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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Thank you, New Raleigh: After five good years, NR blog says good-bye

Posted by on Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 1:40 PM

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.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

"Like" Dix Park? Be in the group photo, 9 a.m. Saturday

Posted by on Fri, Dec 7, 2012 at 3:49 PM

The more the merrier. Mayor Nancy McFarlane will be there. Ditto Councilor Thomas Crowder, who was with the Dix306 concept before it was cool.

H/t to Leo for this tweet with a link to the "Edit Your City" Facebook page.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dorothea Dix park: A done deal for Raleigh? (Updated, as Perdue hits back at Republican critics.)

Posted by on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 10:34 AM

[Update, 2:30 p.m.: In response to Tillis and Senate President Phil Berger's criticisms, Gov. Perdue hit back in a statement:

"During the last four years, in the worst economic climate since the great depression, North Carolina is one ofeight states that has retained its AAA bond rating. We have seen the largest number of our children graduate from high school. We have again been named the best place in the nation to do business. My administration has focused on efficiencies in state government through consolidating, eliminating, and right-sizing public services.

The Dorothea Dix property and the consolidation of DHHS would save taxpayers nearly $100 million, move employees from 60 separate facilities into five buildings on one campus, and it would preserve green space in a metropolitan area that is expected to grow by more than 1 million people in the next 10 years.

It is a shame that in the first few weeks after a very heated campaign season, that some of North Carolina’s leaders continue to try to divide people by political party and not bring people together.”

The original post from this morning —

WRAL and The News & Observer are reporting that Gov. Perdue and the city of Raleigh are close to a deal for turning the 306-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital campus into a destination park. Mayor Nancy McFarlane's been working on this virtually since the day she took office. Now, with the clock running out on her term as governor — and with the General Assembly not in session and able to block her — Perdue, too, is pushing the pedal to the floor.

A few minutes ago, House Speaker Thom Tillis weighed in with a dissenting view, calling for a timeout and underlining the need for proceeds of the deal to be large ... and kept for mental health programs.

Here's what Tillis said:

“The Dorothea Dix campus is a historically valuable state asset, and the future of the property should be thoroughly vetted through the legislative process. Rather than rush this decision through the Council of State, we should work together to determine if this is the best path forward. If this proves to be a good idea today, then it will be a good idea weeks from now.

The North Carolina House of Representatives made its position clear by unanimously passing HB 981, stating that any disposition of the Dix property should have General Assembly approval. This has been further highlighted by well-documented fiscal problems in the mental health budget. It appears that Gov. Perdue is pursuing a legacy for herself instead of protecting the interests of taxpayers and the thousands of individuals who desperately need better-funded mental health services. I look forward to working diligently with future state leaders and the city of Raleigh to make the best possible use of the property.”

It should be noted that HB 981 passed the House but not the Senate. I don't think Tillis, by himself or with the Senate Republicans, has the power to stop a deal if Perdue and Raleigh agree on it — with Raleigh paying a reasonable price.

On the other hand, it sounds like many details remain to be hammered out in a week, and I can tell you the same details haven't been hammered out in a year — this deal's been close, but no cigar, for months.

And unless the details are right, the Council of State may get cold feet ... because unlike Perdue, most of them will be at the mercy of the General Assembly for four more years.



That said, I'm happy to say that I've been pro-Dix Park — all 306 acres — since 2006.

I agree with Tillis that any deal should generate substantial funding — perhaps via a long-term lease, or a combination of down payment and lease — for mental health programs.

But there is absolutely no reason for DHHS, having abandoned a leadership role in mental health, to hang on to the Dix campus for agencies that aren't doing mental health any more.

Otherwise, as I've said before, Dix would live in infamy as the state's reward for not doing mental health.

