Citizen
INDY Week columnist Bob Geary's Raleigh news & politics blog

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Save Dix or close it? The choice is Gov. Perdue's

Posted by on Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 9:45 PM

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Mental health advocates in Wake County are hoping that a last-ditch, last-month campaign will convince Gov. Bev Perdue to keep Dorothea Dix Hospital open. As things stand, Perdue's Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler has announced that he has no money to keep Dix operating past the end of 2010, and consequently Dix will cease taking new admissions at the end of November.

About 100 people rallied in a light rain this afternoon near the General Assembly, then marched to the Governor's Mansion to chant "Keep Your Promise!" to Perdue, who was nowhere in evidence.

Is there a chance Perdue will relent? State Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake, is among the legislators and local officials fighting to keep Dix open. She spoke at the rally, and afterward I asked her that question. Ross said she was one of three Wake legislators, all Democrats, who met with Perdue nine days ago to discuss the issue. The others were Rep. Jennifer Weiss and Sen. Josh Stein. They made their case, Ross said. And the governor's reaction? Ross smiled gamely. "She didn't seem to be open to our point of view."

The reason is the $3 billion-plus budget gap Perdue is facing come the start of the 2011-12 fiscal year. Ross says Cansler would need $16 million to keep Dix open through June, a cost that could turn out to be a bargain compared to shifting patients from Dix to the state's other mental health facilities in Butner, Goldsboro and Morganton, all of which have had major quality and staffing issues — complete with lawsuits against them. The staff at Dix, by contrast, is considered first-rate.

The issue isn't Dix or no Dix, Ross said. It's that the state has never put in place a sufficient "continuum of care" for people with mental illnesses — meaning there are neither enough new hospital beds to make Dix unnecessary nor are there enough strong community-based alternative treatment facilities to make Dix unnecessary.

Wake's legislative delegation, Democrats and Republicans, are unanimous that unless and until such a continuum of services exists, Dix should stay open, Ross said.

To be fair to Perdue, she inherited the mess that former Gov. Mike Easley left behind after he initiated a so-called health care reform plan a decade ago. Easley's plan failed on two fronts: one, Easley never put the promised funding into it; and two, public programs were privatized, resulting in higher costs for fewer, lesser-quality services.

It would be a fitting memorial to Easley's efforts, I suppose, if the hospital on Dix Hill were to close while the offices of state HHS officials remained there. The campus that Dorothea Dix inspired would no longer be available for people in need; but it would be available for the people getting paid not to meet their needs.

I wouldn't think Perdue would want to be joined that particular Easley legacy, however.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy: It does exist, and Raleigh is well-represented

Posted by on Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 4:14 PM

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If I were a right-winger, I'd sure be proud of my good friends Art Pope and Bob Luddy. Moneywise, they're not quite in the same league as the Koch Brothers, who are reported to be "worth" $21 billion each. (Worth means different things to different people, but if I were a right-winger, I'd measure it by the money.) But Art and Bob are rich.

And when the vast right-wing conspiracy meets — and as this report from Think Progress (Center for American Progress) demonstrates, it's hosted twice a year by the Kochs — Raleigh is well-represented in the persons of Bob, Art, and Kathy Pope, according to a memo obtained by Think Progress. Hob-nobbing with Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer, Michael Barone, and the top brass of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Scroll to the end of this pdf for the list: secretkochmeeting.pdf

When the VRWC met in June, Charles Koch's welcoming remarks were about the VLeftWC's threat to American prosperity, e.g., the idea that people worth $21 billion maybe should pay federal taxes at a somewhat higher rate than the rest of us. The program describes his theme:

We are undergoing the greatest internal assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetimes. Rather than cede ground to more government, we must strengthen economic freedom. Business leaders have an important to play in promoting prosperity, countering the dangerous attacks on our founding principles, and reversing this trend.

The meeting was in Aspen, a great place for right-wingers to get together and bemoan how they're put upon by taxes.

I'm glad, as a potential right-winger, that Charles Koch distinguished between internal threats like, uh, me, and external threats like, say, globalization and the outsourcing of American jobs by multinational corporations.

