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Friday, May 14, 2010

Police arrest one, seek second man in shooting of police chief's car

Posted by on Fri, May 14, 2010 at 5:41 PM

Tony Person
  • Tony Person

Lebron Brown
  • Lebron Brown

Durham police have charged one man in the April 29 shooting at South Roxboro and Dillard streets that injured a man and left Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez with a hole in the windshield of his unmarked car.

Lopez happened to be driving near the scene of an apparent shootout on Roxboro Street between the occupants of two vehicles. One shot struck the victim, whose condition is unknown. Lopez was not injured.

According to an update issued late Friday:

Police tracked down one suspect, Lebron “Gutta” Brown, 21, of Fidelity Drive, in Lynn, Mass., on Tuesday. He was arrested by police there after being stopped in an unrelated incident and led police there on a short chase. Lynn police charged him with disorderly conduct, breaking and entering, trespassing, possession of marijuana, cocaine and heroin and assault on a law enforcement officer, in addition to Durham's charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a government official and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. He is awaiting extradition to North Carolina.

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A look at local legislation for the short session

Posted by on Fri, May 14, 2010 at 2:30 PM

If you haven't yet read the Indy's preview of this year's legislative short session, visit the story to learn about the challenges with this year's budget and the cuts that will affect schools, corrections and other important state and local services.

We wanted to include information about local legislation, but we ran out of room. In Durham, city and county leaders want tougher penalties on witness intimidation and to rewrite somewhat ambiguous guidelines on development protest petitions that last year resulted in a lawsuit against the county.

Tougher charges in witness intimidation

The week before a prominent armed robbery trial in 2008, Assistant District Attorney Stormy Ellis has some concerns that the man she was prosecuting, Loisie Cooper, had been harassing his victim not to testify in court. To protect the victim, Ellis asked a judge to revoke the suspect’s bond.

The judge denied her request. And just days before the trial was to begin, a brutal beating sent the victim and key witness to the hospital. Despite his injuries, he still showed up, walking with a cane, to testify and help convict Cooper. But not everyone is that courageous.

As the prosecutor tasked with trying gang-related cases, Ellis said she sees various forms of witness intimidation and harassment all to frequently, especially in gang and domestic violence cases.

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A Great Unleashing in Carrboro

Posted by on Fri, May 14, 2010 at 10:40 AM

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Chapel Hill and Carrboro are among 278 towns whose residents are working toward becoming self-sustainable without using fossil fuels, especially coal and oil.

Mimi Kelly reports for the Indy on the "Great unleashing"

Known as the Transition movement, resilience is at its core. “Resilience is a system,” Rob Hopkins who founded Transitions in England in 2005, says on YouTube, “which, when it experiences shock from outside, it doesn’t fall to pieces. It has built into it the ability to adapt and change to meet circumstances.”

Transition of Chapel Hill and Carrboro will celebrate resilience at a daylong community gathering called an “unleashing” May 15 at the Carrboro Century Center, 100 N. Greensboro St. Among the speakers is Norman L. Christensen, professor of ecology and founding dean of Duke University’s Nicholas School of Environmental Sciences & Policy.

“Our resilience is increased by the ties we have with each other, says Margaret Kromes-Lukens, founder of the Carrboro/Chapel Transitions Town. The joy of this work “comes from neighbor helping neighbor.”
Other Transition towns are working on sustainability. Santa Cruz, Calif., is establishing a sustainable water commons that helps people, for example, “to hook up your laundry washer so water will irrigate your yard.”

Sandpoint, Idaho, is running an edible, medicinal and useful native plants workshop, while Berea, Ky., has a “50 X 25” plan. By 2025 they intend to reduce energy use by 50 percent. Starting with growing their own food, weatherizing houses, installing solar panels on all buildings, increasing walking and biking, and promoting “green building initiatives.”

How Chapel Hill and Carrboro will become more sustainable is for the residents to decide. For example, would the further development of local farms be an answer to food shortages that could arise from a rapid increase in gasoline prices that could slow or stop food shipments? Other solutions could include the creation of a seed exchange, a tool cooperative or a land share program in which people with spare land offer to potential gardeners.

