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Thursday, January 11, 2007
Crazy: America's Mental Health Madness

Sometimes the journalist comes to the story; sometimes the story comes to the journalist. This time the story came to Pete Earley, and it wasn't pretty. "Crazy" is one of the kinder words Earley could have used to describe what he found in his investigation of the intersection of the mentally ill with the American criminal justice system. Earley's own discovery of the failed social system began for him the way it began for many of us: when s family member’s psychosis made a seemingly inevitable collision with the police.

The difference between Pete Earley and most of the rest of us is that he is a former Washington Post reporter, who is able not only to articulate his own experience but to observe, probe and report on the experience of others. Earley uses his head and heart to collate into comprehensive form the facts and figures that show that his experiences, and that of his son, were the norm, not deviations from it. The result of Earley’s personal experience and his subsequent research is the kind of account which I believe many more caring people need to comprehend if anything is ever to change for the better in our social systems, or lack thereof, for dealing with mental illness. .

Earley's book, Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness, consists of three separate but interwoven strands: the story of his son's experience of criminal justice for the mentally ill, accounts of mentally ill individuals in Miami whose lives Earley documents, and research that reveals the systemic mistreatment of the mentally ill, sadly done in the name of individual rights. Not to give away details better told by Earley than me, this mistreatment includes mentally ill prisoners being kept naked in practically refrigerated cells while awaiting trial. Other mentally ill prisoners cycle through a Kafkaesque procedure in which after a court hearing they are sent to a mental hospital to be made "competent to stand trial." There they are usually compelled to take medication to treat their illness, but then are returned to jail where they are not, often held there long enough to decompensate so that they are no longer "competent to stand trial." So, back they go to the mental hospital. This circle of futility may spin multiple times and last for months, even years.

Many of us may know the answer to the unfortunately popular (in the circles in which I travel) trivia question: "What institution in the United States houses the most people with mental illness?" (Answer: the Los Angeles County Jail.) That sounds bad, but what many of us haven't known is how bad jail conditions really are for those individuals who happen to be afflicted with the particular diseases of the brain called mental illness. Earley's own story gives a sample of some of the personal anguish that family members and loved ones experience, while the people whose lives he chronicles show that his experience was neither unique nor extreme. Earley puts faces on the facts and souls behind the statistics that are painful enough when they are anonymous. He shows that the systematic mistreatment he documents is not at all the exception but the rule -- and what a sad set of rules they are.

Crazy is not a book for the faint of heart, and definitely not for those whose parents, children, brothers or sisters are themselves mentally ill, and whose experiences have left them currently in serious emotional pain. For those who can read it, they should. While Earley's accounts are graphic, I see no evidence that he exaggerates anything that he has seen. Nevertheless, the reality he reports is as cold and hard as the cells that some of those with mental illness occupy. While reading the book will be particularly painful for anyone with a heart, and deeply distressing for anyone with brain, it will be enlightening for anyone with eyes to see what an inhumane system we have created, and allow to continue, "for" those with mental illness.

In the end, Crazy is a convincing plea that we change the way we deal with the mentally ill who find themselves in our criminal justice system, for their sakes and for ours as well.

Those who wish to work for a better, fairer and more humane mental health system in North Carolina are invited to listen and talk to our legislators at the Annual Legislative Breakfast for Mental Health, which will feature writer Lee Smith at the Friday Center across from Meadowmont in Chapel Hill on Saturday, January 13, 2007 from 9:00 am - 11:30 am.

Gary D. Gaddy facilitates a local class as part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Family-to-Family program, a 12-week course for the family members of individuals with serious mental illness. If you have a family member with mental illness, go to NAMI.ORG to learn more about this highly successful course.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, January 11, 2007. Copyright 2007 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:07 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 10:54 AM EST
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Sunday, January 7, 2007
Working Together Against Mental Illness

Among the most insidious of evils of this life are illness and disease, especially the brain disorders commonly called mental illness. Besides the toll they can take on a life, on a career, on the person him or herself, mental illness can destroy a family. But it doesn't have to be that way.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness's Family-to-Family Program is an intervention designed to help improve the lives of people who have been struck by mental illness, directly or indirectly, by educating their families about brain disorders, and offering practical strategies for dealing with their effects on daily life.

As one of the few people who has both been the one involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution and also the one doing the committing, I can tell you unequivocally, it isn't any fun from either side. My single near-catastrophic episode of 35 years ago has never been repeated. For most struck by mental illness that is not so. Since that time, I have also been blessed by the opportunity to take part in a program that works to help make the lives of those impacted by severe mental illness better, and would like to pass the blessing along.

In my experience, and that of many other participants, this program works. NAMI calls the program Family-to-Family because everyone involved has a close family member who is dealing with a serious mental illness: a brother, a mother, a husband, a child. This holds true not only for the class members but also for the class facilitators. Everyone involved in organizing and leading the class is an unpaid volunteer who has been through the same kinds of circumstances that many of the class members are now in.

Over 115,000 family members nationwide have graduated from Family-to-Family. A remarkable statistic, given no one is making money off the program, and the volunteers who make the program go are people who took the course -- and the training necessary to lead it. The course is free to the participants, but requires a 12-week commitment for the students, all of whom are or may become caregivers of a family member with a severe mental illness.

The curriculum is nationally recognized, providing current information about schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder (also called manic depression), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, as well as co-occurring brain and addictive disorders.

