Carrboro Commons

Residents escape another Carrboro apartment fire

Posted on November 29th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Emily Burns
Carrboro Commons Writer

More than two dozen residents escaped unharmed as a fire swept through J Building at Ashbrook Apartments, 601 Jones Ferry Road in Carrboro, just after 6:30 p.m. on Weds, Nov. 28. The cause is under investigation.

Three minor injuries were sustained by two police officers and one firefighter who responded to the scene. Their names had not been released as of 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“I have been told that all residents have been accounted for,” said Captain Kent Squires of the Carrboro Fire-Rescue Department. “The fire has been extinguished, but we will maintain the scene throughout the night.”

Twenty-six residents, including 25 adults and one child, were displaced by Wednesday’s fire, and all of the residents were housed overnight by local hotels.

Squires said that the fire was first reported at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday by a resident of Cedarwood Lane who reported that she saw flames through the woods that separate Cedarwood Lane from Ashbrook Apartments.

According to Squires, the fire took place in the J Building of the complex, which is made up of 15 units. Seven of the units were only damaged by water; eight were damaged by water, smoke and fire; and of those eight, four were destroyed.

He also said that the cause of the fire had not yet been determined but that an investigation would begin on Thursday morning.

The Ashbrook apartment complex is not equipped with a sprinkler system, but Squires said that the complex was built in accordance with fire codes that existed at the time of its completion. Building J is expected to be uninhabitable for some time, according to a statement issued by the Carrboro Fire Department on Wednesday night.

Carrboro firefighters were assisted by several local fire and police departments, including the Chapel Hill, New Hope and Chatham County fire departments, and the Chapel Hill Police Department.

IFC Food Pantry: hunger takes no holidays

Posted on November 15th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Emily Burns
Carrboro Commons Writer

For many Carrboro residents, the month of November means finding one perfect turkey to share with family and friends on Thanksgiving, but staff and volunteers at the Inter-Faith Council for Social Services have to find about 450 perfect turkeys for the underprivileged members of the community.


Catherine Mitchell, a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill, bags groceries for a local mother and her two children at the IFC Food Pantry on West Main Street in Carrboro.
Emily Burns photo

Every year, the IFC’s Holiday Meals program provides hundreds of disadvantaged families in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area with food and supplies for their own Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

“Food is the issue of the day,” said Kristin Lavergne, community services director for the IFC. “If someone has taken that step to come see us, they are usually really in need.”

During the holiday season, the IFC accepts donations of food and money to provide traditional dishes such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, rolls and pies to clients who enroll in the Holiday Meals program.

This year, clients were asked to signup for a Thanksgiving meal by Nov. 9, so that IFC staff and volunteers would have ample time to collect and package the food for each family. The week of Thanksgiving, clients who enrolled in the program will come to the IFC’s Food Pantry, located at 110 W. Main St. in Carrboro, and take several bags of groceries home with them.

In December, the IFC will continue the Holiday Meals program, and Lavergne said she hopes the IFC will be able to have enough food and money to create another 450 meals by Christmas.

While the holiday season provides a great opportunity for members of the community to reach out to those who are less fortunate, Lavergne said it’s important to remember that people need to eat all year long.

“We need food year-round, and we need volunteers year-round,” Lavergne said. “We have a fairly small staff, and we value our partnerships with volunteers.”

Arts Committee is part jury, part cheerleader

Posted on November 15th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Gregg Found
Carrboro Commons Writer

Long before being displayed for the gaze of the town, any gallery of drawings, sculpture or photography on public exhibit in Carrboro must be investigated by seven pairs of critical eyes.

The Carrboro Arts Committee, a seven-member town government advisory board tucked away next to such giants as the Planning Board and Transportation Board, rules all things public art in Carrboro.


Carrboro residents Margaretha Richardson (left) and Helen Galbreath relax at the Carrboro Century Center in front of the Emma’s Kids exhibit. The display is a fundraiser for Emma’s Kids, an orphanage in South Africa for children with AIDS.
Gregg Found photo

Art submissions to the committee fluctuate wildly, but even with an empty inbox as of its Monday deadline, the group said the arts will go on.

“We didn’t get any submissions this month,” said committee member Sharmin Mirmin, a musician. “But that’s ok – we also booked other submissions through February.”

