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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Next week: 9 public hearings set on Blue & Green options for Wake schools

Posted by on Thu, May 26, 2011 at 10:37 AM

blue_greenplanslevel_jpg.jpg

Johnny Carson used to want your cards and letters. Tony Tata wants your emails or your comments in person re: his Blue Plan and his Green Plan for making student assignments in Wake starting with the 2012-13 school year. I wrote earlier about the Blue v. the Green (not to be confused with the Blue v. Gray, which was covered here). Now the schedule is set for the nine public hearings — all next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at a HS hopefully near you.

All the meetings start at 6 p.m.

The schedule:

Tuesday, May 31: at Enloe High, Millbrook Magnet High and Athens Drive High

Wednesday, June 1: at Panther Creek High

Thursday, June 2: at Wake Forest-Rolesville High, Garner Magnet High, Sanderson High, Cary High and Holly Springs High

You can read the Blue and Green plans for yourself, and comment on them electronically, by going to the special website set up for that purpose.

***

Here's the info taken from the Wake schools website:


Information Meetings Scheduled to Present Details of Student Assignment Proposals

May 24, 2011 — Members of the Wake County Public School System’s Student Assignment Task Force will lead a series of community information meetings to provide details of the two draft student assignment proposals to families who may have difficulty accessing the plans online.

Superintendent Tony Tata presented the two draft proposals — known as the Blue Plan and the Green Plan — on May 23 following more than two months of research and analysis by the Student Assignment Task Force. Members of the community may view the two proposals online at http://assignment.wcpss.net/ and share their comments on the two draft plans.

“We have been receiving a lot of great feedback online ever since the draft proposals were released, but we are aware that not everyone has easy access to a computer,” Tata said. “We want to ensure that every member of our community is able to review these proposals and share their opinions, so we are taking this extra step and going out into the community. Members of my Task Force will present the details of the two proposed plans during these meetings and gather written feedback from those in attendance.”

The community information meetings will begin at 6 p.m. on the following dates:

Tuesday, May 31 at Enloe High, Millbrook Magnet High and Athens Drive High
Wednesday, June 1 at Panther Creek High
Thursday, June 2 at Wake Forest-Rolesville High, Garner Magnet High, Sanderson High, Cary High and Holly Springs High

Comments on the two proposals will be accepted through June 12. Tata and members of the Student Assignment Task Force will review all the comments and suggestions and make any necessary adjustments to the proposals before taking a final recommendation to the Board of Education in mid-June.

“We want to make sure every member of our community has a voice in this process as we move forward,” Tata said. “These two proposals for student assignment can be the foundation of a long-range strategy, but they are not finished products by any means. We need feedback from all segments of our community to ensure that we finalize a plan that will best reach our mission of significantly increasing achievement for all students by providing them a world-class education.”

Citizens who do not have Internet access and who are unable to attend the community information meetings may call the school system’s customer service center at 919-850-1600 during regular business hours to obtain details about the proposals and submit their comments.

About WCPSS Contact Privacy Copyright © 2011 Wake County Public School System


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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rev. Barber, others, arrested at General Assembly: Video (w/ UPDATE)

Posted by on Tue, May 24, 2011 at 6:25 PM

The Rev. William Barber being led away in handcuffs
  • The Rev. William Barber being led away in handcuffs

[UPDATE: 5/25 — David Lamotte put his thoughts in writing before going to the General Assembly. "Why I Am in Jail" is on the N.C. Council of Churches website. Here's an excerpt:

" ... I would argue that what is right and what is legal sometimes come into conflict, and when they do, our allegiance to God’s teaching should be stronger than our allegiance to the state. To repeal the Racial Justice Act, to gut public education funding in favor of vouchers for private schools, to prevent federal unemployment money from reaching needy state recipients (when this has no impact on the state budget), to restrict access to the polls by requiring photo IDs, to stop a whole host of services to the poor, from disability funding to health programs to legal representation, stopping same-day registration, stopping Sunday voting, etc. — these things are unconscionable."]

***

The original post from 5/24 —

I arrived at the General Assembly this afternoon just after the incident that resulted in the Rev. William Barber's arrest. Barber, state head of the NAACP, was there for a "people's budget" session that began at 4 p.m. in the 3rd floor auditorium. Before it began, he and a few others entered the House gallery and, a witness told me, Barber called down to House Speaker Thom Tillis, who was presiding at the rostrum, that he was seeking a meeting with Tillis. Guards quickly surrounded Barber and a few others. One of the guards, the witness said, was "very assertive," which prompted Barber's group to start singing. Other guards arrived, and the group was taken into custody. When I came into the building, they were being held in one of the first floor meeting rooms in the General Assembly building. Later, they were escorted out. (I see from the N&O's report that the other six include the Rev. Curtis Gatewood, an NAACP officer from Durham, and David LaMotte, who works for the N.C. Council of Churches.)

