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Monday, April 26, 2010

NC Women United and partner legislators issue 2009 legislative report card, highlight priorities for coming short NCGA session

Posted by on Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 3:02 PM

NC Women United and several local legislators held a press conference today to address the 16 bills the community group supported during last year's long session of the N.C. General Assembly, and how those bills fared.

NCWU, which is a coalition of organizations that advocate for and serve women, issued its 2009 legislative report card that highlights the 16 bills that promote political, social and economic equality for women, from laws addressing domestic violence to health care access.

Of the 16 bills and budget items NCWU supported, eight passed, including the Healthy Youth Act that provides medically-accurate sex education to all public schools students in 7th through 9th grade, said Rep. Susan Fisher, (D-Buncombe). Additionally, legislators passed the School Violence Prevention Act (better known as the "bullying bill") last year.

But six items that NCWU backed are still pending and could be revisited during the upcoming short session of the NCGA, which convenes mid May.

Among them is the Public Municipal Campaigns bill (H120) that could resurge in the Senate after passing the N.C. House last year. Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) attended the NCWU event and stated his support for the bill, which would allow cities and towns to fund public elections, instead of allowing candidates to gather predominantly private contributions, as is the traditional process.

Currently, Chapel Hill is the only town to have public municipal elections, but Raleigh, Durham and other N.C. cities are in support. Read a recent Indy story about public financing >>

"Money is a corrupting factor in politics," Martin said. "Money is also a barrier to entry in politics." Martin said the pending legislation is even more relevant and timely given the recent Supreme Court ruling favoring Citizens United, which found the government cannot limit independent corporate spending on publicity for or against federal election candidates.

"The recent Supreme Court decisions puts us further at risk for becoming an oligarchy," Martin said.

Martin called the bill (H120) "first aid" to the influence of campaign contributions.

"In the end, the choice comes down to whether you want special interests to own elections, or the public to own elections," he said.

In addition to pushing these changes to campaign finance, NCWU and legislators at the event discussed a pending law that would establish a state commission on human trafficking (S353).

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Inconsequential news item of the day: What the Obamas ate for lunch in Asheville

Posted by on Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 3:56 PM

One of the few occasions in which mixing pork and politics is a good thing: The POTUS and FLOTUS had ribs, greens, baked beans, corn pudding, mac 'n' cheese, cornbread and sweet tea for lunch today at 12 Bones Smokehouse in Asheville,
according to Jonathan Walczak, a reporter with the Asheville Citizen-Times, who is covering the Obamas' visit to the mountain town today.

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    Where, what the prez and first lady ate while in Asheville

Chapel Hill behaves like deer in headlights on bowhunting issue

Posted by on Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 2:26 PM

CHAPEL HILL — Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt stopped on his way to the bathroom at Town Hall on Monday to thank a young girl for voicing her opinion on the local deer population.

"Thank you for coming tonight," he said, hunched over.

"I'm 5, and I know you don't kill deer," Daisy Mozgala said.

"Please don't kill Bambi," her mother, Debbie Mozgala, pleaded.

white-tailed-deer__8_.jpg

Kleinschmidt gave a helpless, paralyzed look; fitting for a night spent more on emotion than fact.

Earlier in the evening the Mozgalas spoke at the public forum on a "Potential Urban Deer Hunt inside Chapel Hill's Corporate Limits,” at which Mozgala pointed to her daughter's brown hair.

"She may blend in and be mistaken for game," Mozgala said.

Hyperbolic or sensational examples — like the woman waving a plush, stuffed tick above her head and telling the audience that it could "get into your heart and brains" or the resident who claims to have “a deer superhighway in my backyard” — and personal gardening and recreational preferences won the night’s debate over whether to allow bow hunting of deer inside the town limits.

Despite three hours of testimony from more than 20 residents and experts, the council did essentially nothing. They passed a resolution asking town staff to determine the process for conducting a deer census, to analyze recent losses of vegetation and to present a range of options to cull the herd.

It was clear to everyone, except Councilwoman Laurin Easthom, who doesn't want to know anything more about bowhunting, that they lacked data to make a decision.

Continue reading…

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Right-wing robocalls target Center for Responsible Lending

Posted by on Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 9:56 AM

At 8:47 p.m. yesterday, I received a robocall at my home from the N.C. chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative "free market" group that is among those leading the Tea Party movement.

