Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bill James: "Why I hate sidewalks"

Mecklenburg County commissioner Bill James wants to explain why he thinks sidewalks are a waste of public money. James, in case you're unfamiliar with local politics, is a conservative Republican County commissioner who lives in Matthews. He's not just controversial, he's a guy who lives to generate controversy. He's anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-public funding for the arts among other positions.

Here's the headline: If there were a sidewalk in front of his house, he said, then people would have a legal place to hold protests over things he does. With no sidewalk, they don't.

Well, OK, seriously, there's a bit more to his objection, and he's talking about residential streets in the 'burbs, not a blanket dismissal of all sidewalks. His e-mail is copied below.
Obviously I think he's wrong about the value of sidewalks, and about the value of connecting streets. (Could there possibly be any better reason for putting in a sidewalk than to allow a spot for anti-Bill James protests?) Here's James' e-mail. What do you think of his reasoning?

You forgot the best reason for not building sidewalks in some neighborhoods. It prevents political protests and theatrics.

When liberals get mad at something I have done (or they think I will do) they always threaten to 'protest’ in front of my house. Their threats are always designed to force my family, friends or neighbors to endure some angry mob as the price to pay for some vote or statement thinking that will change my mind.

Problem is, protesting in the ‘street’ requires a permit and isn’t likely to be granted in a residential neighborhood. Protesting on a sidewalk is a constitutional right.

Build a sidewalk and you guarantee that folks can (and will) show up to protest every decision (left or right) because sidewalks are ‘public.’

No sidewalks means the closest protesters can get to my house [and not be on the street] is about a mile away at the entrance to my sub-division. Of course, there I can’t see them or hear them so there is little point in them showing up.

Sidewalks in the 'burbs where there are cul-de-sacs are a waste of money and a reduction in privacy.

I live in a sub-division without sidewalks with one road in and out and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Crime is low, protests are non-existent and the quality of life is improved because sidewalks and connectivity don’t exist.

If I need to take a walk, I can walk along the street.

64 comments:

Steve said...

Whether or not there is a sidewalk, there is a public right-of-way in front of houses, isn't there?

I fail to see why anyone would bother to demonstrate in front of Bill James' home anyway. He thrives on his critics and lives to outrage them.

And it sure beats trying to come up with something useful or constructive to say.

Mary Newsom said...

Steve, your point about the right-of-way is one I asked James about, but without a survey of his property (which he didn't have at hand, and he was heading out) we couldn't quickly determine whether there's any significantly sized right-of-way at the front of his property along the street.

Larry said...

Be sure to preface all your interviews with all that mess about the person so your reader do not have to use their own opinion.

That or you could have a picture of them with a big red X across their face or big green check mark. Or the picture caption could be enemy of us or with us.

And you wonder why I made such fun of you and your keep chicken nuggets, illegeals (sorry undocumented people living here paying taxes and not doing anything but wanting to be an important part of our society but no so much they bother to learn the language as you see them) people at the Observer on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

Is this for real? I mean, is that a verbatim transcript of an actual e-mail from Bill James and not just some joke you've come up with? If it's for real, I'm totally amazed that the man is stupid enough come up with such bovine reasoning (no offense to any cows who may be reading this), and even more stupid to allow it to be published online. Had he been drinking when he wrote that? Hopefully he was safely at home when he wrote it. I'd hate to think of someone driving in that sort of mental condition.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The idea that connectivity and sidewalks increases crime is simply not true! Take Long Island for example: many of its towns (mostly on the South Shore) are laid out in a grid-pattern (lots of connectivity) and sidewalks are everywhere. Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk Counties aka the suburbs) have the LOWEST crime rate in the nation. Why are some people so... dumb? And why is he a county commissioner? He doesn't seem like an open minded person at all. People can have their differences but they need to open their minds to them or else nothing will be accomplished. He doesn't seem like he wants to accomplish much other than piss people off anyways.

Anonymous said...

And before everyone jumps down my throat I am not saying Charlotte should be like or copy Long Islands growth patterns. I am just making a point: Connectivity and sidewalks do not increase crime. In Charlotte, it makes more sense to focus the attention on major thoroughfares rather than residential streets. Nobody minds walking along the street in their neighborhood but nobody wants to walk along the street (or on the side of the road) on say University City Boulevard or Independence (even though some people do and I feel bad for them).