Barber, because of his back condition, was taken separately to an ambulance for transport to the Wake jail.

While the police were escorting Barber to an elevator, Tillis came out of a stairwell and the two — I think quite unexpectedly on Tillis's part — were briefly eye to eye. Barber repeated that he was asking for a meeting. Tillis, turning on a dime, said to everyone listening that he'll meet with anyone who treats his House with respect.

Tillis's reference to the House as his House didn't sit well with Barber's supporters. "This is not his house," said Maubia Melendez, a woman from Charlotte. "This is the house of the people. They're not here to serve a party line. They're here to serve the people."

As he was taken away, Barber led his followers in a couple of chants. One: "Fund education, not incarceration."

The link above — here it is again — will take you to a story on the N&O's website with more details. I captured a bit of the scene on my telephone camera as the police waited for an elevator to take Barber from the building. Here it is:

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Blue vs. Green: Which school assignment plan will better protect Wake County values?

Posted by on Mon, May 23, 2011 at 4:10 PM

blue_greenplanslevel_jpg.jpg

Strap on your skates, public participators: Wake Schools Superintendent Tony Tata put a competing pair of school assignment plans on the table today along with a schedule that would see him recommending one or the other to the school board in about three weeks.

In other words, time to do your reading — and put your thinking cap on.

Tata has his staff hustling to schedule nine public meetings next week — nine feedback sessions — probably on just two nights, Tuesday and Thursday.

The idea is to hold a meeting in a high school in every school board member's district.

"We are not near finished this process," Tata insisted, and they won't be finished, he added, even after he chooses a single plan to take to the board.

He may not be finished. But he's closing in on it. [Re-reading this, I should say that whichever plan is chosen, many details are TBD by October, when Tata wants a final plan "shrink-wrapped" for public consumption. Once that's done, and especially if "Blue" is the choice, the marketing will be critical and require several months so that parents are equipped to start making their choices in February.]

***

Tata briefed reporters this morning on the "Blue" plan and the "Green" plan on condition that we not go live with our stories until 4 p.m., when the Wake County Public Schools System (WCPSS) website is scheduled to go live with a chapter-verse-and-bibliography version.

At 4 o'clock, parents can access the website, type in their address, and see what their kids would be offered as choices under the Blue and Green Plans, respectively. (And ladies and gentlemen, it's live.)

Here's a once-over of the competing options (and btw, the N&O reversed their blue and green this morning, at least in the edition that was delivered to me; the Blue plan, in fact, is the one called Community-Based Choice, while the Green Plan is the one called Base Schools Achievement):

(1) The Blue Plan is a variation on the controlled-choice idea presented last fall by Michael Alves, the consultant hired by the Wake Education Partnership and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce. It has the additional flourish that every student's list of choices would include at least one high-achieving school.

More on the Blue plan later, but the way Tata talked this morning, he's leaning to the Blue plan and most of the teachers and school administrators he's consulted like the Blue plan better too. The reason: It offers much greater flexibility for responding to the county's forecasted high growth rate.

I also liked the Alves concept when he presented it but worried that, as executed by our school board, it might or might not preserve diversity in every school. I still have some qualms, but Tata's task force has improved on Alves' basic framework, I'd say. And unlike our school board majority, Tata not only uses the word diversity, he seems to mean it when it says diversity is important.

(2) The Green Plan is a variation of the existing, nodes-based assignment plan. The difference? Mainly that socioeconomic diversity (poverty) would not be a factor in which nodes are assigned to which schools. However, student achievement would be a factor — that is, neighborhoods (nodes) with low achievement levels would be identified, and assignments would be made so that no school fell 10 percent or more below the WCPSS average in terms of student proficiency.

While the Green Plan's 10 percent figure would seem to be a harder — stronger — standard for maintaining diversity than anything in the Blue Plan, in fact Tata said the Blue Plan will also have a floor below which a school will not be allowed to fall.

In addition, it occurs to me that because every student would be offered a base assignment (actually, a choice between a traditional-calendar base school and a year-round base), with proximity to home the main factor, that 10 percent standard would be very difficult to attain — and harder and harder to sustain as time goes on and people move to be in nodes with "better" schools.

***

A few other points Tata made that are worth repeating:

a) The current magnet schools would be retained with at least as many magnet seats (11.750) in them as now; Tata's budget — so far, pending legislative cuts to state aid — has money for up to three new magnet schools, but Tata said he doesn't intend to dilute the existing schools by spreading their seats more widely.

b) All of the projected 146,657 students for 2011-12 are guaranteed that if they want to stay in their current school, and they haven't aged out of it, they can; any sibling coming into the same age range of K-5, 6-8, 9-12 is guaranteed that if they want the same school, they'll get it.

c) However, the Green Plan includes an option for the school system to reassign a student once within a given age range to accommodate growth or fill a new school. Under the Blue Plan, once a student chooses an elementary school option, h/she is guaranteed to stay in that school unless wanting to choose a different one. Also, feeder patterns are guaranteed from the chosen ES to a designated MS to a designated HS "when possible." In a few cases, a middle school may feed more than one high school; then, "assignments will be structured such that elementary cohorts stay together through K-12."