I transcribed the text, which targets the Center for Responsible Lending with some overreaching, incendiary language. The Center, based in Durham, is known for fighting for consumer protection from payday lenders and other abusive financial practices. The text says "Responsive" Lending, but it is actually "Responsible."
Here's the text:
"The Wall Street fat cats have reached into North Carolina with their dirty money and its time for us to say no.
Fact: The Center for Responsive Lending took $15 million from a Wall Street hedge fund manager that is being investigated by feds.
Fact: The former head of Responsive Lending is now a bureacrat in the Obama administration and is
poised to be named head of a regulatory agency any day now
It's time to connect the dots in the ACORN-like scam and let these con men know what you think about their ethics.
AFP will be taking this information to the streets of Durham on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. [in front of the Center for Responsive Lending].
Please join our free market activists in protesting corruption in our financial system that
rewards obama’s friends at our expense.
This is an urgent protest.
This call is paid for by Americans for Prosperity, North Carolina chapter, on the web at afp-nc.org"

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    Americans for Prosperity, Center for Responsible Lending

Monday, April 19, 2010

Duke College Republicans impeach leader citing unbecoming conduct; impeached chairman says it's because he's gay

Posted by on Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 11:15 AM

A logo from the Duke College Republicans website.
  • A logo from the Duke College Republicans website.

Both The Chronicle at Duke and the Daily Tar Heel are reporting that Justin Robinette, a junior at Duke University and former chairman of the Duke College Republicans, was ousted last week from his position.

Members of the organization signed articles of impeachment stating Robinette was voted out because of a neglect of certain duties, attempts to fix elections and force members of the group out, along with other allegations. Robinette contends that some of the allegations refer to incidents in the past, prior to his recent re-election to the post of chairman in February and confirmation of that election in March. He and his supporters say he was pushed out after members of the group learned he is a homosexual.

News of the controversy already has spread this morning to national news outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Education.

RobinetteGrievances.pdf

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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Children’s University closes after money troubles, state investigations

Posted by on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 2:29 PM

By Joe Schwartz and Lisa Sorg


This story was updated at 4:51 p.m.
The owner of a five-star Chapel Hill preschool allegedly owes teachers and parents thousands of dollars in pay and tuition after abruptly closing the facility March 18—and police suspect she has left the state.

Lisa McEntyre, owner of the Children’s University, closed the school after a series of investigations by the N.C. Employment Security Commission and the state Division of Child Development. The Orange County Sheriff's Department has also issued a criminal summons for her arrest on worthless check charges.

"This lady has dodged everything," said Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass, adding deputies are monitoring McEntyre's home.

According to Orange County court documents, McEntyre, who has a history of financial and credit problems, had not paid teachers since at least early February—even though parents continued to pay tuition, some several months in advance.

The school at 1702 Legion Road enrolled about 70 children ranging from 1 to 5 years old.
Sharon Phillips, a teacher at Children’s University for more than two years, is owed $5,553, according to court documents. The last check she received was on Feb. 5; a previous check for more than $1,000 had bounced.

“It was nerve-wracking on payday,” said Phillips, who earned $16 an hour. “You thought that maybe there was no money in the [McEntryre’s] account.”

Phillips said that some teachers received checks written on BB&T bank accounts; others, on Bank of America accounts.

Six teachers have filed suit in small claims court; however, they told the Indy all the teachers were shorted pay, many of whom could not afford to sue. In addition, several Latino immigrants worked as staff members at the preschool. They reportedly were not paid.

At the end of February, several teachers said that McEntyre told them a meeting that she would pay them half the money she owed them, and the balance on March 1. However, that money was never paid.
“We were all standing around and waiting for paychecks,” said Sadie Dula, who is owed nearly $3,000. “She always paid us in a white envelope. She gave the envelopes to a co-worker and said ‘Pass this out, I’m leaving for a doctor’s appointment.’ I saw the paperwork but there was no paycheck. No one had paychecks and she was gone.”

Continue reading…

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Memorial service for civil rights lawyer Dan Pollitt to be held Sunday at UNC

Posted by on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 5:01 PM

Dan Pollitt and his wife, N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, with President Barack Obama at a campaign event.
  • Dan Pollitt and his wife, N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, with President Barack Obama at a campaign event.

The family of Dan Pollitt and UNC-Chapel Hill will hold a memorial service in his honor at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill. Pollitt had been a law professor at UNC since 1957 and was a renowned supporter of civil and labor rights and free speech. Read more about his career >>

Pollitt died March 5 at the age of 88. He is survived by his wife, state Senator Ellie Kinnaird, three children, Dan, Phoebe and Susan, and several grandchildren.

