The troubles within the State Highway Patrol have almost become cliché: troopers having sex in their patrol cars, , troopers allegedly roughing up their patrol dogs, troopers drinking and driving.
Yet another trooper has been charged with DWI, according to a press release issued by the State Highway Patrol: Trooper John C. Fogg, 40, allegedly had a blood alcohol content of .17--twice the legal limit--when he collided with another car on the Durham Freeway yesterday afternoon. Fogg was off-duty; Durham Police responded to the call.
Fogg became a trooper in August 2007 and was assigned to Wilson County.
Colonel Walter J. Wilson, Jr., ordered an internal investigation and ordered Fogg relieved of his duties as a state Trooper pending the outcome of the investigation.
According to 2008 WRAL story, an outside consultant reviewed the State Highway Patrol and concluded "the first-line supervision of troopers is at a "sub-optimal level."
Equality North Carolina is calling for reinforcements, predicting that the House vote on the School Violence Prevention Act (Senate Bill 526), which is scheduled for Monday night, will be close. According to ENC, the bill's opponents are in full-fervor mode. Greg Flynn, blogging on BlueNC, has chapter and verse about the toxic tactics of House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, and his allies on the Christian Right. An excerpt:
Whether through ignorance, invective or indifference, Stam and the Christian Action League have been falsely equating sexual orientation and gender identity with sexual disorders or deviations and have perpetuated a myth originated by the American Family Association that incorrectly references and misquotes the DSM-IV-TR. The American Psychiatric Association would describe this as "irrational discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation." The Christian Action League compounds the error by variously attributing the bogus "list" to the American Psychological Association and to the American Psychiatric Association, two separate professional organizations.
There's no reason this bill should be controversial, unless you think it's OK for kids to pick on other kids because they're different. Or unless you're irredeemably homophobic.
Update (6/19/09): The House chamber will vote on Monday, June 22, whether to approve the Senate's technical changes to HB 239--the final vote required before the bill is presented to the Governor for approval. The House previously voted 106-8 to approve a similar version of the bill.
Today, the N.C. Senate approved House Bill 239 (also known as "Restore Water Quality in Jordan Reservoir"), which would allow a state-mandated pollution-reduction program for Jordan Lake to go forward, while curtailing some of its reach. A critical drinking-water source for the region, Jordan Lake has been on the EPA's Impaired Waters list since 2002, due to pollution from development. (For more background, see the "Jodan Lake rules" tag on Triangulator.) The House previously approved a similar version; the bill is headed there for a final vote, in order to approve technical changes to the bill's language, before ratification.
The North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities (NCCDD) is accepting public comment on its existing Five-Year State Plan through Aug. 14.
The NCCDD is asking for new proposals or amendments to the plan, including helping children with or at risk of developmental disabilities integrate into regular child care settings.
For more info, contact Melissa Swartz, quality improvement coordinator, at 420-7901 or go to the Council’s web site. The Five Year plan is available in alternative formats upon request by contacting Barton Cutter at email@example.com.
Comments may be returned to the NC Council on Developmental Disabilities, 3801 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 250, Raleigh, NC 27607, Attention: Melissa Swartz. Comments may be emailed to Melissa.Swartz@ncmail.net.
Southern Durham Development, the company seeking to develop 164 acres of land near Jordan Lake into a massive, mixed-use project, has sued Durham County for "wrongful intentional and grossly negligent actions relating to plaintiff and its real property." The lawsuit seeks compensation for damages, and for county decisions to be "declared invalid," in regards to Southern Durham Development's property. Tax records show the company's property in Durham consists only of the so-called 751 Assemblage project site, which it bought from Neal Hunter, a minority shareholder, in 2008.
The company filed the lawsuit in District 14 Superior Court (PDF, 3.5 MB) on June 12, and has until July 2 to explain the full details of its complaint.
Although 751 Assemblage is not mentioned by name, the filing refers implicitly to former Durham Planning Director Frank Duke's decision, in 2006, to approve a survey, funded by Hunter, that removed the site from a one-mile protected area surrounding Jordan Lake. State regulators have since found Duke's decision to have violated state code, because it did not go before a local governing body or state regulators--requirements of watershed map changes.
The lawsuit seeks to "uphold an official interpretation of defendant's planning department"--presumably, Duke's interpretation in 2006--while invalidating Durham County's "attempts to disavow that interpretation." Last year, Durham County submitted the survey to state regulators for the first time; in April 2009, commissioners voted to subject the resulting map change to a public hearing process.
