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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bill Kalkhof mulls City Council run

Posted by on Sat, Feb 28, 2009 at 6:56 PM

During a Thursday night interview with Kevin Davis (Bull City Rising) and Barry Ragin (Dependable Erection), on the local bloggers' WXDU 88.7 FM show, "Shooting the Bull," Downtown Durham, Inc. President Bill Kalkhof said that "at some point" he wants to run for Durham City Council. Kalkhof was on the show to discuss DDI's opposition to the proposed citywide water quality regulations, which will come up for a vote Monday.

Kevin Davis: We see you standing up at the podium at City Council frequently, and talk of the town is, you might try the flip side of the railing. Any thoughts on that, on you mulling that over?

Bill Kalkhof: Talking about running for city council?

Kevin Davis: Exactly

Bill Kalkhof: It has always—first of all, I really love this city. It’s my adopted hometown. I love it. Two is, I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve been doing with the Home Builders [Association] and now with Downtown Durham, Inc. Yes, at some point I want to run for City Council. Will it be this year? I’ll make that decision by July when I have to.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Main Street holds casting call on Durham's Morgan Street

Posted by on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 3:38 PM

There was more evidence this week that a film production is indeed getting underway in Durham. Auditions for Main Street were held all week at Durham Convention Center. Two actors confirmed independently that they'd read for parts this week, and that the production is scheduled to begin in April.

The casting agency is Telsey and Company, described by one of our confidants as a

very reputable casting agency out of NYC. They cast lots of Broadway shows and big movies like Sex and the City, Rachel Getting Married, and Milk. I saw them a few times while I was living in NYC  [ ... ] They sent one of their casting associates down here to do the initial auditions this week, a really good reader and very nice. She videotapes into a computer, which then gets streamed to NYC. Very similar to what the Fincannons do in Wilmington, and something I'm seeing more and more.

This correspondent also described a diverse casting call, suggesting that this movie's Durham may be less white than it was in 1988 when Bull Durham was released.

I was up against Asians, African-Americans, all types and ages, etc., so the field is pretty wide open. Very typical videotaped in-and-out audition, from which they'll narrow the field to meet with the director at callbacks. Pretty standard fare.

Both of our correspondents report that the advertised stars are Colin Firth, Ellen Burstyn and Patricia Clarkson (that's an aggregate of six Oscar nominations and one win).

However, one of them cautioned about the casting, "you might want to say 'rumored' or something like that since I'm not sure how much of the info on the leads, etc. is true and how much is out there to raise money."

As it happens, this film project appears on none of these actors' pages. The entry for the film itself is minimal, listing only the screenwriter, director and production company. (It seems the film's title has been shortened from Main Street USA.) The script is by two-time Oscar winner Horton Foote (Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird). John Doyle, best known as a stage director, is set to direct. The production company is Reliant Pictures, which was set up two years ago by Thom Mount, Durham native and producer of Bull Durham

The most informative item on the film's entry is the following plot summary, which provides a protagonist's name and otherwise confirms what has been reported about the film's content in the Independent and elsewhere.

From the once thriving tobacco warehouses, to the current run-down and closed shops of Five Points, a diverse group of residents and their respective life changes when outsider Gus Leroy brings something new and potentially dangerous into their quiet town.

Our other correspondent also described an ordinary audition, and passed along some official production information, which reads in part:

MAIN STREET, a feature film starring Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson and Colin Firth, is a movie that will be filming in Durham, NC this Spring. Our casting office will be in Durham, NC the week of Feb 23-Feb 27. A large portion of the cast will be LOCAL HIRES.

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Carolina Ballet decision prompts arts groups to meet with Mayor Meeker

Posted by on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 12:48 PM

The controversial move by the Carolina Ballet to relocate some of its performances from Memorial Auditorium has prompted a meeting this evening between Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and representatives of several Raleigh arts organizations. But behind the scenes, the conflict over performance space centers on a more pervasive issue: Raleigh's largest venues are now competing with Durham for the biggest touring acts.

Meeker and the groups plan to discuss the implications of moving the Carolina Ballet from Memorial Auditorium into Progress Energy Center's Fletcher Opera Theater.

Raleigh City Council recently approved a multi-year lease agreement term sheet for the Carolina Ballet to split its productions between Memorial Auditorium, where it has performed exclusively for the past two years, and Fletcher Theater.

According to Nancy Lambert of the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild, the meeting with Meeker was requested by several groups, including the Guild, Theatre in the Park, The Opera Company of North Carolina, Raleigh Little Theatre and Capital Opera.

They are concerned about the new arrangement and the city's priorities for booking space for locally produced events. Several groups have complained about difficulties booking space at the Progress Energy Center, contending the city favors larger events over smaller local productions by waiving fees, altering grant terms and allocating choice venues.

Language in the scheduling policy for the Raleigh Convention Center indicates that priority is given to touring theatrical productions that would produce five or more performances, while local productions and concerts are on a "first come, first serve" basis.

Lambert says that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss with Meeker how to revise the current booking policy for the Civic Center to give local groups more access to it.

