WCHL Commentators: Buy Local

carrboro-mainstreetI don’t know about you, but I LOVE the holiday season. During the darkest time of the year, the lights go up, the activities increase, and we draw family and friends near. There’s also an increase in shopping as we plan meals, decorate our homes, and buy gifts.

In a WCHL Commentators segment a few weeks back, I explained why it’s important for all of us in our community to commit to eating local. For those same reasons, I’m asking you to consider that same sentiment as you plan your holiday – and BUY LOCAL.

Buy Local means choosing independent, locally-owned stores when you shop.  Sometimes that can be hard to do with so many choices out there, but if you consciously try to select stores that are locally-owned, you would be doing a world of good for the quality of life right here.

When you choose to Buy Local, more of your dollars stay in the community to help pay for schools, police, and parks. I recently read a study in US News that said for every $100 you spend in local stores, over two thirds of that money stays in the community in the form of taxes, supplies, and services. These local businesses also give to our religious organizations and non-profits, which also betters our quality of life. Local businesses employ a lot of our neighbors, so those wages stay in the community, too, in the form of taxes and services bought.

Our Chapel Hill Carrboro Chamber of Commerce actually has a program called BUY LOCAL that you can read about on their website, carolinachamber dot org. They have searchable directories of all our local businesses there. I’m not a member of the Chamber, but there’s still a benefit to me – and all of us – when we use this information to guide our buying for the holidays.

But the biggest reason to Buy Local is that there are so many unique stores in our area offering a wide range of products and services. From funky little boutiques and gift shops to hardware and groceries, you really can find just about everything you need right here.

So remember to BUY LOCAL and enjoy the holiday season.


WCHL Commentators – Just Vote. Period.



I don’t know about you, but I REALLY enjoy elections. It must be the competition, the uncertain outcome, and the daily buildup to Election Day. Some folks refer to it as a horse race, and maybe they’re right.

But the reason for all the hype and advertising is simply this: we are choosing who we want to govern for us. To represent us. To make hard decisions for us. To look out for our best interests. It’s actually pretty important stuff.

And there’s really only one way – one REAL way to make sure that the right people are being put in the right offices for the right reasons – and it’s simply this – VOTE. That’s it. Just vote.

Now I’ve heard lots of folks who say, “Oh, all the politicians are the same.” Or “My one little vote wont’ really matter.” OR “I don’t understand any of the issues they are arguing about.” I really get how you could be led to any of these attitudes. But your attitude is your choice and you can change your attitude if you want to.
If you do just a little digging you can find out what your candidates believe and stand for. Ask trusted friends and family, see who your favorite newspapers endorse, or look up non-biased articles on the Internet. You’ll soon see the real differences between your choices.

Don’t pay too much attention to any of the ads you see on TV, hear on the radio, or read in the papers from ANY candidate. Those are paid for by folks with deep pockets who are betting you won’t take a little time to find out for yourself who you want and just take what they say as fact. And the consequence of the barrage of ads is that you may get confused and get turned off to the whole process. The big secret is that many candidates hope you DON’T vote. They know their ideas about governing would NEVER get them elected if everyone voted, so they try really hard to confuse you enough to give up. Some famous person once said, “Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”

And there have been lots of elections that have been decided by a few votes, sometime just ONE VOTE. Your vote is vitally important.

Tuesday is your actual Election Day. Your polling place will be open until 730pm. You can look up your polling place on the State Board of Elections website. If we ALL do this, we’ll soon get better candidates and better government.

Abraham Lincoln once said — “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”



WCHL Commentators – Fracking


I don’t know about you, but I REALLY take water for granted. Back in March, I said that in a WCHL Commentators segment about our drinking water and the coal ash spill up at the Dan River. I was concerned what the spill and delay in cleanup would mean for the clean water we all depend upon.

Now there’s a new reason to not take your clean drinking water for granted. Hydraulic Fracturing, or Fracking, is due to start up this spring in North Carolina, thanks to our Governor and our State Legislature who have loosened up regulations to allow fracking.

You’ve probably heard about fracking in the news. Natural gas that is buried deep in shale deposits can be coaxed up with a combination of drilling and injecting chemicals into the ground. To be fair, fracking has created some jobs, lessened our dependence on foreign oil, and results in a product that is cleaner than oil.