The committee is charged with deciding which exhibits to display in two high-traffic Carrboro locations – Town Hall and the Century Center. They review art, decide when to present it, and then put it on display for six to twelve weeks.
The process isn’t always as smooth as it seems.

A lack of entries can leave committee members scrambling to make sure the walls are covered. The committee itself is searching for three more members to fill out the vacant seats in the 10-member group. And identifying the criteria used to judge art has been tenuous.

“Basically if it’s creative and unique and interesting,” said committee member Michael Maher, who admitted: “It’s hard to define that really.”

Marty Ravellette was a teacher too

Posted on November 15th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Jock Lauterer
Carrboro Commons Adviser

I always wanted to write a story about Marty Ravellette, but never imagined I’d be writing a footnote to his obituary.

When Marty Ravellette, 67, of Carrboro died Monday, he left behind not only a loving family, but also a veritable fan club of friends who are heartsick over his untimely death. And the fact that his demise came with him at the wheel – a fact of which he was so proud – makes his passing all the more poignant.


At Suttons, Marty Ravellette’s daily morning hangout, the late Carrboro landscaper and motivational speaker liked to read over stories journalism students had written about his life. “This kid got it,” he used to say of a piece he liked.
Jock Lauterer photo

But I’m not here to discuss Marty’s death, but to celebrate his living. For Marty was a voracious life-hog. In the short eight years I was privileged to know him, he became one of my resident “perfessers,” teaching me more than I could ever pass on to him, regardless of his lack of higher education.

Like many others, I discovered Marty at that quintessential Chapel Hill “third place,” Suttons — and watching him chug a cup of coffee using his left foot as deftly as you would use your left hand, I invited him to speak to my fledgling journalism students.

After all, if my kids couldn’t write a story about the trials and eventual triumph of an armless man – then their souls must be made of granite.

Picture this: Marty entering the classroom unannounced, marching up to the whiteboard, grasping a marker with his bare left foot, (while balancing himself effortlessly on his right foot) and reaching up to chest-height with that same left foot and writing his name in perfect cursive.

If the students hadn’t seen it at, now they did: where his short sleeves hung limp, there were no arms.

At this point, I permitted myself the reward of stealing a glance at my glazed-eyed, slack-jawed students.

A barrel-chested mature man in blue coveralls, his graying hair swept back over a sun-darkened forehead, Marty perched on a desk in front of the students. All eyes followed as him as he raised his bare left foot, thoughtfully stroking a salt-and-pepper beard before he launched into his story.

“I was born in 1939 to a sharecropping couple,” he said in a soft baritone voice, as if speaking to a loved one rather than to a class of strangers.

And for the next hour, he would hold my college kids in thrall — this the Millennial generation so hyper-mediated and saturated by electronic flotsam and jetsam that many observers have written them off as mere intellectual chaff. Marty’s simple but eloquent stories of one man’s struggle for equality, understanding, clarity and finally redemption trumped all.

As you must have read by now elsewhere, much of Marty’s life was one of struggle, hard work and loss. But lately he had found love, affirmation, meaningful work and happiness. His “Marty’s Hands-On Landscaping” business became the stuff of legends.

Marty’s stories carried a stunning subtext that students heard loud and clear: if I can make it in this world without arms, kids, then you have nothing to whine about.

Marty had too many stories of quiet heroism to tell in this brief space; so a single story must suffice. One of the best involved a letter Marty received from a man who had been driving to the mountains to commit suicide – until he passed Marty mowing someone’s lawn, pushing his lawnmower with his chest. The sight so shamed and chastened the suicidal man that he jettisoned his self-destructive thoughts and embraced life again, even writing Marty a thank-you letter for saving his life, in which he called Marty his angel.

In fact, he called Marty his “angel with broken wings.”
An angel indeed.

Carrboro winners celebrate elections Tuesday night

Posted on November 6th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

Mark Chilton, center in hat, checks election return with, clockwise from bottom, his mother, Mary-Dell Chilton; supporter Robert Kirschner; and 8-year-old son Samuel.
Sam Giffin photo

By Jon Sullivan
Carrboro Commons Writer

In an open room at the entrance of Milltown, 307 E Main St.,candidates for the Carrboro election met and celebrated the end of their campaign and awaited the upcoming election results.