“We do it from a well of passion” said Kathy Shea, a Transitions steering committee member.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

DPS board could ask commissioners for $13 million to save teacher jobs, wants to cut own stipends to set example

Posted by on Thu, May 6, 2010 at 11:37 PM

Click to visit DPS budget website
  • Click to visit Durham Public Schools budget website

For more budget documents, view the Durham Public Schools budget website.

Several members of the Durham school board made it clear Thursday night they saw fit to “share in the spirit of sacrifice” when it comes to the heavy budget cuts and even layoffs that might be looming as they consider next year’s budget, taking on cuts to their own stipends and other gestures of good faith.

The board heard public comments, then decided on five matters to that will help solidify the budget package, and inevitable cuts, they’ll send to county officials next week.

First and foremost, the board approved the cuts of 24 line items (see page 34, 2010 draft budget, PDF) recommended by Interim Superintendent Hank Hurd that trim about $8.3 million from the budget.

The cuts include the elimination of 60 positions in the central services division, a section that includes everything from bus drivers to administrators. The cuts also trim the district’s software portfolio, reduce coaching stipends and eliminate stipends for teachers who take on extra duties at school, such as advising the school newspaper.

Among the other ideas the board agreed on: the possibility they’ll ask county commissioners for $13 million in additional local funding that could help restore the 237 teaching jobs that are on the chopping block due to state and county budget gaps, as well as asking the county commissioners to cut the board members’ stipends by $300 a month, which would give them $500 a month ($550 for board Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown).

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Durham Rocks, Durham Love Yourself merch available online

Posted by on Thu, May 6, 2010 at 4:50 PM

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For all those Durhamites who take great pride in the Bull City, who love equally its grit and glamour, you can still get your "Durham Rocks" and "Durham Love Yourself" stickers, tees and other merch online.

James and Michelle Lee, former purveyors of the now-defunct Untidy Museum and 305 South Anti-Mall, announced today on Durham's arts e-mail list that the items are available through Cafe Press.

This is not meant as a commercial endorsement, but to many, the initial introduction of the "Durham Love Yourself" tees and stickers years ago spurred a larger, more vocal and collective movement toward Durhamite pride, garnering a lot of attention. (And we know many of our Bull City readers wanted to know how to get their hands on them.) So file this in the "special exception" category.

And while we're on the subject of Durham-oriented clothing, check out this amusing video from Wine Authorities, who made T-shirts that say "Durham: crunchy on the outside, warm and delicious on the inside."

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Children's University owner sentenced over failure to pay state

Posted by on Thu, May 6, 2010 at 12:48 PM

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Lisa McEntyre finally showed up.

The owner of Children’s University, a five-star preschool in Chapel Hill, arrived breathless and an hour late to her criminal trial this morning in Orange County Superior Court—and a lot of people were waiting for her: Representatives from the state Employment Security Commission, the plaintiff in today’s case, whom she owes $9,400 in back payroll taxes; and eight seven teachers at the now defunct school whom she owes tens of thousands of dollars in back pay.

Read the previous Indy stories from April 21 and April 27.

When the trial ended, McEntyre was crying, the ESC was only incrementally closer to getting it money and the employees were still upset.

McEntyre was a no-show at a civil hearing last month during which several employees successfully sued her for failing to pay them earlier this year. A magistrate ruled in favor of the employees, some of whom are owed as much as $5,000. But they may never see the money because McEntyre is reportedly deeply in debt. The employees attended today because they are considering filing criminal charges against her for allegedly knowingly issuing them bad checks.

Today’s criminal case focused on the 18 months’ worth of unpaid payroll taxes and the worthless $464 check McEntyre wrote to the ESC last year. Ming Tran, the ESC investigator in the case, told the court that McEntyre wrote a $464 check as part of a payment plan the state and McEntyre agreed to—and that the check bounced.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Commissioners to hold hearing, vote on 751 Assemblage May 24; planning staff now recommends rezoning

Posted by on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 4:57 PM

Durham County Commissioners
  • Durham County Commissioners

This post was updated May 6 with links to planning department files. These and more files also may be viewed at this county website.

Durham's Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on Monday, May 24, and vote in a 167-acre rezoning case that would allow developers to build 751 South, a prominent and controversial mixed-use development. (map of development plan, PDF)

Plans for the development and the rezoning of the land have been on the table for more than two years, and environmentalists and many neighbors of the area to be developed have fought the effort at every step. Proposals to build the development, which could offer retail space and 1,300 dwellings on land off N.C. 751, have hung up on the land's proximity to Jordan Lake, and recently, its proximity to areas cited in the Durham County Inventory of Important Natural Areas, Plants and Wildlife and the state's Natural Heritage Program.

