02/18 – What you’re saying: Nancy Milio, Joan F. Walsh, James Neal, Barry Jacobs, and Bonnie Hauser

Instead of a parade

If Mr. Trump wishes to celebrate those who work to secure our country (“Mattis says military parade a sign of respect,” Feb 7), he need not turn to the military. He should elevate the true heroes and heroines that daily preserve and strengthen our country and our democracy. They are the first responders, the teachers who stress the essentials of true democracy and equality and how to sustain them; the scientists who work to guide us through climate change and epidemics; our diverse communities who over generations have and continue to build the social and physical infrastructure of our homeland, from enslaved and indigenous peoples to today’s refugees and immigrants; the social and commercial entrepreneurs who work on community problems; the people of faith or no faith who open their arms to those in need, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or who they love.

Instead of a parade that would glorify the Commander-in-Chief, let the President of the people recount how all Americans, citizens and others, have made us prosperous and secure; let him say how he is going to strengthen our democracy and move us forward together.

Nancy Milio

Chapel Hill

Military money madness

Trump’s drastic increase in the military budget will, as reported in this paper, drive our deficit into the stratosphere. An interesting example of how that money will be spent was profiled in taskandpurpose.com/uss-gerald-ford-navy-problems/ (Task and Purpose is a website by and for military veterans, not by any means a pacifist or liberal site.)

Referring to the new $13 billion – yes, Billion – USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier: “The Pentagon’s latest technical assessment of the next-generation supercarrier reveals a warship currently incapable of performing basic functions during routine operations” and “poor or unknown reliability among many of the Ford’s essential systems. ... These systems aren’t just high-profile but critical for the vessel’s roles in counterterrorism and great-power deterrence. ... The poor or unknown reliability of these critical subsystems is the most significant risk ... sailors could find themselves unable to perform underway maintenance or repairs on one of the ship’s most critical systems. ... More concerning are the shock tests the Navy is delaying on the Ford… the service’s push to delay even such nominal tests raises questions about officials’ confidence in their new supercarrier.”

There are plans for more such carriers, ever more complicated and expensive. There’s an old saw about a boat being a hole into which to pour money. Seems like the Navy is pouring like mad, and the new budget will push them to pour more and faster, along with the other military branches. Is this where we want our tax money to go, while our infrastructure rots and our education and health systems wither?

Joan F. Walsh

Durham

America the myth

America is a cruel and inhumane nation. I travel, I observe, I compare and contrast. Ignorance, denial, partiality and partisanship are not my companions.

My anguish is not unique. Only timely. My youngest son has suffered from a serious mental disease for over a decade. Recently discharged from a hospital into the streets of the world’s wealthiest city, he soon was off his medication. He was detained by the New York City Police Department. While herding him into an ambulance there was a scuffle. He was charged with felonious assault with a weapon: his foot. He is being held at Rikers Island. It’s a brutal dumping ground where our military state warehouses and abuses human beings. You will not find a more dehumanizing, filthy and corrosive institution.

I would whisk my family away in a nano-second to a compassionate nation where my son could receive comprehensive care with dignity. Like Cuba.

In America my son is not a person. He is a ghost. The person who people avoid sitting next to on the subway. The person with whom people do not make eye contact. The hand never shaken. Hustled out of a Starbucks if he pauses before making a purchase. He is a nuisance, a blight which sullies the view from our ruling class’ $50 million gilded perches. Politicians – all of them – are no more than sloganeering sycophants doing the work of those who have bought and paid for them. I know firsthand all too well. America is a s---hole draped in a myth.

The prolific author and intellectual Gore Vidal told us as much for the 50 years before his death.

James Neal

Chapel Hill

The job of a county commissioner

Serving as an Orange County commissioner is both an honor and a privilege. We live in a special place.

Make no mistake: While residents certainly have our differences, there are shared Orange County values, values it’s imperative we protect and advance. While in office I’ve tried to do that through teamwork and listening to others, through disciplined spending and visionary thinking.

That means supporting quality public education from pre-K through Durham Tech; helping those least able to help themselves; protecting our natural environment; assuring inclusive policies and living wages; and nurturing our thriving tourism, local agriculture, and arts communities even as we assist startups and existing firms.

I stand by a land-use plan that limits areas where water and sewer can go, protects folks’ homes, prevents sprawl and environmental degradation, and maintains the sense of place that’s lost in most other fast-developing counties throughout the Southeast.

I believe in spending with care. I voted for a single property tax increase (for schools in the face of state cuts) over the past nine years, even as we’ve significantly reduced the portion of total funding derived from taxes on property.

From enhanced tools for law enforcement and emergency services, to better senior centers and libraries, community centers and parks, I see the job of a county commissioner as acting as a steward of our quality of life. That’s the job I’ve been doing, and that’s the job I trust you’ll support my continuing to do as I seek re-election to an at-large seat on the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Barry Jacobs

Hillsborough

Put aging schools first

An open letter to the Orange County Board of Commissioners”

We are writing to ask you to please delay plans to purchase more county land and add offices, parks and other non-essentials that we cannot afford. Instead, please focus the county’s resources on funding essential maintenance of the county’s 32 aging public schools. Parks and offices can wait.

The agenda for your upcoming work session describes spending nearly $30 million for parks and trails throughout the county. Bingham, Schley, the Mountain to Sea Trail, and others are on the list. Those parks would be placed in areas with thousands of acres of protected farmlands and reservoir lands. There is little need or interest in parks in these areas. Parks that are closer to town might make sense at a later time, after school funding is addressed. There is also great interest in bikeways that connect existing parks and greenspaces but no such projects exist in the county’s plans.

To make matters worse, the county unexpectedly unveiled a plan for another new campus, including new offices for Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks and Recreation staff as well as state and federal agencies. This too can wait. We believe that our citizens would be better served if the county made a concerted effort to move toward collaborative workspaces, and worked to shrink its real estate footprint to a size that’s appropriate for our population and modest growth. We realize that siting a jail is a priority – and encourage you to find a commercial site on property that the county already owns.

The county is in serious financial trouble. We are at our debt limit and are already facing a large tax increase to pay for the first installment of school bonds. Impact fees are gone, and federal grants are disappearing. More challenges lie head for our schools. New federal tax laws will make Orange County more expensive to many of our families. Since there’s been little progress in economic development, the county’s tax burden will fall on residential taxpayers for the foreseeable future.

Please say “No” to more offices and parks – at least until you have funded essential school maintenance. Once funds become available for parks and other projects, we believe that the county would be better served by a plan to connect the county’s abundant green spaces with a multi-modal greenway for cyclists and other users.

Our request might make more sense if you ask staff to provide a full inventory of all public parklands in the county – including properties managed by Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC), Classical American Homes, OWASA, Duke and UNC, the state, the towns and others. Only then will you appreciate the abundance of beautiful parks in Orange County, and how unnecessary new parks are at this time. For the full land conservation picture, you might ask staff to overlay properties that have protections or conservation easements from the county, TLC, CWMTF, and others. With that information, you can appreciate how robust land preservation looks to us who know the area.

We rely on you to set priorities for spending and investment. Right now the priority is for the County to get its aging schools in order. Adding parks, trails, and offices can wait.

This letter was submitted by Bonnie Hauser and signed by 24 Orange County residents.

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