Letters to the Editor

06/17 What You’re Saying: Jo Ann Ragazzo, Marcus Craig-Bradford, Ernie Wendell, Suze Bear and Marcia Harris

Middle income getting taxed out

Concerning the front page story about rising taxes in Chapel Hill and the mayor’s comment that “[t]he longer view is…diversifying commercial space” to relieve reliance on residential and business taxes, what exactly does that mean?

I’ve been a resident for over 40 years, and town reps say the same thing every year. During 20 years of homeownership, my property taxes have almost tripled, and commercial spaces have become anything but diversified. There’s an overabundance of grocery stores and pharmacies, but one needs to go outside the town to find most anything else at a reasonable price. Try as I may to shop locally, the selection is scant, and prices are much higher than neighboring counties.

On selection, gone are the department stores like Belk, Iveys, and Dillards, bookstores like the Intimate, craft stores like Billy Arthur and Hungates, fabric stores like Thimble Pleasures, and toy stores like the Children’s Store, to name a few.

On price, I couldn’t find local businesses to replace carpets or kitchen counters or appliances at reasonable prices. My eyeglasses cost $400 less in Durham. The town has been openly hostile to businesses like Lowe’s, Walmart, and Costco. The consequence of raising taxes for town operations and for the laudable purpose of affordable housing is an unsustainable tax burden on middle-income earners. It’s doubtful that adding another grocer and small downtown Target are answers.

It’s way past time for the town to come up with real solutions to lowering taxes rather than annual platitudes.

Jo Ann Ragazzo

Chapel Hill

More than charity

On the cusp of the Braggtown neighborhood, in Durham lies Lakeview Missionary Baptist Church. A church rooted not just in ministering the message of Christ on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights for bible study, but in its continuous efforts to feed the community.

Led by God, and facilitated by Louise Craig-Rorie, Lakeview holds an open food pantry every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from noon to 1:30 p.m. and Thursday from 1 to 2 p.m. With a desire to serve its community Lakeview opens its doors to all who are hungry, denying none.

The day starts with Sister Louise and her trusted volunteers setting up in the early hours of the morning as a line of families, the disenfranchised, the elderly, even those of different religious backgrounds wraps itself around the side of the church that leads to the entrance of the fellowship hall. A low chatter can be heard from the crowd as the time approaches for the doors to be open. At noon the side door opens leading those in need through a slender corridor that parallels the fellowship hall. On the right side, the hallway is aligned with chairs where those who’ve entered, after taking a number, sit until they are called into the fellowship hall.

Once in the fellowship hall, the guests are allowed to make fair selection from various meats, produce, and even personal health care items. If the patrons be elderly or disabled the items they’ve selected are carried for them as they make their selections and then taken to their respective mode of transportation.

The importance of this Food Pantry and the service it provides is not for any kind of credit, not even self fulfillment of its volunteers. But of true service, of the earnest will and desire of the community to hold itself accountable for one another, and to build strong foundation of love and to give hope to those who have seem to have struck out on their luck. Lakeview Baptist Church has proven, through its Food Pantry’s efforts, that it is more than just a religious epicenter. That it is far beyond a charity effort. It is a place where one can find unconditional Love.

Marcus Craig-Bradford


Only fairness is asked

Next month (July) I will see (God willing) my 88th birthday. I am thankful for every one of those years and for the opportunity to have lived and served this magnificent country of ours.

For most of my life I have been acutely aware that the United States has carried a large portion of the world on its shoulders. During World War II, tens of thousands of Americans gave their all – lost their all – in the noble effort to rescue a goodly part of the known world devastated beyond description. After the war was won we found both friends and enemies on their knees – make that their posterior.

But the USA stepped to the plate, reaching out a helping hand to both those who had been with us and those who had been against; enabling all to once again rise-up and stand on their collective feet. The American taxpayer, on behalf of those in need, carried (funded) that significant burden. We gave hope to the destitute where and when there was little or no hope to be found. We rescued the perishing! I believe that accomplishment has been long since forgotten by the children of those who were saved. It’s the way of the world.

We now find a world without any memory of those American gifts. It seems to me that it’s no more than a boring part of history to the clear majority of the off-spring of those who were saved. Who really cares anymore? Now when an American president is asking for fair, equitable and reciprocal trade with those who can never – ever – repay what was given – rebel at the very asking. So much given and so little asked! Accused of greed where only fairness is asked. Fairness for all – including the American taxpayer.

Ernie Wendell


The rot is deep

On Sunday night, the owner/operator of a Durham restaurant navigated to my Facebook page from a year-old public comment on Senator Burr’s FB page and wrote:

“Well ... you’re a stupid (slur) so why would your opinion matter? (Slur)”

Words typically scratched into a rust-pitted bathroom stall door.

Turns out he’s not just your garden-variety troll. He’s the owner of a local restaurant who markets his business as a friendly place.

He also sent me a private message filled with more slurs.

I was told through his FB business page that they “wouldn’t apologize for him,” that he’s a “grown man,” and “passionate politics.”.

This has nothing to do with politics. This is the degenerate spewing of someone who has eschewed any sense of obligation to the social contract we all share. The way we treat each other in the public square in this country has degenerated to the degree that not even local business owners care if they offend the very people they depend on for their livelihood. The rot is deep.

Although maybe there’s an argument to be made that it’s better when somebody’s true character is laid bare. At least, then we can make choices about where we spend our money.

We must do better.

Suze Bear


Blame Hamas, not Israel

It is a tragedy that the people of Gaza are living under dire conditions. Such are the consequences of electing Hamas, a terror organization whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, to lead their government.

When Israel pulled completely out of Gaza in 2005, it left hundreds of greenhouses and an economic infrastructure intact, which Hamas and the Gazans chose to destroy. Hamas received billions of dollars and thousands of tons of concrete provided to them as aid to build hospitals and schools, yet they diverted it to build tunnels and purchase rockets to attack Israel. The Hamas leadership live in luxurious homes (funded through taxes levied on smuggled goods to build tunnels), while its citizens live in poverty.Why no protest?

As for Laila Elsherif’s comment in her letter on June 2 that “many of those still in Gaza want to leave, but can’t or have no place to go,” if she will consult a map she will find that in addition to its border with Israel, Gaza also has a border with Egypt. It is not reasonable to expect that Israel would allow sworn enemies to pass through its borders or to live there. And of course Israel needs to have a blockade of goods that might be used to threaten its security. (They do not ban musical instruments, crayons, mattresses, and the other items mentioned in Ms. Elsherif’s letter, although they may have done so years ago when they were working out their blockade policy.)

Why is Ms. Elsherif not questioning Egypt’s decision to close its border with Gaza to many goods and to refuse to grant citizenship to more than a just small percentage of its Arab brethren from Gaza? And why not protest the 20 other Arab countries who either will not allow Palestinians refuge or, when they occasionally do, restrict their citizenship, property rights, and professions?

I agree with Ms. Elsherif that Gazans have reason to protest. It’s just that they are protesting the wrong targets.

Marcia Harris


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