But the costs, in this case, seem to far exceed the benefits. In Oklahoma, where fracking has been active for some time now, earthquakes are happening when they never did before. Scientists point to the damage from fracking and the storage of chemicals deep below the water table there for the quakes.

The chemicals used in fracking are also an issue. Part of the fracking agreement in North Carolina is that it’s now a crime to disclose what’s in the chemicals that fracking companies use. A crime to know what’s being injected and stored deep under our homes? Near water tables? What’s in these chemicals? What’s the point of this rule?

Ongoing fracking operations in Texas and Pennsylvania have tainted groundwater for local residents due to leaking chemicals into the water table.

Our neighbors in the far western part of our state, in Cullowee, recently had a public hearing to allow residents to express their opinions about the proposed fracking operations out there to their local government. Hundreds of concerned neighbors turned out to say NO, that fracking shouldn’t be considered in Cullowee.

So again, I don’t know about you, but I love living in North Carolina and I enjoy our state’s gorgeous environment and clean water. I’ll be letting our representatives know that I don’t want fracking in my beautiful state, county, and town. I suggest you do the same.

Book Challenge, Facebook, September 2014



Book Challenge – Nominated by Tony Livernois

“In your status list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends, including me so that I can see your list.”

Imma gonna cheat and lump some books together in genre chunks, just to be different. And I probably thought too hard and took too much time about this as I started listing. Not a good role model, I guess. I think I need an editor . . .



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“Why Time Begins on Opening Day,” Thomas Boswell. – This is a go-to, multiple re-read favorite of all the baseball lit I’ve devoured since I was a scrawny kid checking out towering armfuls of ANYTHING baseball related from the Hild Regional Branch of the Chicago Public Library (a mere two miles from Wrigley Field). Could have also chosen anything else by Boswell, Wait ‘Til Next Year (Doris Kearns Goodwin), Boys of Summer, Ball Four (and Ball Five), Moneyball, Veeck as in Wreck, Only the Ball Was White, Babe (Robert Creamer), Satchel, Lords of the Realm, Season Ticket, Eight Men Out, The Natural, Bang the Drum Slowly, The Physics of Baseball, Ya Gotta Have Wa (Japanese baseball), Cobb, I Never Had It Made (Jackie Robinson), I Had a Hammer (Hank Aaron), Men at Work, Koufax – A Lefty’s Legacy, Baseball As America, You Know Me Al (Ring Lardner), Shoeless Joe, and dozens of others – plus dozens of non-descript baseball histories, biographies, and anthologies. Damn, this is fun remembering all these books.





Harry Potter series – so important to our whole family. The craze over the books hit as Adrian was approaching the age of the main characters. We read the books out loud to him, then to Ben, and each other. We awaited the next book with great anticipation, as well as the movies. The whole of our early parenting lives are milestoned by each of Rowling’s books. The guys will always have these stories embedded in their early memories; so glad they were of such great quality and imagination.




“Tao of Pooh,” and “Tao of Piglet,” Benjamin Hoff. Karen and I were big fans of the A.A. Milne Winnie the Pooh stories (along with the original illustrations by E.H. Shepard). We gave each other Pooh gifts, outfitted our first nursery with Pooh wallpaper (NOT the Disney stuff), etc. The kids heard us read them all the original stories over and over again. We came across the Tao of Pooh during this phase and loved it. One of my first glimpses to the simplicity and peacefulness of Taoism, Buddhism, and other Eastern philosophies. Cherished memory of reading the book aloud to Karen at a beach in western Michigan early in our life together.



“Jurassic Park,” Michael Crichton. Read this entire book out loud to Karen in our hotel room during our honeymoon in Cancun when she caught a bit of the Montezuma’s Revenge. The cover art alone takes me back to memories of the lovely views from our balcony, ordering room service in my pidgin Spanglish, and climbing El Castillo in Chichen Itza (which, I think, is now prohibited).




“The DaVinci Code,” Dan Brown – I’m not much of a fiction guy, but when I started this one, I couldn’t put in down until I finished it. Gripping. Similar reaction to Angels and Demons. Apprehensive about picking up his other stuff; will ruin my sleep.



“Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin. Fascinating, humanizing bio of Lincoln. Was always a fan of Abe (who isn’t, especially growing up in Illinois), but this deepened my understanding of the real person and the history of the time exponentially. Better than the movie (Spielberg’s “Lincoln”), which was also good.



