Published in the Chapel Hill News on January 4, 2015
Back in the warmth of mid-summer, I made a personal commitment to be a localist, to act on my beliefs by supporting my community with my choices.
Troubled by events like Ferguson and inspired by Carrboro’s sense of self and inclusivity, I became convinced that many of today’s problems stem from loss of community. So many Americans live in what Bill Bishop called “The Big Sort,” rather than the diversity of southern Orange County.
I pointed my arthritic fingers at the vast expansion of national chain businesses coupled with the dismantling during the Reagan and Clinton years of the regulations which had somewhat insulated communities from the global marketplace. Remembering the radical localist wing of the Anti-Federalists 225 years ago, I took up that cause as a way for individuals and communities to change public policy from the ground up, just like Carrboro does.
On a cold, sunny December day with an intensely blue sky, I felt called to grade myself on how well I walk the localist walk rather than just preaching it. In other words, to inventory how I stack up against the localist principles I espouse and what I am willing to do about it.
Dine Local – A: Since I don’t eat fast food and live in southern Orange, I’m starting with a softball. Whether it’s lunch at Al’s, Weaver Street, LaPlace and Neal’s or dinner at Vimala’s, Provence, Kipos or Squid’s, I spend way more than I can afford dining at locally owned Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough establishments. The worst I’ve done eating out in the last six months is patronizing a couple of North Carolina-owned chains.
Resolution: I’ll keep doing what I am.
Buy Local First – C: I mostly do well in preferring local merchants, even if at a higher cost. I buy eggs and pork products at Crawford Dairy farm in north Chatham and get the rest of my groceries from a CSA, Carrboro farmers’ market, Weaver Street Market, or Cliff’s. My gift buying happened locally again this year. I fail to make the grade in three big areas, however. I read a lot of ebooks from Amazon, get my electronics and office supplies from Staples, the only big box store I frequent, and get my prescriptions filled at CVS.
Resolution: I shall make a conscious choice to resume shopping at local book stores, migrate to a locally owned pharmacy, and seek local options for office supplies and equipment.
Bank Locally – C+: I have been a member of the State Employees Credit Union since 1972. On the other hand, during our seven years away we have acquired accounts at two banks that started in North Carolina, but have expanded into interstate banking. Interstate banking to me destroys community, antithetical to my values.
Resolution: I shall consolidate my banking down to SECU and a Triangle based bank, while advocating for a Carrboro-based banking institution.
Invest Locally – F: Yep, a big fat unqualified F. Not only do I lack local investments, I even have an investment account (inherited so cut me a little slack) with a firm owned by Bank of America. Even localist guru Michael Shuman admits that local investing proves difficult running against the grain of the whole field.
Resolution: I’ll start the difficult, research heavy task of learning how I can invest locally. I’ll start by reading “Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing” by Amy Cortese, which I just ordered through Flyleaf Books.
Serve and Donate Locally – B+: I donate a bit more than I can afford to local arts and media nonprofits. I volunteer at WCOM and serve on the Orange County United Transportation Board, Carrboro Arts Committee, and Creative Carrboro Committee. I fail, however, to give time – other than social media promotion – to local service organizations.
Resolution: I shall select a local service organization, probably TABLE, and begin volunteering with some regularity and devote more time to Rotary Club service projects.
Make my Opinions on Local Matters Known – A- : Besides writing for this newspaper, I contact local elected officials and staffers directly on various matters and sometimes comment on WCHL.
Resolution: I’ll expand on what I am already doing, work for more Carrboro-specific news media, and attend more public meetings.
Being a localist may not always be easy, but it proves essential to maintaining the strength of our communities. Besides, we enjoy the privilege of living in one of the best places to exert local influence and to volunteer. I have a road map for what I need to do in 2015. Happy New Year!
You can reach Art Menius at firstname.lastname@example.org