A Requiem for Raleigh’s Citizens Advisory Councils – Letter to the Editor

After some back and forth with the N&O editorial staff, I have trimmed my CAC op-ed into more of a long letter. Hopefully it will run in Friday’s edition.

A Requiem for Raleigh’s Citizens Advisory Councils

Amid concerns that rapid growth was distancing city leaders from the community, Raleigh launched its Citizens Advisory Councils (CACs). For 46 years, CACs were a forum where citizens and government officials could exchange information and concerns until Raleigh City Council abruptly ended this decades-long partnership in a vote that demonstrated a shocking lack of transparency and good governance.

Much has been made of the (merely advisory) role played by CACs in rezoning cases but CACs were so much more. CACs stepped in when neighbors needed help, organized school supplies drives, and provided a forum where wary neighbors met with Raleigh Police officers to build connections, and the list goes on. It didn’t matter who you were, if you were a resident your voice counted.

All other city advisory boards get their direction from the top; work must first be approved by the City Council. In this model, how do we ensure citizen concerns are adequately addressed? Who’s doing the listening and who’s doing the talking? Absent the independence of CACs, community engagement quickly devolves into a one-way conversation. The partnership is no more.

CACs had their challenges but they also represented one of the most basic forms of democracy: neighbors coming together to work things out. We will be hard-pressed to do better.

Excuse me, but Oculan did a great job explaining its usefulness

I was wandering through my MT.Net archives and noticed I had linked to a Triangle Business Journal story on the revival of Oculan. The story included this quote, which for some reason I just noticed was a slap in the face to me (hey it’s only been 18 years, right?):

Where Oculan stumbled, said independent analyst Richard Ptak, of Ptak, Noel & Associates in Amherst, N.H., was in the marketing.

“They had a very nice solution and a good strategy, but were never able to communicate why it was a good product,” Ptak said. “A lot of tech entrepreneurs think all they need is a better mousetrap, but nobody buys technology for the sake of technology anymore. They buy it because it’ll solve a problem.”

Well, Mr. Ptak, Oculan did a fantastic job communicating why it was a good product. Not only did it have an outstanding team of sales engineers out pitching it, the damn product sold itself. Your quote about a better mousetrap shows your ignorance.

So there.

A Letter From Gary Larson | TheFarSide.com | TheFarSide.com

Gary Larson has finally arrived online and the promise of new The Far Side cartoons is in the air, yet I don’t know how I feel about this. I will always love The Far Side but I cringe at the thought of the new stuff not measuring up to old stuff. I also miss seeing the cartoon nestled in the comics pages of an actual newspaper. And, truth be told, Larson’s hero status fell in my eyes when he aggressively chased his cartoons off the Internet.

Twelve years after I wrote that I still feel the same way. Now that Larson wants to join the party is he still welcome? Does The Far Side belong on the Internet at all, even if it’s Larson’s own doing? Or should it ride off into the sunset along with the newspaper industry?

I kinda wish I hadn’t had to ponder this question.

Truthfully, I still have some ambivalence about officially entering the online world — I previously equated it to a rabbit hole, although “black hole” sometimes seems more apropos — but my change of heart on this has been due not only to some evolution in my own thinking, but also in two areas I’ve always cared about when it comes to this computer/Internet “stuff”: security and graphics.

Source: A Letter From Gary Larson | TheFarSide.com | TheFarSide.com

Rep. Joe John statement on Abe Zeiger’s arrest

NC House District 40 Representative Joe John was the person Abraham Zeiger was due to meet on Friday before Zeiger was arrested for carrying a pistol and two fully-loaded magazines into the North Carolina General Assembly building. Rep. John read the following statement on the House floor Monday night:

This gentleman actually had an appointment to see me. I made the following statement on the House floor Monday night:

Members, last week I had an 11:30 AM Wednesday constituent appointment with a resident of House District 40, whom I had not met previously, to discuss some fairly non-controversial issue. 11:30 came and went without the appointment being met, not all that unusual as many of you have experienced. When I went to lunch at 12:30, he was still a no-show.

We learned later that day the reason my appointment never arrived. He had been detained at our legislative building security check-in while attempting to enter this building with a loaded handgun and two full clips concealed in his bag, and had consequently been arrested and charged accordingly. He reportedly gave no explanation for his actions and was actually remarkably silent.

I want to thank publicly the members of the NC General Assembly Police Department who were on duty last Wednesday and acted expeditiously and appropriately. I would also like to thank the Legislative Services Officer and the Rules Chair for their follow-up and the many of you who expressed your concern.

That being said, in light of very recent events, I would ask each of you, for a moment, to imagine that the gentleman’s appointment was with you, in your office, rather than with me in mine. This incident after all took place, not hundreds of miles away in the distant states of Ohio and Texas, but right here, not only in our North Carolina capital city, but in this very building where we work and govern and spend so many hours. And as you reflect, I would ask you to consider whether it is now not time to throw partisanship and ideology into the trashcan, and to sit down for a full, frank and open-minded conversation about reaching a North Carolina common sense consensus with regards to role of firearms in our state.

I considered this often over the past weekend which Evelyn and I were able to spend at the coast with two adult children and three young granddaughters. I, for one, greatly enjoyed being “Pa” at the beach, I look forward to many more such weekends, and I am more than ready to have the conversation of which I spoke. If any of you feel the same, please let me know.

AP: Man with gun stopped by security at N Carolina legislature

Here’s an uncredited AP story on the arrest of Zeiger. It includes a quote from his attorney:

“It is unfortunate that any malice be attributed to such an upstanding citizen who merely made an oversight,” Gibson wrote.