“The 20th Century Children’s’ Book Treasury.” Can’t remember how we got this book (probably a gift), but I read from it to the kids for many years. Best bedtime story book EVER. All in one book, we had Madeline, Curious George, Guess How Much I Love You, The Stinky Cheese Man, Make Way for Ducklings, Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, The Sneetches, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Alexander & The Terrible, No Good Very Bad Day, and LOTS more. All high quality; mostly Caldecott winners. Indispensible.



Anything written by Dave Marsh. Dave is a rock critic, author, columnist and list maker. He wrote mostly at Rolling Stone in its heyday, but is still at it and still the best and the one I trust. I’ve read so many of his thoughtful, expansive, definitive bios of music figures (Elvis, Springsteen, The Who, etc). His Rolling Stone Record Guide was like a bible to me as I was learning about the best the genre had to offer. And a nice guy to boot – met him at a book signing when I was still a teen. I’ve digested tons of other music bios over the years by other authors (Elton, Jim Morrison, Beatles, Lennon, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Buffett, etc.). But Dave’s the man.



“Up the Down Staircase,” Bel Kaufman. Written in ’65, I probably stumbled on this as a kid in the seventies. Chances are good that Mom picked it up at a rummage sale as a bag of books for a buck. Quirky book about life as a teacher; memorable mostly in its method of story telling without much prose; a series of memos, letters, interoffice communications, etc. Story still holds up great even though.



“A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance,” Leon Festinger. First communications theory and theorist that caught my imagination as an undergrad coms studies student. Basis of quite a few papers.




“Dreams From My Father,” Barack Obama. This came out in ’95, before he ran for Senate in Illinois. When I first heard his name, I thought he had NO chance for ANY office of ANY kind. Hearing an early speech and debate during his Senate campaign inspired me and got me to seek out this book. I knew then we needed this guy . . .



“Persuasion: Reception and Responsibility,” Charles Larson. One of my first undergrad texts in Communication Studies and an outstanding one. First published in ’74 and in its 13th edition. I’m still remembering passages as I write anything. First to get me thinking about audience perspective.



“Try and Stop Me,” Bennett Cerf. Another one from the buck bag of books. Short stories, jokes, puns, and mini-bios of the noted performers of the 30s and 40s from the founding publisher of Random House. Re-read many times along with others of his compilations. Very entertaining and informative. Brought an understanding of the era, the main characters of the day, and an early influence on writing style.

I nominate Liz Shimkus, Adrian Thornburg, Bart Smith, Cathy Cousins Veal, Ron Stutts, Ron Pine, Matt Shaw, Janelle Booth Clevinger, Mary Parker Sonis, Bill O’Luanaigh, Johnny J. Jones, Andy Bechtel, Patti Barretta Steele. Way too many; I need an editor . . .

WCHL Commentary – Eat Local



I don’t know about you, but I LOVE going out to eat. Discovering a wonderful new restaurant is one of life’s great pleasures and it can be hard to decide on which one to go to. But if you care about your local community and its economic health, here’s one criterion you should always consider: Eat Local.

Eat Local means choosing independent, locally-owned restaurants when you choose to go out to eat. Sometimes that can be hard to do with so many choices out there, but if you consciously try to select eateries that are locally-owned, you would be doing a ton of good for the local economy.

One of the biggest benefits of Eat Local is that local restaurants buy most of their supplies, produce, and other ingredients from local businesses and farms, and more money stays in the local economy. This also cuts down on all the transportation needed to collect all the supplies in one place, so that in turn cuts down on fuel costs, pollution, urban sprawl, and habitat loss. And that tomato in your sandwich that came from local farmer a mile or so down the road will taste a whole lot better instead of the one that traveled hundreds of miles in a gas-gulping truck.

And I can hear some of you saying, “Don’t ALL restaurants have to pay taxes?” Well, yes, all restaurants have taxes to pay. But the owners and workers at the local places also live in our community and spend their profits here in town for services. When you pay your tab at the local place, the profits may go to sponsor Youth Baseball in the Carrboro parks, and not go to a faceless corporation that may have a tax-shelter headquarters in a Grand Cayman post office box.