Beyond covering basic scientific facts about brain disorders and the most effective current treatments for promoting recovery, including the latest medications, side effects and strategies for improving medication adherence, the Family-to-Family curriculum covers strategies for handling crises and relapse. These include workshops in problem solving, listening skills and communication techniques as well as exercises designed to help family members gain empathy for the experience of a person with mental illness.

Other course components focus on care for the caregiver, including coping with worry, stress, and emotional overload and giving guidance on locating appropriate support and services within the community. A final element of the course helps empower family members by informing them of advocacy initiatives designed to improve and expand services, showing them how they can be part of making things better.

More than anything else, NAMI as an organization, and Family-to-Family as a program, are about hope, realistic hope. We may cope for today but we will hope for tomorrow. Continual advances in pharmacology give us real reason to have real hope for treatments that are already light years ahead of where they were 35 years ago.

And we can realistically hope that things can be better at the human level for those with mental illness -- if we study, learn and work to make ourselves more capable of helping them. And we can realistically hope that things can be better for the families of those with mental illness -- if we band together to help make their lives better by our kindness, caring, concern and assistance. And we can realistically hope that things can be better for our society -- if we stand together and demand together that our society treat those with mental illness fairly and compassionately.

Gary D. Gaddy serves on the board of the NAMI in Orange County, NC and of Club Nova in Carrboro, a rehabilitation clubhouse program for individuals with mental illness in Carrboro.  Go to NAMI.ORG to learn more about the Family-to-Family Program, or to see how you can work to make things better for those with mental illness.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill News, Sunday, January 7, 2007.  Copyright   2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 5:01 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 10:57 AM EST
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Thursday, January 4, 2007
Smith's Records Knight Won't Break

Much has been made lately of Bobby Knight's passing Dean Smith for the greatest number of wins in a men's NCAA basketball coaching career; so much that I'm afraid it's true.  As a Tar Heel fan, I am tempted to diminish Coach Knight's accomplishment, but I going to resist, because like the "over-rated" chant, it would mostly make my coach and team look bad to do so.  The all-time career wins record is a significant achievement, and it's a good record regardless of how ugly the red sweaters are that the person who holds it wears.

Honestly, there are many good things that can be said about Bobby Knight, but don't expect me to be the one to say them.  Like Mark Antony, I have come to bury Coach Knight, not to praise him.  [Educational side note: That's Mark Antony, the Roman politician, general and lover of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, not Marc Anthony, the Puerto Rican-American salsa and salsamonga-ballad singer-songwriter, who married Dayanara Torres, Miss Universe, before marrying Jennifer Lopez, Queen of the World.]  Sorry, I am easily distracted.

Anyway, Bobby Knight did break one of Dean Smith's records, but there are many other coaching records held by Smith that Knight will never break.  I am not talking about the NCAA-record 33 straight seasons that Smith's teams have finished in the top three for their conference, or the record 27 straight 20-win seasons, not that Knight will break either.  I am not even talking about the record for the most wins at a single school, even though there's a reason that Smith, the Dean of college coaches, won all of his games at one school and Knight didn't.  (The technical term: run out of town on a rail.).

I wasn't even thinking of one record neither Knight, nor anyone else, will ever touch: cumulative time-outs left over at the end of a career.  Smith's timeout hoarding may have started earlier, but definitely was solidified by the comeback win over Duke in 1974, in which UNC scored 8 points in 17 seconds (without a 3-point shot!).  Smith accumulated time-outs like his life depended on it.  Since his team led for the better part of the great majority of his games, most of those time-outs were never used.  At my estimate of two per game, that's 2266.  This makes the championship win in 1993 which was finalized by a Chris Webber's calling a timeout which Michigan did not have, especially apropos.

No, the record I was thinking of vis-a-vis Knight is the number of consecutive games without uttering a public obscenity.  Knight won't even break Roy Williams's current streak of 111 games without an obscenity but with at least one euphemism.  Smith's record is 1133 games without a single curse word, not counting, even more impressively, his matches as a golf coach at the Air Force Academy.

As Smith once said, "cursing is not one of my sins."  Don't get me wrong, Smith wasn't sinless. He did have at least one, notable and extremely public, moral lapse. (I'm thinking here of the Four Corners "Offense.")

Knight is another story.  He has had many moral lapses.  Knight's longest stretch without an obscenity-laden tirade would be exactly the length of any bout he may have ever had, if any, with laryngitis.

Another record Knight won't break: consecutive weeks without humiliating a player in public; for Dean Smith it is 2288, Bobby Knight's best is two (assuming he went fishing alone in the wilderness for two weeks one time).

Other records of Smith's that Knight won't ever break: consecutive years of representing his university with class and dignity (49 years and counting), consecutive years of being a close friend, trusted confidante and respected mentor to his former players (53 years and counting) or consecutive years of modeling the highest human values (75 years and counting).  These are some coaching records that count.

Just in case someone out there still mistakenly believes that the number of wins means more than it does, consider this: John Wooden is 29th on the list, sandwiched between Dennis Bridges and Ralph Miller, with a measly 664 total wins.

And, oh yeah, when Bobby Knight got his 879th win, he had 353 losses, 99 more than Dean Smith did when he retired.  Correct me if I got this wrong, coaching longer really doesn't mean coaching better, does it?


Gary D. Gaddy spent two contiguous weeks in the summer of 1967 at the famous Glenn Wilkes Basketball School, the South’s first and most popular basketball school, located at Stetson University in beautiful Deland, Florida.  He does not remember ever seeing Coach Wilkes, who is 73rd on the all-time career victories list with 551 wins in 36 seasons.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, January 4, 2007.  Copyright   2007  Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 4:54 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, January 27, 2011 3:49 PM EST
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Friday, December 29, 2006
How Does Wake's Football Team Win?