***

The key to the success of the Blue Plan, Tata indicated — and I certainly think this is true — is establishing enough attractive magnet schools in high-poverty neighborhoods to integrate them ...

... and then to designate enough seats in high-achieving non-magnet schools so that the "displaced" kids from high-poverty neighborhoods — the ones for whom there's no room in the magnet schools because of the magnet students — don't all end up in the same small set of "other" schools.

Tata called this "the splash zone" — it used to be called the "rim schools" — but it's the idea that you create high-poverty schools by busing low-income kids to a few schools outside of, but very close to, the high-poverty neighborhood they came from.

To avoid creating a splash zone under the Blue Plan, Tata said, it's likely that the parents of kids being bused out of high-poverty neighborhoods would be strongly encouraged to choose the best available high-achievement school rather than simply the nearest alternative.

He compared it to employees and their 401(k) retirement plans. When 401(k)s were new, participation rates by employees were low because the choice of where to invest their money was left up to them and many didn't know what to do.

Later, companies designated specific investment choices for employees unless they opted out, and their participation rates shot up.

Tata said the same approach could be used with parents who feel unable to make the best choice for their kids. The system would make it for them, offering a high-achievement school as the "default" unless they insisted on a different school.

***

Discussing diversity, Tata pointed to the $13 million now spent on magnet schools over and above what they'd receive if they weren't magnets as a huge bargain — it's about 1 percent of the system's $1.2 billion budget to attract the 8 percent of Wake's students who sit in magnet seats (11,750 out of 146,000).

Contrast that to what it costs to lift up a failing school once you've allowed to fail —

Next year, Tata said, Wake will use an additional $10 million from the federal "Race to the Top" program to supplement the budgets of four low-performing schools — Barwell Road, Brentwood, Creech Road and Wilburn, all elementary schools — that will henceforth be called Renaissance Schools.

It's a lot cheaper to avoid creating low-poverty schools than to save them later, he said.

He makes no assumption, Tata went on, that diversity alone produces better results for any individual student. But diverse schools do save money — resources — and abundant research shows it.

Let schools slip, Tata said, "and we'll have to pour the money in" to fix them.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Perdue in title defense vs. GOP'ers: Gov dominates in early rounds (but oops, goes down on broadband)

Posted by on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 1:56 PM

Gov. Perdue at SE Raleigh HS

Don't look now, but the supposedly unpopular Gov. Bev Perdue is kicking Republican sternum all over NC in the fight over the budget and public schools.

[Update: Oh, we didn't see that one coming. The Gov just hit the deck on the broadband issue — she announced she won't sign or veto HB 129, which has the effect of making this bad boy law. The judges will have to decide if it's a knockdown or a slip — either way, it looks like it's a round lost. Her statement is copied below.]


***

It's early rounds, but the diminutive governor has shown surprising speed and punching power against the General Assembly's roundhouse-throwing Tillis-Stam-Berger-McCrory tag team. While the GOP'ers fire wild punches (at early voters, train riders, women, gays), she's landing straight-ahead shots on the school, community college and UNC funding issues.

This just in from the Public Policy Polling organization (click on this link for the full crosstabs):

The biggest beneficiary of the growing unpopularity of North Carolina's Legislative Republicans? It might be Governor Bev Perdue. Despite continuing to have only a 35% approval rating, with 49% of voters disapproving of her, Perdue has pulled this month within 7 points of Pat McCrory in a hypothetical rematch of their 2008 match up. That makes the first time in four polls that Perdue's found herself within single digits of her former and likely future foe.

Perdue trails McCrory 46-39. The main reason for her improvement is the general trend in North Carolina of independents turning away from the GOP. Perdue has a 41-37 deficit with independents now, but that's a far cry from the 49-30 spread she was behind by a month ago. Perdue could get reelected next year if she loses independent voters by only 4 points. Her bigger problem continues to be a lack of support from her party base. While 78% of Republicans are committed to voting for McCrory, only 63% of Democrats will say the same for Perdue. She needs her party behind her to a greater extent than that to get reelected.

One thing that's very interesting digging inside of the Perdue/McCrory numbers is that Perdue's 23 point deficit with white voters right now is almost identical to the 22 point margin we found her losing them by in 2008. The big difference is that she's only up 63-20 with black voters, where we found her winning them 90-9 the last time around.

