'Tis the season* and one of my favorite causes in Raleigh at the holidays is Activate Good. They promote volunteerism and match volunteers with nonprofits that need them and will be compatible — kind of like online dating except less pressure. From scratch when she was an N.C. State student, our 2010 Citizen Award winner Amber Smith has built this idea into a first-rate organization.
Tomorrow night — Saturday — is Activate Good's big fundraising event of the year, Couture for a Cause. It's at Marbles Museum in Raleigh. Doors at 7, show at 8. Best to be there early.
I can vouch for Couture being, as someone at WRAL wrote, "The hottest local fashion show." At least that was true last year when Pam and I attended. This year they've added some circus talent and a judge named Justin LeBlanc, who is someone I'm apparently supposed to know of but don't. But you may know him as a finalist from Project Runway, which I take it was on TV?
Anyway, this is fun, the tickets are just $25 if you buy online ($30 cash at the door), and if tomorrow is a date night for you and yours, check it out. (VIP tickets are $75.)
* I know it's the season because, while shopping for last-minute Halloween stuff at Target, I heard Alvin and the Chipmunks on the Muzak.
So happy to be downtown in Raleigh today and have it NOT be about the General Assembly and the newest miseries the Republicans could inflict. But they're GONE, the Republicans — well, not ALL gone, but then Gov. Pat McCrory was little more than a spectator to the carnage ... the same as the rest of us.
With the siege of Raleigh lifted, we can once more breathe the air of freedom and look ahead to one helluva great month in September.
It's called Raleigh'S M.A.I.N. Event.
And in 2013, for the first time we have the International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass event in town — which is going to be very cool.
It all reminds me of my visit to the Savannah Music Festival years ago. A few music events, properly branded and marketed, became a solid two weeks of events, then three weeks of events — and not all music.
At Innovate Raleigh, where the goal is to think our way to being a truly kickass city, near fist-fights broke out about whether Raleigh should be branded as hip, family-friendly or just as a seriously smart city, according to City Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin. I think she was kidding about the fist-fights, but she said it twice, so maybe not.
Anyway, the brand they picked for our chock-filled September is M.A.I.N. Event — with M.A.I.N. short for music, art, innovation and noise. (Ray Price sells Harley-Davidsons.) It's a name to convey hip & family & smart, Baldwin said. When she explained the initials, ending in noise, that was the cue for some Harley riders to rev their engines.
Afterward, some folks were trading war stories about how hard it was to get the city to pay attention when Sparkcon was first proposed. (Thomas Crowder was the exception.) Later, it was a bear to get Raleigh to agree that City Plaza could be used for a ticketed music event, as it is now for Hopscotch.
But I've been around long enough to remember how hard it was, long before Sparkcon, to get people to realize that Raleigh needed to reopen Fayetteville Street and rip out the #FAIL Fayetteville Street Mall. We had to get rid of Tom Fetzer/Paul Coble and, in 2001, elect Charles Meeker mayor before that could happen.
In each case, though, the people who had the idea first stuck with it, built support over time, and turned early setbacks into eventual, very sweet triumphs. In each case the city — staff, Council, "leaders" — moved from bureaucratic nay-saying to grudging support to active public investment that helped the new thing.
And you know what?
That $10-15 million that Raleigh spent reopening Fayetteville Street might just be the best money any city ever spent — at least since the Romans invested some denarii in early feats of civil engineering.
A few public dollars invested in Sparkcon helped lead to Hopscotch, which led to the iBMA World of Bluegrass, which will lead to — more.
And with Innovate Raleigh, city leaders are now in the hunt for the next M.A.I.N. event, not an obstacle to it.
I bring this up for two reasons.
One, it would be nice if the General Assembly — the Republicans — would realize the value of public investments in building a private economy. Since they don't, however, thank goodness they're gone.
And two, it's been 10 years since city leaders decided to reopen Fayetteville Street and begin a process of transformation in downtown Raleigh that, a decade later, has been almost unbelievable if you recall how dead it was before.
