Your letters, April 16

April 15, 2014 

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    Send letters of up to 300 words and guest columns of up to 600 words to editor@newsobserver.com. All submissions may be edited for space and clarity.

Our recycling challenge

Orange County's recycling program is no longer on a path to lead. As the managing director at Moore Recycling Associates, a nationally recognized consulting and management firm, I get to work on programs all over the country. When I moved to Orange County from San Francisco 10 years ago, I enjoyed challenging my California colleagues when they claimed their communities were leading the country. Today there are rural communities from Texas to Wisconsin implementing programs that will push them ahead of Orange County, N.C. We haven't even progressed to using roll carts instead of open bins for curbside collection.

If we don't support the reinstatement of the recycling fee (3R) or the formation of a tax district (even if temporarily), we, the residents of Orange County, will be responsible for the unraveling of a great program. The steps we take to reduce our waste are an indication of our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating jobs, and supporting our state's economy.

A tax district may not be the most equitable mechanism to pay for our program but neither is abandoning a program and creating dependence on communities in other counties to deal with our waste and fumes from inefficient shipment of waste.

It's extremely unfortunate we so quickly abandoned a pretty equitable mechanism (the 3R fee) to fund a holistic program. The issue is more extensive than just curbside pick up of materials in unincorporated areas. It's about education, program development, and planning. In order to continue to see progress in our county, we have to get serious about an interlocal agreement with a stable funding mechanism. The landfill closure means the program has half as much funding. Moving toward an opt in or out system, means a highly unpredictable financial situation with little cohesion or ability to pull collective interests to implement the big needs like commercial recycling, a transfer station, or large scale compost recovery. I may be one of the “victims” of the inequality in that I own land without a house in the unincorporated area and a home in Carrboro. I view the tax as an investment in the long-term vibrance of our community.

Those who have championed ambitious goals like zero waste, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, etc., we need support now. We will never get close to such goals if we don't fix our program's foundation.

Nina Bellucci Butler

Orange County

Rushing redevelopment

The town of Chapel Hill is in anxious pursuit of new tax revenues, almost desperately so in their efforts to put in place form-based code (FBC) to facilitate redevelopment without input from the primary stakeholders, the citizens themselves. And whatever came of the dialogue regarding the Fordham Boulevard entranceway?

When one drives along the E-F entranceway, it is by and large a very unpleasant journey. Booker Creek and contributing drainage ways are badly eroded and hideous. The overgrown Leyland cypresses installed across from the Elliott Road terminus by NCDOT during the last boulevard widening are disproportionate and very out of place with any notion of an attractive Chapel Hill entranceway.

It is evident that Booker Creek is unstable, many proximate low-lying homes are clearly unsustainable, and show the tell-tale signs of unhealthy environments. I was recently told by a town engineer that when one apartment complex flooded last summer, FEMA offered to buy the property, but was turned away by the owner because they could still profitably repair the units every several years.

The town must investigate appropriate measure to maximize stormwater management and park-like settings along Booker Creek, not only on the project site, but upstream and downstream as well. Why not pursue FEMA funding to do this critical work (it is after all flood prone)?

Finally, Chapel Hill must decide what it is we as a collection of communities want to project to visitors as well as ourselves along the E-F entranceway and presumed redevelopment –a stable Booker Creek with adequate storm water detention and park atmosphere is an excellent start.

Dale Coker

Chapel Hill

Spill was accident

Another uninformed letter about the coal ash accident (“Coal ash canary,” CHN, April 6, bit.ly/1n6txoQ).

The fact of the matter is a pipe broke underneath a coal ash storage pit. It is not as if the company wanted this to happen, and the fact of the matter is the EPA did not and does not have any regulations about coal ash pits that could have prevented this accident.

With respect to Gov. McCrory, he was not responsible for environmental matters when he worked at Duke Energy and this problem has been developing for 30 years or more. Holding him responsible would be like holding Obama responsible for the crime in Chicago because he once worked there.