***

Hopefully, you know who Art Pope and Bob Luddy are. But if not, they're part of the vast right-wing anti-Wake public schools conspiracy. And Facing South just did an excellent rundown on all things Pope.

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Shameless promotion dept: Lenovo hearted Hopscotch

Posted by on Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 2:14 PM

We interrupt State Fair week to bring you this Lenovo plug for how cool they were to be associated with the Indy's inaugural Hopscotch Music Festival a few weeks ago, which Lenovo thinks — and I do too — was chill. (Is that the word?)

And great for Raleigh.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Cameron Village apologizes: PDA's are cool, gay or straight

Posted by on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 6:07 PM

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An apology from Lynne Worth of York Properties, which manages Cameron Village, about yesterday's kissing incident:

Cameron Village is a family friendly shopping center that welcomes the entire community. We sincerely regret Wednesday's events and have attempted to contact Ms. Breedlove and invite her to meet with us. We have arranged a meeting for 3:00 pm tomorrow (Saturday).

The officers’ actions do not reflect the views of Cameron Village and York Properties. The officer involved was immediately suspended. The supervising officer and all security officers will receive additional sensitivity training.

Cameron Village is committed to maintaining an open and welcoming environment for everyone.

Worth is vice president of retail leasing.

As I read this, CV's good with public displays of affection, straight or gay.

This is excellent news as I can now continue to frequent Cantina 18, Great Outdoor Provision, etcetera, etcetera.

I'm thinking Ms. Breedlove and her partner may be in line for some CV gift certificates —

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Great Schools in Wake forum tomorrow: Coming at a good time

Posted by on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 3:18 PM

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While there's a pause in the Wake school board majority's action, the Great Schools in Wake coalition offers a public forum tomorrow — Saturday, October 16 — at the McKimmon Center, N.C. State University, 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Speakers include such academic experts as Helen Ladd (Duke) and Amy Hawn Nelson (UNC-Charlotte), plus civic heavyweights like Jim Goodmon (Capital Broadcasting CEO), Tom Oxholm (Wake Stone Corp., ex-school board member) and Tom Bradshaw (ex-Raleigh mayor, investment banker).

It's a good opportunity to catch up on the latest twists and turns in the Wake schools saga — and figure out what the next moves should be.

Whetting our appetites, Tama Bouncer, the new Wake NCAE (teachers association) president and one of tomorrow's speakers, sends along this survey — on the attitudes of Wake's teachers re: the school board majority, diversity and so on.

What's it say? By 4-1, Wake teachers like the diversity policy and oppose the school board's decision to get rid of it.

By an 81 to 19 percent margin, the Wake County teachers surveyed said they disagreed with the Board’s decision to end the system’s longstanding diversity policy and listed it as the top problem facing the system.

In addition, 72 percent of teachers surveyed say the school system is headed in the “wrong direction” and 91 percent have a “negative or very negative” view of the School Board. By contrast, 93 percent of teachers surveyed have a “positive or very positive” view of the school where they teach.

Here's the survey as a pdf: Wake_Teacher_Survey.pdf

Program is below the fold:

Continue reading…

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

No kissing at Cameron Village? Or no kissing if you're gay?

Posted by on Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 6:04 PM

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[Update 10/15: Cameron Village has apologized. You can read it here. (Much the same as geekypoet's response in the comments below from Regency, the shopping center firm that owns CV.]

I'm pretty sure they're not anti-kissing at Cameron Village, Raleigh's oldest and usually up-to-date shopping center. On the CV website, note all the hugging couples.

All hetero- couples, however.

What about gay couples?

***

I heard about this incident last night — third hand. Now come the details:

A lesbian couple say that they were cuddling a little on a bench at CV yesterday after lunching at the Flying Biscuit Cafe. A peck on the cheek. A brief kiss. They were approached and asked to leave by a security guard. After some discussion with that guard and a second one, in the course of which the two women ascertained that they were being asked to leave not because they'd kissed but because they were of the same sex and kissed, they did leave.