Southern Durham Development and its attorneys have long defended Duke's original approval, in correspondence with government officials, presentations at public hearings, and interviews with the Indy. During a Durham County Commission meeting in April, Neal Hunter and his brother, Jeff; Southern Durham Development principals Alex Mitchell and Tyler Morris; and lawyers representing the company claimed that their property rights would be violated by a public hearing process.
“The commissioners should put an end to this continuously moving target, and acknowledge the property rights that I have,” Neal Hunter said then. “You have no right to change the rules on taxpayers and citizens. As landowners, how can we rely on anything in the future?”
Patrick Byker, an attorney representing Southern Durham Development, refused to comment or elaborate on the suit. Chuck Kitchen, the attorney for Durham County, was not immediately available for comment.
More details to follow.
Carrboro activist Sammy Slade has announced his candidacy for Board of Alderman. Read his press release sammyslade
The official candidate filing period runs from July 3 through July 17.
The North Carolina legislature got one step closer today to passing a bill that would prevent bullying and harassment of children, but not without some rhetorical fireworks from one of the measure's most vocal detractors.
As Mark Binker reports for the Greensboro News & Record, the House Judiciary I Committee voted 9-5 in favor of SB 526, the School Violence Prevention Act, which would require school districts to adopt polices to counter bullying. The bill has already passed the Senate and is expected to reach the House floor this week
According to Twitter reports from the committee room, N.C. Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, a Republican from Apex, argued vehemently against language in the bill that would specifically protect children from being bullied on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill also includes language about race and religion. Its supporters say policies that spell out the basis of the harassment are more effective. The coalition of supporters includes the state Parent Teacher Association and NC Pediatric Society.
Stam reportedly called same sex parents "more dangerous than second-hand smoke."
Here are some highlights of the bullying discussion, presented in chronological order, with Twitter lingo intact. (Note: an @symbol before a name indicates that is the party's Twitter username. #NCGA is a hashtag that indicates the post pertains to the North Carolina General Assembly.) :
@PPCNC [Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina] #ncga Stam now fear-mongering, anti-bullying bill will lead to marriage equality-I wish
@PPCNC #ncga Now Stam saying having same sex parents more dangerous than second hand smoke, really over edge now
@gregflynn Stam is repeating lie about "30 sexual orientations". This is NOT in DSM-IV as definitions of SO. It's a lie. #ncga
As bills fly quickly through the legislature during these last few weeks of the session, Twitter has become an increasingly valuable resource for finding out the status and hearing discussion of legislation. You can read these accounts by searching Twitter.com for the hashtag #NCGA (for North Carolina General Assembly).
You'll see a mix of tweets (Twitter posts) from journalists, advocates and citizens of various political stripes. If you want to follow professional journalists' posts, we highly recommend @LauraLeslie (WUNC radio's capitol reporter), @binker (Mark Binker of the News & Record), @Josh_Ellis (of StateGovernmentRadio.com) and @Barry_Smith (of N.C.'s Freedom Newspapers).
The N.C. House of Representatives got one step closer to closing the Governor Morehead School yesterday when it passed the first reading of the state budget bill.
Meanwhile supporters of the state's only school for the blind protested the proposed closure Thursday afternoon. Approximately 60 people, including many alumni and parents, stood on the sidewalk along Ashe Avenue in front of the historic campus. Six-year-old Paige Strickland, a graduate of the Governor Morehead Preschool, stood beside her mother, holding her cane, chanting along with the crowd, "Don't shut us down!" Passing cars offered honks of support, rallying the people who stood in the hot afternoon sun. They held signs that said, "Keep GMS Open," "Why hurt our children to cut the deficit?" and "For sale: Blind school, $4 B or best offer."
The proposal calls for the Morehead school to stop accepting new students to its K-12 program and move remaining students to either their local school districts or to one or both of the state's schools for the deaf, located in Wilson and Morganton.
The state is roughly $4.6 billion short this year, which has prompted deep cuts to education and human services across the board. The proposed closoure of GMS is just one of many ways children, educators and the disabled would be affected.
Those who gathered to support GMS say they're concerned the quality of education will suffer if blind and deaf students are placed in the same school. They also worry that a dismantling of the GMS campus would mean an end to its ability to provide expertise and assistance to thousands of blind students in public schools statewide. The fate of the Governor Morehead Preschool program, which serves approximately 800 children from birth to age 5, is also uncertain.
