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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Evan Rachel Wood to act in Theatre in the Park's Romeo and Juliet

Posted by on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 10:24 AM

Evan Rachel Wood in The Wrestler (Photo by Niko Tavernise/ Fox Searchlight)
  • Evan Rachel Wood in The Wrestler (Photo by Niko Tavernise/ Fox Searchlight)

Evan Rachel Wood stopped being a full-time Raleigh resident years ago, but her family remains central to the city's theater scene: Her father, Ira David Wood III, is longtime artistic director of Theatre in the Park, and recently finished a run in the title role of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Evan's brother Ira David Wood IV was also in that production.

Now she'll be reunited with her family in a production of Romeo and Juliet, the theater announced on its Web site. The show is advertised as a fundraiser, and is tentatively set to run in mid-May. Ira David Wood IV—who has acted in at least three movies with his sister (including Across the Universe and Pretty Persuasion)—will direct.

Auditions to fill out the production are scheduled for Feb. 24-25. The role of Romeo is not yet cast, but the announcement obliquely hints at a further casting coup: The role is "possibly open for a strong leading man."

Wood can currently be seen in Darren Aronofsky's sensational film The Wrestler, in which she gives an excoriating performance as the embittered, estranged daughter of Mickey Rourke's title character. The movie received two Oscar nominations, for the work of Wood's co-stars Rourke and Marisa Tomei.

We called Theatre in the Park to confirm details. Erin West, office manager, said that the part of Romeo is open. We asked her about an audition announcement that briefly appeared last week on Craigslist that suggested Jamie Bell as a possibility for the part, but West said "Jamie Bell is no longer a possibility" for the role. West also said the Craigslist posting was not made by the "staff of Theatre in the Park."

The details of the run, and ticket information, will likely be available next week, West said. She said it would probably be a one-weekend run in the 219-seat theater.

The text of the Web site announcement follows.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

UNC report details widespread Constitutional abuses in 287(g)

Posted by on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 2:07 PM

A joint study by the UNC Law School and the ACLU of North Carolina, released today, has found the federal 287(g) program to be overly costly; riddled with Constitutional and state law violations; and "an ineffective means of immigration enforcement." In particular, the study found that, instead of targeting violent criminals, law enforcement agencies participating in 287(g)--which deputizes local officers to act as federal immigration agents--have sought to "purge towns and cities of 'unwelcome' immigrants" by racially profiling Latinos at traffic stops, and in pre-textual detentions and arrests. This Constitutional violation, the study found, has the counterproductive effect of marginalizing a vulnerable population, encouraging further harassment and civil rights violations, and discouraging the reporting of actual crimes.

Furthermore, the federal program--which the City of Durham, and Alamance, Mecklenburg, Wake, and four other North Carolina counties have joined--lacks proper oversight, transparency, and guidelines for state and federal funding, the study found. For example, in 2007, the North Carolina State legislature gave $750,000 to the North Carolina Sheriff's Association for an immigration training project. Other than travel reimbursements, the allocation provided "no language or standards that regulate or provide for oversight or monitoring as to how the money should be spent or how agencies are accountable for the expenditure of these funds." The NCSA used some of the money to participate in 287(g) programs, without review by the Governor's Crime Commission, as has been standard procedure for state funding.

The study found that such lack of oversight and transparency has led, in part, to poor leadership and misinformation by state agencies entrusted with pursuing immigration enforcement strategy. In 2007, NCSA adopted a resolution that "perpetuates many myths and misinformation about immigration populations," the study found. In addition to calling for a reduction to immigrant populations--both legal and illegal--the resolution included unsubstantiated claims that terrorists were crosing the U.S.-Mexico border, and that "illegal alien invaders" (the resolution's term for illegal immigrants) drain public resources, and don't pay taxes, none of which has been credibly proven.

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Durham’s Branch Gallery to close Feb. 28

Posted by on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 1:31 PM

[caption id="attachment_2904" align="alignright" width="237" caption="Javier Piñón's "Untitled," from a Branch Gallery show in February 2008"]

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In a major blow to Durham's downtown cultural offerings, the proprietors of the Branch Gallery announced today that the Foster Street business will close its doors Feb. 28.

In a statement, the gallery's co-owners Chloe Seymore and Teka Selman said they initially planned to close the gallery in the fall of 2009, but after discussions last month with the building's landlord, Scientific Properties (which also owns the Venable Building where the Indy is located), the decision was made to close the gallery at the end of this month.

The gallery will honor its existing exhibition commitments in other venues this summer.

We reached Selman by telephone. Selman said the gallery is "not likely" to be open during this Friday night's Third Friday events. (UPDATE 5:43 p.m.: Seymore just called to report that the gallery will be open until 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20.)

Selman pointed out that Third Friday earlybirds can still check in before the close of business at 6 p.m. to catch the current shows, Pedro Lasch's LATINO/A AMERICA: The New York and North Carolina Suites and If Only to Wake My Neighbors Up: David Colagiovanni, Lydia Moyer, Michael Robinson.