As supporters continued to make their entrance and gather alongside those they’ve come to know along the campaign, nachos and cheese fries were served in abundance to the happy participants. Laughter resounded throughout the room as people shared their campaign memories.

As Mayor Mark Chilton walked into Milltown wearing a tan suit and broad-brimmed hat, reporters from the Daily Tar Heel, Chapel Hill News, and Carrboro Commons came forward and took pictures of his smiling face.

He was happy about a recently reported precinct result where Chilton had swept the competition away. After reading the results, his son Samuel responded with a celebratory “Yes!”

The crowd laughed as Chilton responded, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”

Samuel Chilton, 8, sat by his father in a bright red sweater awaiting the results as they came in. His other son, Alex, 6, sat with Alderman Dan Coleman’s son, Misha, 6, at the end of the table happily playing Candy Land.


Re-elected Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton raises his glass in a toast to his late friend and mentor, Joe Herzenberg, at the post-election party at Milltown Tuesday night.
Sam Giffin photo

More results began to pour in on the Orange County Web site, and candidates huddled around the computer to get the news. Chilton read out incoming results next to Alderman Dan Coleman, but the results were not yet finalized. Chilton and his supporters continued to wait patiently.

Alderman Coleman greeted incoming guests, thanking some profusely for all the hard work they put into the campaign. As the results continued to pour in, Chilton walked around the room giving supporters high fives.

When the results were finally in, Mayor Mark Chilton called those in attendance together for a toast.

“Join me in a toast to the Alderman Dan Coleman…. and four more years for Joal Broun!” The crowd erupted in applause. He also welcomed new Alderman Lydia Lavelle to the Carrboro board.

Chilton continued by making a statement to his supporters. “We’ve been a very progressive community and are very proud of it… and we will continue the tradition.” He concluded by saying simply, “We’re going to have a great year.”

He also took time to compliment his opponent Chuck Morton, who he complimented for his ideas and hoped would continue to stay involved in the community.


Re-elected Carrboro Alderman Dan Coleman shares a toast with friends and supporters Tuesday night at a post-election celebration at Milltown in Carrboro.
Sam Giffin photo

Alderman Dan Coleman then made a statement. “We’ll have a great board this year. Thank you to everyone here who has helped me.”

He also took the time to thank his 6-year-old daughter, Misha, who he said put in a lot of effort in the campaign and made it possible. The crowd laughed, and Misha happily accepted the praise.

In concluding, Chilton had one more thing to share with the audience. He asked everyone in Milltown to raise a glass to his mentor and friend, Joe Herzenberg, a Chapel Hill town council member who died recently. “Here here!” replied the attendees, and Chilton returned to the party.

Members of the media swarmed in and began asking questions of victorious candidates and campaign workers. Supporter Mike Schley summed the celebration like this: “When you have good leaders, leaders that appreciate the town, it really shows.”

High-tech democracy at work

Posted on November 6th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Kendal Walters
Carrboro Commons Writer

My assignment: show up at the Board of Election Headquarters in Hillsborough and give my impressions as Voting Day ’07 comes to a close and the returns come in. As the county seat, Hillsborough is ‘Election Central,’ i.e. where all the votes are tabulated countywide for Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough.

Orange County Board of Elections Director Barry Garner explains to me the process of how the votes are tabulated at the respective precincts, go through a modem, and ultimately end up on the computer screen in front of us.


Orange County Board of Elections Director Barry Garner, right, fields questions from reporters about the election Tuesday night at the Orange County Board of Election headquarters in Hillsborough, as Kathy Zopfi, systems analyst, updates the returns..
Kendal Walters photo

Then, Garner hands over a tiny flash drive to systems analyst Kathy Zopfi who transfers them to the Web site so voters can clearly see the results in an organized form, at almost real- time with the action. They are using a new modem-based system, which pulls the results directly out of the data systems at the precincts.

I don’t understand all the specifics of how the equipment works, but I am certainly impressed by how easy technology has made things seem. What Garner and other staff say used to take until 10 or 11 p.m., now they have completed in about an hour from the time the polls close.