It's not that we found some conservative crop of black voters- Barack Obama's running 28 points ahead against Mitt Romney with black voters of where Perdue is against McCrory. So she does have some work to do there but still when push comes to shove black voters generally end up overwhelmingly supporting Democratic candidates and if that happens for Perdue again next year she starts looking more like she's 50/50 for reelection than favored to lose as the conventional wisdom is now.

Legislative Republicans are proving to be a good foil for Perdue. In February voters said they trusted them more than her to run the state by a 44-37 margin and Perdue trailed McCrory by a 12 point margin. Now that question has basically gone even with voters saying they trust the GOP legislature more by only a 41-40 spread and it's no coincidence that she's also pulling closer for reelection. The new majorities seem to be dragging McCrory down a little bit and it's going to be interesting to see what, if anything, he does to differentiate himself from them. Their actions could hurt the moderate image McCrory has cultivated that makes him such a formidable candidate.

Continue reading…

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Pedro & Emily at the Nasher tonight, on film ... and in person

Posted by on Fri, May 20, 2011 at 10:16 AM

The Guzman family two years ago
  • courtesy Emily Guzman
  • The Guzman family two years ago
If you followed the dramatic story of Pedro and Emily Guzman in recent days, you know that Pedro was arrested and sent to a Georgia prison 20 months ago by federal immigration officials ... and despite Emily's fierce efforts on his behalf, he seemed on the verge of being deported when his case was finally heard by an immigration judge Monday ...

... but then the judge unexpectedly ruled in his favor, and after another day of uncertainty about whether the feds would appeal, they dropped the case! Pedro was free!*

So now, the Guzmans are back in Durham with their son Logan, who's 4. They're in bliss, they're in shock, and they're determined to share with people the very hard-won lessons they've learned about immigration law and the deportation industry it's spawned. I had the privilege of talking with them yesterday. I'll have a story in the Indy next week. Suffice it to say here that for two people who've been through hell, they are remarkably together and strong.

The point of this post is to alert y'all that by nice happenstance, a documentary short about the Guzman case is scheduled to be shown this evening — as part of a free program —at the Nasher Museum of Art in Durham.

Until Monday, the film didn't have an ending. Now, it does.

The new ending is that Pedro and Emily (and Logan too, I think?) and Emily's mom and many friends will be at the Nasher tonight, starting at 6 or so, to watch it with the audience.

I can tell you, if you want to end your week on a high note with hope for better things to come, drop by the Nasher and say hello to these good folks.

Pedro and Emily Guzman would love to see you.


***


The film, Us... Then... United States, by Paul Deblinger, is one of nine being presented at the Nasher by graduating students at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. The program, called CDS Porch, begins with a 6 p.m. reception. The films begin at 7.

Deblinger also made the video interview with Emily that she that she shared last week and which was included in our first post here.

More about the film and its maker from CDS:

What happens when a political refugee, who is properly documented, is hauled off by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement because of an administrative error by the government? His American-born wife and child are stunned by the sudden loss and do everything they can to reunite their family. This story of one family’s nightmare illustrates the fractured nature of U.S. immigration policy. Pedro Guzman immigrated to the United States with his family when he was eight years old, fleeing the brutality of a right-wing government backed by the U.S. Under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), he is entitled to apply for permanent residence in the United States.

Paul Deblinger was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in English. He received a Creative Writing Fellowship at Hollins College and graduated with an M.A. in English and creative writing, and he received a teaching fellowship at Bowling Green State University, where he graduated with an M.F.A. in creative writing. He has published poems, short stories, and essays in a variety of publications and is the author of Culpepper’s Guide to Minneapolis and St. Paul. He has worked in marketing and communications in Thoroughbred racing and health and veterinary medicine, developing audio, video, and print material. Deblinger lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his dog, Sierra, and performs improv and stand-up comedy at DSI Comedy Theater in Carrboro. He also paints encaustic pictures.



* Remember, Pedro's mother entered the U.S. legally from Guatemala when Pedro was 8; he's 32 now. (Yesterday was his birthday ... and the Guzman's seventh anniversary.) But two years ago, his mother lost her visa and because she did, Pedro was suddenly considered to be in the country illegally — and the legal horror show that followed should shock the conscience of even the most diehard nativists.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ian Palmquist leaving Equality NC: Off to fair Harvard

Posted by on Thu, May 19, 2011 at 5:10 PM

Ian Palmquist
  • courtesy Equality NC
  • Ian Palmquist
News from Equality NC: Ian Palmquist, their stalwart leader, is departing after 11 years at the helm and heading for Cambridge, MA. There, he'll wear the crimson of fair Harvard University.

Under Palmquist's direction, Equality NC blossomed as a strong, statewide organization advocating "equal equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians."

If the Republicans in the General Assembly have their way, North Carolina will vote next year on a constitutional amendment to discriminate against LGBT citizens.