This week, I said it could take 10 years to get win back the General Assembly. If that sounds like a long time, consider the alternative — and remember, time flies when you're having fun and working for what's right.
"Calm Down," The Love Language music video, is fun.
Nice day to think about fun rides for cyclists — check the link below for a list.
Hey, nice job! "BikeRaleigh Events! content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/N… via @govdelivery"
— Bob Geary (@rjgeary) April 17, 2013
Answer: Climate Convergence on Raleigh is coming next weekend, April 20-21. It's a major coming-together of the growing network of people and groups working on climate change and related issues (e.g., fracking) in North Carolina.
If you've been looking for a chance to link up with this movement and with 350.org, the great grassroots organization that is spreading not just across the U.S. but the world, here it is. All the events are free, and you can take in as much or as little as you want.
There's a schedule on the website, but it needs to be fleshed out with the names of all the speakers — and the poets, musicians and other creative folks who are coming for the purpose of making this a memorable and compelling event. It's quite a list. More next week as it's finalized.
CCR 2013 — it's planned as a first annual event — is indeed timed to coincide with Earth Day.
Most of the CCR events/discussions will be at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 125 Hillsborough St. in downtown Raleigh ... but with time out on Saturday to take advantage of the Celebrate Earth activities at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.
Events on Sunday will feature a "bicycling in" and an outdoor rally on Halifax Mall, behind the Legislative Building in Raleigh, including a planned encircling of the Legislative Building itself.
(Maybe, if enough people come out, we can lift it off the ground and send it — well, you know.)
The mission is to "inspire, educate and issue a big call to action" on the issue of climate change:
The Climate Convergence on Raleigh (CCR) will be a critical mass event of concerned citizens and organizations from across North Carolina that are fed up with inaction. We will rally, march, and meet with our legislators that have the responsibility of charting the course of our future. We must take it upon ourselves to enact the political changes necessary to avert further climate devastation.
I spoke with one of the organizers, Karen Bearden, the other day, and I'll be writing about this next week for the Indy from her perspective as well as my own. My challenge will be to capture her passion for this cause and channel it — because whatever happens in Raleigh this year and next year and in the next decade on all the issues we care about, if our country doesn't get out in front on the climate change issue, we could be facing an existential catastrophe.
And, as progressives well know, our country won't get out in front until the public gets in front and drags our policymakers, corporate chieftains and investment bankers off their rears. Where their wallets are, I mean.
Jule Shanklin, Peggy Misch and Christina Cowger (in the picture below, from right to left) were part of the anti-Gitmo protest contingent at the federal building on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh today. Did you know that 80-some prisoners at Guantanamo have been "cleared for release" — i.e., they've never been charged with anything, because there's no evidence they were ever more than in the wrong place at the wrong time in the "War on Terror" — yet they continue to be held more than a decade later.
Forgotten and desperate, they're on a hunger strike which is now in its 6th week.
Today, in 20 cities including Raleigh, protesters sought to bring this outrage to public attention.
Jule Shanklin @ anti-Gitmo protest in Raleigh today. U.S. holds prisoners for years w/o charges.#closeGitmo @theccr twitter.com/rjgeary/status…
— Bob Geary (@rjgeary) April 11, 2013
Here's a note about the actions underway from the Center for Constitutional Rights:
Join CCR and our partners TOMORROW, April 11th, for an Emergency Day of Action to Close Guantánamo & End Indefinite Detention! Most of the men detained have been on a hunger strike for more than two months and some are in critical condition. After 11 years of indefinite detention, these men are protesting in the only method available to them. We need YOU to protest too! One of CCR’s legal workers just returned from visiting our clients in Guantánamo, and he reports that the situation is the worst he’s ever seen it. The time is now to raise your voice and demand that the Obama administration immediately address the causes of the hunger strike and fulfill its promise to close Guantánamo.