I hate to be the one to jerk the glass slipper off Cinderella -- but, since no one else seems willing to, I will. I could dance delicately around the facts -- but what would be the point? Wake Forest's football team got to the big ball (aka the Bowl Championship Series Orange Bowl), just they way you would expect: by cheating.

Before I catalog the numerous sins of Wake Forest University's aptly named Demon Deacons, let me give you some background on the puny school and their historically hapless football program. They are no doubt the feel-good story for this year's college football season, for what appeared to be good reason.

Coming into this season Wake had the second-worst winning percentage over the history of Division I-A football, losing 60% of their games all time. By scheduling Kent University a few more times over the last seventy-five years maybe they could have become the third or fourth worst.

As the third smallest school in Division I-A football (just ahead of traditional football powers Tulsa and Rice) Wake Forest can hardly be faulted for doing whatever is necessary to win against all the bigger bullies on the block. But, I can't sit idly by while they cheat their way past big-time college football programs who have more fans willing to withhold more support to get a win than all Wake supporters have ever given to begin with.

The cheating starts at the top. Head coach Jim Grobe's own offensive co-coordinator, Steed Lobotzke, admits Wake cheats on the field. "Half our offense is smoke and mirrors. Play them [Wake's opponents] one time, give 'em your best smoke and mirrors and see what you can get away with." With an offense called "a quirky grab-bag of misdirection and counterplays," other teams are frequently befuddled by some the ugliest plays in the history of football. Wake runs more scams in a quarter than the NYPD Fraud Unit sees in a year. Just because the plays work doesn't make them right!

Wake again cheats as they "emphasize academics." How are football schools (such as Oklahoma, Nebraska or Miami) to compete with a school where the students' average SAT score is 1340? This underhanded tactic allows Wake to run an offense far too complicated for real football players to follow much less understand or defend against.

Further, Wake plays an extra player on offense on almost every running play. Why don't they get called for "12 men on the field" repeatedly? That extra player is disguised as scrawny first-year QB Riley Skinner, who actually blocks for his running backs.

What's more, for decades Wake's been everybody's favorite home-coming opponent. How can you expect an actual football team to prepare for a cupcake? Little wonder Wake pulled so many upsets. How's Georgia Tech (which once outscored an opponent 222 to nothing) supposed to look at the ACC Championship marquee and see "Ga. Tech vs. WFU," then get psyched up for the game?

Wake cheated when they hired their coach to a long-term contract -- and actually meant it. Everybody knows a modern "revenue" sport coaching contract is solemn commitment to be honored by all parties -- or not. Grobe's "magic" season comes in his sixth with WFU, following four and seven records each of the last two. How unfair to programs such as Alabama, which is working on hiring its fourth coach in the last six years! (Alabama terminated Mike Shula after going six and six this season. But, seriously, how long did he expect to ride on last year's ten-win-and-two-loss season?)

Wake gets players big-name schools can't. According to the experts, not a single player on their roster was recruited by any major football program. This gives Wake another giant advantage over these schools since Wake can scout their opponents' players at high school all-star games and such while Wake's are all carefully kept secrets.

Finally, with the best graduation rate (96%) among BCS football conference schools (which have a 58% rate overall), Wake can sell their recruits a bill of goods on the "value of a college education." But maybe, just maybe, this little con will turn on Wake as it produces thoughtful and literate alumni, even among its major sport athletes, who, after reading this article, will demand Wake put an end to this disgraceful abuse of the major college football system.

Gary D. Gaddy, born into a Wake Forest family, received a graduate degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- something he can never mention when home for the holidays.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, 12/29/06.  Copyright 2006 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 4:40 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 10:59 AM EST
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Thursday, December 21, 2006
Wasting Away in Krzyzewskiville

The Robertson Scholars Program was such a good idea that there was no reason to expect that it would ever work. The Robertsons are idealists. They thought they could bridge the unbridgeable gulf: not between the Palestinians and the Israelis, not between the Bosnians and the Serbs, not between the Hutu and Tutsi, but worse, between the Devils from Hell and the Tar Heels from Chapel Hill. Julian and Josie Robertson, God bless their souls, thought it could be done. They were wrong.

As any sophomore biology major (or anyone of any age from a NC State household) could tell you, if you mate a thorough-bred horse with a jackass you get a mule. It was quite foreseeable how this program would collapse.

Duke Student government has decided to ban Carolina fans -- that is to say Robertson scholars -- from their basketball ticket distribution, despite the program's pledge, and the agreement of the participating universities, that the Robertson Scholars, who are students at Duke and UNC, "have full student rights and privileges at both universities." The Duke administration said it will not "intervene."

Of course, you are thinking, there is nothing worst than being banned from a squalid slum worthy of Calcutta. Popularly, and appropriately, known as Krzyzewskiville, it's where hundreds of Duke students live for months in muddy muck surrounded by fly-infested heaps of soggy pizza boxes and empty beer cans. Students participating in this "camp out" get tickets to Duke men's home basketball games.

So, now, UNC Robertson scholars will not be allowed to tread this hallowed ground.

You must understand the context. It was Freshman Night -- previously known as Senior Night -- at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The last regular basketball season contest between Duke and UNC, and for the Duke seniors, led by everybody's All-Americans J.J. Reddick and Shelden Williams, it was their final moment to bask in the dim glow of the Cameron limelight. Didn't happen. Roy's boys, Tar Heel freshmen, did not just win convincingly but as a group outscored and outplayed the Duke seniors, much to the dismay of those wearing depressingly dark blue garb.

