Letters to the Editor

What You’re Saying: Whit Rummel, Julie McClintock, Natalie Murdock, Robert Porreca, and Wesley H. Stepp

Not who we are

Unfortunately, the partisan politics of Chapel Hill seem to be mirroring those of our country these days. Fake news, misleading information, and abhorrent tactics are being used to pull our community apart more and more. Two incidents that occurred in the last 10 days are warning signs.

Monday’s article by Tammy Grubb about tree spiking on the property at the MLK/Estes intersection reported on a remarkable and troubling occurrence: vandalism intended to damage property and potentially result in personal injuries, undertaken in the name of tree conservation. It is a criminal tactic purposefully trying to inflict damage and injury, and I was so sad to hear of that happening in our community. That’s not who we are.

Ms. Grubb also mentioned in this article that the CHALT (Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town) listserv contained a post alleging that I, Whit Rummel, owned the parcel of land to be harvested (I don’t). There were, in fact, additional inaccuracies in that posting: that I had made a claim of beetle infestation (I had not), and that I had petitioned the Town Council to have my land “declared commercial zoning” (I did no such thing).

When I approached one of the founders of CHALT, asking if I could respond to the inaccurate allegations about me on the listserv, I was told that I could not, since listserv members are limited to “Friends of CHALT” – and I was obviously not a friend.This kind of one-sided, biased information distribution mechanism is exactly the kind of thing that is interfering with the ability of different factions in our community to have an honest and transparent exchange of ideas.

Chapel Hill has a history of valuing intellectual honesty, and has a culture that promotes respect. As long as the leaders of CHALT continue to make their discussion device a one-way street, I advise the citizens of Chapel Hill to take in any “information” from that organization with more than a grain of salt.

These two incidents – the tree spiking and the inaccurate, non-refutable CHALT allegations on the listserv, are reasons to worry about tactics being used in our community. But we are better than that, and I am optimistic that truthfulness and respect will ultimately prevail as the defining characteristics of our community dialogue. That is what we value.

Whit Rummel

Chapel Hill

Julie McClintock, for CHALT, responds:

Mr. Rummel is complaining about one error in a private email conversation that was forwarded to him. The error was to name Mr Rummel as the owner of the corner property on Estes Drive where tree clearing is now underway. (He is the owner of the adjacent property.) This error was quickly corrected by others in this private conversation. This erroneous statement was never circulated to the public nor appeared on a public website. Mr Rummel has the name of the person who made the error and he can follow up if he wishes. Despite Mr Rummel’s high dudgeon, it’s clear that this whole thing is a tempest in a teapot.

His letter does refer to a serious issue: the malicious tree-spiking discovered on the Butler property. No member of CHALT would ever do anything harmful to private property or illegal in pursuit of our community goals, including tree-spiking. Members of CHALT are proud of our commitment to factual accuracy as well as respectful and honest dialogue, as we have proved in our community forums and our election campaigns. Mr Rummel’s accusation that CHALT is intellectually dishonest and lumping us in the same paragraph as tree-spikers is untrue and insulting to our volunteer organization. We invite Mr Rummel to join a civil and open dialogue on our CHALT blog at www.chalt.org/blog/ on this and other issues.

Recent clear cutting of large tracts on Estes Drive, MLK north, and 15-501 has convinced us that the Chapel Hill Tree ordinance is not working the way it should. If you want to support a Chapel Hill tree protection ordinance that works, please join with us and sign the petition at chalt.org.

Food matters

It’s so easy for us to take having regular meals and fresh food for granted.

My grandfather and great grandfather were farmers, they were proud to raise their families with fresh and healthy food. Their children did not wake up each day wondering where their next meal was coming from. What we feed ourselves is important and we can all work together to expand access to high quality and affordable food. Today over 40,000 people in Durham County live in a food desert. We all have a right to have access to fresh and healthy food.

Over the last 10 years, state funding to conserve our water and land and open spaces has declined. I want to work with local and state partners to get that funding increased.

As we prepare to authorize a new FarmBill, let's make sure that our children and families in need are not left behind. Millions of children depend on meals received at school, we can’t let funding for these types of programs lapse.

I have enjoyed serving as a volunteer and Associate on the Durham County Soil and Water Conservation District Board and would be honored to serve as your next District Supervisor. Join me as we work to preserve Our Soil. Our Water. Our Community. for generations to come!

Learn more and join our team at NatalieforNC.com

Natalie Murdock


‘Critical’ care

You’ve just turned 18 years old and life is great, right? Not if you have a cleft lip and/or palate. Our great state did not expand Medicaid, and the kids who have had continuous care from birth at the UNC Craniofacial Center are now on their own to pay for all of medical bills associated with their congenital condition.

As newly minted 18-year-old single adults in Orange County who previously had government assistance for health care, they are now burdened with the responsibility of their health care without any transitional assistance. They may be lucky and have coverage under their parents until they are 26 , but many families do not have this luxury and an overwhelming majority of patients at the UNC Craniofacial Center have their Medicaid coverage as a lifeline to critical medical care.

It makes no sense for someone who has a congenital, often life-altering condition to bear the full burden of their health-care costs just because they have reached adulthood. One such solution to this problem is for North Carolina to expand Medicaid coverage, so that adults affected with congenital conditions can continue to receive the vital medical services that help to keep them healthy and included in the health care system.

Wesley H. Stepp

4th year medical student

UNC School of Medicine

Semantic contrivance

In her letter “Belief vs. practice,” former State Sen. Ellie Kinnard, who is also a lawyer, took issue with a recent Supreme Court ruling that basically said a man does not have to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage if his religious beliefs are against that sort of union. Sen. Ellie says that religious belief is OK according to the Constitution, but practicing that belief is not covered. Now, I have never been a lawyer, nor have I ever played one on television, but, there is a glaring error in that semantic contrivance.

If one claims religious beliefs, and does not practice them in daily life, there is only word that fully describes you, that is, hypocrite. The baker in question claims that his religious beliefs deny the acceptability of same-sex marriage. For him to participate in or contribute to a same-sex marriage ceremony in any way would then be against the teaching of his religion and, in the eyes of his religion, a sin. Adherence to a moral code requires that it be practiced in daily life.

Sen. Ellie argues that the Constitution says you can believe what you want but not practice it. Whether some folks like it or not, following the precepts of what a religious belief teaches in our daily lives and in dealing with others is wholly covered by the First Amendment. After all, you can’t not have your cake and eat it too.

Robert L. Porreca


Speak up

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