With respect to fracking there is absolutely no indication that it will jeopardize drinking water since any activity takes place a least a mile below any aquifers. The EPA, not exactly an industry cheerleader, has said there has never been a negative incident associated with fracking. The letter writer is totally incorrect that fracking fluids contain carcinogens or radioactive materials. She must have gotten this misinformation from “Gasland.” a piece of agitprop that has been thoroughly debunked.

Vincent M.DiSandro Sr

Hillsborough

New energy, new ideas

I usually don’t go in for political things, but this year there is a really fantastic person running for Orange County commissioner on May 6. Bonnie Hauser is running on the Democratic ticket on May 6. It’s important to vote that day because this seat will be determined in the primary. (There’s never been a Republican in this seat in Chapel Hill for as long as we can look back!)

Before she ever considered being in politics, Bonnie was doing a lot for our Orange County community. She kept us from an unwanted airport and waste transfer station in the last few years, she started Orange County Voice and worked in coalition to get rid of the shameful landfill on Rogers Road.

Bonnie is a great advocate for education, for the environment, for sustainability and for public transportation. She has been a very successful consultant in business settings and wants to prioritize our spending towards necessary things like education and public transport and away from things like unnecessary building. (She’s for brass tacks not brass plaques!) She’s against excessive taxing and all for using the taxes we pay in a better way.

You might have seen her and her dog Charlie in the hospitals or schools where she goes to work with patients and children in particular. She and her mom, a Holocaust survivor, also go to schools to talk about the Holocaust to children who may never have heard of it.

It feels great to have someone I can wholeheartedly support! She’s challenging longtime incumbent Barry Jacobs with fresh ideas for the future. I hope you agree that it’s time for new energy!

Thanks for coming out to vote!

Gabriella Tal

Chapel Hill

All educators integral to students’success

As a public school teacher, parent, and community member, I applaud those who take part in the budget dialogue as Kara Aycock does in her commentary, “Gifted Cuts Will Hurt All Students.” (April 6, CHN, bit.ly/1hNTm59) However, when we advocate for schools we must do so by highlighting how integral each member of a school team is. There is no reason to disparage some teachers, as I believe Aycock does, in order to make others seem more necessary.

Aycock writes that, “Most gifted students spend hours a day reading and completing worksheets on their own while their peers receive instruction and review.” Classroom teachers provide rigorous instruction to all students. Rather than completing hours of worksheets, all Ephesus Elementary second graders recently used their knowledge of solids, liquids, and gases to design and execute experiments and write reports. They created maps and newspaper articles to demonstrate their understanding of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, and met with book clubs to discuss patterns and character traits in book series. These projects were developed by teams including classroom teachers, gifted specialists, ELL and EC resource teachers.

Aycock further suggests gifted education specialists are a gifted student’s “best hope” because they are trained in, “critical thinking, advanced problem solving, text referencing, complex questioning, etc.” Again, she paints a bleak portrait of classroom teachers to make her point. The fact is, classroom teachers are also trained in these teaching strategies because they are the best educational practices for all students.

Gifted education specialists are not replacements for poor classroom teachers; they are valuable members of collaborative teams that support all learners. As we face the challenges that the 2014-15 budget presents, let’s advocate for schools, students, and teachers by highlighting the ways in which all educators serve as integral members of our schools.

Courtney Sears

Chapel Hill

Why State Department?

Why was the State Department told to assess the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline? Because the proposed pipeline has an international impact: it’s Canadian oil. But this is shallow reasoning.

If the United States wishes to impose tighter standards on the safety of imported food, that clearly impacts the countries that produce the food. Is the State Department, rather than the FDA or the Department of Agriculture, the best agency to evaluate the wisdom of such action?

Europeans are wondering if the USA will be able to supply them with natural gas if Russia stops doing so. The Department of Energy will act on the matter. However, it will have an effect on foreign countries. Do we instead put “State” in charge?

If the Federal Reserve wants to raise interest rates, this has consequences around the world. Do we ask the State Department for a recommendation?

The final Department of State report names eleven government entities as “Cooperating Agencies.” If you get advice from enough sources you can do as you please.

Thomas Lehman

Chapel Hill

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