They've issued a press statement today, which I've copied below.

It includes this comment from Equality NC's Ian Palmquist:

“Discrimination is not acceptable — on public or private property,” said Ian Palmquist, Executive Director of Equality NC. “It's time for North Carolina to pass a law protecting against discrimination in public accommodations like Cameron Village, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. All people deserve the right to be treated fairly and equally in their work, their homes, and their daily lives.”

I called Cameron Village for a response and was directed to send an email to York Properties, the management company, which I did. In it, I asked if CV really objects to couples kissing? Also, does it matter that it's a gay couple?

Perhaps this was just a mistake by over-officious guards.

I'll wait awhile to see if anyone gets back to me before I post this.

And two hours later, no response, so I will post it.


***


The press statement in full:

Gay couple harassed, ejected from Cameron Village in Raleigh

Human rights groups say when security guards threw out a lesbian couple for kissing in public, it constituted “legalized bullying”

RALEIGH (Oct. 14, 2010) — When Caitlin Breedlove and her girlfriend went to Cameron Village in Raleigh, all they wanted to do was eat lunch.

What they got was what human rights groups are calling “legalized bullying and harassment.”

After eating lunch, Breedlove and her girlfriend — a lesbian couple — went to sit on a bench at the Raleigh shopping plaza. They exhibited the same signs of gentle affection that any couple does — an arm around the other, a peck on the cheek, a brief kiss.

A security guard aggressively approached them and told them that “being affectionate” was “inappropriate,” and asked them to leave. When the couple asked if they would have been asked to leave if they were a man and a woman, the guard replied “no.”

The couple asked to see the security guard's supervisor, who confirmed that they would be forced to leave — despite the fact that multiple heterosexual couples were exhibiting precisely the same behavior in the immediate vicinity. This is private property, the security guard reminded them. This is private property, the supervisor reminded them, and expressed anger, saying: “You want this to be public, you want people to see what you are.”

“Bullying is just another word for violence, and it is not just one or two bad apples that say this is OK but mainstream culture in general,” said Breedlove. “Regardless of whether Cameron Village is private property or not, no one deserves to be bullied in public, and if we don't stand up and say that all discrimination is wrong we contribute to a society where only some people get to feel safe in living their daily lives.”

Staff at The Flying Biscuit Cafe, where the couple had eaten earlier, supported Breedlove and Ammons. The waiter who served them said she would be happy to make a statement saying they had been perfectly appropriate. The manager and four other staff people came outside to voice their support for the couple, and the manager decided on his own account to go speak to the property manager about the incident and file a complaint. The manager says they will be pursuing the matter further.

“This is a clear example of legalized bullying and harassment, and as a community we have to stand up to discrimination whenever it arises” said Alba Onofrio, a member leader with the social justice group Southerners on New Ground (SONG). “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people have the right to lead full lives, and not have to be afraid to be ourselves outside our own homes. If Cameron Village does not believe in that right for all people, they should be held accountable."

Breedlove also works with SONG as its co-director.

The incident comes on the heels of Monday's National Coming Out Day. Human rights groups say it's especially important now to take action.

“Discrimination is not acceptable — on public or private property,” said Ian Palmquist, Executive Director of Equality NC. “It's time for North Carolina to pass a law protecting against discrimination in public accommodations like Cameron Village, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. All people deserve the right to be treated fairly and equally in their work, their homes, and their daily lives.”

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Update on Bolton, aka, the most important property in Raleigh

Posted by on Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 9:28 AM

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At the beginning of June, I wrote a column which my editor titled, accurately, "The Most Important Property in Raleigh." It's the most important to me, anyway, for reasons I explained back then: (1) It's close to my neighborhood; (2) It's a highly strategic location in terms of Raleigh's ambitions for becoming a walkable, transit-friendly city; (3) It's ripe for redevelopment, not that it hasn't been for 20 or 30 years, but now it's under new ownership; (4) It's a chance for the Raleigh City Council to demonstrate that it doesn't just talk the talk about form-based zoning and new urbanism but will actually follow through — and require developers to follow through — in an actual rezoning case.

