Bedri Kulla, the man who posed as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer to try to blackmail an undocumented immigrant into having a sexual relationship with him, was sentenced to one year in prison today.
Indy contributor Rebekah Cowell just called from the Federal Courthouse in Greensboro, where she was covering the hearing.
After Kulla, who lives in Morrisville, serves his prison term, he will be on probation for another year.
Check back for a followup blog post, plus an article in next week's Indy.
Last November, as well documented by the rousing "Green Team" video below, Joe Green won a seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Election.
"We’re hopefully going to work hard for the school board and do a great job,” he says in the video, a thank you to voters and his campaign team.
Today Green announced that he’s going to work hard and do a great job elsewhere.
He turned in his resignation letter, leaving a hole on the seven-member board and three years on his term, in favor of a post at Marquette University.
Durham Housing Authority, Fayette Place, Campus Apartments, Hayti, Rolling Hills, South Side, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, N.C. Central University What’s up with Fayette Place?
The short answer is nothing, even though Campus Apartments, one of the largest student housing developers in the U.S., has owned the 20-acre site for more than three years.
The property and apartments, once owned by the Durham Housing Authority, was razed last year and the lot on Fayetteville Street in the Hayti neighborhood has sat vacant since. Peppered with dirt, concrete and rocks, the site looks like a moonscape encased by a crumbling brick wall, which is in turn enclosed in a chain-link fence.
As reported previously in the Indy, in 2007, DHA sold the property for $4 million to for-profit company Campus Apartments, which planned to build affordable housing for low-income N.C. Central students.
But N.C. Central officials said this week they are not participating in the project. And according to the agreement between DHA and Campus Apartments, the Philadelphia—based company has to build a housing complex for other low-income residents. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the deal, but only with the affordable housing component.
Campus Apartments spokesperson would say only that the company “is looking at all of its options,” but refused to elaborate on what those options are.
With federal approval, Campus Apartments could convert part of the complex to general commercial uses, including shops and restaurants, as long as the housing portion includes 168 low-income residences. However, Campus Apartments would need to apply for a rezoning, which it has not, according to the Durham City-County Planning Department.
Several other companies were interested in buying that property, according to public documents, but DHA received a waiver from HUD to negotiate exclusively with Campus Apartments.
McCormack Baron Salazar, which is trying to redevelop Rolling Hills, was among those interested in Fayette Place. The languishing of that lot, which is only a few blocks from Rolling Hills, eventually could hinder the redevelopment of Hayti and the South Side.
“In the short term, it doesn’t impact us,” said Karl Schlachter, McCormack Baron Salazar senior vice president. “But long term that’s a concern.”
While Durham county commissioners and the Durham Chamber of Commerce were genuflecting at the altar of CREE last night, there seemed to be little acknowledgment that the company was using an all-too-familiar strategy to secure a $2 million incentives package.
It was threatening to move jobs overseas. And given the exodus of manufacturing jobs from North Carolina, the Durham commissioners had to say Uncle.
The 23-year-old Durham-based company wants to create a production line for its new LED chip. Competing for the 244 jobs and $392 million in capital investment were Durham, China or Malaysia. The company stated that, “incentives from the local government are a key consideration in its final decision on locating the expansion …”
Translation: CREE was essentially threatening to move its new production line for its LED chip to the Far East if Durham did not come up with the money.
CREE has already received government money, including $1.8 million in federal stimulus funds for research and development. In addition, the company was awarded a $39 million advanced energy manufacturing tax credit from the feds to cover about a third of its new production.
“The regulatory environment and wages are better there [in the Far East],” said Keith Burns, who is on the Durham Chamber of Commerce board of directors. “It’s an economically responsible move for these companies. They have shareholders to report to.”
No translation needed there: The regulatory environment is better in China and Malaysia—better for the companies, but not for the workers. According to a January 2010 Economic Policy Institute report,epi.pdf “China extensively suppresses labor rights.” Malaysia’s labor and human rights violations are extensive, according to a 2010 report by Human Rights Watch.
The minimum wage for Chinese industrial workers is $140 month, according to a recent article in The Irish Times; in Malaysia, there is no minimum wage for most workers..
