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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bill and Melinda Gates surprise Durham students

Posted by on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 2:24 PM


Bill and Melinda Gates visited the Durham Performance Learning Center this morning.
  • Bill and Melinda Gates visited the Durham Performance Learning Center this morning.

Though some students at the Durham Performance Learning Center figured it out in advance, most were still surprised when Bill and Melinda Gates stopped by their school Thursday morning.


Through their eponymous charitable foundation, Microsoft mogul Bill Gates and his wife Melinda awarded start-up money for the Performance Learning Center three years ago.

The school offers alternative hours and self-paced, computer-based coursework for older high-schoolers who need a non-traditional setting.

Mr. and Mrs. Gates stopped in as part of a quick tour of several schools in the state, arriving at the Northgate Mall on West Club Boulevard just before 9 a.m. And yes, they walked through the main entrance, just like everyone else.

During their tour of the small school, housed in the basement of Northgate, the couple spent 45 minutes talking with a small group of lucky students.

"They said very positive things," said Principal Danny Gilfort. "It was impressive to see someone of their stature next to the kids and talking about what they do here."

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Surprise guest tomorrow at Durham school

Posted by on Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 5:42 PM

The Durham Performance Learning Center, a small alternative high school in the Northgate Mall, is expecting a very important guest tomorrow, according to Principal Danny Gilfort.

Students are expecting someone famous to tour the facility tomorrow, but they'll probably be surprised when he walks through their doors.

Tune in tomorrow afternoon. Though the media is prohibited from attending, we've been promised a wrap-up after the stakeholder's visit.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Chapel Hill Mayoral Hopeful Kevin Wolff Threatens Legal Action Against Media

Posted by on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 6:47 PM

Kevin Wolff has issued a press release claiming he was misquoted in this Monday's N&O and threatening legal action if other reporters "alter any of these facts."

Wolff was responding to this article in which Anne Bleyman, identified as a Mark Kleinschmidt supporter, says she received a push poll phone call from Wolff's campaign that asked if she'd vote for Wolff if she knew he was the only "moral" candidate. 

Wolff's campaign manager, Steve Hill, said the word was "mayoral." Hill refused to release the text of the poll to the N&O.

Today's release states that "An article appeared in The News & Observer on Monday, September 21, that implied that  Kevin Wolff stated “...  he never authorized a poll question about morality.”  That is an incorrect statement, Mr. Wolff stated that the campaign has never discussed morality period."

Continue reading…

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Higher impact fees for Chatham County residents?

Posted by on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 4:06 PM

Rebekah L. Cowell reports for the Indy on possible new impact fees for Chatham County residents:

A big house with a lot of bedrooms could cost Chatham County residents extra money in impact fees.

Last night, Chatham County residents discussed possible increased impact fees and their economic ramifications for new homeowners or homeowners adding onto their houses.

Currently, every homeowner pays the county a one-time impact fee of $3,500. The money is earmarked for school construction.

However, if impact fees become based on the number of bedrooms in a home—the current option being discussed—the costs could increase significantly. The fee also would include additions and improvements made to an existing home.

A three-bedroom home would carry an impact fee of $8,000. A four-bedroom home would rack up a $14,000 impact fee.

William Crawford, a Pittsboro mayoral candidate, did not attend last night's meeting, but he says impact fees are really just taxes, and should be avoided unless there is no alternative.

“I'd want to discuss all available options first,” he said.

County Commissioner George Lucier argues that the county needs to find a way to pay for construction of schools. He says there is no immediate need for the impact fees, but one year from now there must be “some mechanism in place to pay our debt.”

Lucier attempted to appease residents by saying that the impact fee hike had not been proposed as the final solution at this point.

Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller, who seeking reelection for a third-term, did not attend the meeting. He told the Indy that “The commissioners are moving forward on the impact discussion, because they have had studies done that show the fees we already have are too low to actually cover the costs of our schools.”

Voller added that the Homebuilder's Association, National Association of Realtors, political leadership and citizens need to come together and discuss ways to create a “collaborative rational process” to fund long term investments like good schools.

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The U.S. Census: We're 34, half of us aren't from N.C., most of us drive alone to work and many of us are raised by our grandparents

Posted by on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 1:55 PM

Data geeks, this is your week. The U.S. Census has released some of its information related to the 2008 American Community Survey; the remainder comes out Sept. 29. The data is for counties with populations of 65,000 or more.

A few snapshots:

About half of residents in Wake, Durham and Orange counties are North Carolina natives (state median, 63 percent).

The percentage of homeowners who spend more than a third of their household income on mortgages and related costs: Wake, 26; Durham, 27; Orange, 31 (state median, 31.6 percent).

The percent of housing units that are mobile homes: Wake, 4; Durham, 1.6; Orange, 9 (state median, 14 percent).

Percentage of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren: Wake, 27; Durham, 57; Orange, estimate not available (state median, 52 percent).

Mass transit advocates have a lot of work to do: 79 percent of those surveyed in Wake County drove alone to work; in Durham, it was 74 percent and in Orange, 68 percent (state median, 80 percent).

Those using public transportation (excluding taxis) to work: 1.3 percent in Wake, 2.5 percent in Durham and 6 percent in Orange (state median, 1.1 percent).

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Council pushes vote on Know's fate to Oct. 5

Posted by on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 12:15 AM

To fund or not to fund?

Durham's city council still hasn't decided.

