Village pride

Today’s annual recognition of the winners of WCHL’s Village Pride Award Winners was a lovely affair. The luncheon was put on at the Carolina Inn and recognized 254 “hometown heroes” (as they call us) that received the award in 2004. In my opinion, not enough thanks went to Ron Stutts, who is the real ‘hero’ of the Village Pride Awards.

As one of these award recipients I can tell you the standards are low, and that’s a good thing. This allows room for many definitions of community service, from volunteering in the schools to doing a good job at work to raising money for charities to being an elected official to bitching about elected officials (that’s me 😉 *). The group was quite diverse and fairly representative of many aspects of our community.

The speakers were funny and engaging, especially WCHL owner Jim Heavner. He’s quite a talker – the man was obviously born for radio. Heavner was also thanked a number of times for bringing this local radio station back home (he bought it back after selling it to a company that all but eliminated the local programming and played tapes out of Durham).

The keynote speaker was Howard Lee, who will always be remembered as the courageous visionary to become the first elected black mayor of a mostly-white southern town in 1969. I’m not sure how he has also been remembered as the creator of the Chapel Hill bus system, which was actually started by students at UNC in 1968.

After several terms as Mayor and some other less successful attempts at higher office, Lee was appointed as secretary of a state agency in 1977, and then represented Chapel Hill in the N.C. state senate from 1990-1994 and 1996-2002. In the state legislature, Lee was a powerful deal-maker, and a good friend to business leaders and UNC administrators.

Many local residents will never forget the time he slipped in a state budget rider that would have stripped Chapel Hill of all zoning authority over the campus, and then took credit for killing the rider after a public outcry. Now he’s the chair of the State Board of Education, and is apparently failing to support comprehensive sex education. I’m not sure when it happened, but over time this community’s values and Lee’s values have diverged from each other.

You can tell that I don’t agree with Howard Lee about much of anything these days, but he is an apt symbol for this community: liberal on the surface, but in deed we are resisting social change as much as ever. We take a lot of ‘village pride’ in that liberal reputation, but we often don’t put our money (or our bodies) where our collective mouth is. But I honestly don’t think it’s much better in other places, and this is my home, warts and all.


* I was being honored for starting OrangePolitics.org, but in the program for the event, they listed the address of a website that was started as an alternative to OP. Ooops!

6 thoughts on “Village pride

  1. Congrats on your well deserved award! I am still at a loss on your evidence for your beliefs about “this community’s values.” What data points do you use? (Please don’t tell me that the community’s values are reflected by who wins local elections, because I can point you to a lot of research that negates that belief.)

    So what are the community’s values, how do we know it, and what are the ones that Howard Lee has that you feel are so “different.”

  2. Fred, did you actually read anything I wrote or did you just see “Howard Lee” and fail to note “God’s gift” in the same sentence? Why don’t you just say you disagree with me?

  3. “God’s gift?” Ruby, my comments are not about how you feel about Lee. All I want to know is what are these values that you believe are the “community’s values?” I have asked you this on numerous occasions, but you just seem to ignore the question.

    When you say that someone has values that have diverged from those of the community’s, you ought to be able to lay it out.

  4. Fred, I have laid it out. In this short blog post alone I mentioned: his opposition to medically-accurate sex education, his attempts to make UNC immune to Chapel Hill’s zoning laws, his general boosting of big business interests in the General Assembly, etc. Then there’s his relationship with Bunkey Morgan

    As I said, you’re free to disagree with me. I’m really not that interested in arguing about it with you. Both of our opinions are based on over a decade of experience with Lee, and are not that likely to change based on bickering on a blog.

  5. The story evolves

    Howard Lee, the chairman of the State Board of Education, was nominated Monday to the state Utilities Commission by Gov. Mike Easley.

    Lee, a former state senator from Chapel Hill, said he intends to remain on the education board. Easley also appointed him to that unpaid post and Lee took over as chairman in May 2003.

    …The seven-member Utilities Commission regulates North Carolina’s telecommunications, electric and natural gas markets and ensures adequate service to all the state’s residence at a reasonable price. The governor appoints all members.

    If confirmed by the Legislature, Lee would fill the remainder of an eight-year term set to expire June 30, 2009. He would be paid $107,136 a year.

  6. Ruby, congrats on your award and thanks for the post on the irony of the Town honoring Howard Lee. In addition to not supporting true sex education and trying to strip the Town of zoning authority, I had a meeting with Lee in the early 90’s when I was lobbying for wetland protection and protection of beaver habitat since beaver create and maintain healthy wetlands. Suffice it to say that Lee was not helpful and not really interested. Basically I was written off as a Chapel Hill “tree hugger.” Funny how watershed protection is now a hot item.

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