"I think it's a terrible idea," said John DeLuca, a graduate of the GMS who went on to attend Duke University and Stanford Law School. Now an administrative court judge, he spent 10 years supervising the Division of Services for the Blind at what is now the Department of Health and Human Resources. "Nobody says it's about improving the quality of services, or even keeping them the same. It's purely a money-driven decision. The kids who are here now are here because their local public schools were not able to adequately serve them."
"The battle in the House is lost," said Gary Ray of the North Carolina Federation of the Blind. He said advocates will focus their efforts on legislative representatives that will work on the budget when it goes into conference, ironing out differences between the House and Senate versions. The Senate version currently calls for deep budget cuts to the blind and deaf schools, but does not mention a closure or consolidation.
House members debated the budget throughout the day and into the evening on Thursday. Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke County), whose district includes Morganton, introduced an amendment (PDF, 568 KB) that calls for a joint legislative task force on educational services for the deaf and blind. It would take the decision on whether and how to consolidate the schools out of the hands of DHHS and into the hands of a set of lawmakers and political appointees, with deaf and blind educators and graduates of the schools in question included among the non-voting members.
That amendment was not voted on Thursday night. It awaits a fiscal note from legislative staff. If that note comes through by the time the House convenes at 8 p.m. today, Blackwell says he will reintroduce it.
Update: Blackwell's amendment passed and is part of the House version of the budget bill.
Sen. Julia Boseman, a Democrat from New Hanover County and the only openly gay state lawmaker, was the lone holdout on Senate Joint Resolution 1103, which honored "the life and memory" of former North Carolina U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, who died last July. The bill passed the House yesterday 98-0 with 19 abstentions and the Senate 41-1 with seven abstentions.
To read the bill, you would not know that Helms was vehemently and cruelly anti-gay, or that he was a segregationist, or that he fomented racial hatred, or that he has the dubious distinction of pioneering fear-based politics. No, the bill's language lauds Helms with flowery testimonials from former President George W. Bush, the Rev. Billy Graham, and puzzlingly, Liu Chao-Shuian, the premier of China. Even U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, a Democrat representing the Second Congressional District, which includes parts of Chatham and Wake counties, lost his backbone: "Sen. Helms dedicated his life to serving the people of North Carolina. Whether people agreed or disagreed with him, Sen. Helms would always let his constituents know where he stood on the important issues of the day."
Sixteen of 20 African-American House members and five of nine Senators skipped the vote.
The seven non-voting senators included three from the Triangle area: Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange; Doug Berger, D-Granville; and Floyd McKissick, D-Durham. Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, had an excused absence from the vote.
In the House, non-voting lawmakers from the Triangle were Larry Hall, D-Durham; Ty Harrell, D-Wake; Verla Insko, D-Orange; and Mickey Michaux, D-Durham. Rep. Becky Carney of Mecklenberg County, who is recovering from a heart attack, had an excused absence.
Read the Indy's coverage of Helms' death at the following links:
Durham City-County Planning Commission Chair George Brine recused himself from discussion over a developer-funded survey of Jordan Lake tonight, saying the board's deliberation on the matter "should not be clouded by my alleged impartiality, or lack thereof." Meanwhile, the citizen advisory board delayed consideration of changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Ordinance, based on the survey, until August 11.
Southern Durham Development is seeking to push through watershed map changes, based on a survey commissioned by Southern Durham Development shareholder Neal Hunter, without public review. The changes would move 240 acres of land that Hunter owns, or has a stake in, out of a protected watershed that severely limits development, and into an "urban growth area" that would allow for future re-zoning requests to permit dense development. Lawyers for Southern Durham Development recently accused Brine of holding a “personal opinion” on the matter, and said his participation in the hearing would “further taint this already deeply flawed process.”
Though they voted unanimously to recuse Brine, five of Brine's colleagues on the Planning Commission firmly stood up for their chairman, and several accused Southern Durham Development of creating what Planning Commissioner Don Moffitt called "a chilling effect on the participation of any of us in the civic life of Durham."
"I don't think there is a legal reason for him to be recused," Planning Commissioner Linda Smith said of Brine. "I think that, in fact, what we want on this commission are people who are informed of the issues. One of the things I feel about this particular amendment is that we haven't been very well-informed."