We'll have more, but for now, here's the text of the gallery announcement.

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CH's Peoples Channel to help Durham public access

Posted by on Wed, Feb 18, 2009 at 12:38 PM

Durham County officials have authorized $55,000 to partially fund the public access channel and the Durham City Council could vote to match those funds next month,  according to the Durham Committee for Community Media.

The money was already allocated to the channel in a previous contract with Time Warner Cable, but the funds needed to be released.

City Manager Tom Bonfield is reportedly recommending the City Council approve matching funds. Council will discuss the issue in March.

Without funding, the public access portion of the PEG (public, education, government) channels would have been discontinued. Community media activists forestalled a Dec. 31, 2008, deadline to keep programming on the air.

On Feb. 16, Chad Johnston of The Peoples Channel and Peter Skillern of the Community Reinvestment Association of NC met with Durham City and County Attorneys and staff to discuss a contract with The Peoples Channel to continue public access television in Durham.

Provided the City Council approves its portion of the funds and a contract is hammered out with The Peoples Channel,  Johnston and Co. will work with Time Warner on the logistics of taking over public access operations. The switchover is projected to occur sometime in mid-April.

Equipment for the channel and a feed into Time Warner’s network will be housed at a location on East Geer Street. A transition committee of community producers will work with The Peoples Channel on the logistics of drop offs, formats, schedules, etc.

In May, organizers hope to hold community meetings about overarching issues, such as its scope and goals, of the Durham Media Center.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Urban chickens OK'd; 25-mile 'donut' revealed; Bell wears Carolina Blue

Posted by on Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 7:21 PM

Photo by DL Anderson
  • Photo by DL Anderson

...and cats and dogs are living together. That's Chapel Hill's mayor, Kevin Foy, helping Durham mayor Bill Bell into a Tar Heels sweatshirt--the result of an elaborate bet on the UNC-Duke game last week.

"He regrets the outcome of the game; I was very happy with the outcome of the game," Foy told attendees at last night's City Council meeting in Durham--before dashing off to Chapel Hill's Town Council meeting that same night.

The agreement called for the mayor of the losing team's city to wear the opposite team's swag at the next council meeting. In addition, Foy gets free passes to a Durham Performing Arts Center show.

"You're serious about this?" Bell asked, as he grudgingly descended the City Hall ramp toward Foy, who was holding, apparently, the most flamboyant zip-up hoodie he could find.

(More on urban chickens, and a 25 square mile "donut hole" in Durham with no water-quality control restrictions, after the jump.)

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N&O's public editor to become DOT flack

Posted by on Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 12:47 PM

After 32 years as a journalist, editor and publisher at The News & Observer, Ted Vaden is leaving for a public relations job at the Department of Transportation.

We wish Vaden well. After all the anxiety over layoffs at the paper, the new opportunity (and $117,000 annual salary) must be irresistible. The work public information officers do can be quite valuable.

But what does it say about the state of journalism that the guy whose job is to "[monitor] N&O coverage for fairness and accuracy and [serve] as a readers' representative at the paper" will now be in charge of spinning for one of the most egregiously mismanaged and obfuscating agencies of state government?

N&O Publisher Orage Quarles III, to whom Vaden reports, told the Indy he doesn't yet know if he will hire a replacement. Under pressure due to parent company McClatchy's falling profits, Quarles recently announced there will be more staff cuts coming.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Ways and Means and ... broadband connectivity

Posted by on Mon, Feb 16, 2009 at 5:04 PM

Speaker of the N.C. House Joe Hackney has decided the House's standing Ways & Means committee should become the Ways & Means/Broadband Connectivity committee.

That may seem more than a bit random. Here are two explanations:

Broadband access is a big issue for Hackney, who says lack of access to high-speed Internet service in tops the list of constituent complaints. "We get a lot of inquiries," Hackney told the Indy. His staffers are sometimes able to help residents by communicating directly with the phone and cable companies that serve their area.

But many of those residents don't find satisfaction because service isn't available where they live. So during the last session, Hackney formed the House Select Committee on High Speed Internet in Rural Areas. Right before the new session began, that temporary committee submitted its report (PDF), which included proposed legislation and the recommendation that their work continue.

The chairman of that committee is Rep. Bill Faison (D-Orange, Caswell), who also happened to be chair of House Ways & Means. So Hackney thought it was natural to combine those tasks.

"It seems to me that we are poised to make the big jump here toward universal broadband with the stimulus package and the Obama administration’s full weight behind it," Hackney said. "So I thought that we need to have a committee of the House working on it. That will be part of their duties; the committee will do other things as well."

See this Wednesday's issue of the Independent for an in-depth look at the frustration of Chatham County residents without broadband Internet access.

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DDI makes over Web site ... with electronic billboard

Posted by on Mon, Feb 16, 2009 at 4:55 PM

Note: Updated, with response from DDI President Bill Kalkhof below.

