political activism

I haven’t qui-i-i-i-te been drawn into the Christmas spirit yet, but there’s still hope. Today I wore a Christmas sweater and I mailed off two giveaways that I did on the Art Journal list and a surprise package for a friend in Alaska. I might even dig out my Christmas earrings. Ooh, sparkly!

Monday night I participated in some civic engagement. Our historic district neighborhood association is fighting against a developer who wants to build a huge dormitory in a little space without the streets to support the traffic about a block and a half from my house. I would be sandwiched between this behemoth and the university. Needless to say, most of us ain’t happy about it. We’d like to see the property redeveloped, but almost anything else would be better. So we filled the zoning commission chamber and we won the first round – the zoning commission recommended against the development. The biggest battle will be next, in front of the City Council, who can still approve it over the Zoning Commission. Which begs the question – why the hell do they even have a zoning commission or spend money on comprehensive plans when they don’t bother to follow the recommendations?

But being a part of the winning team on Monday night was heady and fun. The lawyers for the developers sat behind me in the chambers and they were clearly stunned from the beginning at the way it was going against them. They had about 5 supporters in the chambers other than themselves and the other approximately 80 people were opposed. They fretted and muttered and sputtered. They had a powerful lawyer named Henry Isaacson whose practice is built upon winning these kind of cases. At the end, I turned around as I put on my coat and caught his eye. We locked eyes for about three long seconds, and I simply grinned like a happy fool. That felt good.

Don Vaughn, our state senator, was our lawyer and he did a great job. I didn’t like Don before because he named Craven Williams as a role model at one time, which led me to believe that he was either clueless, gullible, or crooked. However, I have to admit that Craven had a ginormous number of good people fooled – most people did not have the perspective and knowledge that I had of his true character. (I used to work at Greensboro College where he was president for years.) So I’ve changed my opinion of Don and I’m happy that he is my state senator.

A lot of people just don’t get why we don’t want this project here. It’s a beautiful thing, all right. But it needs to be over on Lee St. or some other area nearby that is a large enough tract and has large enough streets to support it. That’s not so hard to understand if you live here and deal with the parking and traffic on the streets every day. And they seem to think that these students, rich enough to rent a room in this high-end residence hall, won’t ever drive anywhere. Or at least they want us to believe that students never go anywhere but class and home.

Plus, we wouldn’t necessarily mind apartments. But this is for 725 students, aimed at the age group of 18-22, rented by the bedroom. What we’d really love to see is a mixed-use development with small shops, offices, and living areas.

Some of the morons commenting at the N&R say that the College Hill residents are afraid of losing rental income to this development. I don’t know anyone who opposes this who has rental property. And students aren’t the only people who rent in College Hill. These commenters make huge assumptions that have little basis in reality, yet they won’t shut up. What makes people speculate in public about subjects that they are totally ignorant about?

The development company has claimed that UNCG is in favor of this development, but UNCG has not spoken out. In fact, UNCG wanted to buy this property but were outbid by this company. Yet they have raised the name of UNCG again and again as if they are partners with them. I think that this backfired on them, because one of the zoning commissioners pointed this out.

Just the fact that I’ve had my faith somewhat restored in my government this week has made me pretty happy. What a rare feeling. Guess I’d better savor it while it lasts.

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