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UNC leaders' mixed message

Neither UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser nor UNC Health Care CEO William Roper actually addressed any of the substantive issues your Jan. 17 piece, "UNC Inc.," raised ("In response," Jan. 31).

For all their high-flown rhetoric, the reality is that the chancellor, Roper, and UNC System President Erskine Bowles are engaged in efforts that will lead to the Wal-Mart-ization of the university system.

The chancellor who personally approved the naming of the new "FedEx Global Education Building'' on campus hankers to adopt the same "personnel flexibility" that Roper uses to rule his new fiefdom and dole out huge bonuses. Bowles' much-heralded Presidents Advisory Committee on Efficiency and Effectiveness (PACE) makes this wish explicit. Such a move can only lead to worsening pay and employment conditions on campus via the widespread adoption of outsourcing and privatization. The PACE report clearly states that the best way to improve the outsourcing option would be to pay wages "at or below market."

So while all these immensely rich men wax lyrical about their mission and commitment to the university of the people, this same cabal has set in motion a concerted effort that will significantly diminish employees' rights and lead to the further impoverishment of some of the university's lowest paid employees, and doubtless large bonuses for the administrators. One ranking that should be urgently reviewed is the ever-expanding reality gap here on campus that is the gap between the rhetoric and the reality. You can ask the dental technicians about that one.

David Brannigan
UNC-Chapel Hill Employee Forum Vice Chair

Preserve the parkway

Roy Pattishall's review of Anne Whisnant's book about the Blue Ridge Parkway's history, Super-scenic Motorway, concludes by describing the parkway as a project "that endures for us all" ("Long and winding road," Jan. 17). If only it were that simple. In reality, the parkway is in grave danger of losing all that makes it such a treasured place to visit. Most of the lands we see when driving the parkway are privately held, and deep-pocketed developers are snapping up properties at an alarming rate. Many of the magnificent views of tall forests are being converted by rampant development into roadside subdivisions and shopping malls.

Local land trusts and other conservation organizations work closely with willing landowners to protect their lands forever, so that healthy forests, pristine streams, wildlife habitat and spectacular vistas are preserved for future generations. But such land protection takes money, and lots of it, given today's soaring mountain land prices. That's why the state legislature should embrace the recommendation of the N.C. Land and Water Conservation Study Commission to provide $1 billion in new funding to save the places we love, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, before it becomes just another road through a blighted landscape.

For more information about how land trusts protect the parkway and other mountain natural areas, visit www.ctnc.org.

Reid Qilson, Executive Director
Conservation Trust for N.C., Raleigh

The art we deserve

I read with interest Kate Dobbs Ariail's article on the evolution of the Venable building, and how it is a good example of the problem that society has with providing space for artists ("Eyes on the Prizery," Jan. 17). The entire discussion is founded on the assumption that artists are always going to be poor, endangered citizens, as if somehow that was a law of physics.

In fact, rather than the issue be presented as "society or this community having little affordable space for artists," it would be more accurate to realize that society, this community, has actually too little means devoted to art. The fact that artists cannot afford space like lawyers, biology firms and doctors do is a consequence of that. Most people can justify to themselves to spend X thousands of dollars on, say, a piano or a couch, but have a real hard time doing the same on a piece of art. One may then observe that artists price themselves at prices that the market "is prepared to bear," not at sustainable prices. Way too many artists, around here and elsewhere, subsidize their work with another work or their own private endowment. Obviously this is not healthy, but is another indication of a "Wal-Mart economy" and of the problems facing entrepreneurs too small to have effective marketing.

I might sound either naïve or way too subversive to consider that artists should be compensated at levels comparable with other professionals, but it actually used to be that way. To paint the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo was paid the equivalent of the cost to arm an army vessel, which today would be tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.

As long as this society claims to be a guarded, but still undoubtedly a market-driven, one, none "has a right to any of this"—no more artists than developers—but everyone has to live with the consequences. My message to artists is: Price yourselves at sustainable levels. My message to society is: You will get the art that you deserve.

Jean-Christian Rostagni

Close the street

Thanks for the coverage on the City Plaza ("At Raleigh's City Plaza, everybody gets to play," Citizen, by Bob Geary, Jan. 10), but allowing cars to run through a space like this during special events is a bad idea. When everyone came out to see the reopening of Fayetteville Street, what did they do after the parade? They went out and walked around on the closed street as it provided the public space for them to interact.

Cars running through a space that people line each side of means either a parade is happening or people are watching the cruisers go by. Spaces like this are active because of the activity of retail, restaurants, bars, etc. lining the street, which provide other areas for interaction. While this seems a creative use of leftover sidewalk space, you've got to close off the street during special events if you really want people to interact in a public square.

Dave Delcambre

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