As the results pop up on the computer, the small room is filled with about 10 people, mostly reporters. Student reporters are definitely represented; I feel at home when I meet a reporter/photographer team from the Daily Tar Heel, two students from the Journalism school’s advanced reporting class, and UNC-Chapel Hill senior Stephanie Lindsey, an intern for news channel NBC 17.

As of about 8:30 p.m., we are waiting for results from three more precincts, two of which are on the phone as we speak.
The “IT guy,” or Chief Information Officer Todd Jones, says that director Garner has pushed a lot of the technological improvements and implementation of the new system.

Garner acknowledges that even though didn’t meet his goal time of finishing by 7:45 p.m., it is still a lot faster than in previous years. Expressing his satisfaction that the new system has run smoothly, he affirms, “This is democracy at work.”

Welcome to Election Night live coverage

Posted on November 6th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Jock Lauterer
Carrboro Commons Adviser


VOTE FOR HER: Outside Carrboro’s Lake Hogan Farms polling place on Tuesday, Jonathan Broun campaigns for his wife, Joal Hall Broun, who is running for re-election to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
Cameron Weaver photo

This Election Day 2007 we’re trying something new and different at the old J-School.

Four journalism classes have banded together to produce local election coverage for Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro (or, if you like: Carrboro-Chapel Hill)

It’s up live tonight at

About the Project from the Web site:

“The UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in an effort to encourage cooperation across sequences and courses , has brought together four classes during the fall 2007 semester to cover Orange County, Carrboro and Chapel Hill elections. Classes participating in the project include students from Leroy Towns’ political reporting, Jock Lauterer’s community journalism, Ryan Thornburg’s online newswriting and editing, and Andy Bechtel’s copy editing.

Leading up to Election Day, students are covering local issues and races through different media including print, photo, audio and video. On election night, student political journalists will step out of their classroom/newsroom to document the results and reactions to the local 2007 election. But their stories won’t be due the next day. Like professional journalists, students will be expected to work real deadlines and send in their stories for editing and posting to this Web site under the ‘Stories/Features’ tab. Up-to-date blogs will also be kept during election night.

The Election 2007 project allows students to gain knowledge and refine their skills in the traditional form of journalism while also cultivating skills in ‘new’ media such as online news and blogging.”

That’s right; tonight the Carrboro Commons has five student-journalists out there sending in live commentary and photos from Carrboro to Hillsborough. I’ll edit it and post it almost as soon as I get their work. The tech allows us a head-spinning turn-around; and for this old newspaper rat, who cut his teeth on mind-numbing all-night election coverage and lengthy darkroom sessions way before any final result could be printed, this is pretty heady stuff.

Speaking as a teacher, this is the kind of collaborative, real-time, real-life teaching/learning experience that makes a J-school education worth its sheepskin. And I bet I am speaking for the other three instructors when I say, this project is just a lot of fun, too. Thanks to Professor-in-Practice Leroy Towns for dreaming up this initiative in the first place.

Let us know what you think of our our work.

Dear Carrboro: Confessions of a wanna-be voter

Posted on November 6th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Jock Lauterer
Carrboro Commons Adviser


Carrboro votes: Linda B. Smith of Carrboro casts her ballot in early voting Tuesday morning. Smith says she prides herself on being a long-time regular voter in Carrboro.
Carrboro Commons photo

It’s a good thing I really really wanted to vote this morning.

Assuming that where I voted in the last election would be the same, I trekked over to North Chatham School, a good 10 miles from our home just over the county line from Orange.

But you know the old saying about the dangers of assuming.

It felt pretty durn stupid, standing there in front of the polling clerk at North Chatham School, and getting told sternly, “You’re in the wrong place.” And then he directed me to Perry Harrison Elementary School.

Where in the world is that? Turns out, it’s waaaaaaaaaay down Jones Ferry Road, west beyond Frosty’s store and practically down in Bynum.

The long drive allowed me time to reflect on the importance of good local in-depth reporting when it comes to voter education. How had I missed this vital information?

Turns out It was a perfect storm of voter ignorance:

a. The Chapel Hill News has stopped delivering in my neighborhood.

b. I can’t get delivery of the Durham paper, though Lord knows I’ve tried.

c. Kirk Ross, when he was managing editor of the Indy, made sure Northern Chatham had a terrific voter’s guide in the last election. But Kirk is now editor of the Carrboro Citizen.

d. And the Citizen covers just Carrboro, and didn’t publish a voter’s guide for Northern Chatham.

e. Plus, I didn’t look for a Chatham News and Record which I bet DID publish that info. It’s just that the Siler City/Pittsboro paper is hard to find in the far upper reaches of North Chatham.

