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Friday, September 30, 2011

UNC housekeeping report reveals "lack of trust, overall frustration," Thorp offers changes

Posted by on Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 10:40 AM

Update: Former Director of Housekeeping Services Bill Burston "is no longer employed" by UNC as of Wednesday, a campus spokeswoman confirmed Friday. Burston was removed from his director role in June amid employee complaints and reassigned to a new role. University Mail Services Director Lea Holt was named interim. The school will begin a search for a new full-time director immediately.

PRM Consulting, the Washington, D.C., firm UNC hired in March to investigate claims of discrimination, harassment and other poor working conditions in its housing department, released 45 recommendations for change Thursday, including a new performance evaluation for managers and an audit or all new hires and promotions.

Surveys with 400 housekeeping employees revealed “a culture with employee morale issues, lack of trust and overall frustration.”

At least 30 percent or those queried disagreed or strongly disagreed that work assignments are made fairly, that management promotes an environment of respect and dignity, free of harassment, discrimination and intimidation and that management cares about the welfare of its employees.

The full 121-page report, along with a message from UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp can be found here. UNC paid PRM $104,000 for the study.

Results were detailed to housekeepers at three closed-to-the-media meetings Thursday to cover all shifts, before the report was publicly released.

Last year, the Indy reported that housekeepers were being suspended without pay for taking their entitled breaks. Housekeepers and their supporters rallied and delivered a collective grievance to Thorp.

In June, we reported that housekeeper Amanda Hulon filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against supervisor Wade Farrington stating that he offered her a promotion in exchange for sex and touched her inappropriately.

In his memo to faculty and staff, Thorp announced 10 steps to respond to the report, among them: establishing an advisory committee of housekeeping employees, conducting a study of salaries in the department to determine possible pay discrepancies and reviewing and revising recruitment and hiring practices,

“As expected, the report makes it clear that Housekeeping Services has substantial issues that the University must address. More importantly, the report also offers a host of recommendations and potential action items that we can consider, on both a short- and long-term basis,” Thorp wrote.

“I am absolutely committed to making things right in Housekeeping Services. We have been working to fix these problems, but those sincere attempts have fallen short.”

Look for analysis and more on the consultant’s report in Wednesday’s print edition.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

With DADT now history, Isaacson eager to return to UNC, honor military commitment

Posted by on Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 11:59 AM

Sara Isaacson, the former UNC ROTC cadet who was told to repay $79,285.14 in federal scholarship money after she informed her commanding officer that she is a lesbian, said she is relieved that the wait is complete and she is ready to re-enroll after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed Tuesday.

“It was just a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders, just the sense of relief that it was finally here and the sense of pride that I was part of the enormous group of people that worked for so many years to repeal the policy,” she said.

Isaacson plans to return as a student in the spring semester to finish her last ROTC course, ARMY 402 “Officership,” before commissioning in May.

“I hope I'll be able to get right back in swing of things,” she said. “I will have been out almost two years by the time I actually get back in, so I'm sure I’m a little bit rusty on some of the things that used to be very natural to me.”

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Only 75 days to Election Day, Chapel Hill candidates offer downtown views at first forum of campaign season

Posted by on Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Candidates for Chapel Hill Town Council and mayor were smitten with affinity for downtown Thursday during the first forum of campaign season.

Sponsored by the Friends of Downtown, a nonprofit advocacy group led by former Town Councilwoman Pat Evans, the debate at the Franklin Hotel focused on parking, panhandling and creating and maintaining local businesses in the Town Center.

  • Courtesy of Town of Chapel Hill
On the council side, nine hopefuls attended, including incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ward, Councilman Matt Czajkowski, who narrowly lost his run for mayor last cycle, and Donna Bell, an appointed member running her first campaign. Familiar challengers Jason Baker, Augustus Cho and Jon DeHart were joined by fresh faces Laney Dale, Carl Schuler and Lee Storrow. They are vying for four seats.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt engaged in an interesting debate with Tim Sookram in the battle for the mayor's office.

Read on to hear it straight from the horses (err, candidates) mouths, in the order that they stumped:

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A year on, Chapel Hill still doing prep work on food trucks decision

Posted by on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 3:47 PM

If Chapel Hill were a restaurant, it would be dawdling in the kitchen while diners impatiently waited for their meals.

After 11 months of deliberation, town officials still may not decide on legalization of food trucks until an Oct. 17 public hearing, at the earliest.

Parlez-Vous Crepe owner Jody Argote serves up some fare at Johnnys in Carrboro, where food trucks have been allowed for three years.
  • File photo by Jeremy Lange
  • Parlez-Vous Crepe owner Jody Argote serves up some fare at Johnny's in Carrboro, where food trucks have been allowed for three years.
Trucks flourish in neighboring Durham and Carrboro, but they are less welcome in Chapel Hill, where mobile vendors can operate only if they have special-event permits or if they park on private property with approval from the town planning board.

On Monday, 20 food truck vendors, citizens and politicians attended an informational session during which Chapel Hill Principal Planner Kendal Brown rolled out proposed regulations to govern the eateries on wheels.

Among the key stipulations:
-Trucks would be allowed only on paved, private, commercially zoned parking lots that have at least 10 designated spaces; vendors must have the landowner’s permission.
-Trucks could operate only when the business that regularly uses the lot is closed, and they must be parked 200 feet from the customer entrance of any restaurant.
-In addition, in some districts outside downtown, there could be only one vendor per 100 parking spaces or per acre, with a maximum of two vendors per lot.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

King of Carrboro honored by those who knew him best

Posted by on Thu, Jul 28, 2011 at 1:05 AM

Books, countless Johnny Cash CDs, PTA Thrift Shop jewelry, harmonicas, gently used guitars, bicycles, unpackaged single lightbulbs.