Palmquist helped build an organization capable of taking on that fight. A search is underway now for a successor who can carry through with the battle and win it.

Ian's been quoted in many an Indy story over the years. One of the first was this 2003 profile by Fiona Morgan — with a picture captioned "he's older than he looks."

That was before the beard.

Here's the statement from ENC:


RALEIGH, N.C., MAY 19, 2011 — Equality NC and its Board of Directors announced today that Ian Palmquist, the organization’s long-time executive director, will be leaving the organization on July 1. Palmquist will be moving to Boston to pursue a Mid-Career Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

“I leave with an overwhelming feeling of pride in what we have built together, confidence in the future of this organization, and gratitude for the tireless effort that our board, staff, and supporters have given,” said Palmquist.

During Palmquist’s 11-year tenure with Equality NC, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) advocacy organization has effectively lobbied the North Carolina General Assembly, executive branch, and local governments on issues like inclusive anti-bullying policies, employment discrimination, hate violence, privacy rights, sexuality education, adoption, domestic partnership, HIV/AIDS, and more.

In the process, Equality NC won passage of the Healthy Youth Act, to provide comprehensive, medically accurate sex education; helped garner hospital visitation protections that became a national model and expanding hospital non-discrimination protections to include gender identity; strengthened the state's HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs by securing major funding increases for critical needs; supported the elections of the state’s first openly lesbian senator, Julia Boseman, and first openly gay representative, Marcus Brandon; and, for nearly a decade, has successfully fended off an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment—the only southern state to do so.

“This year, our fight to defeat the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment in the legislature will continue unabated. I truly believe we can retain our proud status as the only Southern state without this kind of bigotry in our constitution,” said Palmquist.

Palmquist’s work at the helm of Equality NC culminated in the organization’s pivotal advocacy to pass the 2009 School Violence Prevention Act, a landmark anti-bullying law that, for the first time in North Carolina’s history, codified that disparate treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity is unacceptable.


Under Palmquist’s leadership, Equality NC also experienced significant growth. The statewide LGBT organization now boasts over 25,000 supporters, 16,000 online activists, 1200 donors, 600 volunteers, 24 active board members, and a team of five employees, two lobbyists, and several contract organizers. Because of these successes, Equality NC has earned a national reputation as one of the strongest statewide LGBT advocacy groups in the country.

“I will miss working at Equality NC, but I will continue to be a part of the organization as a monthly donor and dedicated supporter. I will be proud to be one of the thousands of people across this state and this nation who believe we can build a state of equality in North Carolina,” said Palmquist.

Responding to Palmquist’s announcement, Rod Goins, Equality NC Foundation Board Chair said, “Although Ian had informed the board leadership some time ago of his intention to move on at some point, I am sorry to see him leave. He has had a very positive impact on the organization. We have experienced exceptional growth since Ian joined Equality NC in 1999, and had victories I never would have thought possible.”

Goins reported that he and Equality NC Board Chair Dan Gurley have already created a search committee to oversee the recruitment and selection of the next executive director at Equality NC. Fellow board member Sarah Ford has been selected to chair the selection committee. “Sarah’s knowledge and experience in the areas of employment counseling as an associate at the business law firm Parker Poe, as well as her leadership skills, will help provide a disciplined, effective and professional search process,” said Goins. “The other seven members of the committee consist of both directors from the Equality NC Boards and leaders from the community, and we will be providing further information on moving forward early next week.”

“Today, we focus on celebrating Ian’s accomplishments and wishing him the very best,” said Goins. “Speaking for our board of directors, Equality NC is deeply grateful for his work and we wish him much good fortune at Harvard and in all his future endeavors.”

In addition to his work with Equality NC, Palmquist served as a board member of the Equality Federation, including Board Chair for four years, as well as a Co-Chair of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network board.

Equality NC is a statewide organization working to secure equal rights and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cary Mayor Weinbrecht kicks off re-election effort Sunday

Posted by on Wed, May 18, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Mayor Harold Weinbrecht
  • Mayor Harold Weinbrecht
Kept taxes low? Check. Man of the people? Check. Preserved character and charm? Check. (Character and charm of Cary, that is — not bragging on self.) Anyway, long press release short, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht is indeed running for a second term, and he'll give an official start to his campaign Sunday afternoon, 2-4, at Davis Drive Park.

Weinbrecht, a popular Democrat, has a formidable Republican opponent in Michelle Muir, about whom we blogged previously. We ran Ms. Muir's announcement verbatim. Weinbrecht's gets the same treatment below.

By the way, @MKMuir has a twitter account; I'm not finding one for HWeinbrecht. (Mine is @rjgeary, fyi.)

Weinbrecht writes a blog, however, and he has what I take to be a new FB page for his campaign — not many friends yet.