Dix will make a great park. And in the long run, whether the purchase price is $40 million or $70 million is really pretty inconsequential. What matters is preserving this land for posterity.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Saturday night: 4th annual Couture for a Cause at Marbles

Posted by on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 2:26 PM

Designs by Kristin Robbins at 2011 Couture for a Cause
  • Photo by Chris Florio, courtesy Activate Good
  • Designs by Kristin Robbins at 2011 Couture for a Cause

I first encountered Amber Smith five or six years ago, not long after she started the nonprofit organization called ME-3 that, with a new name, has grown up to be the very excellent group called Activate Good. I wrote about Smith two years ago in the Indy when we gave her a 2010 Citizen Award. She and her organization continue to merit her good citizenship medal. Activate Good's mission is to promote volunteerism, recruit people to be volunteers and help worthy nonprofits find volunteer help when they need it. The ultimate do-gooders.

Activate Good's big fundraising event is the annual Couture for a Cause, which is coming around for its 4th run Saturday night at Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh. It's a fashion show and a show to promote 20 other nonprofits—groups helped by Activate Good.

2011 Couture:a Karen Huskins design
Every year before, I've tried to go and something got in the way. This year, Pam and I are going. If you'll indulge a plug, tickets are $25 online for general admission ($30 at the door), and $75 for VIP tickets. WRAL Out and About dubbed Couture for a Cause "the hottest local fashion show," so that's good.

I'm looking forward to it because:

* It has nothing to do with elections or politics.

* They auction off the designs at the end (in addition to a silent auction for donated stuff), which may help with holiday shopping. Can't hurt, anyway.

* I hear it's fun.

* Cupcakes by Ruby Cakes.


Really, if you're looking for a way to de-stress after the elections and before the No. 1 stressor in most people's lives, which is the holidays, give Couture a try.

I got a briefing from Smith and Ann Clinton, an Activate Good board member who says she's always been a volunteer nut and who works by day as a Saks Fifth Avenue executive — so she's perfect to be this year's Couture chair:

* Doors open at Marbles at 7:30, allowing time for socializing, a drink (cash bar), hors d'oeuvres and a cruise through the silent auction. Or, if you spring for a VIP ticket, it comes with a special lounge, "VIP cuisine," a second cash bar and a goodie bag from the sponsors.

* The food is from Zinda, a new New Asian restaurant on Fayetteville Street, which is also hosting an after-party.

* The fashion show kicks off at 8:15, in two parts. Part one is "ready to wear" designs. Part two is "art to wear" — which is a little more ... or maybe a lot more ....

* Each part will end with an auction of what's just come down the runway.

* Three judges select the winning designs and give cash prizes, aided by audience voting — via texts on your phone.

And all night, the designers will "show" the nonprofits as well as their own couture, using their artistry to mix the one with the other. Take a drink every time you hear the word inspiring. (I said that, they didn't.)

Plug over. Maybe I'll see you there.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This weekend: Kids, paint, wall, Sparkcon! BESTRaleigh!

Posted by on Tue, Sep 11, 2012 at 3:18 PM

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Meeting tonight: The new Raleigh zoning code and the problem of accessory dwelling units

Posted by on Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 8:57 AM

Accessory dwelling units. They sound so benign, and in many cases they are — you put up a little cottage out back for grandma, or a college student, or as a place for your guests to stay if they're staying and, uh, staying.

But now picture this. Your neighbor builds an ADU, a honkin' two-story pad behind his house; but wait, it gets better (worse): your neighbor doesn't actually live in the house. No, he rents it out to four college students, and in the new "accessory dwelling unit," four more college students are suddenly resident, and they're living just a few feet from your house. Where you DO live.

Maybe they'll all be bookworms.

From the proposed Raleigh zoning ordinance
  • From the proposed Raleigh zoning ordinance
So you see the issue. Accessory dwelling units can be a good thing or not, and a big indicator of whether an ADU will be good or bad is whether the house it's "accessory" to is owner-occupied or isn't. In Raleigh, with its generous supply of houses rented to students, with the owners cashing the rent checks at an Apex or Cary address, an ordinance that allows even more students to be packed into a neighborhood where other families do live is, to put it mildly, problematic.