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating (by which I mean laughable) mix of paranoia and adolescent logic. Larry's crazier, but unfortunately Bill James has a vote that matters.

Anonymous said...

Well if Bill James doesn't like sidewalks, I hope, for his sake, that he will at least make use of some of the fine greenways in the county. From his photo, it looks like he would benefit from more exercise.

Actually, I think greenways and sidewalks are both essential to a quality community.

Ed said...
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anilorac said...

There are plenty of lower Alabama backwater towns with dirt roads that would be just what the doctor ordered for Bill. He should remind everyone who the first Commish in line is when it comes time for Board raises and perks: Bill James.

Anonymous said...

I invite James to try to roll a stroller down my road with our traffic - or darn near any road without sidewalks in this town. What about kids who want to get out and play? I guess he thinks we should keep our kids inside or let them play in traffic!

Good solution. Gee, thanks for the great community leadership! Sorry, kids, unless you live in a gated community with no traffic, you'll just have to hope everyone in your neighborhood drives carefully (while texting) at or below the speed limit (yeah, right!) while watching out for you.

Or, we could build the darn sidewalks and have more safety for the kids and more options for exercise for everyone. (P.S. No offense, but it looks like *someone* could use a little of the latter!)

Anonymous said...

This confirms my thoughts about James. He's truly an IDIOT! This guy needs to have his own property out in rural america somewhere. He's an extremely dangerous man and casues serious divisiveness amongst people in this community. How about you move somewhere in Utah with the Mormons or maybe Harrisburg,Pa with the Amish. His lifestyle falls more in line with those people than ordinary folk, even those with southern Christian values. He's intolerant of other's beliefs and values and poses his own personal beliefs over others.

Aren't Christians suppose to be open to others in a tactful way? I don't believe in abortion or homosexuality either but ultimately after I've shared my Christian beliefs with those individuals I've done my Christian duties. Christians are suppose to live by example and not by talk.

Anonymous said...

Mayor McCrory has been big on sidewalks. Unfortunately, I see these nice sidewalk-lined residential neighborhoods and people insist on walking in the street instead.

Anonymous said...

If this is true, this is sad for Charlotte and your "World Class City" efforts. And a reason I quickly moved out of Charlotte. Apparently the fear of random acts of crime from random pedestrians that occur on the mean city sidewalks or the random (and senseless) protests (which I can only expect are from Suburban Lemmondade Stands) are too great of a concern for Bill James in his suburban homestead.

How do you expect to build a "World Class City" without building community and the ability to connect community. One method, build sidewalks and smart growth. Being a World Class City is not just having a NFL team, 3 blocks of a downtown, and Ruth Chris'. In a World Class City, you can walk to independent shops, restaurants, and even professional sports. And don't tell me that living in Epi Center in an overpriced 500 Sq Ft. for $350,000 is urban living.

Also Bill, walking in the street? Isn't this is a public saftey hazard? I learned that at a Char Meck school back in 4th grade.

I will say I do enjoy reading these comments and arugments over basic things like sidewalks. It is quite entertaing watching Charlotte struggle with becoming "World Class" and here's another chapter...Charlotte, a stumbling comedy of buffoons and weak self centered leadership with the flavor of the month in urban planning. (Look forward to the posts on how I'm a Communist God Hating Liberal).

Oh, congratulations on the new Dunkin Donuts downtown. Movin' on up Charlotte, if only you could walk there.

Anonymous said...

Poor Bill, does he actually believe the world revolves around him? Excuse me, Bill, but the majority of Meck County citizens have better things to do than protest in front of YOUR house -- but then you were joking when you wrote that email, right?

Anonymous said...

Once again Bill James shows that he's an affable buffoon, a clown, in the vein of other Right-wing loonies like Rush Limbaugh, who delight in antagonizing not only "the Left" but rational moderates of all stripes --- all the while acting pleasant and agreeable about it. The older I get, approaching 50, and more vested I get in our country's concerns as a father, the less I can stomach these sorts. (The recent presidential & NC senatorial campaigns I'm sure helped reinforce my disdain for the Right.)

