In 2021, an East Chapel Hill High School junior named Caroline Chen wrote a piece about CHALT for her high school newspaper.
Instead of ignoring the piece, CHALT’s leadership complained to Chen’s high school newspaper advisor, The Daily Tar Heel, and IndyWeek. This reaction was wildly inappropriate, and people across our community rightfully saw CHALT as bullying a high school student. We suspect that’s why CHALT has tried to fade into the shadows and is hilariously claiming to not endorse a candidate in this year’s elections.
I thought of this incident today when I learned that a person identifying herself as Terri Buckner called my boss at work to say that I was engaging in “political activities on state time” on Monday and demanded that my boss make me stop.
Buckner has made it very clear through her blog and frequent social media postings that she doesn’t care for Triangle Blog Blog. That’s perfectly fine and she is entitled to that view. But calling someone’s employer because you don’t like that they advocate for safer ways for kids to walk and bike to school, and more housing opportunities is entirely inappropriate.
I’m a state employee, like many people in our college town. And today I greeted voters at an Orange County early-voting site for candidates I support, like dozens of other people across Chapel Hill and Carrboro. I also took today off—so was poll greeting completely on my own time.
When I got the phone call from my boss, I was shaken up and upset. I was, and continue to be, really, really angry.
Let’s call this what it is: harassment, bullying, and political intimidation.
I’m not going to be intimidated.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve volunteered alongside more than 50 other people in our community who write and produce Triangle Blog Blog. It is a labor of love and a true group effort. We’re proud of the collaborative body of work we’ve produced, which includes interviewing school board candidates, compiling resources for the election, and writing over 600 pieces on topics ranging from pickleball to hikes to take with your kids.
We’re people who love civics and love thinking about how to make our communities more accessible, fun, and sustainable. And we’ve helped a community of progressive activists find each other and try to make our towns better, so that people at every stage of life and at all income levels can find a home that works for them. Together, we take actions to raise awareness, support existing programs, and advocate for change to make our communities stronger and more resilient.
One thing we’ve learned over the last 18 months from filing many public records requests is that there are a lot of political bullies in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. They go well beyond writing letters to council members and speaking for (more than) their allotted three minutes at town meetings. They harass town staff, barraging them with emails and phone calls day after day, month after month, year after year. They make thinly veiled threats to the spouses of public servants. They’ve tried (and sometimes succeeded!) to get town staff members to leave or step down.
And, when their behind-the-scenes efforts don’t succeed, they change tactics, circulating lies and half-truths in community groups and over private neighborhood listservs with the goal of creating a frenzy of folks who mistakenly believe that town staff, elected officials, and even their friends and neighbors are trying to harm the community that we all cherish.
They publish addresses of people with different views on Nextdoor, or in their campaign newsletter. They harass speakers who speak at town council meetings. And, of course, they harass award-winning high school journalists who are just starting out their careers. (For the record, no one at Shameful Nuisance has ever called anyone’s employer, colleague, volunteer coordinator, or spouse to try to stop them from advocating for what they believe in.)
We don’t know how to stop this behavior, but we want to let you know that it’s happening to us, it’s escalating, and it’s frightening.
We plan to continue to work making Chapel Hill and Carrboro more vibrant, accessible, fun, and sustainable. And we’re not going to let online (or offline) bullies intimidate us into stopping.