After two hours of deliberation Monday night, some council members said they still had too many questions to decide whether to help pay for the revitalization of 2520 Fayetteville Street, a controversial decision that could displace the Know Book Store, the building's current tenant.

The council will revisit the issue at its next meeting Oct. 5 -- the night before two incumbent council members, Howard Clement and Cora Cole-McFadden, face challengers in a municipal primary.

The Know, a restaurant and cultural center, has called the Fayetteville Street building home for 19 years. But the property's owner, Mozella McLaughlin, applied for a $175,000 city grant to renovate the building and re-open as a jazz and cultural center. She would add more than $400,000 of her own funds for the project. Legally, McLaughlin has every right to do with her property what she wants.

But supporters of the Know Book Store, which is owned by Bruce Bridges, say McLaughlin's plans will displace the store and attempt to recreate what Bridges has already achieved -- a meeting place for thinkers, activists, musicians and other groups.

Though McLaughlin has invited Bridges to be a part of the new, renovated building, the parties seem unable to reach a compromise, even after a four-hour negotiation just days ago.

Read all the developments in Wednesday's Indy.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Judge Jim Hardin is "special" no longer

Posted by on Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 4:49 PM

Durham County Superior Court Judge A. Leon Stanback is retiring, and Gov. Bev Perdue is giving his post to Jim Hardin, already serving as a "special" Superior Court judge. Hardin will always be remembered as the district attorney in the Michael Peterson murder case. (And as the one who'd left office by the time the Duke lacrosse case came along.)

From Perdue's press office:

Gov. Bev Perdue today appointed Special Superior Court Judge James (Jim) E. Hardin Jr. as a Resident Superior Court Judge for the 14B Judicial District covering Durham County.  Hardin will fill the unexpired term created by the resignation of Judge A. Leon Stanback on Sept. 1, 2009 after serving 20 years on the bench.

"Jim Hardin's nearly two decades as a prosecutor and two terms as a Special Superior Court Judge has prepared him to accept the responsibilities of a Resident Superior Court Judge," Perdue said.  "I am confident that he will serve the citizens of Durham County well.”

Hardin has worked in various capacities in the Office of the District Attorney for the 14th Prosecutorial District for almost 20 years, including 11 years as District Attorney.  He currently serves in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, as Commander of the 12th Legal Support Organization of the United States Army Reserve, holding the rank of colonel. He is active in numerous civic organizations in his community.

Hardin received his undergraduate degree from Duke University in 1979 and his law degree from Mercer University in 1983.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

UNC's Youth for Western Civilization loses another faculty sponsor after Elliot Cramer steps down

Posted by on Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 9:50 AM

H/T to The Daily Tarheel, which reported yesterday that Elliot Cramer has stepped down as the faculty adviser of the ultra-right wing group, Youth for Western Civilization, per UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp's request. Cramer has frequently written letters to the Indy; we have printed one about his opposing the Racial Justice Act and  another about free speech and YWC, in which he states he offered to be the group's faculty sponsor.

YWC has had a hard time keeping a faculty sponsor. UNC physics and astronomy professor Chris Clemens resigned as its sponsor earlier this summer. In an April interview with the Indy, Clemens admitted to not have read the group's national charter before offering to the sponsor. He told the Indy he "hesitated at first," due to Matheson's focus on immigration, before sponsoring the group to foster a "diversity of opinion."

Read the Indy's coverage of YWC, including an interview with its UNC chapter president, Riley Matheson.

Here's our coverage of the Tom Tancredo speech: "Youth for Western Civilization brings Tom Tancredo to UNC" and "At UNC, student protesters crash Tom Tancredo's party"

Related coverage: "Free speech zones, police crackdowns threaten to muzzle debate" and "Defining the line between free speech and hate speech."

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Community college board OKs admission for undocumented immigrants

Posted by on Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 3:02 PM

The State Board of Community Colleges voted 16-1 to approve an admissions policy to allow undocumented immigrants to attend North Carolina community colleges. However, until the policy goes through the administrative rules process, which could take up to a year, the current admissions standard of not admitting undocumented immigrants, which went into effective May 2008, remains in place.

These prospective students must meet three criteria:

Must be a graduate of a U.S. high school

Must pay out-of-state tuition, totaling $7,700 per academic year

May not displace a North Carolina or U.S. resident from a class or program

Read Community College president R. Scott Ralls' statement (288kb pdf). r-scott-ralls1 The portion about undocumented immigrants begins on page 2.

House Minority Leader Paul Stam (R-Apex) countered the vote with his own statement, available here (128kb pdf): paulstam

See the Indy's previous coverage of the issue "NC colleges can admit illegal immigrants, Homeland Security tells AG," and "Door to state's community colleges shuts on illegal immigrants."

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Monday, September 7, 2009

The 8th terrorist? Or FBI poppycock? The Guardian (UK) adds to the mystery.

Posted by on Mon, Sep 7, 2009 at 3:38 PM

The case against Daniel Boyd and the other Wake County Muslims indicted on terrorism charges by a federal grand jury in Raleigh may turn on what the eighth defendant, who's still at large, has been up to in Pakistan. There's some new reporting on that angle in an excellent overview of the case published last week by the the Guardian, a leading newspaper in Great Britain.

Since the Guardian's piece appeared, the eighth man, Jude Kenan Mohammad, failed to appear for a scheduled September 5 court date in Pakistan on minor charges, according to ABC News.

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