My apologies to Conservatives who do agree that sidewalks are a worthwhile public good, for kids, baby strollers, and yes (although it never occurred to me till Mr. James so kindly pointed it out), protesters. I used to get riled up about political Neanderthals like James but now just take quiet satisfaction in seeing how his brand of pudgy White-guy Reactionary is slowly but undeniably heading toward insignificance, one hurdle after another -- locally, lite rail; nationally, the recent election. James can have his mile-deep subdivision, fine with me; more money left over for those of us living closer to the center of a real urban center who actually value community.

Anonymous said...

when do we get to vote this clown out of office?

Anonymous said...

I spend sometimes upwards of two hours a day walking on sidewalks in my neighborhood and I appreciate that very much. It provides a much needed breath of fresh air at the end of the day and exercise. Isn't this comment by this politician just a little self-centered? Does he always decide his votes based on what is happening in his own front yard? Does the general public have a problem with people protesting in their front yards? Isn't his civic duty to serve the public rather than his own interests? Perhaps people wouldn't be thinking about protesting in his front yard if he did a little more of that, a little more thinking about the general welfare. This only intensifies my feelings that I am a Democrat at heart. Republicans seem so narrow-minded at times.

Anonymous said...

You can not use a right of way easement to trespass on someones property. The right of way is only public property AFTER the city or county takes the property. Before that it is simply an unclaimed right of the city to take the property. Stupid liberals, don't have a clue.

Anonymous said...

I had been a James advocate. However, he never spent a day in Dilworth, Myers Park or Elizabeth. Get out and smell the roses.

Mike in Matthews said...

It'd be nice if Bill James spent one day in a wheelchair, and had to walk/roll his dog in his neighborhood (on a rainy day when the cars splash up water on his business suit while he tries to stay dry), and then rethought his self-centered view point. Shame on you.

And no, I'm not in a wheelchair, my son is, thankfully the large majority of the population doesn't always have a ME first perspective of the world.

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between a right-of-way and a sidewalk easement. A right-of-way gives a local, state, or federal agency the right to grant an easement, such as a sidewalk easement, or other such rights, such as utility easements. The right-of-way does not make it public land. The agency who has the "right-of-way" agreement with the property owner would have to grant access to protesters if there is no sidewalk easement. The property owner still technically owns the property, many times to the center line of the road on older and county roads. The roadway by virtue of its existance provides for its own easement.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see James walk up Scott Ave or Kenilworth Ave without sidewalks. I have had several close calls avoiding cars as it is. What would happen to dear old Bill James on this roadway? No wonder no one on city council is willing to do anything about traffic on this roadway. If this is the sentiment on public safety we get from our officials, it's a shame...I'm so happy I actually pay to see my taxes at work!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Even Residential streets are NOT safe to walk on, especially at night and since you're not aware of that Bill it tells me you don't walk. Hey bud, I know a great street for you to take a walk on....

Anonymous said...

The great thing about this country is, each of us can choose where to live. Bill James can choose to live where there is no sidewalk.

Anonymous said...

I think the county should build a sidewalk just across his property by the street - and leave the rest of the neighborhood without :)

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Sidewalks are a sign of community and civilization. They are conduits that connect neighbors to each other, to local merchants, churches, parks, playgrounds and public transportation. Sidewalks provide continuity through a neighborhood, a place for gossipers to gather, mothers to compare notes and kids to meet up. They're the place you see fathers heading out to work, kids coming home from school and dogs being walked. They're ideal for roller skaters, bikers, grandmothers with shopping carts and mothers with strollers. They are part and parcel of the public square that we share.

The people who would be anti-sidewalk must be anti-social, isolationist suburbanites of the worst order, your leave me alone, gated community types who, in their self-righteous selfishness want no part of their neighborhood or their neighbors. Community is a foreign word to them and sidewalks are a threat. Anybody could come walking down a sidewalk! They could pass in front of your house, uninvited pedestrian trafficers disturbing the numbing peace of the cul de sac. Oh no! Not that. This guy, obviously, has some issues.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that any cares enough about what Bill James says to write out a thoughtful response. I just assume he is always bliss. I always heard, "Ignorance is Bliss."

Anonymous said...

My goodness you folks are full of yourselves, aren't you?

Anonymous said...

The road right of way that exists at the front of most property is, in most cases, not a public access right of way.

Anonymous said...
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Larry said...

I don't hide who I am when I comment. So why do so many of you?

Especially since you are so witty and so forward thinking as opposed to apparently everyone else.

Is this the new world you want for our Naked City?