The property is known as the Bolton tract. It's 6.7 acres on the southwest side of the new Hillsborough Street-Morgan Street roundabout, and if that alone doesn't suggest its strategic importance, perhaps you'll click on the link above and check my reasoning about it; I posted a followup about it a couple of days later.

Well, four and a half months have passed since then, and the rezoning case has been through the Planning Commission and two sessions of the City Council's Comprehensive Plan Committee. A third CPC session is scheduled tomorrow — Friday, Oct. 15 — at 9 a.m. The case could be decided by the full Council as early as next Tuesday.

So how's it going?

IMHO, it's going great for the owner/applicant, a Charlotte partnership called FMW. Not great for the city of Raleigh and its residents.

I should say at this point, too, that I've participated in the rezoning case through the Hillsborough Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), which encompasses my Cameron Park neighborhood and the West Morgan, Pullen Park and Cameron Village neighborhoods. Doubtless, being a participant has an effect on the way I view the case, versus my usual M.O. of forming my opinion by watching from the sidelines. On the other hand, however, I just stumbled across something I wrote in May, before the case got started, as a comment on the small-area study then underway for West Morgan and Pullen Park. Judging by it, being a participant hasn't changed my view of this case much at all — and it remains:

In this area of the city, small street connections like the one potentially provided by Whitley Street would both facilitate and alleviate the effects of desired residential and mixed-use development at a plus/minus 40 units per acre level of density. Without such streets, and without any requirement for a specified amount of open space available to the public (i.e., a paved interior courtyard or walkway does not qualify as open public space), density at that level becomes an intrusive presence in a neighborhood rather than, as it should be, integral to what's around it. Think: Spaceship landing with many residential pods contained within it, plus storage units for motor vehicles that will regularly emerge from the ship. Landing, moreover, on what used to be a public street until the spaceship obliterated it.

Yeah, it's kind of wordy; I wrote it in a hurry. But it does summarize the two main issues going into this case, which were — and are:

(a) Would the applicant respect the urban environment, including the existing streets, or stomp on it?

(b) In return for higher densities — I said 40 +/- units per acre, the applicant is now asking for about 70 — would the applicant provide any community benefits, especially some sort of publicly accessible courtyard or green square that connects whatever's built on the property to the existing streets and surrounding neighborhoods?

Months later, with the case nearing completion, the answers to both questions are:

We have no idea.

Or, to put it another way, unless the Comprehensive Plan Committee shocks everybody tomorrow and does what it so far has not been willing to do, FMW won't be required to answer yes to either question. (On the CPC, Councilor Russ Stephenson is so far the exception — he is trying to get "yes" answers. Councilors Bonner Gaylord and Nancy McFarlane, the committee chair, have been less, shall we say, active on the neighborhoods' behalf.)

And in cases like this, if there's no requirement to do something, it's likely the "something" won't be done.

Does that crank me off? It does, for this reason: Building on streets, and not without them, should be a given in an urban location; so should providing open space when you're asking for an entitlement to extra density, taller buildings and, yes, higher profits.

The point of open space is so your bigger buildings don't overwhelm their surroundings. Ditto for streets, which also provide visual access from a car, a bike or for walkers. This is so basic, and yet to Raleigh officialdom, you'd think we were asking for F, M, or W to cut off an arm.

***


So, I could go on about urban form and what makes a project neighborhood-friendly, etcetera; but I know you're thinking — if you've read this far — why is he blathering on? Why doesn't he just show us a picture of what the proposed development is going to look like? Show us a picture and we can decide for ourselves if we like it.

I wish I could.

But I can't, because there aren't any. And the fact that there are no pictures is, again in my opinion, the biggest failure of all in this case.

FMW's application (you can access the case from this page on the city's website — it's Z-011-10, Hillsborough Street) asks for special treatment under the zoning code — in addition to the requested rezoning, it seeks to have the Bolton tract designated a Pedestrian Business District. This designation will entitle FMW to more than the standard 40 units per acre limit on residential development; in a PBOD (the O stands for overlay), densities up to 320 units per acre are allowed, with the exact limit established on a case-by-case basis.