Pollitt was also a contributor to the Indy. Read his columns >>

The memorial is open to the public. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Dan Pollitt Fellowship at the UNC Law School, which supports summer clerkships for law students to work in the area of social justice. Donations may be sent to the School of Law Annex, 101 E. Weaver St, Ste 245 Carrboro, NC 27510 ATTN: Brandon Wright (919) 962-6718.

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Durham gets Google endorsement from W.Va. mayor

Posted by on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Durham just got another small push in its efforts to bring Google's high-speed Internet access project to the Bull City—the endorsement of the mayor of Morgantown, W.Va., whose home team lost to the Duke Blue Devils in the semifinals for the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.

When it became apparent that Duke's men's basketball team was going to meet the West Virginia Mountaineers on April 3, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Morgantown Mayor Bill Byrne made a friendly wager. The mayor of the losing team's hometown had to write an endorsement bolstering the other town's application for the Google project.

Well, Duke trounced West Virginia, winning 78 to 57 (and of course, went on to win the national title). As a result of the loss, Byrne wrote a humbled and humorous letter of support for Durham's application to Google on April 7, saying:

"With a heavy heart, I take pen to hand (actually finger to key board) and herein express the City of Morgantown's enthusiastic endorsement of Durham's Google application to be selected as ONE of hopefully SEVERAL (to include Morgantown) communities to participate in Google's broadband experiments."
Read the full letter here >>

Will the endorsements help Durham's chances? We can only wait to find out. Google is supposed to announce its test communities by the end of the year.

Read more about Durham's bid for Google fiber, and the Google project.

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Coal companies play "definitions game" with UNC

Posted by on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 12:02 AM

UNC leaders acknowledged today that some of the coal they use at the campus Cogeneration Plant comes from mountain blasting, but said it would take $1 million per year to stop it.

The news comes as UNC places orders for new coal contracts, effective July 1.

Matt Wasson, director of programs for Appalachian Voices, told the Energy Task Force that UNC coal suppliers Red River Company and Hills Fuels Company engage in mountaintop removal, and showed members pictures of devastated mountains with Google Earth.

He said coal companies play a “definitions game” preferring to call the practice, “a variety of things from contour to area mining to steep slope to ridge top mining.”

“All of these are different forms of mining, but they involve blowing up mountains and dumping waste into the valleys down below,” Wasson said.

Asked to respond to the presentation, UNC Energy Services Director Ray DuBose said he didn’t learn anything new.

“I’m not sure that we really need to respond to these particular issues because our business plan is public and that’s to get off of coal,” he said, referencing the Climate Action Plan and the campus commitment to go carbon neutral by 2050. “Restricting the suppliers that can bid our contracts would increase costs. We estimate that to be in excess of $1 million a year.”

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Durham Planning Commission gives 751 South rezoning, digital billboards the thumbs down

Posted by on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 9:12 PM

This post was updated Wed., April 14 with a few more details and quotes.
(To read about billboards, click on the jump.)

The Durham Planning Commission voted 11 to 1 Tuesday night against plans that would allow Southern Durham Development to build a large mixed-use development with as many as 1,300 residences off N.C. 751 in southern Durham. The Rev. Melvin Whitley cast the only vote supporting the developer's controversial plans to build 751 South, the massive retail and housing community near Jordan Lake.

"I cannot vote against job creation," Whitley said shortly before he cast his vote. "I will not cast a vote against economic development when my community is suffering."

But as an advisory board to city and county elected leaders, the Commission's vote is strictly informative and symbolic. It doesn't halt or approve the developer's application to rezone the land. The real decision on whether to rezone 167 acres owned by Southern Durham Development will come in about two months when the Board of County Commissioners considers the case. (No date was set as of press time.)

The Planning Commission discussed the vote for three hours, hearing from three proponents of the development and 11 opponents. Among their concerns, opponents cited the fact that the site to be developed overlaps with a natural area that experts with the N.C. Natural Heritage Program say hosts several important plant and animal species. Supporters of the project say 751 South is a pedestrian-friendly community that will bring jobs, property tax revenue to the city and county and $6 million in road improvements.

Prior to the Planning Commission's consideration of the matter on Tuesday night, Durham's planning staff looked at Southern Durham Development's request to have the land rezoned. Although the developer's initial plans meet most regulations and ordinances, the staff found that the land to be developed does not leave enough of a buffer between untouched land that hosts important flora and fauna. During heavy rains and managed flooding, the area is covered with water and wildlife needs a sufficient area to move to higher, dry land.

Continue reading…

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