Do I agree with James, Heck No but that was not the purpose of the whole story. This story was not to inform but to anger, and you can tell that from the way is started.

But why is Mary and the Observer so interested in us out here and trying to make us think a certain way? We pay a lot of taxes and most of us could care less about Down Town..... oh wait I see... we need to care only about downtown and then the Observer would be happy.

Ed said...
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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Voice o' Reason said...
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Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever actually seen a protest in front of someone's house on a sidewalk?

Me either. Pretty obsurd.

Jumper said...

I don't think the business about the legality of protests on sidewalks vs streets is correct. Any lawyers want to clarify?

If asphalt sidewalks are cheaper, they ought to be an option. They will be hotter, and in truly scorching weather they'll be unbearable. Perhaps concrete is the only reasonable option.

Anonymous said...
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Voice o' Reason said...

What's with all these posts being "removed by administrator"...? This was an article about one of the most devisive people in local politics, a man whose every public word is filled with irrationality and bigotry, and comments about him are being removed? Why even ask for comments if they're just going to be scrubbed? Is this an example of that so-called free speech, first amendment thing I keep hearing about?

I'll say it again, the thought of Bill James playing in traffic by walking on his sidewalk-less subdivision street somehow makes me feel like the world has at least a small chance of becomming a better place.

Campbell's Soup said...

With what I think of Bill James, I'd best not leave a comment, as it is sure to join the ranks of the "removed by author."

Anonymous said...

I wish we could remove Bill James from the Commission as easily as Mary removes posts on this blog.

Anonymous said...

So, being anti-abortion, anti-gay rights and against funding for the arts makes one controversial these days? Exactly who are the ones being brainwashed?

Anonymous said...

Larry, I'm sure that all of the anonymous posters are, like me, too lazy to sign up for a Google account in order to post under our names. Signed, Steve Benson

~ LMA said...

I live in James's district and am shocked every time he's up for re-election ... and he's unopposed. (I just don't vote for county commissioner because my finger refuses to push the "Bill James" button.) Come on -- certainly some Democrat can step up to the plate and rid us of this blight on our County Commission!

Anonymous said...

I think Bill James has forgotten one minor component of public service... It's not about you!

Anonymous said...

Sidewalks really are unnecessary in most subdivisions. I no longer live in Charlotte, but I have lived in several residential areas, close to Central Drive, Eastway, and Tryon. I walked around freely on the residential streets, or on the side of the road in areas of greater traffic. I never feared for my life.

When I was a child living with my parents in one residential area, a few blocks away from Central Drive, not even a subdivision, I rode my bike all around the streets.

A recent article I read said that a mom left her 12 year old son at the subway station in New York, so he could have the experience of finding his own way home. The article pointed out that kids are safer nowadays than they ever have been, and yet parents are so paranoid and overprotective.

I live in a subdivision in Kannapolis now, with no sidewalks. I see people happily walking, pushing strollers, jogging, etc. with no worries. About a dozen kids roam my neighboorhood streets. They aren't worried either.

I don't know Bill James, but his email did deal with subdivisions, right? Other places may need sidewalks, but subdivisions don't. If I lived in Charlotte today, I'd be more concerned about getting some more free parking in downtown. The lack of adequate parking creates more of a hazard there than the lack of sidewalks in a residential area.

Jumper said...

Ah, a perfect place to drop a new word I found today.

Angertainment. This is practiced widely in media, especially on radio, but it didn't have this cool name until now. Well, recently.

Mary, were you seeking to provide nothing but angertainment? No, I don't think so, knowing your iron-willed determination to have Charlotte join the ranks of civilization. And rightly so. The shenanigans of Commissioner James simply illustrate the obtusity one must deal with sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Well, pardon the stupidity of this conservative citizen, but Mary, before I shoot off my mouth I’d like to first know the answers to the following:

1.How much does it cost to lay an average block-worth of sidewalk in the suburbs?
2.Where does the money come from to build it?
3.What percentage of the neighborhood (realistically, now) can be expected to use it?
4.How often will they use it, and for what purposes?
5.On what programs could those same tax dollars be alternatively spent?
6.Which would be the best use of our tax dollars, if any?

Aren’t these the same questions we all should be asking? I know Bill James is asking them. Mary, has the Observer the answers to these questions? Why aren’t you asking them?

