With 58 of 62 precincts reporting, Incumbent Mayor Bill Bell and challenger Sylvester Williams will advance to the November election. Bell has received 87 percent of the vote compared with Sylvester Williams at 7 percent.
Michael Valentine placed third with 5.3 percent.
In the City Council Ward II race, it appears Eddie Davis (59 percent of ballots cast) and Omar Beasley (21 percent) will face off in the general election.
Four candidates vied for the top two spots in Ward II, the seat currently held by Howard Clement, who is retiring after 30 years. Del Mattioli (13 percent) and Franklin Hanes (6 percent) are in third and fourth place, respectively.
Early voting for the general election runs Oct. 17 through Nov. 2. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Incumbent Jennifer Robinson has won another term to the Cary Town Council, beating 60 percent to 40 percent margin over challenger Karl Thor. This is according to unofficial results from all seven precincts in District A.
In District C, Jack Smith has a commanding 1,500-vote lead over Deborah Pugh, with nine of 11 precincts reporting.
Despite two bond referenda, Raleigh mayor and city council races, and contests for Wake County school board and Cary town council, voter turnout was only 14 percent.
"Don't watch Gasland 2 alone," says Josh Fox. "It's too scary, kind of like Psycho. You'll never take a shower the same way again."
Fox isn't kidding. His much-anticipated, anti-fracking sequel screened at Durham's Carolina Theatre Monday night, with many of its otherwise sterile interviews darkened with a chilling horror movie score. There's even a scene in which Fox's beloved Delaware River Basin near his Pennsylvania home is besieged by CGI gas wells as if they're asteroids from on high. Where's Morgan Freeman when you need him?
Subtlety may not be Fox's trademark, but if he's going for shock and awe, he nails it. His sequel, which originally premiered on HBO this summer, continues to document the ongoing political turmoil over natural gas drilling. Both Republicans and Democrats, particularly President Obama's administration, take their lumps from Fox in the film.
Supporters tout fracking as a relatively clean drilling method that can reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. Opponents see only disaster, noting the widespread reports of water and air contamination, as well as increased seismic activity. North Carolina Republicans side with the former, with hopes of permitting drilling as soon as 2015.
Fox's 2010 film was nominated for an Academy Award for "best documentary feature," even though industry types besmirched it as little more than environmentalist propaganda. He received a hero's welcome at last night's screening, which was organized by anti-fracking protestors from Clean Water for N.C. and Wilmington's Working Films Reel Power.
Clean Water Director Hope Taylor estimated 500 people attended the film, which included a Q&A session with the Pennsylvania-bred filmmaker immediately following the screening.
Of the interesting moments, Fox said he could not sleep for weeks after he was originally approached to consider natural gas drilling on his Pennsylvania land. "It was one of the most lonely and terrifying and isolating things," he said.
Meanwhile, Fox urged the protesters in attendance to continue their opposition, noting grassroots groups to stop the drilling have launched all over the country and the world. "You're a part of a movement," he said.
The potential buyer of the 80,000-acre Hofmann Forest remains a mystery, more than two weeks after the N.C. State Board of Trustees was scheduled to approve the sale.The forest, which is owned by N.C. State University’s Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund, is the largest single tract of state-owned property. It is home to an abundance of rare wildlife and plants and serves as a research site for forestry and environmental studies students at N.C. State.
A coalition of professors, foresters, landowners and wildlife conservationists sued the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund of N.C. State and the North Carolina State Natural Resources Foundation Inc. to block the sale of Hofmann Forest.
As the INDY reported in May, the 16-member Natural Resources Foundation, which no longer has any foresters, voted in the spring to recommend a sale. Their recommendation was sent to the nine-member Board for the N.C. State Endowment Fund, which owns the land. It voted unanimously to approve the sale of the forest to an undisclosed buyer in a closed-door meeting. The board was slated to give final approval to the sale on Sept. 19.
But when the coalition’s request for a temporary restraining order on the sale was heard on Sept. 25, lawyers for the state argued that no contract exists for the sale of Hofmann Forest and a transaction is not pending.
Ron Sutherland, a plaintiff and conservation scientist for the Wildlands Network, says the lack of information is “frustrating.”
“There is a rumor about who the buyer is, but it isn’t confirmed, and we have no idea why they haven’t managed to seal the deal yet,” he says. “They said a sale is not imminent, but they may just be trying to get us off their backs.”
In case there isn't enough negative publicity surrounding fracking, left-leaning nonprofit Environment North Carolina released its own report on the controversial drilling practice Thursday, dubbing the drilling an "environmental nightmare."
"In state after state, fracking polluted our air, water and landscapes," said Liz Kazal, a field associate for the Raleigh-based nonprofit. "If fracking is allowed in North Carolina, this is the kind of damage in store for waters like the Deep River."
The drilling, viewed as an economic boon by proponents despite its speculative job-creating numbers, has been dogged by claims that it's responsible for water and air pollution, as well as increased seismic activity. See a recent report that fracking wastewater is to blame for earthquakes in one Ohio town.
