We're giving you another avenue to voice your views about local issues. On Sunday we launched a feedback feature we call "Agree or Disagree?" that asks you to send us a brief comment on the editorial each week. If we get some good responses we'll print some in the following Sunday's paper.
Here's last Sunday's editorial. Agree or disagree?
Tensions climb at Abbey Court
In the week-plus since the ugly situation at Abbey Court flared up, things have only gotten worse.
The management of the condominium complex, which rents mostly to
working-class Latino residents, initiated the dispute by enforcing a
policy that requires vehicles parked in the complex's parking lot be
free of "conspicuous damage."
Abbey Court has imposed an
absurdly strict interpretation of the rule, towing its own residents'
cars away from the spaces outside their homes, presumably on the basis
of "conspicuous damage" that consists of nothing more than common wear
and tear -- minor dents, scratches, windshield cracks, faded paint and
so on. The policy also calls for towing vehicles that don't have proof
of title, insurance, registration and so on -- documentation that some
residents may not have.
Desperate residents, not surprisingly, have objected. On several occasions crowds have gathered to protest, to try to stop the towing or to hurriedly move their cars before they can
be hauled off. Thursday night Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton arrived at
Abbey Court to find about 100 people engaged in a tense standoff with a
tow truck operator.
Chilton has been active in trying to help the residents. He has directly urged Abbey Court to suspend the towing policy; the answer he got, he said, was no. Truth is, there's only so
much the town can do. Abbey Court is a private enterprise and, as
Chilton told the crowd Thursday night, the town doesn't have much
authority over the management's parking and towing policies.
It does, however, have authority over housing codes. Enforcement of the
housing codes is complaint-driven -- that is, the town doesn't
arbitrarily conduct inspections of existing structures, but it will
investigate if it receives a complaint about a specific building.
Chilton told the crowd that Thursday night, too, essentially inviting anyone
with concerns about the condition of their units at Abbey Court to file
a complaint. At least one resident responded by lodging a formal
housing code complaint. Chilton has asked the town staff to respond as
quickly as possible and, if code violations are found, to act
Abbey Court's position is that it is merely enforcing a policy designed to prevent overcrowding of the lot and to keep the neighborhood looking nice by removing unsightly vehicles.
Give us a break. It's one thing to prohibit junked cars or abandoned heaps.
What Abbey Court is doing is something else entirely.
Some might criticize the town for involving itself in a private business's
affairs. From where we sit, though, elected officials serve the public,
and when they see members of the public --especially those with limited
resources -- being treated unfairly, they have not only the right but
the responsibility to act.
Agree or Disagree?
We've told you where we stand on this issue. Now we want to know what
you think. Send a comment of 50 words or less with the subject line
"Agree or Disagree" to email@example.com, or just respond in the comment boxes here on the blog. We'll print a selection of responses in the paper, and post all of them online. Thanks.