Based on the planned development's infringement on areas important for native plants and animals, the planning department last month recommended that the rezoning not be approved by county commissioners.

Additionally, members of the Durham Planning Commission voted against the rezoning 11 to 1 in their meeting April 13. (Planning Commission Comments, PDF)

But since that meeting, scientists with the state and the applicants for the rezoning, Southern Durham Development, met recently and reached compromises on areas of concern, said Amy Wolff, case planner with Durham's planning department. (letter from N.C. Natural Heritage Program to Durham planning staff, PDF)

Now, the planning staff recommends the rezoning be approved, as the developer's proposal has addressed the plan's previous inconsistency with land-use plans, in that it infringed upon areas of concern to the N.C. Natural Heritage Program. (New planning staff report, PDF)

Among the items the developers and the state were able to agree upon:

- A buffer of undisturbed land will separate the development from adjacent land representatives with the state say should be protected under the Natural Heritage Program. This varies from the 100-yard buffer representatives with the state Natural Heritage Program recommended, Wolff said.

(To view the proposed buffer, view the site development plan linked above and see the blue cross-hatched area at the top of the map. The state's recommended buffer is the lime-green dashed line, also at the top of the page.)

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DPS school board: Beyer files for runoff against incumbent Martin

Posted by on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Incumbent Steve Martin
  • Incumbent Steve Martin

Natalie Beyer
  • Natalie Beyer

Last night's runner up for school board District 4B, Natalie Beyer, has filed today with the Durham Board of Elections to request a runoff against incumbent Steve Martin. The runoff will be held Tuesday, June 22.

In order to win his seat, incumbent Martin was required to win at least 40 percent of the votes cast in the District 4B race, or the runner-up could request a rematch.

Martin earned just under 37 percent of the votes, while Beyer finished just behind with about 34 percent.

Despite serving nearly eight years on the school board already, this is really the first time Martin has experienced a competitive election. During his first two terms, he ran unopposed.

Board of Elections Deputy Director Michael Perry said Wednesday that the runoff had minimal costs to Durham taxpayers because every jurisdiction across the state already must hold a runoff election for other offices, including U.S. Senate.

Just like in the primaries and general elections, voters will have an opportunity to vote early. The Durham Board of Elections expects to announce early voting dates and times soon, Perry said. And of course, voters may show up on the runoff date, June 22, to vote on the actual day.

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Little announces dismissal of charges against him for failing to return rental property

Posted by on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 2:18 PM

Little
  • Little

Darius Little, who ran for a seat on the City Council last fall and recently has been accused of failing to return a rental television and taking on legal work without officially being a lawyer, issued a statement this morning announcing that the office of Durham's district attorney had dismissed the rental property charges against him.

Read the statement >>

A clerk of district court could not confirm the dismissal of the charges until records are returned later this afternoon. In his statement, Little said he used his name to rent a TV for a poor family, who then failed to return it.

Little still has two pending charges of obtaining property by false pretenses that will be visited in Durham district court May 18. The charges stem from accusations late last year that through his mediation and consulting business, he took money for legal services he didn't, and legally couldn't, provide.

Read the background documents from the complaint (1.6 MB) >>

In an e-mail today, Little noted that he has updated his consulting website to note that he is not a lawyer and cannot resolve legal matters for clients.

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Jacobs savors his victory in Orange as McKee, Pendergrass, Piscitelli, Medenblik, Stephens and Coffey also win races

Posted by on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 12:01 AM

HILLSBOROUGH — “You killed him, it’s an official landslide,” Barry Jacobs supporter Paul Falduto related, peering over a laptop and a burrito to announce that the incumbent had fended off challenger Joe Phelps for the Orange County Commissioners at-large seat.

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Jacobs, who earned 53 percent compared to Phelps’s 32 percent, was stationed at Pacific Rim restaurant in downtown Hillsborough, breaking with his tradition of watching the results come in at home.

“Our house was not clean enough to invite people over; we were busy campaigning.” Jacobs said.

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