Now comes the fun part: in the middle of the Duke student section, a visible contingent baring their Tar Heel blue torsos to the crowd, the players and the most viewers ever for an ESPN broadcast.

So why were these young UNC Robertson scholars there? They were, of course, trying their best to meet the goals and mission of the Robertson Scholars Program (which are quoted below in italics from its website:

The Robertson Scholars Program helps young leaders acquire the tools they need to transform themselves and change the world. The UNC Robertson scholars were there bringing a bright blue light to the dark recesses of Cameron. And if pulling off Duke blue clothes to reveal Carolina blue painted-skin isn't "transforming yourself," what is?

Robertson Scholars . . . will fully embrace the academic, social and cultural opportunities of two campuses that are uniquely available to them. If there is another culture in the world more foreign to tasteful and graceful Tar Heel fans than Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the obscene chant is considered an artform, I don't know of it, do you?

Scholars will . . . conduct themselves in such a way that they will bring credit to themselves, other Robertson Scholars, and Duke and UNC. Cheering heartily for their team, against a favored rival in his own confines, showed not just dedication and loyalty but bravery beyond any call. They deserve extra credit, don't you think?

Students . . . make the most of opportunities that are presented to them . . . create possibilities where none may have previously existed. Who ever thought this possibility could or would exist, and who would have the initiative to bring this to pass? The UNC Robertson scholars, who else?

Duke supporters of the ban claim that the UNC Robertsons' actions ruined last spring's game for many Duke students and said they don't want a repeat performance when the two teams meet this year in Cameron. They can want what they want. The Robertson scholars didn't ruin the game for Duke students, the Tar Heel basketball team did, and Duke student government can't ban them, I don't think.

Duke Robertson scholars are still welcome to the Senior Game at UNC this year, assuming the Robertson program continues, crippled as it is. I don't expect they will ruin anything unless their tears stain their clothes.

Gary D. Gaddy once (it was the season Krzyzewski's back went out) stood in the Duke student section with his darling wife, an admitted Duke law student at the time but always a dyed-in-the-light-blue Carolina fan, as they both cheered for the Heels as they whipped the Devils, 102-100, in double overtime, not that he'd remember.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, December 21, 2006.   Copyright 2006 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 4:37 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 11:01 AM EST
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Monday, November 27, 2006
Can UNC Football be as Big as Basketball?

As we come to the end of football season, and to the beginning of basketball season, again the question is raised: Can football be as big as basketball at Carolina? This is the time to end this senseless speculation, this pointless exercise which goes on year after year -- seemingly never coming to a solid conclusion.

As the Coordinator of Statistical Consulting at the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for eight years (a job which I left because I got tired of carrying an 8½ x 11 accordion-fold business card), I am pre-eminently qualified to address this issue and end this debate once and for all.

The football team's current roster has 112 players while the basketball team roster has 17.

Football players are bigger. The current roster has eight players over 300 pounds. Perhaps with the exception of Geoff Crompton and Neil Fingleton, who probably shouldn't count, the basketball team never has had even one player with that kind of heft.

The football team's marching band has 275 students and is more than twice the size of the basketball team's pep band with 135 students.

The capacity of Kenan stadium is 62,000; the Smith Center 21,750. Kenan is 285% bigger [sic -- see ERRATA at bottom] than the Dean Dome.

Kenan Stadium is much more storied (having boxes which rise five levels from ground level) than the Smith Center which only has two. Kenan Stadium is also much older, having been the home of the Tar Heels since 1927. The Smith Center was built in the 1980's. What's more, Kenan Stadium is much newer -- with its renovation, addition and expansion project just being completed in 1998. The Smith Center was built in the 1980's.

And here are some really important numbers when you're talking about what really matters: the renovation, addition and expansion of Kenan Stadium cost $43 million cost, 43% more than the entire construction cost (at $30 million) of the Smith Center, including the Khoury Natatorium, whatever that is.

But not everything of significance, even I would have to admit, has a number attached to it. The Duke-Carolina football rivalry has a bell. All the basketball team ever comes back from Durham with is a smile.

In another symbolic area, the football stadium has a bell tower; the basketball arena has buzzer. I've never seen the buzzer -- but you tell me, which do you think is bigger?

But more importantly, our football is program is bigger in the sense of being more inclusive, accepting and caring for those different from ourselves. The most obvious example: the football stadium often has more fans of a different color in the stands than the Dean Dome will hold altogether. It is a rare day indeed when the Smith Center has more than a few hundred opposing fans in its pale blue seats.

But numbers outside the stadiums matter as well. It's a very big occasion in basketball when the students and other fans stream off of campus and on to Franklin Street: a national championship victory or perhaps a convincing home win over a previously number-one ranked team from west Durham. In football it happens every football Saturday. And as yet another measure of significance, the football fans drink even more.

A comparison of coaches again shows football ahead. The football team has nine coaches, basketball four. And John Bunting is substantially bigger than Roy Williams -- at least 30% bigger. (And if you add in Butch Davis, perhaps as much as 250% bigger.)

Which brings us to one of my final points: nothing will tell you how important a sport is to a school than hirings and firings. What tells the true importance of a sport is not how many coaches it pays to coach, but how many it is willing to pay not to coach. Since 1962, the basketball program has only paid one head coach not to coach, Matt Doherty. In the same time period, the football program has paid three head coaches -- and many more assistants -- not to coach. So, which program does this say is more important?

Put the numbers together and the cumulative evidence is undeniable -- and it is not: "Carolina football can be as big as basketball." The conclusion is unequivocal: "Carolina football is bigger than Carolina basketball."