But again in good old liberal, thirties-something Charlotte we don’t need questions. We just need to throw dollars at something somebody considers to be a major problem. The heck with its merits.

Thank God we have some County Commissioners who know better – like Bill James

Anonymous said...

Mary, this is sort of off subject, but does the Observor have a definition of what constitutes the "suburbs"?

Back when you argued in favor of the new uptown arena, the Observer said one reason it had to be rebuilt uptown was because it was out in the suburbs. So is the Lake Pointe area along Tyvola and area of Charlotte not part of Charlotte, but some separate governmental entity?

Is Ballantyne or University City part of Charlotte per the Observer dictionary, or are they suburbs of Charlotte?

If they are suburbs, then the city owes me some back property taxes.

Also, wouldn't building sidewalks in the suburbs take away from the Observer's grandiose plan for the Emerald City - that tiny part of Charlotte inside the beltway?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Bill James (the man with two first names) has an incredibly skewed view of the world, and a mistakenly high opinion of his own importance in that world...possibly due to poor toilet training as a child. It's his right, of course, to express his opinions, but surely no one takes him seriously. Or perhaps they do, which might account for Charlotte's ongoing identity crisis.

Anonymous said...

If a democrat can't win in James' district, certainly there's a less moronic republican that could oust him in a primary.

Anonymous said...
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Jim said...

What a slanted author. Look at everyone jumping on the wagon.

Chris said...

As a Davidson Student, I spent this summer taking classes in Washington DC about walkable urbanism and the trends leading towards a successful future for a city. Let's look at the cities that do not follow sustainability and walkable urbanist practices such as a reliance on sidewalks and top-notch public transportation: Detroit, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Cleveland, Cinncinati, and Gary, Indiana. Now let's look at the cities that have an intricate system of sidewalks and public transportation: Austin, Boston, Washington, Portland,Seattle, San Francisco, and San Antonio. If taxpayers really want Charlotte to be the next Gary, Indiana, then I suggest continuing down a path of few sidewalks, suburbanist non-sustainable policies put in place to make travel in cars easier. If we want to be the "World-Class Creative Capitol of the South" then we should focus on building from the downtown out with sidewalks, fantastic and efficient public transportation, and urban planning policies that put people (not their cars) first.

As for not wanting a sidewalk to prevent protests, I only can say this: Bill James exercised his first amendment rights to say that African-Americans in the Charlotte region "live in a moral sewer", it seems only fair to me that the African-American community have the right to protest Mr. James. He offends so many people on such a regular basis, he should at least be able to handle the minor annoyance of an afternoon of protests at the edge of his large front lawn.

Anonymous said...

When you listen or read what Bill James beleive. It's scary to think.How many (Bill James)exist?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
When you listen or read what Bill James beleive. It's scary to think.How many (Bill James)exist?


There are apparently enough of them to keep electing him.

Anonymous said...

People protest in front of homes all the time with sidewalks. Not a day goes by that anti-abortion protesters stand on the sidewalk in front of some doctor's house that performs abortion. No sidewalk - no protests. There is a whole group of protesters in front of that woman's house in Florida accused of killing her daughter (on the sidewalk of course).

No sidewalk in front of W's ranch means protesters have to park a mile or more away.

I can see EXACTLY why Bill James picked his neighborhood. Folks are free to protest him till the cows come home - they just can't do it where he can hear, see, or smell them. That makes him smart. He obviously thought this out ahead.

Good for him. When someone doesn't like what he says, they can protest at the government center and Mr. James can read a summary about it on the news.

Anonymous said...

Bill,
Please continue to walk in the street. One day your district will be represented by someone with a little more sense.

Anonymous said...

To the Davidson student: with all due respect, if you sincerely believe that Gary Indiana would have been saved by sidewalks and walkable development, you need to gain a deeper understanding of Gary's economy.

More importantly, you may wish to pursue a bit of study in Davidson's philosophy dept, where you will be able to gain a greater understanding of logic and logical fallacies. To imply that the selected cities are what they are because of city planning policies touches on several correlative based fallacies as well other distinct logical fallacies. It's never persuasive to present choices as though they were collectively exhaustive of the possibilities without proving that to be so. It becomes worse when almost anyone familiar with the choices presented would recognize that they developed in dissimilar ways for a variety of reasons, among which urban planning is really quite low on the list.