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Friday, December 11, 2009

Jordan Lake rezoning petitioners sue Durham County over October vote

Posted by on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 5:33 PM

Four property owners who signed a petition this fall to protest the rezoning of the protective boundary around the portion of Jordan Lake in Durham County filed a lawsuit late Friday against Durham County officials.

Attorney Jim Conner of the Ragsdale Liggett firm in Raleigh filed the complaint just after 4 p.m. Friday on behalf of Milagros Napoli and Jeffrey Napoli, the Kendrick Estates Investment Corporation, as well as Kristen Corbell. All own property in the area around Jordan Lake to be rezoned.

The parties filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment and injunction, asking a judge to look at the evidence surrounding the petition and rule that the 3-2 vote Durham County Commissioners took in October meant that the rezoning didn't pass, as the petition was valid, Conner said. A valid petition would have required a "supermajority," or 4-1 vote to pass, instead of the simple majority vote of 3-2.

"We think the protest petition is clearly valid," Conner said. "The courts have already said in other cases that if there’s a valid petition and there’s a vote that’s not a three-quarters vote, then the rezoning doesn’t pass."

The county has 30 days to file an answer to the lawsuit, which named Durham County and the Durham County Commissioners as defendants. Although the Southern Environmental Law Center and Haw River Assembly worked to file the initial protest petition, neither is party to the lawsuit.

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Federal stimulus dollars: Who got what in Orange County

Posted by on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 3:17 PM

UNC received more than 78 percent of Orange County’s federal stimulus money—$92 million of the total $117.9 million, according to Indy analysis of data released today by ProPublica, an investigative journalism nonprofit organization based in New York city.

The total county funding equals $932 per resident.

To see the full list, click on the ProPublica link.

Most of UNC’s stimulus grants, contracts and loans came through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

NIH money went to research on salivary gland disease, autism behaviors, melanoma, Alzheimer’s, opiate addiction, genetic disorders and HIV. The Department of Energy funded further study of solar fuels, and the NSF awarded money to analyze the development of African American English and its Role in School Achievement.

Other recipients include

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Head Start program: $190,000

Chapel Hill energy efficiency initiatives: $50,000

Capital funding for Chapel Hill public housing: $732,000

Orange County Sheriff's Department justice assistance grants: $238,000

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Federal stimulus dollars: Who got what in Chatham County

Posted by on Fri, Dec 11, 2009 at 12:49 PM

ProPublica, the investigative nonprofit based in New York City, has compiled an exhaustive accounting of the federal stimulus money for every county in the U.S.

Of the $7.4 billion allocated to North Carolina, Chatham County received $4.9 million in grants, loans and contracts, or an average of $79 for each of the county's 63,077 residents.

Here are some of the beneficiaries. Click here for a complete list. We'll be updating other Triangle counties throughout the day.

FlyLeaf Books which has opened in Chapel Hill on Airport Boulevard: $126,000 Small Business Administration loan

Starrlight Mead, a honey winery opening in Saxapahaw in nearby Alamance County: $55,000 SBA loan

Town of Pittsboro: $607,500 to build a fire station

Chatham County Sheriff’s Office: $44,746 K9 Field Team Supervisor

Silk Hope Ruritan Club: $950,000 for rural housing

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lavonia Allison elected to 7th term as chair of Durham Committee

Posted by on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 at 9:14 PM

Lavonia Allison, the longtime chairwoman of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, was re-elected Thursday night for her seventh two-year term, despite a surge of support for a new nominee, the Rev. Melvin Whitley.

Although more than 200 people showed up to White Rock Baptist Church in Durham to vote, only 25 were deemed eligible to cast ballots, due to an attendance rule many said they felt was incorrect, unfair or both. The result was a 15-to-3 finish in favor of Allison, who declined to comment to the Indy after her victory. (It was unclear what happened with the remaining 7 voters.) Most attendants said they had heard of previous voting rules that only required participants in the election of a chairperson to be a black resident of Durham.

Allison's challenger, the Rev. Melvin Whitley, had the notable support of City Council members Cora Cole-McFadden and Howard Clement. But neither council member was able to vote.

"I truly believe in the African American community that they love democracy," Whitley said. "This organization was built on democracy. ... Democracy died tonight."

To vote, members had to be considered "active," explained Democratic state Sen. Floyd McKissick, who, despite attending 90 percent of the committee's meetings, was not allowed to cast a ballot, he said. Attendance rules required members to attend a certain number of meetings per quarter of the calendar year, he said, adding that this requirement was established in 2004.

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Durham Committee election tonight at White Rock Baptist Church

Posted by on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 at 6:05 PM

Long-time members of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People (and likely lots of newcomers) will be headed to White Rock Baptist Church, 3400 Fayetteville St. in Durham, shortly for the election of a chairperson for the 74-year-old organization.