Robert Harman, the King of Carrboro, was a West Virginian loner who became a local icon and staple. He was a regular at the Open Eye Cafe where patrons and staff cherished his friendship, his unique look and penchant for giving gifts and sharing stories.
  • Photo courtesy of Don Henze
  • Robert Harman, the King of Carrboro, was a West Virginian loner who became a local icon and staple. He was a regular at the Open Eye Cafe where patrons and staff cherished his friendship, his unique look and penchant for giving gifts and sharing stories.
The overwhelming majority of the room, packed with folks sitting atop the counter and on the floor where they couldn't find seats, recalled the gifts that Robert Harman, the King of Carrboro, gave them over the years.

"His pockets were full of the strangest oddities, and they would come out at any moment," said Scott Conary, who owns Open Eye, the coffee shop where Harman was a staple.

"He gave me earrings with an 'L' on it," said Sara Gebhart, a former barista . "I said, 'You know my name doesn't start with an 'L.'' He said, 'That's for 'Love' God damn it.'"

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kinnaird says Republican-proposed districts “re-segregating North Carolina,” hopes courts will overturn double-bunking with Atwater

Posted by on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, Person, one of 10 state senators drawn into the same district as another sitting senator under the redistricting proposal Republicans released Tuesday, says she would seek to hold onto her seat, but running against a colleague would be “a very difficult situation.”

  • Photo courtesy of
The 23rd district, which she now represents, was redrawn to include Chatham instead of Person County. That means Kinnaird, serving her eighth two-year term, and Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Chatham, Durham, Lee, in his fourth term, would be forced to square off.

“Bob is a very good senator in Chatham County and running against a friend and fellow senator is very disappointing to me,” she said. “It’s a stressful situation and we certainly are not looking forward to it.”

The situation is not new for Kinnaird who defeated colleague Howard Lee in 2002 when their districts were merged. She won a hard-fought, but respectful primary campaign by just 119 votes.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Challengers join the fray in Orange County elections

Posted by on Mon, Jul 4, 2011 at 12:46 PM

The candidate-filing period opened with a flourish Friday in Orange County as mayors from Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough all signed up to defend their seats and challengers emerged in the Chapel Hill Town Council and Board of Alderman races.

In Chapel Hill, Lee Storrow and August Cho filed as expected, and Laney Dale, a tech entrepreneur who moved to town four years ago, joined the race for the four open positions on the nine- member, including the mayor, council.

  • Photo courtesy of Laney Dale
Dale, a member of the Parks and Recreation Committee, says he wants to make a bigger impact on the community he moved across the county to make his home. Along with his wife and three kids, Dale searched across the U.S. for a place to relocate from Los Angeles, eventually deciding on Chapel Hill for its schools, its location in the Triangle and the quality of the arts.

He is the CEO and founder of two start-up companies, Appuware and Appubater, which create computer and mobile applications. Appuwhere allows customers to be developers. Appubater accepts ideas from clients and partners to realize them.

Both businesses are located in Durham, and Dale says Chapel Hill needs to work to make it easier for businesses to establish offices there.

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Barrett announces run for CHCCS board

Posted by on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Chapel Hill High School alumnus James Barrett announced today his candidacy for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

“We as a community share a set of goals and values for our school district. Now is the time to do things a little differently to make real progress on those goals,” he stated in a press release.

James Barrett grew up in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system and believes he can help close the achievement gap.
  • Photo courtesy of James Barrett
  • James Barrett grew up in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system and believes he can help close the achievement gap.
“The community agrees that these goals include closing the achievement gap and educating every child. But progress has been inadequate, and the school system has not been creative about solving the gaps in some time.”

Barrett, who also attended Seawell Elementary School and Phillips Middle School, moved back to the Triangle in 1995 after working in Atlanta, and says the time is ripe for reform. New superintendent Thomas Forcella will take the reins July 1 replacing Neil Pedersen, who will step down after 19 years, which makes him the longest tenured superintendent in the district’s history.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Carrboro town manager to step down

Posted by on Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 4:15 PM

After almost eight years serving as Carrboro town manager, Steve Stewart announced Wednesday that he will retire in late summer or early fall.

Stewart, a Burlington native who has worked in local government since he was 23 years old, started as town manager for Carrboro in September 2003. During more than 34 years as a local government manager, Stewart has worked in communities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. He is also a member of the N.C. City and County Management Association and the International City/County Management Association.

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said that Stewart has helped Carrboro through a period of intense new planning for bicycle and pedestrian pathways and helped move through the planning phases of Carrboro’s greenway system. Stewart also helped reduce the price of health insurance for town employees, without reducing benefits, Chilton said.

“He’s done a lot of things like those to make our town government more cost effective and yet continue to provide the services citizens can count on,” Chilton said.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Community rallies for Matney as UNC police charge student for filing false hate crime report

Posted by on Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 2:41 PM

It would have been easy for the UNC queer community to be angry with first-year student Quinn Matney.

He’d just put them through a roller-coaster week, first claiming to be the victim of an on-campus branding April 4 because of his sexual orientation and later admitting to police that his wounds were self-inflicted.

UNC Department of Public Safety investigators charged Matney on Friday with filing a false police report. He surrendered voluntarily and was released. He will appear in Orange County Court on May 16.

Earlier that week, allies had taken to the airwaves with declarative statements about campus safety and expressed outrage that an attack could happen on campus. They felt attacked at first, then confused, shocked and left wondering.

But on Thursday night at a meeting sponsored by the UNC Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Alliance, the Gardner Hall room was full of love, not anger.

"We want (Quinn) to know I felt a great sense of support and hope for him in this room tonight,” said Jeff DeLuca, GLBTSA co-president.

“My first priority is making sure he know that the time is right for him to come back here, he will be welcomed with open arms."

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