In this case, FMW wants permission to build up to 285 apartment units on 4 acres. The apartments would be contained in two buildings, each apparently five stories tall in addition to the parking deck (1-level? 2-level?) beneath. On the remaining acreage, the application is for up to 175 more units, with some suggestion that the site might be used for a hotel. Or not.

I say apparently because in support of this special designation, FMW hasn't been asked to produce a single picture, rendering, illustration or even a sketch of what its so-called "district" will consist of. Not even a two-dimensional map of where the buildings would be and where the open space, if any, would be.

Other PBOD applicants have submitted lots of pictures, but come to find out, pictures aren't required if the City Council is willing consider an application without them. Minimum requirements include only such things as sidewalk materials and street furniture types — the latter of which explains why the FMW application does include a picture of the garbage cans it intends to use. (See above.)

Without pictures or a concept plan, it's simply impossible for the neighbors — like me - to judge whether what's in store for the Bolton tract is good, bad, minimally acceptable or likely to be a big ol' embarrassment for Raleigh.

If it's impossible for us, it's just as impossible for the Council.

No pictures or plan, however, works for FMW because it allows critical details that would need to be pinned down for the project to be shown to instead be left vague and open-ended, maximizing FMW's entitlement while minimizing the standards to which it or any subsequent owner can ever be held.

So we're left to guess what will happen:

Best case: FMW sells the property — properties — and whoever builds there surprises us with a good result despite not being required to do so.

Worst case: FMW or a new owner takes advantage of the sketchy standards to max-out the site and, in doing so, erects a giant obstacle between the West Morgan and Pullen Park neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, the absence of pictures or a map suggests that the latter outcome is more likely, and even FMW's not proud of it.

***

Two questions our CAC members are asked a lot:

1) Are we holding out for the perfect project?

2) Is keeping Whitley Street in place non-negotiable?

My answers:

1) No, we're not only not looking for perfect, we're pretty much resigned to getting something that's minimally acceptable at best — but we do want it to be minimally acceptable.

That's why we keep asking the Council to insist that FMW produce a concept plan — so we can tell if the concept is minimally acceptable or not.

2) No, we don't demand that Whitley be retained exactly as it is. What we do think, though, is that if Whitley goes away, it should be replaced by a replacement street that allows the neighbors vehicular as well as pedestrian access through the project. Whitley Street is a public street with 50-foot right-of-way. We've suggested the new Oberlin Road in front of Player's Retreat as a possible model for replacing it — Oberlin is 25 feet wide at that point with a 15-foot sidewalk that makes it perfect for small shops of the kind you want in a PEDESTRIAN BUSINESS Overlay District.

I signed a letter to the CPC yesterday as one of the CAC participants trying to make the case for a concept plan. I'll post it below.

Continue reading…

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Bless her heart, Elaine Marshall is getting murdered

Posted by on Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 7:34 PM

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It's 7:32, 32 minutes into the Burr-Marshall debate. I can't watch any more. Burr was terrible in the first debate. That was a couple of months ago, and no one was watching. In this one, three days before early voting starts, Marshall is terrible. Burr's not great, but he's doing a reasonably good job of talking around every issue. And Marshall, who's 15-20 points behind in the polls, hasn't managed to call him out on anything. Generally, she parrots his nonsense, forgets to deliver any sort of critique of Burr, the Republican Party, George W. Bush, filibusters, obstructionism, special interests, the oil industry, military contractors — she's the one who used the word "ugly" to describe health care reform; Burr must've thought he died and went to GOP heaven, where nobody blames the Republicans for ...

I'm outahere.

Update: Stuff Marshall could've said, sent by her campaign office, is in the press release below.

Update 2: Followed by more stuff she could've said — but didn't — below:

Continue reading…

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Still at war in Afghanistan: For what? And at what cost?