When I finally did get to vote, I felt a little cheated; the only thing on the ballot was the real estate transfer tax proposal. Then I phoned my wife to tell her about my saga and give here the information about where she needed to vote, and I happened to mention that I voted FOR the transfer tax.

“I’m voting against it,” she said.

Oh great. We’re canceling out each other’s vote.

Well, there you go. Democracy in action.

Brother, I earned that little “I VOTED” flag sticker. Wore it all day like a badge of honor.


Posted on November 1st, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Jock Lauterer
Carrboro Commons Adviser

There’s a new newspaper in town. No, it’s not the Carrboro Citizen, and it’s not the Carrboro Commons either.

Welcome to the JAGWIRE, the first-ever newspaper produced by the new journalism class at the new Carrboro High School.


A teachable moment: Journalism teacher and JAGWIRE Advisor Jan Gottschalk, left, works with Carrboro High School newspaper staffers on a thorny technical issue, left to right, Gottschalk, Emile Toscano, news reporter; Mariah Norris, news editor; Tony Powell, reporter and photographer, Editor-in-Chief Daniel Matchar (at computer); and Lavanya Rao, editor of Top Spots.
Jock Lauterer photo

The words “new” and “first” pop up so many times in this start-up that it may numb the senses. But as an old journalist who many moons ago got his first chance to shine at a high school newspaper, let me tell you — this is a certifiable big deal.

In fact, this week’s inaugural issue of the JAGWIRE is something of a small miracle — the product of a dedicated bunch of Jaguar journalists led by editor-in-chief Daniel Matchar (who has been working on this project since last spring), aided by the indefatigable CHS journalism teacher Jan Gottschalk, and supported wholeheartedly by Principal Jeff Thomas.

The 12-page tabloid format debuted last week after Gottschalk and staff wrestled with one technical snafu after another.

I know this first-hand because our Community Journalism class (the Commons staff too) has been there. In sort of a journalistic version of Big Buddies, we’ve adopted Jan’s kids, teaching and mentoring her enthusiastic journalism class at Carrboro High School.

And the inspiration has gone both ways. How invigorating it’s been to watch the Jags in action. What a treat it’s been to be able to give back to a high school journalism program.

After all, if it hadn’t been for journalism advisor Martha Gill and the Proconian of Chapel Hill High School circa 1963, I might not be writing this story today. Go Jags! Go Jagwire!

Carrboro town leaders addressing a lingering problem

Posted on November 1st, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

The intersection of Jones Ferry and Davie roads in Carrboro is quiet just after noon, but three hours earlier, more than 20 men waited here for contracting companies to hire them for the day’s work.
Emily Burns photo

by Sam Giffin
Carrboro Commons Writer

The Tuesday, Oct. 23 Board of Aldermen meeting hosted the monthly public hearing session during which citizens are allowed to sign up to present their opinions and findings to the board. One issue to be discussed at this meeting brought a relatively large public presence. Many citizens of Carrboro stood up to speak their minds about loitering issues concentrated near the Route 54 bypass.

At the intersection of Davie Road and Jones Ferry Road, day laborers wait between the hours of about 6-11a.m. in the morning for contractors to pick them up for manual labor work. These men are mostly Hispanic and according to a Town Staff report are often accompanied by unemployed men who are not looking for work.

At a previous meeting on Sept. 18, the Town Staff presented evidence they had compiled on issues occurring repeatedly at this intersection to the Board of Aldermen. The report included concerns such as loitering, public urination, littering, public consumption of alcohol, trespassing on private property and harassment of passersby.

The Board approved an action plan for resolving this problem including an increased police presence, a new public trash can and talking with both El Centro Latino and the contracting companies that hire these workers. More significantly however, the Board set in motion the process for instituting a limited anti-lingering ordinance at the intersection and surrounding area between the hours of 5 to 11 a.m..

In recent weeks some of these measures have been implemented. A trash can had been set up and police presence has been augmented over the past month. Many citizens however clearly believed that not enough had been done to solve these problems.

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