Nice spin there, counselor! At the checkpoint, Zeiger was specifically asked whether he had any weapons in his bag. That should’ve been enough to trigger (so to speak) Zeiger’s memory that perhaps he did, in fact, have a weapon in his bag and that he should take it back to his vehicle. Oversight, my ass.

I look forward to Zeiger’s day in court.

August 2, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A man faces charges of carrying a concealed handgun into North Carolina’s legislative building, which this year implemented airport-style security measures for people seeking to interact with lawmakers.

Abraham James Zeiger, 36, of Raleigh was charged with trying to carry the gun into the building on Wednesday, police records show. He sought to enter the building to speak to his legislator and didn’t realize he was carrying the gun, attorney Emily Gibson said in an email Friday.

“It is unfortunate that any malice be attributed to such an upstanding citizen who merely made an oversight,” Gibson wrote.

The General Assembly’s police chief and its chief management officer didn’t return a call Friday seeking more details about the arrest.

Zeiger was stopped by officers who spotted a suspicious item as his bag passed through an X-ray scanner, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported . Officers found a 9 mm handgun and two magazines, each loaded with 15 bullets, General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock told the newspaper.

The arrest marked the first instance of a gun being found during the screening process at the entrance to the state’s legislative building, which hosts staff and legislative offices, hearing rooms and the chambers where the 50-member Senate and 120-member House meet.

Legislative activities were minimal this week as lawmakers try to overcome Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the two-year state budget. On Wednesday, House members discussed a commission to oversee the purchase and sale of milk and approved legislation to expand the requirement for adults to report claims of child sex abuse to the authorities.

U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste

The United States has over 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that requires disposal. The U.S. commercial power industry alone has generated more waste (nuclear fuel that is “spent” and is no longer efficient at generating power) than any other country—nearly 80,000 metric tons. This spent nuclear fuel, which can pose serious risks to humans and the environment, is enough to fill a football field about 20 meters deep. The U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program has generated spent nuclear fuel as well as high-level radioactive waste and accounts for most of the rest of the total at about 14,000 metric tons, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). For the most part, this waste is stored where it was generated—at 80 sites in 35 states. The amount of waste is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades. However, there is still no disposal site in the United States. After spending decades and billions of dollars to research potential sites for a permanent disposal site, including at the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that has a license application pending to authorize construction of a nuclear waste repository, the future prospects for permanent disposal remain unclear.

Source: U.S. GAO – Key Issues: Disposal of High-Level Nuclear Waste

Now he belongs to the ages

The last photo of Rocket


“Now he belongs to the ages.”

Such was the quote of Edward Stanton upon the death of Abraham Lincoln. While my dog Rocket was not Abraham Lincoln, I could not help but think that he, too, now belongs to the ages. He died around 8:35 PM last night, surrounded by his Turner pack.

The veterinarian, Dr. Janelle Fenlason from Azure Holland Mobile Veterinary Services, showed up about 15 minutes early to our 8:30 PM appointment. This was added some pain for me as it meant there was less time left to spend with Rocket. Kelly hurriedly gathered the kids so they could have some time with him before the vet arrived. I offered to snap their photos with Rocket but the idea wasn’t well received. I didn’t care because I wanted a photo of myself with him before he was gone.
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Isaac Hunter’s Tavern: A new future for the forgotten history of a place critical to Raleigh’s past | abc11.com


My friend Heather Leah writes again about Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, this time for ABC11. I get a nice shout-out about halfway down. Thanks again, Heather!

When you walk into the lobby of the North Raleigh Hilton, you are walking on the very footprints of our city’s founders. Beneath those very floors rests the original foundation of Isaac Hunter’s Tavern, a modest wooden cabin with a tin roof built in the 1700s that was so well-loved by North Carolina’s most important and influential men that they decided the state capital should be built no more than ten miles away.

Many locals believed the tavern itself was destroyed, either by entropy or construction for new developments. Despite its critical importance to the history of Raleigh — and really, our entire state — there are no relics or remains on display at any of our history museums. Even people who remember seeing the tavern, dilapidated and disguised as an old horse stable on Wake Forest Road in the 1970s, mostly reported the tavern to have been destroyed.

However, the foundation and wooden planks belonging to Isaac Hunter’s Tavern still stand, hidden by years of misinformation, new developments, and overgrowth. Soon, for the first time in history, the public may finally be able to visit artifacts and pieces of the tavern itself.

Source: Isaac Hunter’s Tavern: A new future for the forgotten history of a place critical to Raleigh’s past | abc11.com

North Carolina Republicans have a laughable new plan to save their gerrymander.

North Carolina Republicans are in trouble. On Nov. 6, voters elected Anita Earls, a civil rights attorney, to the state Supreme Court, cementing a 5–2 progressive majority. One week later, voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that North Carolina’s gerrymandered legislative districts run afoul of the state constitution. Because the case revolves around the North Carolina Constitution and does not even touch on federal law, Republican legislators would seem to be stuck in the state judiciary, hurtling toward Earls’ court. There is simply no federal question for federal judges to adjudicate.

Source: North Carolina Republicans have a laughable new plan to save their gerrymander.

Raleigh’s Civil War Breastworks – the original “Beltline”

Raleigh’s original “Beltline” – the Civil War breastworks

Hours of toiling with Google Earth (GE) has allowed me to get a good feel for how the 1865 map of Raleigh’s breastworks matches up to local landmarks. I created an image overlay in GE, then marked with a pushpin landmarks that are still around today. A bit (okay, hours) of stretching and rotating the overlay image got me a close match of where things were as compared to today.

Enjoy!