Seriously, as Dean Smith, a local man with a degree in mathematics, once said in addressing this controversy, "Carolina isn't a basketball school. It's women's soccer school."

Gary D. Gaddy is a recovering professor of journalism (once employed at an actual football school which shall remain nameless but had a Badger as its mascot) and really was the Coordinator of Statistical Consulting at the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and now is, in word count, a big writer.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, December 21, 2006.   Copyright 2006 Gary D. Gaddy

ERRATA:  Some of my most diligent and dedicated readers (I'm thinking here of Bill Cloud) seem to have nothing better to do than nitpick and find errors in my work. I am, of course, more than happy to accomodate them.  First of all, I would like to point out that all statistics have margins of error.  Mine just happen to have very wide ones.  As Professor Cloud kindly pointed out to me, at 62,000 seats Kenan Stadium is NOT 285% bigger than the Dean Dome at 21,750.  It is 185% bigger.  It is, as I obviously meant to say, 285% the size of the Smith Center.  For a highly trained and experienced statistician such as myself to make such an egregious error is completely understandable.  I'm human.  However, I would like to point out that after its planned expansion is completed, Kenan will hold 70,800, which is 226% bigger than the Dean Dome, so I wasn't that far off -- by my standards.

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 4:24 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 11:04 AM EST
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Sunday, October 1, 2006
Light Rail: A Great Idea Whose Time Has Passed

Light rail is a great idea. This is just the wrong place and the wrong time for it. What will be light about light rail? The loads its cars will carry -- and our wallets after our tax dollars are sucked out of them. And it will do nothing, or less, to solve our area's transportation problems.

First let me say that I am not an expert on rail: light, heavy, or medium weight. I have ridden on trains: the New York subway, the MBTA in Boston, the Metro in DC as well as Tweetsie in Blowing Rock. I liked them all. I love the idea of trains. I grew up a fan of trains: my grandfather worked for the Southern Railroad. My most memorable Christmas gift as a child was a used model train set. It cost $200, a lot of money in 1960, but not nearly as much as the toy train set the Triangle was about to be "given." Expertise aside, simple data and common sense will show that light rail will not work here and now.

The Unbearable Lightness of Rail

Why are we even talking about building a light rail transportation system for the Triangle? This is the wrong place. Nothing about the size of the population or its density or the distribution of residences and jobs in this area even vaguely suggest that such system will be anything except a billion-dollar boondoggle. How many people do you know who are going to drive their cars to a rail station, park, walk to the train stop, wait for a train, pay to ride, then after a ride that is likely slower than they can now drive, will then walk or pay to take a bus to where they work? None that I know.

Fixed guideway mass transit, such as the light rail systems planned for the Triangle (and for Charlotte), are only feasible where population size is high, population density is high and the distribution of residences and places of employment are such that people are going from somewhere to somewhere (as opposed to going from everywhere to everywhere). For example, Manhattan is a center of residence but even more so of employment. Many people go to work in Manhattan. If you build a rail system into Manhattan, people will get on it because they need to get to work. Because Manhattan is relatively small (less than one third the size of the city of Raleigh, believe it or not), there is a place there to which they are going. Manhattan also has more than five times the number of people as Raleigh making its population about 18 times as dense. (This means that if every three-person household in the city of Raleigh had 51 more people move in with them, then it would be as densely populated as Manhattan. Sounds cozy, don't it?) This is just Raleigh; the density for the whole Research Triangle area is much less. This kind of mass transit will work with a truly urban kind of density; without it it won't .

But wait! The situation here is even worse than these numbers imply. In Manhattan, they have subways which do not interfere with surface automobile and bus traffic. Here the plan is for above-ground trains which will compete with surface traffic. (This is one of the reasons that the trolleys and street cars of yesteryear are, well, from yesteryear.) A complex system of rail, one that would actually have a chance of having passengers, would make auto travel worse. A useful light rail system in this area would have to be incredibly extensive and complex because jobs as well as residences are not concentrated. One of the most concentrated areas of employment in this area is Research Triangle Park. The light rail will take people "there." Only one problem: there is no "there" there. RTP is 7,000 acres; that's 11 square miles; that's one third the size of Manhattan. That's just the official RTP, not all the stuff around it that looks like RTP but's not. The IBM campus in RTP is 760 acres (more than one square mile). This means that even if some of its 13,500 employees manage to live near a rail station, and there is an IBM station on the line, most of them will need mass transit, or really good walking shoes, to get them to the building they work in. Sounds real practical, doesn't it?

The Adidas Solution

Speaking of walking shoes, in one recent proposal the Triangle Transit Authority made for the Triangle light rail system in order to justify federal contributions of hundreds of millions of dollars, it estimated that it would, in the year 2030, take four hours and 18 minutes to drive in a car from downtown Durham to downtown Raleigh. Using the bus stations in downtown Durham and Raleigh as the endpoints, Mapquest and I calculate that as 10 minutes and 11 seconds per mile. My brother, in 2003, ran the Montgomery County Marathon in the Parks at a 7 minute and 58 second per mile pace. In other words, if, in 2030, I left downtown Durham driving in my car at the same time as my brother left running on his feet, he would have to wait for me in downtown Raleigh for 58 minutes. Of course, that assumes an assumption almost as ridiculous as as some of the TTA's, that my brother will be able to run as fast at age 84 as he did at age 57. Any guesses why the feds turned down the TTA's proposal?

Rather than a billion dollar rail system, I propose free Adidas for everyone in the Research Triangle area!