Local leaders and bloggers have been busy looking forward to tonight, when the Rev. Melvin Whitley challenges 12-year incumbent Lavonia Allison for the position. Read the Indy story >>

The faceoff certainly has people talking (a lot more than they were about Durham's fall municipal election). Here are some takes by people we interviewed, but who didn't make it into Wednesday's story:

"I'm supporting change for the Committee. I'd  be comfortable with anyone but Lavonia." — Chuck Watts, attorney and recent addition to the N.C. Board of Transportation

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Seven applicants make case for Strom seat

Posted by on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 10:15 PM

CHAPEL HILL — As Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ward discussed the particulars of the time limit —what the different colored lights meant, etc. — during Monday night's special Chapel HIll Town Council meeting, Jason Baker, who moderated the Sierra Club's municipal election forum, remarked, "This is quickly becoming as much fun as your forums."

Though Baker was one of seven candidates vying for office, each having applied to fill the remaining two years of resigned Councilman Bill Strom's seat, the meeting set for each of them to make their case took on a distinctly non-forum tone.

Two candidates, including Baker, advocated against themselves. One told his life story. Another said he was conflicted about leaving his name in the applicant pool. 

Each of them — Baker, Donna Bell, Joe Capowski, H. Brock Page, Matt Pohlman, Will Raymond and Aaron Shah — had seven minutes to make their case. Some pointed to experience on boards and committees, some to November election totals, and others to racial diversity. The council plans to make its appointment Monday night.

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Durham offers discount card to residents to lower prescription drug costs

Posted by on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 3:29 PM

The City of Durham announced today a new discount program that could help reduce out-of-pocket costs for city residents whose prescriptions aren't covered by their health insurance.

Any city resident can pick up a free discount card that will give an average savings of 20 percent of prescription charges at a number of pharmacies and drug stores nationwide, according to a city news release. Users aren't required to register. The discount card may be printed online or picked up on the first floor of Durham City Hall, 101 City Hall Plaza downtown, and there are no limits on how many times the card may be used.

More information >>

The discount card is part of a national program administered by CVS Caremark and made available to the City of Durham through its partnership with the National League of Cities, the release said.

Residents with questions may call 1-800-620-1749 or visit the program's Web site to check drug prices and participating pharmacies.

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Kleinschmidt aide transitions into post

Posted by on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 11:16 AM

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says he sees a lot of Carlo Robustelli in Mark McCurry, the man he's chosen to serve as his aide.

The two had the same double major, political science and philosophy, at UNC. McCurry is 27. Robustelli was 25 when he started as former Mayor Kevin Foy's aide in July 2007.

"I want him to do what Carlo did, which is be the mayor's assistant, but also be available to the to the council," Kleinschmidt said. "I want to be reminded of Carlo through Mark in those other ways, too."

McCurry is learning how to do that, shadowing Robustelli for a couple days a week until he takes the reins on New Year's Day and puts his own stamp on the office.

"(Carlo) has been incredibly gracious and seems like a great asset," said McCurry, who worked with Kleinschmidt as a legal assistant at the Center for Death Penalty litigation before running his election campaign.

Robustelli said he's sharing mechanics, but not specifics.

 "He's going to have to manage his own path, create his own way," he said. "He and Mark (Kleinschimdt) will come to figure out how you fit in with the style of boss."

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Orange plans to ship its trash to Durham

Posted by on Tue, Dec 8, 2009 at 5:08 PM

Community members in the Bingham Township and the Rogers Road neighborhood celebrated Monday night as the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted 6-1 last night to send its trash to Durham.

The vote brought to an end a two-year process in which residents of both communities had to stave off pushes to build a waste transfer station in their backyards. Durham's waste transfer station has enough capacity to include Orange, though a final agreement is yet to be hammered out.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Chapel Hill swears in new council, mayor

Posted by on Mon, Dec 7, 2009 at 10:42 PM

Chapel Hill made it official tonight, swearing in a new mayor and two new council members and adding another term for two more.

Mark Kleinschmidt, Gene Pease, Penny Rich, Laurin Easthom and Ed Harrison took their seats at Town Hall amid a room of community activists, allies, campaigners, funders, family, friends, neighboring politicians, the police chief, the fire chief and Mama Dip (Mildred Council).

The ceremony even had an intermission, with the first part of the meeting run by the 2007-09 council during which those leaving office offered a farewell. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ward presided for that portion as now former Mayor Kevin Foy was ill at home.

"Mayor, I hope you're doing well. We miss you," he said.

Carlo Robustelli, the mayoral aide, read a speech in Foy's stead. 

"I am honored to have been given the chance to serve as Chapel Hill's mayor," the statement read. "Together with the fine elected people and staff and with the ideas of participation of citizen, we have achieved a lot."

Councilman Jim Merritt, who was appointed to fill the vacancy left by the late Bill Thorpe and who did not win re-election, said he'd continue to serve as a advocate for the town. 

After a few kind words were exchanged, the elected played musical chairs, Kleinschmidt moving to the center, Sally Greene and Ed Harrison moving two seats to the left (from the audience). New council members Gene Pease and Penny Rich slotted in on the far right. Merritt's physical seat now is empty, though it soon will be filled by whomever is appointed to fulfill Bill Strom's term.

Those elected put their hands on the Bible, flanked by spouses, children and parents, swore to uphold the laws of the nation and state and offered thanks to all.

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