Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Sidewalks in Winston-Salem

Posted in "North Carolina", Local Government, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on March 21, 2013

I’m going to start with a quote from Climate Central, which I found by way of a link from an article in Scientific American.

On March 18, 2013,  Climate Central reported  Significant news is coming out of the Arctic these past few weeks – and none of it bodes well for the future of the Earth. In fact, for climate scientists and environmentalists, worst case scenarios are now playing out in real time.

And I’d like to consider our local City Council’s sidewalk policy in light of these environmental urgencies.

More than a week  ago, I wrote a letter to all of our Council members.  I have received no response from any.  I understand that our Council has a limited budget for sidewalks, and rather than considering the city as a whole, that money is divided equally among the eight wards. So each ward gets one eighth of the sidewalk budget, regardless of where the city’s needs are more urgent.  This leads to “The Sidewalk to Nowhere”  — a sidewalk through a neighborhood with cul-de-sacs and little traffic, as reported by Journal writer Scott Sexton.

Now consider North Point Boulevard, where we see a long stretch of businesses, office buildings, and several restaurants (Trido of Japan,  North Point Grill, El Triunfo, Asian Bistro, to name a few).  The people who work in these office buildings cannot easily walk or bike to a restaurant for lunch.  No sidewalks or bike lanes.  So unless they bring their lunch, virtually all the people who work in these offices pull their cars out on to North Point Blvd. to drive a quarter mile or so.

Here is the letter I sent on March 13 to Council Members Dan Besse, Vivian Burke, Denise Adams, Derwin Montgomery, Molly Leight, Robert C. Clark, Wanda Merschel, and James Taylor, and to Myra Stafford, Sidewalk  Project Specialist:

I have for some time been distressed with the lack of sidewalks in parts
of the city that need them. There are busy thoroughfares that run
through neighborhoods — thoroughfares like Polo Road, where a sidewalk
runs from Reynolda Road, past WFU, and then stops.  Extending that
sidewalk to Cherry Street would benefit a community where people have to
get in their cars to drive to a store because the remaining section of
Polo Road is not safe without a sidewalk.

Another example is North Point Blvd.  There are businesses, offices,
and restaurants, but people who work on North Point Blvd. have to get
their cars out to go to a nearby restaurant.  There is a short
sidewalk which runs a few hundred feet and then stops.  Extending this
sidewalk would be very helpful, would increase foot traffic and
bicycles, and reduce automobile traffic.  Please reconsider the
“sidewalk to nowhere” and move that sidewalk funding to a site where
it is badly needed.

Are we making sensible decisions with our allocations of city resources?   How are the decisions  made?   Might it be possible to consider a different method of allocation — a method that takes into consideration  the needs of the entire city?  Can we reconsider how our city resources are allocated?  Perhaps one  criterion for sidewalks should be that they have a positive impact on traffic?

American Theocracy — A Tiresome Re-run

Posted in "North Carolina", Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Religion by helenofmarlowe on February 21, 2012

Not to be outdone by Forsyth County Commissioners, who spent many thousands of dollars and much county time litigating a losing battle which was finally settled by the U.S. Supreme Court,  Rowan County (NC) County Commissioners have apparently decided to fight the same fight.

SALISBURY, N.C. — Commissioners in one North Carolina county plan to continue offering Christian prayers at public meetings, regardless of a letter from a civil liberties group citing a recent Supreme Court action upholding a federal court’s ban on the practice.

The Salisbury Post reported (http://bit.ly/xtafV5 ) that a huge crowd turned out for the Rowan County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night to offer their support to the elected officials, who say they’ll defy a decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals striking down so-called sectarian prayer, or prayer that’s explicitly linked to a particular religion, such as Christianity.

“If they tell county commissioners they can’t pray, soon they’re going to be in my church telling me I can’t pray in the name of Jesus,” said Terry Brown, a county resident who came to the meeting.

The appeals court’s ruling was in the case of the Forsyth County Board of Commissions. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by that board, letting the Fourth Circuit’s ruling stand. Since then, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has contacted 25 and 30 government bodies in North Carolina in response to complaints from residents about sectarian prayer.

Only one of about two dozen members of the public who spoke Monday night argued that prayers offered to a specific deity don’t belong in government meetings.

“I think what’s going on right now is a clear example of why we need this law, and why it should be obeyed,” said Salisbury resident Chris Crowell, who compared the atmosphere of the meeting to a religious revival.

Rowan County residents might as well gear up for a long and losing battle.  For a preview of what they have to look forward to, here’s how it went in the Forsyth County Commissioners meeting two years ago, when the Commissioners, in defiance of all good sense and good law, decided to appeal two lower court rulings and send their case to the Supreme Court.

Can’t these benighted North Carolina citizens look around the world and see what it’s like to live in a theocracy?   Is that really what they want for our nation?

It’s Move Your Money Week! And so I did.

Posted in "North Carolina", Economy, Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 11, 2011

This is Move Your Money Week. And so I did.