1. Join our events in 20 cities across the US:
New York, NY
Saratoga Springs, NY
San Francisco, CA
New Haven, CT
Los Angeles, CA
South Bend, IA
2. Call the White House at 202.456.1111 and tell President Obama to keep his promise to close Guantánamo.
3. Twitter Storm: President @BarackObama @WhiteHouse Keep your promise: #closegitmo #GitmoHungerStrike
4. If you have a Twitter account, take a picture of your action and tweet it using the hashtag #closeGitmo. Include @theCCR in your tweet and we’ll re-tweet you! Or email us your photo at closegitmo@CCRjustice.org
5. Watch and share this video of CCR Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei on All In with Chris Hayes: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/all-in-/51473726#51447813
6. See more actions beyond April 11th at CCR’s Guantánamo Hunger Strike page http://ccrjustice.org/get-involved/action/GTMOHungerStrike2013
7. Want to support this work further? Make a gift at www.CCRjustice.org/donate.
The time is now to raise your voice and help us build political pressure to end the immense suffering at Guantánamo and to shut the prison down. On behalf of our clients, who have suffered for too long, we thank you.
Center for Constitutional Rights
The Wake County legislative delegation is meeting Monday at 4 pm in the General Assembly building on the first floor. It's an open forum and a chance to take a stand — with the county's Republican and Democratic legislators listening — on the inflamed issues surrounding the Wake school system and Dix Park.
Both the Great Schools in Wake coalition and Friends of Dorothea Dix Park have issued alerts asking their members and supporters to show up en masse — and, for the Dix Park crowd, wearing green.
Word of advice: The meeting room at the General Assembly is small-ish and a large crowd is likely. I.e., get there early if you want a seat.
However, a big crowd spilling into the hallways will send a message.
If you want to speak, here's the brief from GSIW:
Speakers must register by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone to 919 715-6400 no later than 11:00 am, Monday, March 25, 2013. Please provide the name of the presenter and the topic to be discussed.
Remarks will be limited to 2 to 3 minutes, with the time being dependent upon the number of speakers registered. If you plan to bring handouts, please bring at least 25 copies.
QUESTIONS? Call Candy Finley, Legislative Assistant (919 715-6400) with any questions.
On the schools front, the Wake school board is the target of multiple Republican attacks. The Republican majority on the Wake Commissioners board is trying to strip the school board of authority over school buildings — yes, that's not a typo. They can't do it by themselves, but the Republicans who control the General Assembly can do it, and that's just what they propose in Senate Bill 236.
Not only that, Republican legislators are threatening to redistrict the school board (again) in an effort to seize control of the school system in the 2014 primary elections. Senate Bill 325 contains their new gerrymandering plan, with the added insult that board members elected in 2011 for four-year terms would be tossed out of office 17 months early ... while the two Republican school members who remain from the 2009 elections would be spared the need to run again this year and would have their terms extended for six months.
All nine school board seats would be elected in the 2014 primaries, when the Republicans just happen to be expecting a big turnout as they choose a GOP U.S. Senate candidate. Will Huntsberry's story this week explains it all.
The Dix Park issue is equally outrageous. Gov. Bev Perdue, acting with the approval of the Council of State, signed a longterm lease with the City of Raleigh for the 325-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract. The state continues to own the land. The city intends to create a destination park there over the next 75 years as a major regional and statewide asset.
However, some Republicans in the legislature opposed Perdue's action. Now that she's out of office and the compliant Pat McCrory is in, they've filed bills intended to tear up the lease. The bills are Senate Bill 334 and House Bill 319.
Can they do that? Isn't a contract a contract? According to the Republicans, no contract with the state is safe if the General Assembly decides to change it. According to the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 10:
"No State shall ... pass any Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts or grant any Title of Nobility."
In other words, the General Assembly isn't the King of Anything and it's supposed to enforce contracts, not dissolve them.
Or so the Friends of Dorothea Dix Park and the City of Raleigh argue.
