Several local politicos waited until the last minute to throw their names into the hat in Durham's local and state elections. Candidates had until noon today to declare their intentions to run.
Several previously uncontested races now boast challengers, and in three offices—Durham District Attorney, Clerk of Court and N.C. House District 29—incumbent Democrats Tracey Cline, Archie Smith and Rep. Larry Hall face no challengers.
The rundown of today's filings:
For the full list, visit the Durham Board of Elections Web site.
Michael Vick, the NFL player convicted in 2007 for running an illegal dogfighting ring in Virginia, is speaking to a group of Durham students this morning at New Horizons Academy of Excellence on Hunt Street.
Vick, who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, was sentenced to 23 months in prison for fighting and inhumanely killing pit bulls in the dogfighting ring. He has held other speaking events and made public apologies for his treatment of animals. He was scheduled to begin an assembly at New Horizons at 10 a.m. today.
New Horizons Academy of Excellence is an independent school that provides ongoing education and job training to middle and high school age students who have been long-term suspended, expelled, or have dropped out of Durham Public Schools.
Randall "Randy" Stewart, of Fox Run Court in Durham, filed Friday morning to challenge 10-term incumbent Rep. Paul Luebke for his seat in the state legislature. Stewart is the second Republican candidate to file for the N.C. House District 30 seat, prompting a primary race with newcomer Jason Chambers. Chambers filed late Thursday.
Mike Ashe, director of Durham's Board of Elections, says this is the first Republican primary in Durham for N.C. House, at least in recent memory. Durham is a county where Democrats continue to make up a majority.
Candidates may file for office until noon today.
A Republican candidate filed Thursday afternoon to challenge state Rep. Paul Luebke in the race for N.C. House District 30, which represents Durham County. Luebke, a Democrat, has served 10 terms in the state legislature.
Jason Chambers, of 7705 Guess Road in Hillsborough, entered the race just before 5 p.m. His address, which is in Durham County, appears to be affiliated with a tax-exempt fraternal organization known as Woodmen of the World Life Insurance. UPDATE - Chambers called to let us know he has lived in Durham County his whole life and has been an avid political follower for several years. He is in his mid-20s.
Candidate filings are open until noon tomorrow.
Members of the NAACP stood on the front lawn of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools administration building Thursday morning, calling a plan to add new honors courses a harbinger of resegregation.
"We will not stand for the resegregation of our schools," Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Chapter President Michelle Cotton Laws said, standing behind a banner reading "the struggle continues" and flanked by parents and activists both black and white. "Separate is not equal."
Earlier this month the school board voted to add six honors courses in science and social studies, following four meetings and a public hearing.
The vote split 4-3, with the three black members opposed. The NAACP says adding honors courses without first addressing the achievement gap that cuts along race and class lines only heightens the disparity in local classrooms.
Sidewalks may not seem like something to get excited about, but for residents along northeast U.S. 15-501, the installation of a 5-foot sidewalk from north of Manns Chapel Road to just south of the Orange County line is a very positive event.
Last spring, the County received $245,255 in federal stimulus funds from the Durham-Chapel-Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, and has been working on the engineer/design phase of the project since.
The sidewalk installation officially broke ground today, and is being implemented by White Oak Construction Corporation, based in New Hill, with a contract end-date of June 15.
There are no sidewalks on U.S. 15-501 heading south of the Orange County line. Foot traffic along the four-lane highway at the congested intersection of U.S. 15-501 and Manns Chapel Road has increased in the past five years with the addition of a Chapel Hill Transit Park & Ride lot. which forces many commuters traversing to the bus stop to walk along the highway in grass and mud.
The mile-long sidewalk will connect the Cole Park shopping center and the UNC Park & Ride Lot at Old Lystra Road. According to Chatham County planner Benjamin Howell, “All businesses will remain open during the construction process and will have at least one entry point open for customers at all times.” County residents can hope that this one sidewalk will spawn additional sidewalks along the U.S. 15-501 corridor, encouraging walkability and connecting neighbor-to-neighbor, county-to-county.
