Saturday, September 25, 2010


During the August meeting of Oriental's Town Board, a resident submitted photographs to the Board, complaining that they showed instances of people parking their cars partially on the pavement. She cited a rule that "all four wheels must be on the grass."

I had heard the rule before, but wondered where it came from. So I asked Town Hall. The source, I was told is:
NCGS 20-161 and
General Ordinance of the Town of Oriental, Chapter F, Section 1-7.

So I looked them up. The provision of North Carolina General Statutes, it turns out, applies only "outside municipal corporate limits."

Then I looked up our ordinance. It says: "no vehicle shall stop in any street except for the purpose of parking...."

OK, Then what is a street? The ordinance defines it as "The entire width between property lines of every way or place of whatever nature when any part thereof is open to the use of the public, as a matter of right, for purposes of vehicular traffic."

Bottom line: there is no "four wheels on the grass" rule. Not in our town.

The rest of the story: a couple of weeks ago, at the insistence of two town commissioners (never mind that they have no operational authority in town affairs) and the Interim Town Manager, three perfectly healthy wax myrtles gave their lives in honor of this nonexistent rule.

Postscript: I wasn't all that fond of the wax myrtles. It is also clear that they were in the town's right of way. The town has assigned significant authority over trees in public areas, including rights of way (streets) to the tree board. Had the tree board met and deliberated about the trees and recommended their removal, I would have no problem. Let the tree board do its job!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Elections in Ancient Athens

Thinking about our forthcoming election, I was somehow reminded of a story from ancient Athens.

One of the strangest of elections was held in Fifth Century BCE Athens . It was an election to determine whether the citizens of Athens wanted to banish some prominent person.

In January or February of each year, citizens were asked if they wanted to hold an ostracism (so called because the ballots were scratched on shards of broken pottery known as "ostrakon"). The actual vote was held two months later, and if there were a total of six thousand votes, the person with the most votes was banished from Athens (ostracised) for a period of ten years.

Over the years, many prominent Athenians were ostracised. The reasons for ostracism were often not clear.

In one story, an Athenian name Aristides, known as "the Just," was being considered for banishment in 482 BCE. As the vote was being taken, an illiterate citizen approached Aristides and asked him to write the name "Aristides" on his ostrakon. Aristides asked why. The man replied, "because I am tired of constantly hearing him called 'the Just.'"

Anchor Time (guest commentary)

But Kinde and True have been long tried
A harbour where we may confide,
And safely there at anchor ride.
From change of winds there we are free,
And need not feare Storme's tyrannie,
Nor Pirat, though a Prince he be.

- Aurelian Townsend

-Capt. Ben

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Town Board Meeting Sept 7 2010

Last night's meeting of the Oriental Town Board was reasonably uneventful. Highlights:

1. The first item on the agenda, approval of minutes, only took eighteen minutes this time. There seem to be remaining issues in the area of drafting minutes that report what was done, rather than what was said. Another problem seems to be to rid the minutes of editorial asides and characterizations of the commissioners' thoughts. Commissioner Roe is leading the effort to improve the minutes. Good for her.

2. The continued public hearing on rezoning of Mr. Friedman's property on Midyette Street was continued again at Mr. Friedman's request. Mr. Friedman was not present.

3. The Board went into closed session to discuss a personnel matter. The Town Attorney, Scott Davis, had to leave early and apparently his presence was required during the closed session.
So the closed session was held early in the evening rather than at the end.

4. The Board received an update on the work of the surveyor hired by the town to determine the location of South Water Street. His report also raised the issue of the width of the right-of-way. Following a lengthy discussion, the Board established the width of the South Water Street right of way as 36 feet. The board briefly considered the issue of what is allowed to be placed in the right of way by adjacent landowners and concluded the existing ordinances are adequate.

5. During the public comment period, Pat Herlands suggested the Board should consider having a second business meeting each month, as the County Commissioners do. She pointed out that the Board increasingly takes action each month during the agenda meeting, and supported recognizing that fact by scheduling a second meeting.

6. During the period set aside for non-agenda items, Commissioner Roe moved to amend the minutes of the June 1 meeting to accurately reflect the motion that was made concerning employee insurance. She went on to introduce an amendment to the Town's personnel ordinance to reflect decisions made about employee insurance during the budget process.

Editorial comment: Not mentioned during this discussion, but mentioned at two recent Board meetings, is that the Town's personnel ordinance, adopted by the 2005 - 2007 Board, asserts that we have a mayor-council form of government. We now know for certain that the Town has a council-manager form of government. Personnel policies may be significantly different between the two systems. Someone needs to review our existing manual to identify necessary amendments, if any.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

South Avenue - The Rest of the Fence

Learned this evening at the Town Board meeting that the rest of the fence across the end of South Avenue and Avenue A will come down tomorrow.

South Avenue Fence - Not Down Yet

For some reason, the town's hired contractor left fifty feet of Mr. Henry's fence standing. It intrudes about twenty feet into the 30-foot wide right of way for Avenue A. The fence encompasses approximately a thousand square feet that does not belong to Mr. Henry and constitutes a major obstruction to Avenue A.

Last year's decision by the NC Court of Appeals makes it crystal clear that Mr. Henry has no plausible claim to any portion of any street shown on the Oriental Bulkhead Improvement Company plat, including both Avenue A and South Avenue.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Joe Himbry - A Life Well Lived: 1941-2010

We celebrated a life well lived today. Joseph Otto Himbry, Jr. was an example to us all. He devoted his life to serving the people of this county in ways large and small. He was a talented, persistent and effective visionary.

Friends and classmates came from as far away as Ohio and Pennsylvania to say farewell and lay him to rest.

He will be sorely missed.

Fear and Intolerance

Nicholas Kristoff in today's New York Times reminds us of our history of intolerance based on fear and demagoguery.

For those concerned about the current wave of intolerance, he points out that we have been there before. In fact, I would add a few examples of fear and intolerance to Mr. Kristoff's list. Still, most of us eventually return to our central tradition of tolerance.