By the way, Senate Bill 334 is slated to be taken up by a Senate committee this morning. Notwithstanding its dubious constitutionality, it's expected to be approved and sent to the Senate floor for a vote — possibly next week.
And just in time, we have Oaks and Spokes upon us, a 10-day Raleigh bicycle festival with something for riders of every sort and age. It runs from March 1-10. Click on the website for a complete list of events.
The kick-off event is Friday night, 7 p.m. at the NCSU Bell Tower. It's "Bike First Friday with Oaks and Spokes," which means simply that you bike with the gang from the Bell Tower to downtown and do your First Friday traveling on two wheels.
No doubt many will be heading for the "Raleigh Bikes Art Show" at the Benelux Cafe in City Market.
Need some additional encouragement? Raleigh Public Record has a good piece about the progress we've made as a city moving from the "bikes not wanted" stage to the "wait, we have bikes on our roads?" stage of bicycle-friendliness. It's a good read.
Oaks and Spokes sent a press release:
OAKS AND SPOKES BICYCLE FESTIVAL BRINGS BIKE FUN AND FESTIVITIES TO RALEIGH THIS MARCH
Raleigh, NC: Bike Polo, Alley Cats and Tweed Rides, Oh My! Raleigh’s Inaugural Bicycle Festival will be held March 1st-10th 2013 in and around Downtown Raleigh. “Oaks and Spokes” as it has affectionately been tagged, was created by a group of cycling advocates in the downtown area, aiming to celebrate bicycles, the people who ride them and the urban fabric that brings it all together in the “City of Oaks.”
The festival will span ten days and encompass a variety of events. “We wanted to create an opportunity for the burgeoning community of bicycle riders that is growing in Raleigh to get together and have some fun on two wheels,” said co-director Kristy Jackson. “It is our hope that these events appeal to a diverse cross section of individuals — young and old, skilled and rusty, as well as beginning cyclists to come out and experience riding in the city.”
The festival kicks off on Friday, March 1st with Raleigh’s monthly “Bike First Friday.” This casual group rides from the NCSU Belltower to art galleries around Downtown, featuring stops at CAM Raleigh and the Raleigh Bikes Art Show. Other festival highlights include the second annual Triangle Tweed Ride, a Bike-In Movie showing “Ride the Divide,” the Oak City Open bike polo tournament, a FrankenBike Parts Swap, Crank for a Cause charity event, and NC Rides to the Capitol to show support for better treatment of cyclists on the road.
The festival will culminate on Sunday, March 10th with Kidical Mass: a safety demonstration followed by a neighborhood ride where the kids lead the way. All events are free and open to the public. Food, drink and prizes will be present at many events. Fun and friends will be present at all.
Join the momentum! For a complete list of events and descriptions visit www.oaksandspokes.com. If you still have questions, email us at email@example.com.
Capital Area Friends of Transit is an alliance of groups working for better bus and — eventually — light-rail transit offerings for Wake County. They've launched a petition drive in an effort to pressure/convince the Wake County Board of Commissioners to allow a public referendum on the 1/2-cent sales tax for transit which was authorized by the General Assembly four years ago — and which the Wake Commissioners, under Republican control, have blocked ever since.
If you think Wake County voters have a right to decide this question, you'll want to sign the petition. Follow this link.
The 1/2-cent tax is already approved by Durham and Orange Counties. Not to get all Raleigh chauvinist about it, but Durham is threatening to be cooler than we are, kids.
Which is probably why Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane is featured in this short video produced by CAFT and Wake Up Wake County:
Thank You Readers! ra.ly/UIsNrz
— NewRaleigh (@NewRaleigh) January 2, 2013
New Raleigh lived up to its name. Its founders and its many contributors and readers publicized, advocated for and otherwise hopped up and down about every nifty new thing that happened in downtown Raleigh over the last five years, helping to create the vibe that would bring on the next nifty new thing.
Great work, David Millsaps and Jed Gant. I'll look for your next nifty new thing.