"It really depends on where the conversation goes," Lambert says. "We want to make sure the mayor understands the impact regarding the recent proposal regarding Carolina Ballet, and we would like to consider if there was a way the local organizations could have access to that theater."

Carolina Ballet Executive Director Lisa Jones says that the ballet had historically split its performances between Memorial Auditorium and Fletcher Theater, and that the move would only encompass about half of its upcoming productions.

"Roger Krupa [director of the Raleigh Convention Center] asked us if we'd like to come back to Fletcher and we agreed," Jones says. She says the ballet and other local organizations can co-exist, and that the arrangement can be beneficial. "An organization that performs for three weeks can benefit both the community and arts groups that maybe perform a single show."

Krupa acknowledges that the city places precedence on high-profile, multi-night performances over smaller-scale local groups. Part of the rationale involves Raleigh's competition for events with the Durham Performing Arts Center, which opened in November.

"The Durham Performing Arts Center is taking shows that we would have presented," Krupa says. "That money is not money that is going to be going into Raleigh."

Krupa says that he respects local groups' wishes—"If you can get an audience, we're for it!"—but adds he has conflicted with some organizations over touring shows. According to Krupa, Ira David Wood III wanted to extend last year's production of A Christmas Carol for a few extra shows, but wanted the theater to remain dark the nights it was not performing. (Wood declined to comment for this story.)

Krupa says he refused Wood's request because it came after the space had been rented to other performers. "Do you want to tell the people who work at the theater that they won't be needed those nights?" Krupa asks. He says that he feels there can be a balance between the different performances, but he makes no apologies about wanting high-revenue events: "My responsibility is to the taxpayers and the city manager."

The question hovering over tonight's meeting is whether the city can strike a balance between providing space for larger-scale, higher-revenue shows and smaller, more intimate local productions.

"It's a matter of priority, I think," Lambert says. "The bottom line is the bottom line. They just want to make certain that the city officials do not overlook the community groups. Fletcher Theatre was built for community groups, and we'd like to maintain a presence there."

The Independent will provide a full update on this meeting in next week's issue.

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Citing 'inflammatory language,' George Lucier pulls out of 287(g) panel

Posted by on Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 11:43 AM

After hosting a speech by anti-immigration activist William Gheen earlier this month--in which Gheen compared Chatham County to the Soviet Union, and human rights activists to "foot soldiers" in a battle over immigration--Chatham Conservative Voice invited county commissioners to attend a Thursday night "community forum" to discuss their resolution opposing 287(g), a voluntary immigration enforcement program. The resolution, which commissioners unanimously approved in January, describes the federal program as a costly, and ineffective means of deterring crime. (A recent study by the UNC Law School and the ACLU arrived at the same conclusion.)

However, citing concerns for his own safety, Board of Commissioners Chairman George Lucier declined to attend the Feb. 26 event. In a previous interview with the Indy, Lucier read off several threatening e-mails he said he had received in response to the board's resolution, citing the Gheen speech as an aggravator. In a response posted on the Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee Web site, Gheen wrote that "such reports by illegal alien supporters are usually a bunch of hot air and hyperbole," adding, "I'd be squirming to [sic], if my e-mail box and voicemail was overloaded with contacts from people that fervently disagree with my positions."

In advance of the Feb. 26 CCV forum, NC FIRE, a Wade, N.C.-based anti-immigration group, distributed e-mails equating illegal immigrants with terrorists, and urged attendees to "fight back against Chatham County." The group's Web site, which conflates Latinos and illegal immigrants, contains unsubstantiated claims that Latinos carry diseases, and lists "8 ways that illegals make you sick." One graphic features an upside-down American flag, with a Mexican flag hoisted above it, and the caption, "Have you had enough of this?"

In a statement, Lucier said the group's e-mails had "effectively undermined the efforts of CCV and local residents to have a civil discussion about various issues."

Continue reading…

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bill to ban mountaintop removal coal in N.C. introduced

Posted by on Thu, Feb 26, 2009 at 11:05 PM

Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, has introduced a bill that would make it illegal for electric public utilities in North Carolina to purchase, or use, coal derived from dynamiting mountaintops in southern Appalachia. Half of the coal used to produce electricity in North Carolina is derived from the process, known as mountaintop removal, resulting in radically altered ecosystems, polluted streams and rivers, and billions of tons gallons of toxic "coal slurry," collected in artificial pools, or injected into ground soil. Other than Georgia, no other state in the U.S. uses more mountaintop removal-derived coal.

"Because North Carolina burns a significant amount of coal extracted by mountaintop removal coal mining, we have an obligation to eliminate or reduce the devastating social and environmental impacts of this mining in the Appalachian Mountains," the bill states.

Harrison introduced a similar bill last year, saying she was motivated in part by 2008 Indies Arts Award winner Michael O'Connell's documentary, Mountaintop Removal, which focuses on the devastating effect on Appalachian families.

