Anyway, while they were lamenting the absence of elected officials who will champion programs for needy people, they saw a story about one who does: state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, an Orange County Democrat. Kinnaird said taxes would have to go up to avoid ruinous cuts in services. Absolutely right, the Goodmons said to each other. They resolved forthwith to support only candidates who agreed--and say so publicly. "It's not enough to just tell me," Barbara says. "Most of them know it, but what difference does it make if they're not willing to do the right thing?"
Specific taxes the Goodmons think should go up? Cigarettes and alcohol. "Things you have a choice about," she says. What about raising income taxes? That's not their first choice, but the point is, Gov. Mike Easley wants to cut social services, the Wake County Commissioners are throwing up their hands--six of the seven are running for office this year--and Barbara Goodmon will take any help she can get.
"I've tried everything I know with our commissioners," she says. "Things have gotten progressively worse for the last six years."
Since the Goodmons started spreading the pro-tax word, guess what? Nobody's asked them for a contribution. (Not even Sen. Kinnaird, who should.) "We'll just give the money to the organizations that are really in need ... that serve populations that are really struggling."
Budget Body Check Against the BoardsWhile the local media wobbles awkwardly off the ice, still cheering wildly about the Carolina Hurricanes' surprising success and the Stanley Cup's surreal visit to the North Carolina Central University campus, there is another contact sport that deserves more attention than its getting. It's called budget slashing, and a coalition of advocacy groups huddled recently in Raleigh in an attempt to keep the state in check. Here's what the members of this team had to say.
Helen Savage, advocacy representative for AARP: "The state has got to act now to raise the revenue needed for services for its most vulnerable citizens. We have got to find the revenue that lets North Carolina end the waiting lists, ensure quality of care in long-term care facilities, and help seniors get the prescription drugs they need."
Jonathan Sher, president, N.C. Child Advocacy Institute: "Our message to the General Assembly is simple and direct. We cannot be first in America in education while we remain 41st in the nation in child well-being. To protect classrooms, we must first protect the children for whom the classrooms were created. Do not deny needed social services to the most vulnerable populations within our state, especially when there are viable financial options. North Carolina can ill-afford to go backward."
Kim Cartron, director of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center, went on to note that in the last several years the state has cut taxes by $1.4 billion annually: "These cuts benefited corporate interests and the wealthy," Cartron said. "Closing tax loopholes and raising taxes in a progressive manner would make sure everyone pays their fair share to support essential state services."
Ding-Dong, the Chapel's Dead
Chatham Residents: 1
California Developers: 0
At the urging of many residents, all five Chatham County Commissioners stood up and sent the proposed Briar Chapel development packing on May 20. Opponents of the monster subdivision and its newfangled water treatment plant are still grinning."I'm happy our board of commissioners decided we should make our own plans," says Persimmon Hill Road resident Larry Hicks, who fought the proposal for nearly a year.
Commissioners turned down Newland Communities, of La Jolla, Calif., in its quest to put 2,500 homes on 1,500 acres between Pittsboro and Chapel Hill. It was a sound rejection of the soft-focus pastel marketing materials and the "we just want to help you manage your growth" approach that led one of the chatters in Chatham's online community to fear the "Californication of Chatham."
Commissioners said the development was too big and Chatham wasn't ready for it, and plan to consider a building moratorium while they flesh out their long-range land-use plan.
Hicks has been tapped to work on the process, becoming the 11th member of the planning board last week. He says he's thrilled the long-range plan is moving forward, but by far the best byproduct of the Briar Chapel mess has been the diverse community and neighborhood groups that have connected over the battle.
"This was an eclectic group. This was not a NIMBY thing," he says. "When Newland Communities was talking about how they were going to bring all these communities together with Briar Chapel, I don't think they knew what they meant."
Farewell Morning Star Salad, Goodbye Asian Fried Talapia with Thai Noodles
The besieged local business community on Franklin Street is about to take another hit. Pyewacket Restaurant, the landmark eatery renowned for its vegetarian and "New American" fare, will serve its last meal Thursday, May 30, after a quarter century of operation.Owner David Bacon says the decision was primarily financial. "It's been a slow process of weakening sales," he says, but it has also been taxing to him personally.