From Correspondent Rebekah Cowell, cross-posted from the Indy's Scan blog:
In a packed Durham City Hall Committee Room early this morning, the Durham County Board of Adjustment voted unanimously in favor of issuing a special-use permit to The Broad Street Cafe.
For the past four years, Broad Street has operated as a nightclub in a district that is zoned so that such a special-use permit is necessary to host music after 10 p.m. Less than one year after the first noise complaint was filed by Clarendon Street neighbor Waldo Fenner, who was not present at this morning’s hearing, Broad Street officially received the green light on amping up their regional music bookings in a space that musicians and business owners says is vital to Durham’s art scene.
“Broad Street Cafe is important for more than just music,” says Melissa Thomas, founder of the Durham-based indie label 307 Knox Records. “It provides a great venue space for music, festivals and family events, as well as a place to eat for locals and visitors. This hearing just showed us today how much we all have built in Durham over the past five-plus years.”
Paul Brock, one of four Broad Street owners, says he’s relieved to finally get the permit. “I was very impressed with the board. They were gracious to us, and they asked very smart questions and got a feel for what we are doing,” explains Brock.
The U.S. Department of Energy is out with an inspector general's report today on the "progress" of the Obama Administration's program for weatherizing low-income homes -- and creating much-needed jobs in the bargain. The New York Times' summary: It has "borne little fruit" after a year.
So little, in fact, that the IG called it "alarming," the Times says:
New York State, for example, had a goal of weatherizing 45,400 units over three years but by December had accomplished only 280, a completion rate of 0.62 percent, the report found. One reason was a hiring freeze in New York City.
Progress in Pennsylvania, which weatherized 1.28 percent of the houses and apartments it had intended to, was slowed by a deadlock over the state budget, the report said. Illinois wanted to hire 21 workers to oversee nearly work on 27,000 homes; it hired none because of a spending freeze, and completed only 331, or 1.23 percent of its three-year target.
Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Texas and Wyoming had not weatherized any units by Feb. 16, the report said.
But what about North Carolina, you ask? The answer is on page 3 of the report. North Carolina planned to weatherize 22,203 units. So far, it's done 197 -- or less than 1 percent.
But in North Carolina's defense, the report continues:
Although North Carolina's original state plan had been approved by the Department in June 2009, the State had to submit an amended plan, including budget information, through its Department of Commerce. The amended state plan was ultimately not approved by the Department of Energy until November 2009. Accordingly, North Carolina did not have access to its allocation for the Weatherization Program until that time.
Wasn't this supposed to be the simplest of programs for the new Administration -- a program that would pay its way both in energy savings and job skills learned by the workers -- that it was cinch to be successful?
Michael Page, chairman of the Durham Board of County Commissioners, summarized the past year's accomplishments in his State of the County address Monday night. In his 30-minute speech, Page focused on the progress the county has made on new buildings and other capital projects, such as the opening of the Holton Career and Resource Center and the construction of the county's Human Services Complex downtown, which will include a new courthouse.
Page also lauded several county departments for winning recognition from professional organizations, and pointed to the county's new efforts to improve information and communication to the public, including the use of social media platforms Twitter and Facebook.
Page mentioned only briefly some challenges the county has faced in the past year due reduced tax revenue and budget cuts, but pointed out that the county didn't have to raise taxes or cut any jobs. He also touched on the budget gap the county will face when it begins considering the 2011-12 budget in the coming weeks.
"Until a full recovery is evident, we will do everything in our power to continue to deliver the services most critical to our residents," Page said. "Know that we will tighten our belts, we will roll up our sleeves and we will work to provide the best service level possible for our citizens. ... At the end of the day, I remain confident that we will stay true to the mission and to the values that keep Durham County a wonderful place to work and a wonderful place to live and a wonderful place to do business."
Obama's health care proposal, released in advance of Thursday's big TV show summit with the Republicans, omits the public option (which, in case you've forgotten, and the President hopes you have, was included in the House-passed bill). An 11-page summary of the Obamacare plan is here.