An Omnibus Proposal

Now is the wrong time for light rail. But, perhaps, there are better ideas. My counter-proposal to light rail as a solution to the transportation problems of the Research Triangle area is the innovative omnibus. You haven't heard about the omnibus? Well, start paying attention! It's the radical concept for conveying passengers in enclosed light-weight vehicles along fixed intra-urban routes for a flat fare, first introduced by Abraham Brower in Manhattan in 1827. They were horse drawn. The new omnibus, perhaps with faster, sleeker, genetically engineered horses, would be a more up-to-date idea than light rail. (The omnibus would be ecologically sound, producing little pollution if we don't count horse . . . stuff, something the light rail proposal has already produced mass quantities of.) My omnibus proposal is a joke. I wish the light rail proposal was -- because it is.

Light rail is only slightly less out of date than the original omnibus. The first scheduled light rail passenger train service in America wasn't introduced until a whole three years after the omnibus. Hopefully, the light rail system proposed for the Triangle will carry more passengers or be faster than that first light rail service was -- but I doubt it. The first American trip on light rail was described by the ''Charleston Courier" on December 29, 1830, thusly: "The one hundred and forty-one persons flew on the wings of wind at the speed of fifteen to twenty-five miles per hour, annihilating time and space." The light rail system currently proposed for the Triangle, being more technologically advanced, will do much more than that. It will annihilate not only time and space but energy and money, while carrying almost no passengers at all!

Annihilating Time and Space

The time and energy that will be expended if this system is built will be considerable. Even if there were no money involved here, as a community we will invest substantial social and political capital to build -- or to keep it from being built. If it is built the likelihood of any other alternative transportation system being constructed will be greatly reduced. So, if it doesn't help solve our transportation problems -- and it will not -- it is unlikely that any other solution will be tried before things get much worse. So if we are sold a solution, it is important that it work, even if it were to be free for us (which it won't, by any means, be). For example, if the proposed light-rail system doesn't work the railway corridor right-of-ways will be occupied with a system that may require an expensive undoing before they will be useful for any future transportation use. And there may be other non-automobile transportation systems in the near future that may actually work. Personal Rapid Transit (see is just one possible alternative. PRT is an automated transportation system where passengers ride in 2 to 4 person vehicles on elevated guideways non-stop from where they start all the way to their destination. It would be cheaper and more effective than light rail. The elevated guideways could run on highway medians and could be designed not to interfere with surface traffic. It could be electric thereby reducing air pollution as well.

And then there's the little matter of money for the light rail system. At this point, the advocates and self-interested parties promoting this idea say it will cost $724 million, in 2002 dollars (and even less in 1830 dollars!), just to get started. But just in case you haven't been closely following how bureaucratic estimates of cost for government projects match up with actual costs, get ready for some more zeroes. This three quarters of a billion dollars is for a 35-mile-long route that follows an existing freight rail corridor. This, at $20 mil a mile, is the cheap part. It essentially goes from just west of downtown Durham to downtown Raleigh. It does not, for example, even go to the largest employment center in Durham, Duke Hospital, to the largest existing transportation hub in the center of the Triangle, the RDU airport, or even near Chapel Hill, the center of the known universe. A useable link to the airport would be an astronomically expensive endeavor. Think for a moment about weaving a railroad into the existing complex of terminals, parking decks, runways and access roads, without making airport traffic worse rather than better and I think you'll get the picture. Stretches of the airport railway connector would have to be put underground. In New York City, where advocates tout costs of $100 million dollars a mile for light rail, subway construction is estimated as ten times higher: one billion dollars a mile. You heard me right: $1,000,000,000 a mile. (Please note the extra zeroes.)

Meanwhile, back at Chapel Hill, if you think that quaint village will ever let a railroad line be built through it, you haven't ever been there. Chapel Hill is in favor of light rail -- just "Not In My Backyard." I'm so confident of this assertion that if a light rail line ever does get put through Chapel Hill, you can dig up my corpse and lay it on the tracks. I am sure that mine won't be the only dead body that the inaugural commuter train runs over.

And, oh yeah, the money it costs to build this light rail system will only be the start. Wait until you see the annual operating subsidies it will take to keep it going. And those will come from you and me, local tax paying citizens. Operating and maintenance costs in the first year of operations are estimated at $18.1 million. With train tickets projected to cost between $1 and $3, depending on the length of trip, fare revenues that year are projected to be $3.3 million, or 18 percent of the operating costs. The remaining 82 percent would be subsidized by people who do not use the service. (That is, you and me. Even by the Triangle Transit Authority's own optimistic estimates, by 2025, with a more extensive and expensive system built, only about 28,000 people are expected to board the train each day. Neither you nor I are statistically likely to be among them -- and we will be paying much more than $15 million year to support it by then. )

We live in a democracy, I hear. So where are the public debates and referenda on this proposed expenditure of extremely large sums of public tax dollars? I haven't heard about any, have you? The Center for Local Innovation, which is part of the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, surveyed 500 voters and found that 46 percent opposed the project while 41 percent supported it. When told that the Triangle Transit Authority projects only a slight reduction in traffic congestion, the numbers changed to 60 percent opposed and 27 percent for the project. This drop in support comes from one line of information being given to the people being surveyed. I am quite confident that if an actual public conversation occurred on the topic of light rail that almost no one sane would support it when the debate was done.

As for energy of the oil-produced kind, theoretically mass transit can save energy. Practically speaking, empty trains waste it.