Bacon has run the restaurant since 1977, when it was a significantly smaller enterprise. First located just across West Franklin Street where Uniquities is now, Pyewacket moved to its current location in January of 1980, and in so doing increased its space threefold. Bacon remembers the anxiety of the first lunch in the new digs: "After the first busy lunch, we'd already used up all the food we'd prepped for that evening, so we had to start all over again." Those days were hectic, but the restaurant has enjoyed a long, reputable run of business since.
This latest closing comes on the heels of two other Franklin Street businesses recently shutting their doors: Emma Boutique and the Campanella Coffeehouse, both locally owned shops.
Robert Humphreys, chair of the Downtown Commission, attributes these two closings to life changes of the owners, but he is also mindful of larger factors that cast shadows over the town's business climate.
A weak national economy explains a reluctance of customers in general to spend much, he says. Largely "recession-proof" due to UNC-Chapel Hill's presence downtown, Franklin Street has weathered economic storms before. But Humphreys notes that these days "we're feeling the effects" of the national downturn "greater than we've ever felt them before."
More pointedly, Humphreys lays partial blame for a slow business environment on the newest mall in the region. "We can't discount at all the opening of Southpoint," he says. The new development "has given [shoppers] a brand new place to check out." Furthermore, with shops and restaurants in competition with Franklin Street establishments, the new mall enjoys the same economies of scale that chain stores frequently benefit from when competing with local business, undercutting prices and operating with longer hours.
Although more than 80 percent of downtown retail space is still locally owned, "It's a difficult time for us," Humphreys says.
Whatever the causes, Pyewacket's demise comes at the end of a period when Bacon was looking to sell the place. "For me," he says, the decision was partly due to his "being tired ... and wanting a change."
Local customers will miss the restaurant. Aaron Nelson, director for the Chamber of Commerce, sees the closing as a real tragedy. "It was a wonderful destination for the west end of Franklin Street," he says. "It had a great ambiance, a fantastic porch, and a well-crafted menu. It's too bad."
Teach, Don't Judge
As a feminist and public health professional, I am disturbed by the federal government's fierce promotion of abstinence-only based sexuality education. With a strong need to voice my opinion about this issue and the curiosity to know how others in the community felt, I decided to attend the "Just Say No: Abstinence Until Marriage" panel discussion hosted by the Wake County Citizens for Effective Government. The forum was meant to be a discussion rather than a debate, and the facilitator did a good job of ensuring that the dialogue never became too heated. However, the nature of the forum limited the extent to which this topic needs to be addressed.
The language used in the guidelines for Wake County's abstinence-only based sexuality education curriculum is cause for concern. The guidelines stress that "a mutually faithful monogamous heterosexual relationship in the context of marriage is the best lifelong means of avoiding diseases transmitted by sexual contact."
This language completely ignores the fact that not all students are heterosexual. The guidelines go on further to make moral judgments about homosexuality. When the causes of STD transmission are discussed in the classroom, the guidelines state that "in cases where homosexual acts are a significant means of transmission, (instruction) shall include the current legal status of those acts." (Homosexual acts? The last time I checked, heterosexuals were still having anal and oral sex.)
It is important for citizens to know that the federal government provides financial incentives to school districts willing to teach an abstinence-only based sexuality education curriculum. I can't help but feel that in an effort to promote its agenda, the federal government is taking advantage of the financial dire straits of the public school system. I congratulate the Orange and Durham County School Boards for resisting the federal government carrot and instead choosing to adopt a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum that does not make moral judgments about a student's sexuality. I only wish that the Wake County School Board had the same courage.
Morning After Pill Clarification
Last week Jenny Stepp reported that, "Planned Parenthood of Orange and Durham Counties has established an Emergency Contraception hotline. By calling the number after unprotected sex (or simply to get the medicine for future use) women will speak with a specialist who will pass the information along to a licensed clinician who will fax the prescription [for what's known as the 'morning after pill'] along to a pharmacy within five hours of the initial call." Planned Parenthood of Orange County called this week to say that the hotline was actually established by all the Planned Parenthoods in North Carolina. The number is (866) 942-7762.
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