaded. This is not an easy decision for me, and it seriously jeopardizes my chances at elected office, should I choose to run again. However, I cannot and will not stand up and salute the extreme left nor the extreme right. Since the only two political parties in the country with any power are laced with corruption and a distinct lack of common sense, I’m left with really only two choices: #1) hold my nose and side with one or the other, or #2) lend support to neither and work on the outside for change.”

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