Cary, NC — May 17, 2011 — Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht announces that he will seek re-election to a second term in the October mayoral election. Throughout the next four years, Mayor Weinbrecht will continue to enhance Cary's overall economic prosperity by preserving the town's low tax rate, attracting new business investments and sustaining existing businesses. He will maintain his determination to bring unprecedented levels of openness to town government to ensure that the concerns of Cary’s citizens are heard. He remains committed to pursuing his vision for balanced growth to preserve the character and charm of the town. And he will continue to champion environmental initiatives that have made Cary one of the most environmentally friendly towns in North Carolina.

“Four years ago, Cary citizens voted for positive change,” Mayor Weinbrecht said. “They wanted a mayor who promised to advocate for balanced growth and a disciplined approach to town finances. They wanted a mayor who promised to advocate for citizens, not for special interests, and who would bring honest, principled leadership to the job. I have kept my promises and I believe that Cary citizens want to continue in the direction that we have collectively set.”

Mayor Weinbrecht will continue his “citizens first” approach with a campaign kickoff event on Sunday, May 22 from 2:00 — 4:00 p.m. at the picnic shelter at Davis Drive Park. “I want to thank all of my supporters and hear what is on the minds of the people of Cary,” Harold stated.

Harold Weinbrecht was born in Augusta, Georgia in 1956. He has lived in Cary for 35 years and has served as Mayor since 2007, following 4 years as an At-Large representative on the Cary Town Council. He is employed as a software engineer and holds degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science from Augusta College and NC State University. Mayor Weinbrecht has been married to Belinda Weinbrecht for 24 years and has two daughters.

Press release issued by: Committee for A Balanced Cary 105 Windspring Ct.
Cary, NC 27518

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Monday, May 16, 2011

(Update 6) The horrifying case of Pedro Guzman: His ordeal is over as the government drops its appeal

Posted by on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 11:17 PM

The Guzman family in better times
  • The Guzman family in better times

[And one final Update 6: Glenn Fogle just emailed to say that Pedro Guzman is free at last. The government, on due consideration, has decided not to appeal the judge's pro-Pedro ruling. So after 20 months, this horror show is over.]

[Update 5: No sooner did I put up that last update than I see that Emily tweeted an hour ago: "Pedro is being released right now!!!!!" Whether that's on bond or because the government decided not to appeal, I don't know. Great news!]

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[Update 4: Early Tuesday, Emily followed up with an email: "After 20 months of detention, we had Pedro's final court date yesterday. After two hours of witness testimony and an hour deliberation by the judge, the judge granted Pedro relief. We sobbed when he said the words. He was very specific in his decision. HE said that Pedro's deportation would result in extreme hardship of he, Logan and I AND witnesses and evidence proved that he has GOOD moral character! That is what we had to prove for him to get relief. Unfortunately, the government attorney reserved the right to appeal. This means that he is not in my arms yet but he will be soon. We expect him to be free within a few weeks. I will keep you all updated. Thank you for all of your support!!!!"

[I spoke with the Guzman's lawyer, Glenn Fogle, later. Fogle said Judge Dan Trimble granted Pedro Guzman's application for a "special rule cancellation" under NCARA (see below), in effect giving Guzman a green card. However, the government lawyer in the case "reserved appeal," which has the effect of staying the judge's decision indefinitely. Guzman may have to remain in detention, Fogle said, until the government's appeal is heard or, in the alternative, for up to 30 days if the government, after thinking it over, decides not to pursue an appeal.

[Or, Fogle said, the judge may grant his application for bond (bail) in the case and let Guzman go home for the time being. Emily Guzman is hoping that will happen and after the hearing, she stayed in Georgia for at least one more day.

[The government's lawyer is Aminda Katz, assistant chief counsel for the Department of Homeland Security in the Atlanta region, according to Fogle.

[An angry Fogle called the government's refusal to acknowledge defeat in this case "unconscionable," saying there are no grounds for a successful appeal. The government has 30 days to decide whether to file one, Fogle added, and Katz wouldn't tell him yesterday whether she thinks that will happen. He said he will ask her again very soon, possibly today.]

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[Update 3: At about 11 p.m. Monday, Emily Guzman sent this news in a tweet: "Pedro was granted relief today! The government attorney is reserving the right to appeal BUT Pedro should be FREE soon!" I coudn't reach her by phone today; I'll try again in the morning, but for now, that's all I know.

***


[Update 2: The next, and perhaps final hearing in Pedro Guzman's case is scheduled for Monday, May 16 at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA — Pedro's prison for most of the last 20 months. It will probably start at around 12:30 p.m., Emily Guzman says. "[D]uring this last week before the final court date, I am a ball of nerves," she's written on her blog. "I want to be happy, hopeful, and optimistic but this year and a half has scarred me. I really, truly do not know what will happen that day. There is so much riding on every word of every witness and every sentence of the lawyer. The words will influence the freedom of my husband. He will be freed or sent to a country he does not know."]

