The resolution comes after Durham County Commissioners voted to keep a developer's self-serving survey that would allow him to build a mega-project, the 751 Assemblage, near the lake, and outside the critical area subject to additional environmental regulations.
In an eyebrow-raising column this morning in The N&O, Barry Saunders ventures the suggestion that the startlingly vicious mugging of Martin Eakes, co-founder and CEO of Self-Help Credit Union, was not a garden-variety crime but a targeted attack.
Saunders notes that Eakes has certainly made adversaries over the years, and perhaps one of them is thuggish enough to order the kind of attack we normally associate with The Sopranos.
If you closed one eye and squinted real hard out of the other one -- view the assault on Self-Help Credit Union co-founder Martin Eakes in the elevator of a downtown Durham parking garage Nov. 24 as a random attack. Perhaps Eakes was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And the fact that the four thugs who used his head as a punching bag coordinated their positioning -- there was one dude on each stairwell blocking any potential escape route and two on the elevator -- why, that's what all street robbers do, right?
If you believe that, I've got a low-interest, subprime loan for you. Sign here.
Neither Eakes nor Durham police are saying he was targeted because of his work on behalf of poor people and against those lending organizations that prey on the poor.
But I am.
Saunders asked Eakes who might his enemies be, and Eakes replied:
"When we first started," Eakes said, "the KKK used to threaten us. Then it was the drug dealers" who didn't want his organization fixing up rundown neighborhoods. After that, he got on the bad side of predatory lenders with usurious rates who don't like Eakes providing lending options for poor people.
"When Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi are your heroes," Eakes said, "chances are you have enemies."
When AT&T announced last month that its U-verse TV service was available in Charlotte, we wondered when it would come to the Triangle. We asked, but they wouldn't say. "Our competitors would love to know that," an AT&T spokesperson said.
Now the company announces service in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary and Garner -- but they still won't say where in those places.
All this secret-keeping has been getting on the nerves of some state legislators who'd like to get a clear picture of exactly where high-speed Internet is available -- and not available -- in North Carolina. To get the service out to those who don't have it, it helps to find out where they are. U-verse's TV signal is sent via Internet Protocol, and Internet service is part of the U-verse bundle.
Rep. Bill Faison, who chairs the House Select Committee on High-Speed Internet Access in Rural Areas, has been asking the telecom and cable companies to agree to some terms under which it would disclose that highly guarded information to the e-NC Authority, a statewide non-profit agency created by the General Assembly in 2000 to expand access to the 'Net.
For months, cable and telecom lobbyists have been putting up resistance. But when Faison's committee meets this Thursday, they're expected to sing a different tune. Industry representatives have recently indicated they'd be willing to disclose the information through Connected Nation, a nation-wide non-profit whose stated mission is to "expand access to and use of broadband Internet" -- kind of like e-NC.
So why bring in Connected Nation to do the very same work another state-funded group is attempting to do?
One explanation could be Connected Nation's ties to the telecommunications industry, which go back to its founding as Connect Kentucky, according to an investigative report blogged by Art Brodsky, communications director for the digital advocacy group Public Knowledge, in January 2008:
[Sources say] Connect Kentucky is nothing more than a sales force and front group for AT&T paid for by the telecommunications industry and by state and federal governments that has achieved far more in publicity than it has in actual accomplishment. Connect helps to promote AT&T services, while lobbying at the state capitol for the deregulation legislation the telephone company wants.
We'll be eager to hear the industry explain to Faison's committee why they're bringing Connected Nation into the picture.
Up on the NC Policy Watch website: Links to two new reports (PDFs) on the high cost and misguided aim, respectively, of our state and local corporate welfare (incentives) programs. The reports come from the NC office of CFED, a national nonprofit specializing in economic development, which will present them to a legislative oversight committee tomorrow morning. (Details below the fold.)
Local incentives cost a lot more than you think, the first report finds. According to the second, state incentives supposedly designed to attract business into our poorest (Tier 1) counties are instead subsidizing companies headed for affluent Tier 4 and 5 counties -- Wake County, for example.