Commissioners unanimously approved the package for CREE, which manufactures energy-efficient lighting equipment, although they did require that $825,000 of the money be reserved to train new hires who must be Durham County residents. The company currently employs 1,850 full-time workers and 376 contractors.
North Carolina and Durham County are among the nation’s hardest-hit areas in terms of manufacturing job loss. The Economic Policy Institute ranks the state’s Fourth Congressional District as 15th in the nation for net jobs lost to overseas workers—11,700, or 3 percent of the area’s total employment.
The petition asks that a neutral third-party review the partner's actions, and make a final ruling.
The petition contests the issuance of a clean water permit for the facility by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Water Quality.
It also contends the site “has larger human and environmental justice impacts than other, more suitable alternatives, including land previously condemned by Progress Energy in the same general vicinity. Noise, odor, traffic, and light spill from the sewage treatment plant will impact the New Hill Historic District, including the predominantly African-American First Baptist Church and cemetery. Western Wake Partners reverse-engineered Site 14 by prematurely committing nearly $10 million to the site before considering its human and environmental impacts. This commitment of resources prevented an unbiased consideration of better, alternative sites in the same general vicinity.”
The plant, which was scheduled to begin construction this year, will not be built in Apex or Cary or any of the partners' towns. It will loom across the street from the New Hill Baptist Church and playground, and a half-mile from the First Baptist Church of New Hill. The plant will sit within 1,000 feet of 23 homes. But who lives in those homes is as important: 87 percent of those approximately 230 residents immediately affected by the sewage treatment plant are African-American, on fixed incomes, elderly or retired.
Rev. James E. Clanton of the First Baptist Church New Hill says it is unfortunate that the community has had to resort to litigation to have its voice heard. “We have been willing to host the partners’ sewage treatment plant so long as it was not in the middle of our community, but the partners won’t meet us halfway.”
Litigation will be expensive, and thus far the community has been able to pay those costs from a $10,000 grant from the Impact Fund, a Berkeley, Calif.-based nonprofit organization that financially assists community groups in the areas of civil rights, environmental justice, and poverty law.
A barbeque fundraiser held by the First Baptist Church of New Hill also raised $4,648.
This was not an unexpected action, as a resident who organized a protest petition against the rezoning for 751 South, had already announced she would take legal action against the county for actions in the rezoning process of the 167 acres, which could be built into a community of 1,300 residences, offices and a large shopping center. But questions remain about the path the complaint will take.
The appeal (PDF), filed Tuesday by Raleigh attorney Dhamian Blue, centers on the protest petition filed May 24 by resident Kim Preslar and other land and property owners near the proposed site for 751 South. Joining her on the complaint is resident Kristen Corbell and the Chancellor's Ridge HOA, represented in a signature by HOA President John Gunter.
(What's a protest petition? In rezoning cases, a protest petition that is valid and includes enough signatures of surrounding landowners requires a supermajority of county commissioners to approve it [at least four of five commissioners' support]. Without a valid petition, a rezoning may be passed with a simple majority of three affirmative votes. The petition was key to whether the rezoning would pass, as commissioners have historically been divided 3 to 2 on the matter.)
Planning Director Steve Medlin initially evaluated the petition, found that it was valid and released his evaluation in the spring, as county commissioners were scheduled to vote on the matter in May. But at the request of both opponents and proponents of the rezoning, the matter was continued and rescheduled to late July. During that time, the developer gave the N.C. Department of Transportation the right-of-way to a strip of land they would need to eventually widen N.C. 751. But the last-minute change in the lay of the land invalidated the petition on a technicality.
As Blue argues, there are three reasons Medlin's later ruling that the petition was invalid:
1) that the technicality on which the petition became invalid is included in a state law that was passed and effective on July 9, and that law cannot be retroactively applied to a petition that was filed in May;
2) that although Southern Durham Development gave the right-of-way to the N.C. DOT, the transportation department effectively revoked its acceptance of that land gift because the department did not want to interfere in this controversial land use case;
3) the N.C. DOT did not actively have rights to the land on Aug. 9, when the county voted on the matter. (This is a layman's summary. For actual legal language, see Blue's appeal.)