Yet this is what the new Raleigh zoning code, the so-called UDO (Unified Development Ordinance), seems to propose. Or so says Linda Watson, chair of the Glenwood Citizens Advisory Council, who's studied the issue for a year without assuaging her fears. She'd like to think the code would distinguish between places where an ADU is desirable and places where it isn't. Instead, she's pretty sure it will allow a rather large party pad to be built right up against the back lot line of a house even if the ADU looms over the backyard/house on the lot behind it. (And notice, in the graphic at right — which is taken from the proposed code — that the cottages are built on an alley. But unless I'm missing something, the alley isn't required. A two-story cottage can be erected within 10 feet of the back lot line, not counting roof overhangs and balconies, even if puts your backyard in the shade.

One other (huge) factor to consider. According to former Planning Commission member Betsy Kane, a lawyer-planner by trade, a North Carolina appeals court has ruled that cities cannot distinguish between owner-occupied homes and absentee-landlord houses when deciding whether ADU's should be legal or not. In other words, if ADU's are permitted at all, they must be available to slumlords and owner-occupants alike.

So Watson has called a special meeting of the Glenwood CAC this evening to air the issue. It's set for 6:30-9 p.m. at the Glen Eden Park Community Center, 1500 Glen Eden Drive.

You can read more about it in the Glenwood CAC newsletter:



By the way, where the heck is the Unified Development Ordinance? (Updated here and above to add the link — per John Burns' comment on FB that the answer to my question is, the UDO is online and has been for a long time. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise.)

The answer is, the consultants are finished writing it, the Planning Commission is finished reviewing it, and a mere three years after Raleigh adopted its new 2030 Comprehensive Plan, the zoning code that is supposed to put the plan in action is ready for consideration by the City Council.

Starting in September.

The code, as you may supposed, is replete with question marks. The ones surrounding accessory dwelling units have generated the first public skirmish, but no doubt not the last.

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    Raleigh can't let you build that cottage for grandma unless it allows the absentee landlords to build "cottages" too. Right behind your house, maybe.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Saturday: Packapalooza is NCSU's 125th birthday extravaganza on Hillsborough Street

Posted by on Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 3:38 PM


Hey, the kids are back in town, and it's N.C. State's 125th birthday, so there's going to a blow-out on Hillsborough Street tomorrow. Number 1 fact: Hillsborough Street will closed to traffic from early morning to after midnight between the Pullen Road roundabout and Brooks Avenue. Number 2 fact: Free parking on campus.

What does this mean? Come into the campus off Western Boulevard for best access to the parking lots and decks.

The festival is from 2-10 p.m., with a big red finish promised at the Bell Tower. The main stage will be there with four bands: Liquid Pleasure, Mamas Love, Leela James and Carolina Liar.

The Packapalooza website is the place to go for all the details.

This is from the Hillsborough Street Community Service Corporation, which is helping (and h/t to executive director Jeff Murison for reminding me that tomorrow's the day):

On Aug. 18, historic Hillsborough Street in Raleigh will be the site
of Packapalooza, an all-day block party and street festival
celebrating North Carolina State University’s 125th birthday. Music,
activities and food will be part of the festival, which will feature
more than 160 booths from local and university sponsors.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will kick off at 2
p.m. and run until 10 p.m. Two stages will feature live musical and
dance performances as well as autograph sessions with Wolfpack
baseball, football and women’s basketball teams. Numerous “zones”
along Hillsborough Street will give visitors a taste of NC State’s
traditions, as well as the opportunity to create works of art, learn
dance, try their hand at sports, explore our students’ cultural
backgrounds and purchase delicious food from local vendors. Free water
will be provided at various locations. At 10 p.m., the festival will
end with the lighting of the Belltower.

"It's a great opportunity to engage the entire community in the university's celebration," Murison said.