The Magic of OPM

Having looked briefly at what it may cost, let's look at how the TTA proposed that it be paid for: the best way there is, OPM. OPM is the magic medium of exchange that makes even the most profitless dissipation of valuable resources painless. OPM is to public projects what novocaine is to dentistry. You've never heard of this fantastic product, OPM? It's simple; it's fun; it's Other People's Money. With OPM, the drabest bureaucrat or the most tiresome politician can sell the populace on just about any public project. Other People's Money will build it. Other People's Money will pay to keep it going. Can't beat that, can you? (Important note: OPM is never the capital of savy outside investors' who are making strategic decisions about where to get the best return on their own money. It's money taken involuntarily and repeatedly from people who are often completely unwitting as to how it will be used. Mysteriously, the victims often do nothing about these serial violations of their belongings. In case you have heard of these multifarious malversations before, they're commonly called taxation.)

Here's how the OPM formula was to work in this case. The Triangle Transit Authority's own financial analysis showed that for the most expansive version of the rail plan, about 52% of the capital funds would come from federal subsidies. So we start by getting people who don't even live in North Carolina to pay for half the cost of building it. That's sweet. (I'm working on a way to get my car payments paid for that way, but, so far, my mom and dad aren't going for it. They have selfishly become 80 years old and want to stay retired.) State funds would account for another 23% of the construction costs. So, next we get people who don't live in our part of North Carolina to pay for another quarter of the cost. That's nifty. We're mostly rich, they're generally not, and we've got them paying for a luxury for us. In another remarkably clever move, an addtional 10% will come from even more people who aren't from around here via a local tax on car rentals. (Why they should pay for our mass transit is beyond me, but who cares as long as it's not me paying?) Bonds, which delay our payments into the future (that is, send the bill to our children), would fund about 12% of construction. Finally, interest earnings, whatever those are (an Enronian accounting trick, I assume), are supposed to pay for about 3%.

Thus, we who live here would have paid next to nothing now to build the rail line or buy the train cars. Further, those few who are around here who would actually use the trains would pay even less of the real costs since they will also be subsidized for the operating costs. All these numbers are making me want to ride on one of these trains even if it won't start where I am or take me where I want to go. Perhaps if they can get Native Americans in authentic dress to attack it and bank robbers on horseback to hold it up, maybe they can lure tourists away from Maggie Valley and Blowing Rock to ride around in a circle with me.

Of course, the stuff about you and I not paying for much for building this billion plus dollar project, makes one suspect assumption, that you and I don't pay any state or federal taxes, which we probably do, in which case we are not only going to pay for this proposed system, if it is built, but dozens of other light rail systems planned around the country, many of which make little more fiscal or transportation sense than this one.

Now that the feds have opted out, we are supposed to pay for what was to be the "free" part? Don't think so. This makes no more sense with our money than it did with someone else's.

A Final Word

God save us from well-intentioned people with ill-conceived ideas. Please help us come to our senses while we still have a dollar left to patch the potholes in our roads, because that's how almost all of us are going to be traveling for the foreseeable future.

In the future the Triangle will need mass transit, so let's plan for a mass transit system of the future. What should we do, here and now, about transportation in the Triangle? Maintain our current roadways. Improve our bus systems. Buy and preserve the rail corridors for future, sensible use. Encourage population density in our urban centers. And not throw away our actual and political capital on ideas that won't help fix any of our transportation problems.

Gary D. Gaddy is a writer, a consultant to non-profits aiding the disadvantaged, the former coordinator of statistical consulting at the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is, really, a fan of railroad trains.

A much abbreviated version published in the Chapel Hill Herald on October 1, 2006.  Copyright 2006 Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 4:08 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 11:05 AM EST
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Tuesday, September 5, 2006
Get On Board with

Now that a new season has begun many would say it's too late, but with an abysmal 4 and 1 record and one preseason poll picking them to finish 6th in the nation, it is clear something must be done about North Carolina women's soccer program. No excuses about losing five starters to graduation, or having three more off playing on national teams, or having to start five freshmen, or a "narrow loss on the road to very good team and in double overtime" will really compensate for this pathetic start to the season.

The dust has settled on last year's disgraceful conclusion. After making a dispassionate evaluation of the past season, of the coach and of the overall direction of the UNC women's soccer program, the conclusion is simple: enough is enough. When your team had won 95% of all of its games in its history; had been in every Final Four and all but one championship game for 19 consecutive years, and had won 16 of the first 19 NCAA championships held, you have a right to expect more than a record of 23-1-1. The question before us is straight-forward, the one every real fan regularly asks of his team and his coach: What have you done for me lately? Without a Final Four appearance, 23-1-1 just doesn't cut it.

Look at the cold, hard facts. UNC now has 17 NCAA Division I championships versus 7 for the rest of the universities in the U.S. This is simply not acceptable. If things keep going like they have for the past five years (and I certainly hope they won't!), all the other colleges combined will have more championships than UNC in 2021. How would that feel, Tar Heel fans?

Who is to blame? I can point a finger at only one person -- Anson Dorrance. If he hadn't produced so many great players who contributed to the increased profile of women's soccer through their success in the Olympics and the World Championships, there wouldn't be so many great young female players now that they couldn't all play for UNC. He should of thought about that before he coached the U.S. National team to the first ever Women's World Championship in 1991. Did he honestly think all of those young fans could play at Carolina? Where did he think they would go?

Let's face it, the 21st century has not been good to Coach Dorrance. UNC has won one out of five championships held since the year 2000. Clearly the 602 career wins have taken their toll on Dorrance. Perhaps it was the jumping up and down, or maybe the Gatorade baths, celebrating championships. With only three appearances in the Final Four in last five years, he should have had time to begin to recover by now. Sure Carolina went 27-0-0 in 2003, outscoring its opponents 132-11 on the season, including 32 goals to none in six NCAA Tournament matches -- but that was three years ago, for God's sake!