Another benefit of Eat Local is that you are not inadvertently supporting the questionable politics of the owner of a mega-food business. I’m thinking specifically of a certain chicken sandwich chain and a well-known pizza franchise that support policies and positions that are radically different than what I would like to see. I have a hard time enjoying that sandwich knowing I’m actually making it harder to have the kind of town, county, state, and country that I believe in.

And the biggest reason to Eat Local is that we are so lucky to have an incredible abundance of excellent restaurants and restaurant owners in our community. We have almost every kind of cuisine you can think of and every price range. You could eat every meal at a local restaurant and go to a new place every day – unless you have a favorite that you like to go to often.

Bon appétit!

WCHL Commentary – Teacher Pay – 6/11/2014

140103_EDU_RaleighMoralMonday.jpg.CROP.promo-mediumlargeI don’t know about you, but I’m getting awfully concerned for our excellent public school teachers here in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County. Their salaries, not that big to begin with, have been frozen for years, even though property taxes and the cost of living have soared. They seem to be under financial siege by Our State legislature. But the latest proposal from Our General Assembly is a real head-scratcher.

The leaders of Our legislature announced – loud and proud – a budget plan that provided for what THEY called “huge increases in teacher pay.” It’s Senate Bill 744 — and it DOES call for an 11 percent raise. But when the DETAILS of the plan were released, we found that the increase would come from releasing thousands of our teaching assistants, who are critical in the classrooms of our youngest students. So while Our GA leaders are crowing about how they are champions of education, all they really did was to try to address one glaring problem by creating another one – and sincerely hoping no-one would notice the new problem. Not only is this questionable governing — it’s just mean.

Pitting folks against each other within the same shrinking slice of budget is bad enough, but there were other revelations from the budget plan that are just as strange. Senate Bill 744 would require teachers to voluntarily give up their hard-earned tenure in order to get the modest raises – those who don’t want to lose the small semblance of security they have in a vulnerable profession would have their salary flat-lined for the future.

People around the country – and around the world – are watching us. Other states are luring our best teachers away with better salaries, teaching assistants, AND tenure. Families are choosing not to stay because they want quality education for their kids. And businesses are having second thoughts – they know that potential employees will not work for them if the living standards are poor. Our GA leaders seem to be more concerned with a “Divide and Conquer” game rather than truly doing what’s right.

This recent quote from Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis may tell you what the leaders are thinking – He said:

“What I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers.”

Yep, that’s the same Thom Tillis who would like to be your US Senator. If he’s talking about winners and losers, then you KNOW it’s all a game to them.

WCHL Commentary – Voting – 4/30/2014

I don’t know about you, but I take voting pretty seriously.  No matter who you end up voting for, I think we all should take the time and make the effort to put a ballot in the box a couple times a year.  It’s one of the few ways we can influence how we want to live AND to tell our representatives what we want to prioritize in our neighborhood, town, state and country. It’s an activity that’s gotten more and more important lately, and I’ll explain why in a little bit.

This week we are in the midst of early voting leading up to an election day on Tuesday May 6.  This election is a primary, which is the one you have to say which ballot you want, Democratic or Republican, and vote for those candidates.   If you are not registered to vote, it’s too late to register this time, but you can get registered for the general election this November.  There’s all kinds of information about how to do that at the North Carolina State Board of Elections website or you can give them a call.

So here’s why voting has gotten to be more and more important lately. There are some people who hold elected office OR can influence those who hold office who are working hard to find ways to either keep you from voting, make you feel your vote doesn’t count, or just give up and not care about voting.

I’m sure by now you have heard of the Moral Monday demonstrations that have taken place in North Carolina. One of the big reasons for the formation of Moral Mondays was to voice opposition to our own state legislature’s actions toward making it harder for us to vote. The number of days for early voting was severely cut and a voter ID law was passed. It was claimed that these new laws were needed to address voter fraud, but there are no cases or statistics that warrant these voter suppression laws.

The State legislature and the Governor seem to be ignoring the questions and pleas from sensible folks about why this is being done. The only thing left to do at this point is to learn how to hang onto your precious vote and get it counted. Our former State Senator Ellie Kinnaird actually gave up her seat in the legislature to work on voter education and turnout because she really believes that this issue is more important for her work on. That’s plenty of evidence for me to believe her and do what I can to encourage all of us to get to the polls.

And you really need to ask yourself, neighbors – if your vote is so important that folks are trying to figure out how to keep it from you, isn’t it important enough for you to keep and use? Your choice.