***

[Update: The mistreatment of Pedro Guzman makes the case for the DREAM Act as well as anything could, but his appeal to avoid deportation doesn't depend on new legislation. He's applying for relief under the Nicarguan Adjustment and Central America Relief Act (NACARA), for which it seems he would qualify. For why he hasn't been freed so far, read Emily Guzman's account on her Bring Pedro Home website — and do listen to the 7:00 video clip below.]

***

For the last 20 months, Pedro Guzman has been in prison for the crime of — no crime. Federal immigration authorities may have him deported. Why? They don't need a why. Meanwhile, his wife Emily, an American citizen, fights for Pedro's freedom from their home in Durham. And their son Logan, now 4, wonders why the bad guys took his daddy. The bad guys are us — our government.

Pedro was only 8 years old when he entered the United States. This is his story told by his wife, Emily Guzman.

How it all began…

Approximately 3 years ago, Pedro's mother went in to the immigration office for her permanent residency interview. Our biggest mistake, in hindsight, was not sending a lawyer with her. She is older and her memory is not great. In the interview, she made a mistake and was denied permanent residency. Pedro was then sent a Notice to Appear in Court by immigration authorities. The problem occurred when they sent the Notice to Appear to the wrong address even though they had the correct address. They had sent him his work visa and other paperwork to his correct address earlier that same year. When he did not appear to the court date, because he did not receive the order to appear in court, he was issued an order of deportation. The order of deportation was also sent to the wrong address. We found out when he was denied his work visa.

On her website, Emily Guzman states the case for Pedro with a deeply held belief in American justice that says this can't be happening, and once the authorities realize that it is happening they'll surely act to make things right. It's heart-breaking to read her 20-month long account of how the authorities haven't acted yet. A critical hearing in Pedro's case is scheduled for this Monday, May 16.

The only local coverage of this case has been in Spanish-language newspapers, Emily told me in an email last night. She sent a link to the 7:00 Vimeo short embedded below. A second video short will be finished next week and shown at Duke on Friday, May 20, she said.

You can follow Emily's case on Twitter @BringPedroHome. The Miami Herald published a story three weeks ago that provides a good overview. But read the Emily's Bring Pedro Home website — it's all there.

And if, when you're finished, you don't agree that the Congress should pass the DREAM Act now — today — so that this kind of thing can't happen to innocent people, well, it's a free country, I suppose — but freedom is about more than the right to be bigoted, isn't it?


We Are America: Pedro Guzman from Wil Weldon on Vimeo.

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(Update) OutRaleigh: Saturday, May 14, WAS Raleigh's big day

Posted by on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 4:41 PM

outraleighjpg.jpg

[Update, May 16: I wasn't able to get there on Saturday before the torrential rains came and washed the last couple of hours out. Heard great things from people who did get there. Anyway, someone on Facebook (?) asked for a followup — how'd everything go? This note, sent to all the vendors/sponsors/friends by one of the organizers, contains the answer to that question —


Thank you all for such an amazing, historic festival! We were told over a year ago that this wasn't possible - to have a LGBT festival that focuses on celebrating the many diverse families within our community. With a dedicated KidsZone, we set out from the first day of planning to welcome all families and show a different side of our LGBT community than is typically celebrated at pride festivals. We wanted to bring forth a festival that celebrated both our immediate family of partners, parents, children, and siblings, as well as our extended family of friends and allies.

Many believed we would be lucky to see 1,000 attendees in this first year festival; not only did we surpass that, we flew past that within the first hour of the festival!!! With your tremendous support, even with having to end the festival 2 hours earlier than planned due to rain, we had over 6,000 attendees! There were so many children present that we ran out of community art supplies after only a few hours into the festival! With Raleigh recently ranking as having the third-highest percentage of same-sex couples with children among metropolitan areas across the US, we are confident this festival will grow larger every year.

This could not have happened without your support. I would like to share a very small subset of feedback in relation to the festival:

(Day of the festival): ""My husband and I will be bringing our soon to be 7 year old daughter. She is looking forward to seeing fabulous drag queens in person! We are looking forward to supporting ALL family types!!"

After the festival:

"My family and I visited Raleigh today for the OutRaleigh Day. It was a very nice festival. Everyone was pleasant and respectful (with the exception of the protesters). Thanks for having an outing that our daughter could feel totally accepted at...it was worth the drive from Winston-Salem."

“From all of us at Crape Myrtle Festival, Congratulations on such a well done and successful weekend. We all had such a great time. We are so proud of you and Raleigh. Can hardly wait for next year!”

“Amazing to see everyone who came out for this weekend's OutRaleigh! The first-ever festival ended up with over 6,000 attendees—many of whom signed on with Equality NC's campaign to fight the proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.”