Today, Kevin Davis, the Bull City Rising scribe, notes a peculiar make-over at the Downtown Durham, Inc. Web site. The non-profit booster organization, which receives roughly 60 percent of its funding from the City of Durham, now features on its Web site a giant electronic billboard, replete with alternating flash images, soaring over a skyline of the Bull City.

"Coincidence -- or subtle marketing for the proposed changes allowing billboards in the Bull City?" Davis muses.

With questions swirling around a Georgia-based billboard company seeking to amend Durham's Unified Development Ordinance to allow electronic billboards, it seems an unfortunate time for DDI to roll out the striking re-design.

In addition to donating to candidates for both City Council and the Durham County Board of Commissioners, Fairway Outdoor Advertising--which owns roughly half the billboards in Durham--has doled out free advertising space to Durham County and DDI. (Last month, DDI reached no consensus on a vote to endorse the amendment, and later wrote to Fairway explaining the vote.)

In a January 2009 interview with the Indy, Kalkhof insisted that there is "no quid pro quo" between Fairway and DDI, which credits itself with influencing downtown development policy in Durham. In that interview, Kalkhof noted that the relationship between his organization and Fairway began in 2007, when Fairway provided DDI with free advertising for Durham Rising, a June 2007 event promoting downtown development.

“This has nothing to do with the UDO,” Kalkhof said then. “It was an excellent marketing opportunity. That has been our relationship.”

However, in reporting on the DDI re-design, Davis received a response from Matthew Coppedge, director of marketing and communications for DDI, that seems to contradict Kalkhof's timeline:

"This design was actually up long before Fairway was a partner with DDI and before we knew anything about the discussion with the billboards. We worked with Neural 9 Studios (located in downtown) on this beginning in August of 2007 with the concept coming from them at that time.  We received our first prototype of the site on 9/28/2007 and thought it was a very cool design, allowing for the full downtown skyline view and the changing nighttime scene (check the site after sundown).  Anyway, we launched the site in early 2008 after final design completion in November of 2007."

Davis writes that this should put the issue to rest--and, indeed, sometimes a re-design is just a redesign--but there's a missing link that Coppedge chose not to disclose. Neural 9 designed the Web site for Durham Rising, of which both DDI and Fairway were sponsors. (Full discolsure: so was the Indy.) And according to Kalkhof, DDI's relationship with Fairway also began with Durham Rising, when Fairway provided DDI with free billboard space for the event. In other words, August 2007, the date Coppedge offers for DDI's initial work with Neural 9, happened after DDI had partnered with Fairway--not, as Coppedge insists, "long before Fairway was a partner with DDI."

UPDATE @ 6:00 p.m.: DDI President Kalkhof called the Indy back shortly after this blog was posted. Read his response, after the jump.

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UNC police evacuate the Pit following bomb threat

Posted by on Mon, Feb 16, 2009 at 1:27 PM

Following a Sunday night bomb threat, and a localized evacuation effort, UNC's campus was given the "all clear" signal today at 5 a.m., according to the university.

At approximately 9 p.m. Sunday night, Orange County 911 received a call from a male saying he had an explosive device near the central "Pit" area of campus. UNC police, aided by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Chapel Hill police and the State Bureau of Investigation, responded by evacuating nearby buildings, setting up barrackades and conducting bomb-squad searches. However, the Daily Tar Heel reports that two hours lapsed before news of the threat was posted to the university's Alert Carolina Web site, and nearly three hours before a text message was sent to alert-message subscribers, at approximately 11:45 p.m. The newspaper also reports that "students in the [Student] Union’s gallery and Yackety Yak offices were not evacuated until Daily Tar Heel staff informed them of the threat." The UNC Student Union, which houses the DTH newsroom, is adjacent to the Pit.

In its 5 a.m. press release, announcing the "all clear" signal, the university explains its reasons for evacuating the area first, before sending out any alert messages. (After the jump.)

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Durham Dems head budget committees in General Assembly

Posted by on Thu, Feb 12, 2009 at 12:04 PM

With a massive state shortfall looming around the corner, this year's Legislature will focus, squarely, on the budget. And, in the N.C. House of Representatives, two Durham democrats have retained senior posts that place them in control of the proverbial purse strings. Rep. Mickey Michaux will again be senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Paul Luebke will keep his seat as senior chairman of the House Finance Committee in '09. Appropriations and Finance are generally considered the most powerful committees in the House, and this year they should hold additional sway.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, Triangle Dems are co-chairing just about every appropriations subcommittee: Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham (Natural and Economic Resources) joins Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange (Justice and Public Safety), Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Chatham (General Government and Information Technology), and Sen. Vernon Malone (Education/Higher Education). Sen. Richard Stevens, a Wake Republican, is sharing the education subcommittee co-chairmanship with Malone, pushing Triangle representation on the Senate Appropriations Committee to 5 out of 16 (yep, 16) subcommittee co-chairs.

In addition, Wake Democratic Reps. Grier Martin (Transportation Subcommittee) and Verla Insko (Health and Human Services) hold appropriation subcommittee co-chairs in the House.

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