 I’ve been happy with Wachovia for more than 30 years. But Wachovia is no more, and Wells Fargo, nee Wachovia, is now charging fees that Wachovia never charged while, according to Reuters, Wells Fargo paid Chief Executive John Stumpf compensation worth $21.3 million for 2009. A year ago, Wachovia/Wells Fargo began charging me a $25 fee for my unsecured line of credit. I’ve had that unsecured $15k for thirty years, never paid for it, and never used it except occasionally due to carelessness – it’s my overdraft protection.

Maybe Mr. Stumpt is worth $21million a year, every year. It doesn’t really look like much when compared to the $43.7 billion in taxpayer bailout funds that went to Wells Fargo. And the $25 annual fee for an unsecured line of credit that I almost never use isn’t going to make a difference in my vacation plans.

But our country’s rising income inequality troubles me. Increasingly wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, and not because they have worked harder, but because they have influenced the laws that rig the rules. We like to think of America as the land of opportunity, and that once was true. But for the last three decades, economic mobility has become harder in the US than in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany or Spain.

Much is amiss in the rigged and under-regulated economy that has seen corporate taxes as a share of the nation’s tax revenues plunge from 28 percent in 1956 to only 11.8 percent in 1996 and to below 10 percent in the early 2000s.

The share of all property taxes paid by corporations dropped from 45 percent in 1957 to 16 percent in 1995 (more recent figures are hard to find, as most states have changed their accounting rules to not break out corporate from personal tax payments, in response to lobbying pressures from corporations).

After decades of campaign contributions from lenders, legislators have re-written the banking rules to favor the banks over the people. Much of this corporate-friendly legislation was even written by the Corporations, instead of by the legislators whose job it is.  (See  http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed  — ALEC Exposed.) So today I moved my checking, savings, money market and credit card to the State Employees Credit Union. And as soon as I’m sure all my charges have cleared, I’ll cut my Bank of American credit card and mail it – or maybe take it – to the bank that notoriously took bail-out funds, gave CEOs huge salaries, and paid no taxes.

It isn’t that hard to Move Your Money, and it will help the economy of your own community.

How Do They Fool So Many Voters?

Posted in "North Carolina", Economy, Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on October 10, 2011

I’ve never known anyone over the age of 13 to be as obsessed with sex as the current NC Republican legislators. They were hired to create jobs and improve the economy, but they’ve done nothing so far except insert themselves into the private lives of citizens. They’ve cut the budget so severely that the UNC system has had to cut more than 3,000 positions. This, they think, creates jobs? They’ve cut and closed government offices, putting many thousands of public employees out of work. Do they think that moving people out of jobs and into the un-employment lines is good for the economy? Our NC – DOT has just cut 400 positions. Will putting those 400 people onto the un-employment rolls help the economy? Our NC Republican legislators have passed laws curtailing women’s reproductive rights to a degree not seen (correct me if I’m wrong, anyone) in any other state, and approximately equal to the reproductive rights of the most restrictive theocracies. Not because they care about babies — I see no evidence that they care a whit about babies — but because they want to abolish the individual right to privacy. They are now spending their (our?) time and energy and tax money working on passing a Marriage Amendment to the NC constitution. Yep, not just a law, but a Constitutional Amendment! To strengthen it, I believe, against a possible newly elected and saner legislature changing that in future.

And this is the party that claims it wants to get big government out of our private lives. It’s clear their main goals are 1) causing as much damage to the economy as possible, so as to ensure our president will not be re-elected, and 2)  control the private lives of individual citizens.  How is it that they can fool so many voters?

American Theocracy

Posted in "North Carolina", Local Government, Religion, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on February 23, 2010

It was a circus, the county commissioners meeting tonight.   I have photos and video, but I don’t have the heart to post them.

The people in our large overflow room singing Christian hymns.

The shouted and hollered Amens and Yesses! when speakers spoke about Jesus.

The buses — I have photos of the church buses lined up along Chestnut Street — this is what our democracy (theocracy?) has become.   It will not be on your tv.

I am so disheartened, I am going to bed, simply to get this day over with.

Bob, and one retired Baptist minister who said he was also a member of the ACLU (and was booed for it) were the only speakers who asked them to let this drop. All the other speakers invoked the name of Jesus as they successfully urged our commissioners to go forward in our march to theocracy.

A man sitting behind me hollered,  If they don’t want to pray, they can stay at home!

I turned around and said to him, What if they have county business?

Bob leaned over to me and said,

You have to look on these people without  hating them.  Don’t hate them.

Well I don’t, of course, but was sorely annoyed.

Church buses herd the troops

When the group broke out in song, in a Christian hymn (clearly practiced and on cue) I felt disheartened.  Bob, with his philosophical and moral strength, just smiled at me and said,

That was an interesting moment to observe.

We have a major university in our city.

Not one Wake Forest University  professor– not one professor of history, not one professor of religion, not one professor came out to identify the misrepresentations made tonight about our history and our constitution.

We also have a state university here.   If there were any representatives from Winston-Salem State University, they did not get media coverage and I am not aware of their presence.  It was needed.

Seven hundred sheep getting off church buses, and with very few exceptions,those reliable few, our citizens declared this a Christian nation.

Commissioners Beaufort Bailey, Ted Kaplan, and Walter Marshall cast minority votes against the appeal.

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