Posted by on Mon, Oct 11, 2010 at 3:03 PM

Lib Hutchby (right) reads the name of a fallen soldier. The others in line will do the same.
  • Lib Hutchby (right) reads the name of a fallen soldier.
    The others in line will do the same.

From N.C. Peace Action, a startling statistic: The budget gap facing North Carolina in 2011-12 is an estimated $3.2 billion. The annual cost to North Carolina taxpayers of our military operations in Afghanistan, post-surge: about $3.2 billion.

That's right. The amount of money needed to maintain important social services and avoid cuts to school, community college and university budgets is considered too huge for state politicians to raise. $3.2 billion? Far beyond our means — according to both parties. (The Republicans: Far, far beyond our means. Especially since they want tax cuts.)

But when it comes to sending troops to Afghanistan to fight and die for a cause that is dubious at best, and more likely an enormous blunder, $3.2 billion is a sum unworthy of public discussion. Spending it, at least by mainstream political and media standards, is a given.

I'm tardy in posting the picture above. It was taken at a vigil last week at the Community United Church of Christ in Raleigh. The event marked the 9th anniversary of the U.S. invasion and the beginning of our 10th year of war in Afghanistan. Sponsors included Peace Action, N.C. Council of Churches, Muslim American Society, American Friends Service Committee of the Carolinas, N.C. Stop Torture Now, Pakistan Flood Relief Coalition and the CUCC's Social Justice Ministry.

During the vigil, participants read the names of the nearly 1,100 U.S. and NATO troops killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion. According to United for Peace and Justice, at least 15,000 Afghan citizens have also been killed. As the names were read, the group responded: "We grieve the loss of these lives."

Sponsors also wrote to each of the state's 15 congressmen, congresswomen and senators and to the candidates for Congress. They were asked to consider the evidence from several reports that our military efforts in Afghanistan are accomplishing little except to create anger at the United States throughout the region. One such report is available here. Others can be found here.

They were also asked "to endorse a course of U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan and to take action for a re-ordering of our national and state funding priorities."

Responses were requested by October 25.

That's a week before Election Day. But this isn't so much about this year's candidates as it is about how voters view the long-term security interests of the United States and the world. Do we think that our continual invasions and military occupations of foreign places are making the world safer for us? For others? Or are we instead just fueling a fire of war that must inevitably blow back on us and other nations?

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Huge: Debra Goldman swings the ax and the school board majority splits

Posted by on Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:44 AM

Debra Goldman
  • Debra Goldman
One thing that can't be said about the breakup of the Wake school board majority at Tuesday's meeting: We didn't see that coming.

Because of course, we did see it coming.

So what now? With John Tedesco's Student Assignment Committee sidelined, only one new student assignment plan continues as a work-in-progress. It's the one brought to you — in a few weeks — by the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the Wake Education Partnership and their consultant, Cambridge, MA's Michael Alves.

Hard to predict what Debra Goldman will do next, but it seems to me she has three options:

1) Align with the four "other" members of the school board with whom she voted Tuesday to derail Tedesco. Together, this new majority could put together an assignment plan, but Goldman would have to accept some form of diversity as part of it — something she might be willing to do if the others would agree to stop calling it diversity and instead use the Chamber's term: balance.

2) Align with Alves when he brings in his version of "controlled choice" — probably including fewer (seven?) zones than Tedesco's 16 and incorporating a good deal more flexibility and, uh, balance. Goldman wants every parent to have a "base" school assignment. Not clear that a controlled-choice plan can provide one, but maybe.

3) Make peace with Tedesco & Co. in return for a seat — and a say — on a revamped Student Assignment Committee. But after Tedesco called her a "prom queen" and later (on his Facebook page) "Benedict Goldman," it's clear he doesn't trust her and she obviously doesn't trust him.

My nickel is on Goldman to choose some hybrid of Nos. 1 & 2 — work with Alves' plan and see if it can be shaped to satisfy the board's minority-four members: Anne McLaurin, Carolyn Morrison, Kevin Hill and Keith Sutton.

If that's what happens, the man in the catbird's seat will be Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce leader Harvey Schmitt, who come to think of it has been smiling more of late.

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