They also sent along a video:

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    Two stages, 15 bands, 160 vendors, Pack athletes, Pack scholars, all things Pack will be played and displayed from 2-10 pm.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Police Chief Harry Dolan says bye, bye to Raleigh

Posted by on Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 1:27 PM

Police Chief Harry Dolan

Harry Dolan's been in the news lately, at odds with a lot of his troops. is there a connection between that and his announcement today that he's out of here as police chief in a few weeks?

City Manager Russell Allen heaps praise on Dolan, so much so that you wonder why he's leaving:

Raleigh’s Chief of Police to Retire

City Manager J. Russell Allen today announced the retirement of Chief of Police Harry P. Dolan, effective Oct. 1. Chief Dolan’s retirement after five years as police chief caps a law enforcement career spanning 32 years and a tenure that brought progress to the department.

“Harry Dolan has been an excellent police chief for Raleigh, but more importantly, he has been an exceptional leader,” Mr. Allen said. “His high level of technical and strategic law enforcement skills are matched by his unwavering ethical standards, commitment to the community, pride in the department’s employees, and enthusiasm for police work.

“Every day, he was as excited about his opportunities as police chief as he was about his work as an officer the day he graduated from the Raleigh Police Academy 30 years ago. Our community is safer today because of his work, and he has personally touched many of us with his humor and compassion,” the City Manager added.

Chief Dolan’s tenure as Raleigh’s police chief began Sept. 4, 2007, when he assumed his duties here after serving as chief of the Grand Rapids, Mich., Police Department for nine years. Prior to his service in Michigan, he was the chief of the Lumberton Police Department from 1992 to 1998 and the chief of the North Carolina Department of Human Resources’ Police Department at Black Mountain from 1987 to 1992. Before his work as a chief began, he served as a Raleigh Police Department officer from 1982 to 1987 after being named the most outstanding graduate of his police academy class. Chief Dolan’s law enforcement career began in 1980 as a Buncombe County deputy sheriff.

“I am grateful to City Manager J. Russell Allen for selecting me to serve as Raleigh’s chief of police and a member of his leadership team,” Chief Dolan said. “That afforded me the distinct privilege and honor of serving this dynamic city and permitted me to have the truly remarkable experience of once again serving with the men and women of the Raleigh Police Department. Throughout their ranks, the members of this department demonstrate every day that they have a tremendous dedication to serving and protecting this community, and I’m absolutely confident they are prepared to continue to accomplish a great deal on behalf of its residents.”

Each of the Raleigh Police Department’s six districts now have officers assigned to full-time community policing work, an initiative Chief Dolan began in the Southeast Police District in January 2009, and community policing is a hallmark of his tenure as chief. Internally, he emphasized training and preparedness, exemplified by accomplishments such as the development of the department’s Leadership Institute program and its implementation of national standards for handling critical incidents. In addition, he focused on improving departmental staffing, both in terms of filling officer vacancies and in regard to bolstering supervisory and managerial capabilities.

“As chief, he has done an exemplary job leading the Raleigh Police Department,” Mr. Allen said. “He is a champion of community policing and has used his considerable knowledge and expertise in that area to strengthen ties between residents and police officers. In addition, he deserves credit for significant enhancements that have been made to the training received by Raleigh police officers and for improvements to the department’s organization, accountability, and professionalism.

“Raleigh justifiably prides itself on having one of the nation’s best police departments,” Mr. Allen continued, “and Chief Dolan has enhanced that reputation during his tenure. His retirement is well-earned, and I know the entire community joins me in wishing him the best as he moves forward.”

The City Manager said Deputy Chief of Police Cassandra Deck-Brown will serve as interim chief of police upon Chief Dolan’s departure. The search process for a new chief will be advertised and open to highly qualified internal and external candidates.

Chief Dolan said that he began making plans to depart as his retirement eligibility approached and that he made a decision several months ago to retire from the department this fall. He has not yet announced his personal plans for the future.

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    Is it because the troops were against him?