A career record of 602-27-18 may sound good on the surface, but not when five of those losses and seven of those ties are in the last five years -- that's one loss and almost one and half ties a year! Can it get any worse? Let's hope not!

Still, I'm all about grace, mercy and forgiveness, so I say give him a game-to-game contract. If the team turns it around, goes undefeated and untied, he can finish out the season. An undefeated, untied and unscored-upon national championship season next year and we can talk about a new one-year contract for Dorrance. Otherwise it's time to find out if John Wooden is still alive and if he knows anything about soccer.

To help me in my quest to see Tar Heel women's soccer return to the place that it rightfully ours, go to, and join with me in starting the process of throwing the bum out. Without your support, I may have to move on to my next project: In either case, enjoy your season, fans.

Gary D. Gaddy, a recovering professor of journalism and statistical consultant, is a writer and fan of Jonathan Swift. Gaddy would have played soccer in his youth in the 1960s -- if there had been a single team (varsity, JV, club, rec league or pickup) on which to play in his hometown of Danville, Virginia.

A version of this column was published in the Chapel Hill Herald, September 5, 2006.  Copyright 2006 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 2:26 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, February 15, 2007 11:06 AM EST
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Monday, September 26, 2005
Calculations in Katrina's Aftermath

OVER THE PAST SEVERAL WEEKS major parts of America have been ripped apart by high winds and inundated by a flood filled with a noxious brew of stinking pollution -- and that's just what has come from talk radio, right and left.  If you alternate listening to a left-leaning Air America station and to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, as I have been perversely doing, you will discover that the Gulf Coast was hit not by one but two disasters:  one caused by the Republicans and another caused by the Democrats.  (And this was before Hurricane Rita came onto the radar.)  It's clear to me they couldn't be talking about the same event.

Well, as my mother used to say, in attempting to end arguments between my stupid brother and me, "You're both right."  Government at almost every level whether controlled by Democrats (the city of New Orleans or the state of Louisiana) or Republicans (the federal government in its many manifestations) was far more than a day late and much more than a dollar short.  Which leads me to consider the major social organizations this country.

Three major types of organizations exist in America: the non-profits, for-profits and the anti-profits.  The non-profits are the civic, service, educational and religious organizations that operate to do good as they see it without regard to producing an economic surplus by using voluntary contributions of time and money.  At least that's how they're supposed to work, and does seem to be how most of them do in practice.

I think that the non-profits' actions (local civic groups raising money, local church congregations adopting families, the Red Cross delivering relief supplies, hospitals sending mobile clinics) have been more than exemplary, testifying to the best of humanity's desire to help his brother in need.  They also seem to be acting relatively quickly, smoothly and competently.

The for-profits are the businesses that operate to provide goods or services with the intent of making an economic surplus from customers' voluntary purchases.  These are everyone from the small local restaurant to Wal-Mart, many of whom have charitably taken of their economic surplus and given to those in need, for example, donating a portion or all of a day's sales to Katrina relief.  But beyond that, acting just like good for-profit businesses, many have had major positive impacts on areas hit by the hurricane.  Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Walgreen and other national retailers were ready, in advance of the disaster, to immediately supply their stores on the Gulf Coast with the things that they know from experience that people need (batteries, water, Pop Tarts) after a catastrophic event such as Katrina.

The anti-profits are the organizations that operate to do good as they are mandated by elected officials using conscripted time and money from the economic surplus of productive citizens.  These are what are commonly called government.  While the intent of the anti-profits are generally good, the results are often inefficient, ineffective -- or worse.

The aftermath of Katrina makes this clear.  While only a commission (something anti-profits specialize in) will clarify which government agency did what wrong when, a few examples make it clear that the anti-profits often didn't just not know what they were doing, or do what they should have known that they should, they often got in the way of the people who did.  Examples:  The city of New Orleans left hundreds of school buses sitting in parking lots while the estimated 100,000 car-less citizens in the city were left to fend for themselves in evacuating.   The suburban city of Gretna's police closed a bridge that provided a way out of New Orleans while the city itself was flooding.  The Louisiana State Homeland Security Department refused the Red Cross permission to take food and water to the Superdome before the hurricane struck because they did not want to "encourage people to go there."   FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, early in the disaster turned away Wal-Mart trucks delivering supplies including bottled water.  These are not examples of inefficiency and ineffectiveness; these are examples of inanity and inhumanity.  These are not examples of our tax dollars being wasted but being used against us.

Listening to talk radio makes it seem as if Katrina is making the reds redder and the blues bluer.  It's doing both to me: turning me purple, and into a libertarian.  I want disaster relief oursourced to a coalition of the Red Cross, Walmart and Lowe's.  I want emergency housing given to the interfaith shelters, and long-term housing to Habitat for Humanity.  And I want a whole bunch of currently elected officials, Republican and Democrat alike, kicked out of office.  But, thank God, whether we do or not, millions of ordinary people will, with or without the government's help, or even with its incompetent interference, do what's right and help the people of the Gulf Coast regardless of their color -- red, blue, black or white.


Gary D. Gaddy, a former professor of journalism, is a local writer and advocate for the disadvantaged, especially those with disabilities.

A version of this column was published in the Durham Herald-Sun September 26, 2005.

Copyright   2005 Gary D. Gaddy

Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 9:00 AM EDT
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