Environment North Carolina, which has long opposed the drilling, describes the report from its Research and Policy Center as the "first of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking damage nationally to date—including toxic wastewater, water use, chemical use, air pollution, land damage and global warming emissions."
Among the report's claims, the nonprofit says fracking is to blame for:
1. 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater in 2012
2. 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year
3. 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005
4. 360,000 acres of land "degraded" since 2005
5. 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution.
Download Environment North Carolina's full report, which reads like a Stephen King novel for environmentalists, here.
State officials are currently crafting regulations for drilling in North Carolina, which could begin as soon as 2015.Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat, gets in on the frack-bashing in Environment North Carolina's release. "The dangers detailed in this report reiterate that a few short months of energy are simply not worth jeopardizing our water, our air and our rural landscapes," Woodard said. "In short, fracking is a bad deal for Durham and for North Carolina."
Official estimates say North Carolina has enough gas to power the state for about five years. Drilling is most likely to take place in central portions of the state such as Chatham, Lee and Moore counties.
Check back with Indy Week for pending reactions from drilling supporters and opponents.
The Herald-Sun in Durham has laid off several employees, the second round of job cuts since 2011.
A source knowledgeable about the situation told the INDY that four to six people may have lost their jobs, but the number could not be confirmed. The staff box online lists 18 people in the newsroom, not including Editor Bob Ashley. If these figures are correct, the editorial department could have as few as a dozen employees.
Ashley referred questions regarding the layoffs to publisher Rick Bean. The The Herald-Sun is owned by Paxton Media Group, headquartered in Paducah, Ky. Paxton officials also referred questions to Bean, who did not return calls to the INDY.
Two years ago, The Herald-Sun’s copy and design desk moved to the staff of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, another Paxton paper, leaving fewer than 20 people in the Herald-Sun’s newsroom, the INDY reported.
Recently the paper went behind a paywall online, offering a limited number of articles for free and then charging for subsequent ones. Print subscribers will have full access.
The paper’s 100,000-square-foot building on Pickett Road is also for sale. In a Herald-Sun story published May 12, Bean said the publication would move to another Durham location.
The North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus held an impromptu press conference Wednesday afternoon to address what several legislators called flaws and failures within the Department of Health and Human Services, including the “questionable judgment” of the agency’s secretary, Aldona Wos.
A letter addressed to Wos and Gov. Pat McCrory, which was hand-delivered following the conference, admonished Wos for “choosing to communicate via email with only 17 of 170 N.C. legislators about the status of the Department and issues reported on the press.”
Most pressing of these issues, perhaps, are the recent food stamps delays (NC FAST) in a number of counties in the state.
Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, who spoke at the conference, said “an overwhelming number” of residents in her district have been calling her, saying they have not received their food benefits for months.
“On my way here, I got a call from a mother who has a child that’s diabetic,” Parmon said. “His blood sugar keeps dropping, because she has not been able to access her food stamps.”
Parmon said she was fortunate in Forsyth County to work with local agencies to feed families who had not received food stamps through July; several other counties in the state are experiencing backlogs as well.
The McCrory administration has maintained the issues originated under former Gov. Beverly Perdue.
There have also been recent issues with Medicaid reimbursements; claims have been approved at levels far below the DHHS’ targets.
In addition, hospitals and health care clinics have been closing and laying off employees across the state, due to the government’s refusal to support Medicaid expansion—when North Carolina has the third-highest unemployment rate in the country.
Finally, there are the well-publicized personnel and staffing decisions, such as double-digit salary increases for former McCrory staffers with questionable qualifications, decisions attributed to Wos and McCrory.
In another instance, DHHS has paid Wos acquaintance Joe Hauck $228,000 between January and August 2013. Hauck is a former employee of Wos’ husband and has been advising Wos on “strategic planning, reorganization and policy issues.”
Two bills became law in the span of 10 minutes this morning, notwithstanding Gov. Pat McCrory's earlier vetoes.
The N.C. Senate voted 34-10 to override House Bill 392, which requires people applying for public assistance to be drug tested.
The Senate voted 39-5 to override House Bill 786, an immigration law which creates a loophole that would expand the seasonal worker E-Verify system exemption from 90 days to nearly 9 months.
Sen. Jim Davis urged his colleagues to vote to override HB 392.
"This bill is not and never was a way to fight criminal drug abuse," Davis said. "It's a bill to stop supporting people who abuse drugs and help them move to self-sufficiency and have a job. It's a way to help steer people away from drugs."
Regarding HB 786, Sen. Brent Jackson called it "the right thing for the agriculture community."
"(The bill) in no way adds to illegals," he said, "and it is still illegal to hire illegals."
Sen. Floyd McKissick asked that the Senate session be adjourned in honor of Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, who resigned from the Senate Aug. 19.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Republican, said he had great respect for Kinnaird and called himself and Kinnaird "close buddies."
"She is an unabashed liberal," Tillman said. "She never wavered. You've got to love that in a person."