Showing posts with label community. Show all posts
Showing posts with label community. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Cox v. Town Of Oriental: The Real Story

A lot of nonsense has been promulgated by Oriental Town Government about why I filed suit against the Town over closing of Avenue A and South Avenue.

It was about taking away public rights, but it was very much about defending private property rights.

I call it a swindle. It can also be called theft. Constitutionally, it was a "taking." Takings can be lawful, if taken for a public purpose. But this was neither an exercise of eminent domain nor an exercise of the state's "police power." The only other circumstance in which a street closing is clearly authorized by case law is if all the property owners in a subdivision agree to it.

The Town's attorney Clark Wright knows this. Mayor Bill Sage knows this. But they wanted to do what they did, and they didn't even want to protect public access to the "donated property" by a public dedication, a deed restriction, or any other measure that would protect the public in the future.

It changed the face of the Town forever, and since I have now withdrawn my suit, it can't be undone by the courts, even if it is unlawful.

It isn't really complicated, but the Town Board and its attorneys spent (they say) $80,000 to protect the deal by keeping it from the Court of Appeals.

Here's my story:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Character And Society

New York Times columnist David Brooks sometimes calls attention to the work of social critics with whom I am not familiar. Last March, he published an interesting column centered on the work of James Q. Wilson.

I don't know Wilson's work, but I am intrigued. Some of Wilson's observations focus on what I would call the collective aspect of character. For example: “At root,” Wilson wrote in 1985 in The Public Interest, “in almost every area of important concern, we are seeking to induce persons to act virtuously, whether as schoolchildren, applicants for public assistance, would-be lawbreakers or voters and public officials.”

How can we do this? As Brooks describes Wilson's writings, "When Wilson wrote about character and virtue, he didn’t mean anything high flown or theocratic. It was just the basics, befitting a man who grew up in the middle-class suburbs of Los Angeles in the 1940s: Behave in a balanced way. Think about the long-term consequences of your actions. Cooperate. Be decent."

Follow the dictates of Miss Manners.

Wilson, Brooks explained,  did not believe that virtue was inculcated by prayer in schools. It was habituated by practicing good manners, by being dependable, punctual and responsible day by day. He emphasized that character was formed in groups. “Order exists," Wilson wrote in 1993, "because a system of beliefs and sentiments held by members of a society sets limits to what those members can do.” 

Wilson's views in this respect remind me of the power of what I learned as a young naval officer was "customs, tradition and usage." Very powerful, indeed.

I think this is exactly what Hillary Clinton had in mind in her 1996 book,  It Takes A Village. The book was, of course, roundly condemned by conservatives.

"No, it takes a family," the conservative choir rang out, led by Bob Dole and Rick Santorum.

One of the things I learned from tracing my own genealogy is that, for most of our history, it was impossible to tell where the family ended (parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, grandparents, grandchildren, etc.) and the village began. They were all part and parcel of the same social setting and were mutually reinforcing.

That reinforcement is a major reason families and children under stress were able to survive depression and war in the 30's and 40's. 

But that's another story. I'll pick up the thread sometime soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

George Bernard Shaw, Oriental and South Avenue

George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright and author, was seated next to an elegant lady at a dinner party. Engaging the lady in conversation, he asked her: "would you sleep with me for a million pounds?" A little taken aback, the lady thought for a moment and replied: "I might do."  Shaw continued the conversation, asking: "would you sleep with me for five pounds?" Huffing in indignation, the lady replied: "certainly not! What do you think I am?" The playwright responded: "madame, we have already established what you are - now we are haggling over the price."

The story came to mind as I reflected on the proposed exchange of two dedicated and accepted rights of way, including South Avenue, for a waterfront parcel of real estate 55 feet in width. Would I find the exchange more acceptable if the parcel were, say, 78 feet wide, which is the width of the riparian area of Raccoon Creek subtended by our present right of way. Or even 60 feet, which is the width on land of the existing right of way.

We should not haggle over the price, because there is a fundamental principal involved here. The Town of Oriental holds its streets in trust for the benefit of the public. The town is not the proprietor of the rights of way. It is well established that the town has no power to sell or barter its streets. While the town may vacate, close or abandon a street by formal action after a public hearing governed by statute, it nevertheless cannot vacate a street for the benefit of a purely private interest.

I have no problem with Mr. Fulcher's offer. Mr. Fulcher is not an elected official and is under no special obligation to defend or protect the public interest. From his point of view, the proposed contract appears logical.