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sparkcon 2012: Filling Fayetteville Street once again

Posted by on Wed, Aug 8, 2012 at 3:24 PM


So earlier, we reported that Sparkcon 2012 would be held, for the first time, in the tres-artsy Warehouse District. Great idea, but it turns out that getting all the necessary streets closed in order to have room for all the various "Sparks" wasn't possible ... or at least not this year. Maybe in some future year.

Thus, this 7th edition (wow!) of Sparkcon will again be conducted on Fayetteville Street, which is where it all started and where, notwithstanding its amazing growth, all the sparks can still fly.

This news comes from our 2012 Indies Arts Award winner Sarah Powers, who manages Sparkcon along with her staff at the Visual Art Exchange.

Sparkcon 2012 is September 13-16.

That's the weekend after our 3rd annual Hopscotch Music Festival.

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    There were plans to move it from Fayetteville Street to the Warehouse District — space permitting. But space didn't permit.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

We're beggin' ya: If you meant to dial area code 9-1-9, and you dialed 9-1-1 by mistake, DO NOT HANG UP

Posted by on Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 11:38 AM

So here's the deal. You have to dial the area code now. So you dial 9-1-9. Oops, you dialed 9-1-1 by mistake.

In Wake County, that happened 5,655 times.

In July.

So you did that, and now what? Well, you just hang up, right?

No. NO.

5,655 times NO!

You stay on the line.

Otherwise, the cops think you called 9-1-1 because somebody was breaking into your house and you hung up because that somebody just put a gun to your head.

That's what they're paid to think. You want them to think that way. They send a patrol car. They have to.

It's a big waste of their time and your tax money.

So if you misdial, they ask that you stay on the line. Tell the operator, "Oops. No problem here."

(How do they know that the guy with the gun didn't tell you to say that? I dunno. Probably the tone of your voice.)

Anyway, this has gotta be the sixth or maybe 16th plea we've gotten from the Raleigh-Wake emergency responders on this subject. We pass it along in hopes it will help a little.

Ten-Digit Misdials Continue to Plague 9-1-1 Center

Four months after its introduction, ten-digit dialing continues to cause significant problems for the Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center. Instead of dialing the area code 919, callers are mistakenly dialing 9-1-1 and hanging up.

Misdials and hang-up calls divert resources away from actual emergencies since dispatchers must dial back on hang-ups to assure that an emergency is not taking place. If no response is received from the call-back, dispatchers send a police officer to the source of the call to make certain that no assistance is needed. During the second quarter of this year, emergency operators answered nearly 25 percent more 9-1-1 calls, and made almost 60 percent more outgoing calls than they did during April, May, and June of last year.

The bulk of these numbers are a direct result of the requirement to dial 10 digits within our area code. As a result, real emergencies can’t be answered as quickly as they used to be because 9-1-1 staff is engaged in dealing with these erroneous calls.

During July, 5,655 dispatches were made to check on the welfare of hang-up callers, a rate of 7.6 per hour which is the highest number recorded since the problems began with the introduction of 10-digit dialing. Nearly 3,2000 of these dispatches were within the City of Raleigh. While some calls were verified and cleared prior to an officer’s arrival, Raleigh Police still spent more than 300 hours last month responding to 9-1-1 hang-ups.

“If you dial 9-1-1 incorrectly, it is imperative that you stay on the line,” said Emergency Communications Director Barry Furey. “The only apparent cure is careful dialing. We can’t fix this issue without the public’s help.”

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    Raleigh Police spent more than 300 hours last month responding to 9-1-1 hang-ups. Just stay on the line and tell 'em you misdialed!

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Twitter Activity


The mayor can and should point to Dix Park as a tangible accomplishment that will have lasting ramifications for Raleigh. …

by Protect Falls on McFarlane fundraiser kicks off 2015 Raleigh election year (Citizen)

As is Chavis Park, Doug. But both are relatively small compared to Umstead, NCMA and, when it happens, Dix Park.

by Bob Geary, INDY Opinion Columnist on Dix Park: The Deal is Done (Citizen)

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