Summaries, by Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch, follow below, along with contact information for CFED.
The Nation's John Nichols notes that North Carolina's Elizabeth Dole was one of the minority of Senate Republicans not voting to block -- on a cloture vote -- the $14 billion auto industry rescue package this week. In other words, Dole might not have liked the auto bailout, but she was at least willing to let a majority of the Senate decide in an up-or-down vote. (Our other Republican senator, Richard Burr, was with the blockers.)
It's no use now saying this recession didn't have to happen. It's happening, as this teacher's story, from Anytown, KY, so sorrowfully depicts:
For the first time, I had 3 children come to me before our Barter Day class -- in tears! Two of them shared that their parents had told them that their old toys were being wrapped up and given to younger siblings or cousins for Christmas and one told me that ALL his toys were on Ebay! I wiped away tears, gave big hugs, and told them not to worry.
Take two minutes to read it.
Last month, The News & Observer reported that North Carolina was the only state that did not qualify for $25 million in federal funding for rural transportation programs. The Federal Transportation Authority denied funding after an audit found the N.C. Department of Transportation deficient in 12 out of 21 areas of state responsibility to administer grants.
After the N&O story went to press, the FTA un-froze funding, pending the release of a management plan, and the Board of Transportation met to discuss the matter. But, in addition to addressing systematic problems within the Department of Transportation, several boardmembers focused on how, and how not, to spin those problems to the press. The N&O's Bruce Siceloff provides an alternative take on the meeting, with quotes from BOT members that should enrage anyone who cares about open government and accountability:
On Urban Planet's TriangleNC forum, the post-mortems are coming in for the Soleil Center, the 42-story glass tower o' condos atop a hotel at Crabtree Valley that some said would be the greatest thing to happen in Raleigh since Crabtree Valley itself was built in the middle of a flood plain, though others had their doubts.
Now, some say it's the credit crunch that killed the Soleil (nee: Glen Tree). Others, however, note that this thing was approved three years ago, when life was good and credit easy -- yet the condos couldn't be sold. Must be the unwalkable suburban location, they say. Well then, comes the rejoinder, what about all the condos proposed to be built in and around the downtown -- also in good times -- that never happened either?
Just a thought, but what if Raleigh didn't approve every high-rise condo proposal that the developers pitch, regardless where it is? What if, instead, the city insisted that high-rise buildings be located in close (i.e., within 1/4 mile) proximity to a future commuter-rail transit station?
Less than two months after it agreed to acquire Merrill Lynch & Co., Bank of America announced yesterday that it plans to cut between 30,000 and 35,000 jobs over the next three years. The Merrill Lynch merger, approved just one week ago by shareholders of both companies, is expected to close by the start of next year.
The Charlotte Observer quotes UNC-Charlotte economist John Connaughton weighing in on the relative impact of job losses at Wachovia and BofA:
"Bank of America has never had an overly large presence in Charlotte, given the size of the bank," Connaughton said. About 5 percent of the combined company's work force is based in Charlotte.
By contrast, the struggles of Wachovia -- Charlotte's other big bank, which is being sold to San Francisco's Wells Fargo -- will have a far greater impact locally, Connaughton said. That's because Charlotte will lose a corporate headquarters, not just jobs, with Wachovia, and because Wachovia employs more people in Charlotte than Bank of America.
Bank of America said in a statement that the cuts would eliminate overlapping jobs related to the purchase of Merrill Lynch. The cuts are also related to "the current recessionary environment," the bank said.
The vote was close, but the third union election at the company's huge packing plant in Bladen County (30,000-plus hogs killed per day) was the charm. It caps a nearly two decades long fight by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to organize the plant, against bitter company resistance. Last year, Smithfield sued the union, alleging it had damaged the company's reputation by sending press releases to the media and financial analysts about the treatment of workers at the plant. The next step will be bargaining for a contract. The union's statement is below.