The town's elected officials, on the other hand, do have an obligation to protect the interest of the public. Public rights of way are in a different category from any normal lots that the town may own, and which the Town Board is empowered by statute to buy, sell, lease, or deal with like any other person with a proprietary interest.

Rights of way are quite different.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Rights And Obligations

Our public discourse might be greatly improved if each of us were to give greater effort and support to the rights of others than to our own. And if we were to give greater emphasis to our own duties and obligations than to those of others; that would also be a good thing.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

DOT Ferry Toll Hearing Footnote

Tonight's DOT public hearing on ferry tolls is the second such public hearing in Pamlico County.

We almost didn't have any.

Until Town Dock intervened.

Melinda Penkava, who can be very insistent, called DOT to get an explanation as to why DOT was holding no public hearing in the county most directly affected.

"There's no place in Pamlico County large enough for a crowd of 200," she was told. "Oh, yes, there is," she replied.

So DOT, whose planners developed Pamlico County's Comprehensive Transportation Plan, including addressing public transportation requirements associated with Pamlico County Community College, apparently knew nothing about the college's Delamar Center.

What else don't they know about Pamlico County?

Thank Goodness for Melinda Penkava.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Marvelous Music

The Old Theater resounded this evening with music provided by the Borromeo String Quartet.

The founder of the quartet and native of Durham, Nicholas Kitchen, introduced each piece with an explanation of how it fit in the composer's life and work.

As appropriate for the Old Theater, the concert consisted of old music: by Bach (1685-1750), Beethoven (1770-1827), and Schubert (1797-1828). But the oldest item on the program was cellist Yeesun Kim's Peregrino Zanetto cello, made about 1576.

Nicholas Kitchen emphasized that the quartet's violins, viola and cello had no electrical or electronic components. The sound they made was totally acoustic, using ancient technology.

But there was modern technology on the stage. On the music stand in front of each player was an Apple Macintosh laptop, which displayed the entire score. Pages of the score were turned by a foot pedal fabricated by Mr. Kitchen who paged forward as necessary, allowing each player to be on the same page.

The 435-year old cello filled the air with rich, mellow sound. I would love to hear the same instrument perform a cello concerto.

Apparently the Macintosh computers (circa 2010) performed impeccably as well.

The concert might have served as a paean to the late Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do We Really Need Smaller Government?

Yesterday's New York Times had an op-ed piece entitled "Our Hidden Government Benefits." The article summarized a 2008 survey.

"A 2008 poll of 1,400 Americans by the Cornell Survey Research Institute found that when people were asked whether they had “ever used a government social program,” 57 percent said they had not. Respondents were then asked whether they had availed themselves of any of 21 different federal policies, including Social Security, unemployment insurance, the home-mortgage-interest deduction and student loans. It turned out that 94 percent of those who had denied using programs had benefited from at least one; the average respondent had used four."

I confess. I have used government services all my life. Still do.

Did you put your hurricane debris out in front of your house to be picked up? FEMA pays most of that bill, the state of North Carolina a big chunk and town government the rest. How would we deal with that without government? Not very well. Today I received a check from FEMA and one from my insurance company (to be repaid from the National Flood Insurance Program). There will be more payments. I also received my monthly social security check.

This afternoon I have a doctor's appointment to review my annual blood test results. Who pays? The U.S. Government. Earlier this week the town's mosquito control operation fogged mosquito breeding areas. Who pays? Town government, supplemented by state government.

The list goes on. We all use government programs.

We live in a democracy. The government isn't "they," it is us.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Good Bye Irene, Don't Darken Our Door Again

Things slowly getting back toward normal in Oriental. Only thing lacking is DSL Internet connectivity from Century Link.

Everything else: Water, Electricity, Phone, working normally.

Kudos to Progress Energy. We had power back in the heart of Oriental Monday evening, a little less than 72 hours after the lights went out Friday night. Power poles were down all over the county. Don't know how they did it, but one thing is clear - teamwork and cooperation were impressive.

And kudos for the gang at Town Hall, especially the public works department. We did lose water for a few hours, but had it back even before the power came back on.

It was beautiful to see how everyone in the town pulled together. Neighbor helped neighbor. If anyone had something they shared it with others. Bama Deal's pot lucks under the tents were a great way to get together and cook up people's food before it had to be discarded. People shared generators, cookers, propane and labor.

That's what community and cooperation are all about.

It's great to live in a community like Oriental.