Continue reading…

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama to deliver speech at Camp Lejeune

Posted by on Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 9:49 PM

UPDATE (2/27/09): As expected, Obama pledged to remove all combat troops from Iraq by August 2010, and leave behind 35,000 to 50,000 "transitional" troops through December 2011. “Let me say this as plainly as I can. By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," NYT quotes Obama as saying today at Camp Lejeune.

The White House has announced that Barack Obama will deliver a speech in North Carolina Friday, at the marine corps base Camp Lejeune. Reuters reports that Obama is expected to make a major announcement about the timetable of withdrawing American forces from Iraq, noting that Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama had not yet made a final decision on a withdrawal timetable, and declined to offer specifics on the speech.

However, The New York Times and other news outlets--including Agence France Presse--are reporting that Obama will set August 2010 as the date for  withdrawal, a slightly longer timetable than originally promised, and also that Obama may leave behind as many as 50,000 troops past that date, to be reassigned as “Advisory Training Brigades." Those reports relied on anonymous Pentagon sources.

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Tweeting the Congressional address

Posted by on Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 3:18 AM

Barack Obama speaking in Durham (Photo by Jeremy M. Lange)
  • Barack Obama speaking in Durham (Photo by Jeremy M. Lange)

If you didn't get a chance to watch President Barack Obama's speech to Congress, you can distill its essential nature--bold optimism, in the face of economic collapse--in the The New York Times' news analysis. Peter Baker writes of the juxtaposition of Obama's message of unity ("We will emerge stronger than before") and an unapologetic "philosophical agenda that strikes at the heart of the other party’s core beliefs." His plan to invest heavily in education, health care and energy independence--not in spite of the recession, Obama argued, but in order to overcome it--suggests "a more activist government than any other since Lyndon B. Johnson," Baker writes.

He gave his program no nifty new brand name, no “New Deal” or “Great Society,” not even the “New Covenant” that Bill Clinton briefly tried out and quickly abandoned, or George W. Bush's overshadowed “Ownership Society.” But he likened his program to those of other periods of upheaval when the nation responded with major steps, from the expansion of the rail system in the Civil War to the G.I. Bill that sent World War II veterans to college.

But if you really want to know what was going on in the sacred halls of Congress Tuesday night--in 140 characters or less--The Washington Post's 44 blog has an excellent roundup of reporters' Twitter posts.

Continue reading…

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wafting on the Eno dries up

Posted by on Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 6:32 PM

After 19 years of leading men, women and children on bucolic, low-key trips on the Eno River and millpond, "Riverdave" Owen and his partner Riojosie announced on their Web site yesterday that the program, administered in conjunction with the Durham Parks and Recreation department, will cease operations.

The reason: a dispute over proposed changes in their contract with the city. The biggest disputes seem to be that the city will no longer allow them to stage their excursions from the old blacksmith shop and that the city is now requiring them to purchase liability insurance (according to Riverdave, his program had been covered under the city's policy).

The announcement is here.

H/T to the N&O's outdoors and fitness reporter Joe Miller, who is following the story.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Another note about Vaden's depature from N&O

Posted by on Mon, Feb 23, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Gary Pearce at Talking About Politics thought my post about Vaden’s departure from The News & Observer was snarky. So did Laura Leslie at Isaac Hunter's Tavern. Perhaps it came out snarkier than intended.

I really do wish Ted Vaden well. He has more than three decades of experience as a serious and thoughtful journalist, editor and publisher, and he deserves a secure job with a good salary. I don’t begrudge him that. Nor do I begrudge any journalist who finds a better opportunity—how could you not jump from a sinking ship? I do hope Conti will make good on the pledge to make the Department of Transportation more transparent, and hiring Vaden is a step in the right direction.

Am I suspicious of government flacks? You bet I am. The N&O’s own investigations over the past year have only deepened that suspicion. I say that knowing that the way things are going, we may all become flacks one day.

What strikes me about Vaden’s departure is the irony of the contrast: Which of these organizations has a history of failure and corruption, and which one has a track record of ferreting out that failure and corruption?

Now, which one appears to be in danger of going out of business? And which one has the resources to keep someone like Vaden employed?

Let me amplify Pearce’s cry: “Will someone save the N&O from the disastrous reign of the McClatchy chain?”

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

To connect or not to connect? Carrboro considers the question

Posted by on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 3:31 PM

“We’re Carrboro,” said Alderwoman Jacquelyn Gist. “We’re not Sim City.”

Gist brought up the urban-planning-on-steroids gaming phenomenon to illustrate her long-standing opposition to the town’s Connector Roads Policy.

“It looks great on paper, but does it really make sense?” she said. “You have to be able to look at these things in reality as well as in a planning textbook.”

The policy, adopted in its current form in the mid-’80s, mandates that new developments extend their roads, where possible, to connect with existing roads, thus fostering “a sense of connectivity and unity to the town as it grows.” The idea came from New Urbanism, a school of thought in planning that condemned the gridlock and mechanization of modern cities, and sought new strategies to ease traffic and encourage alternative forms of transportation.

Continue reading…

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