“THANK YOU so much for letting us be a part of a WONDERFUL day and having so much fun doing it!! I so look forward to the second one next year!! EVERYONE was AWESOME!!!”

“Had an awesome time today! Lets make sure this continues every year!”

“Very well organized event. Great entertainment. Had a great time. Thanks for finally bringing it to Raleigh!”

“Great sponsors, great booths, great performers, great food.....can't wait for the next festival!”

We hope that you all continue to support this wonderful festival and the LGBT Center of Raleigh into the coming years. We are very thankful for your support this past year and look forward to building upon this relationship into future years. Many pictures of the festival are available on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/OutRaleigh - we will post on our website within the coming weeks.

Sincerely,

Mitch Null, on behalf of the OutRaleigh Committee
Chair, OutRaleigh
OutRaleigh@lgbtcenterofraleigh.com
[bcc: all sponsors, performers, and vendors - please feel free to forward to others]

***


The original post follows --

Homophobia, begone! Mayor Charles Meeker, WRAL's Pam Saulsby and other dignitaries will be in City Plaza Saturday for the first, hopefully annual OutRaleigh festival. The days of canceling "La Cage Aux Folles" ("The Birdcage") because it might give Raleigh the vapors are s-o-o-o last centuy. Out with the old, and Out as the new, inclusive Raleigh.

(Did not know the Indy was a sponsor until I clicked on the OutRaleigh website just now. Good for us. Did have the chance, on First Friday, to drop in at the new LGBT Center of Raleigh office on Hillsborough Street — a big step up from the vestibule they formerly occupied on Cabarrus. The new place is around the corner from the Flying Saucer on the south side of Hillsborough. Again, good.)

Copying the schedule of events after the jump —

Continue reading…

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Visual Art Exchange moving, will join CAM in the Warehouse District

Posted by on Tue, May 10, 2011 at 5:48 PM

VAE moving to CAMs neighborhood
Well, that didn't take long.

No sooner did the new Contemporary Art Museum come to life in the Warehouse District than Flanders Gallery was discovered right next door — great space, nice works — and today the Visual Art Exchange announced that it will move in September from City Market to a new home right down the street from the CAM.

The Visual Art Exchange is, it says, Raleigh's oldest nonprofit group that's focused on the visual arts. It's also of late the management arm of Sparkcon, of which hopefully you've heard?

Put the VAE with the CAM and Designbox and Flanders, and apparently there are other galleries in the vicinity that I don't know (The Curatory — ah, it's in Raleigh Denim — and The Galleries and Studios at 311), and you have the makings of a pretty fabulous arts destination. Just add transit.

And may I say here, too, that one of my favorite places to eat in Raleigh, Humble Pie, is around the corner from the CAM? Best outdoor dining in Raleigh imho. Or maybe tied with P.R. — which is not in the Warehouse District.

Anyway, we had a great time First Friday at Flanders and then at CAM and then, as I just explained to Sarah Powers of VAE, at Flex, where my rendition of the theme from "Gilligan's Island" was very well-received. (They have this great mix videotape of show tunes and such ....)

Sarah sends this:

Visual Art Exchange (VAE) is pleased to announce that it will move a new gallery space in the Warehouse District in September 2011. The space is located at 309 W. Martin Street, just down the street from the new Contemporary Art Museum in a neighborhood that is emerging as Raleigh’s new art district. There, VAE will join The Galleries and Studios at 311, Flanders Gallery, Designbox and The Curatory.

In the last five years, VAE has grown to meet the demands of the artist community in Raleigh. Through innovative marketing and programming, expanded exhibition opportunities and more aggressive outreach into the community, VAE has seen a significant increase in revenue and participation in its programs. VAE’s budget has grown by 63% since the 2005-06 fiscal year. This increase has allowed VAE to create new initiatives as well as grow and improve its programs and exhibitions. The new space is 4,080 sq/ft, which is more than 3 times the space and will accommodate the growth of the organization.

VAE executive director Sarah Powers says, “The move will double the size of our Exchange Gallery and main gallery and allow VAE to add a new exhibition space called ’The Cube’ The Cube will allow for a year-round schedule of exhibitions and an expanded opportunity for artists who work in alternative mediums. Being able to accommodate the growing number of artists in our community is an important reason for this move.”

Visual Art Exchange // SPARKcon

Visual Art Exchange (VAE) is the longest running non-profit visual arts organization in Raleigh. Founded in 1980 as Wake Visual Arts Association, VAE’s mission is to support all artists, particularly emerging, and connecting the community to the arts. Today, VAE is a creativity incubator that provides opportunities, exhibitions and entrepreneurial training for artists. VAE is also the organizing force behind SPARKcon, an interdisciplinary art and design festival and showcase held each fall in Downtown Raleigh.

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