This blog entry has been edited and updated from its original version to include additional content.
A Senate bill expanding the law on outdoor billboards cleared a Senate committee Wednesday, but only after the bill was stripped of language that would have allowed billboard companies to replace traditional signs with electronic or digital ones.
Had the language remained and passed this legislative session, it would have superseded any local policies against digital billboards, including any opposition from Durham city leaders, who voted unanimously last summer not to permit such signs.
But the remaining language in the bill, (SB 183) which has been sent back to the full Senate for approval, still has representatives of cities and statewide organizations concerned. The proposal expands the amount of land billboard companies may clear of trees and other vegetation so their signs may be seen from the road. On state roads and highways, cleared swaths could increase from 250 feet to 340 feet. Outside city limits, the area that could be cleared would go up to 380 feet.
"These are the roads that shape how people perceive our communities," said Ben Hitchings, president-elect of the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association. "Now we have a framework under the bill that would trade trees for billboards." He pointed out that a poll released last month by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters showed that nearly 80 percent of respondents to the poll were opposed to the removal of more trees so billboards could be visible for a greater distance.
Representatives of the billboard industry, including the N.C. Outdoor Advertising Association, initially aimed a little higher with SB 183. Billboard proponents wanted even broader clearing allowances, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, who sponsored the bill. But over the past month, Brown said he led about 15 hours of negotiations among interested groups including lobbyists for the billboard industry, the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition.
After almost eight years serving as Carrboro town manager, Steve Stewart announced Wednesday that he will retire in late summer or early fall.
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said that Stewart has helped Carrboro through a period of intense new planning for bicycle and pedestrian pathways and helped move through the planning phases of Carrboro’s greenway system. Stewart also helped reduce the price of health insurance for town employees, without reducing benefits, Chilton said.
“He’s done a lot of things like those to make our town government more cost effective and yet continue to provide the services citizens can count on,” Chilton said.
This cross, with its purple Easter sash, sits in small open space next to Caraleigh Baptist Church in Raleigh. If you look, you can see it from S. Saunders Street, in the middle of what seems to be the path Saturday's tornado took after crossing the highway.
That is a roughly 3-foot-diameter tree uprooted behind the cross. Other trees in the neighborhood were pretty clearly twisted apart by the tornado. And if it was "only" straight line winds that hit this particular spot, they were strong enough to rip a gutter off the church.
Neighbors say the cross was not moved by the storm. Pictures taken Saturday show it amidst the fallen tree, branches on either side. It would appear people cut the tree away from the cross with chainsaws.
"It stood the entire time. ..." said Betty Geraldi, who lives across the street. "Gave a lot of people hope."
"Did not budget," said Jerry Whitby, whose mother lives nearby.
"Jerry and I grew up in that neighborhood, were in the same youth group in the church," Whitby's wife, Kathy wrote in an email. "(We) were saved and baptized there, and then married in that same church."
I guess it's a small thing, when 23 people died. A cross didn't fall down in Raleigh. At least it certainly doesn't seem to have. I examined the dirt, and the wood. Not that I'd know exactly what I was looking for, beyond loose dirt and cracks, but I didn't see any.
This National Weather Service map, combined with an obvious path of destruction on the ground and the NWS' downloadable report on the tornado that went through Sanford, then Raleigh, would seem to indicate that the tornado that went through, or over, this cross was one of the strongest of the 26 that touched down Saturday in North Carolina.
It would have been easy for the UNC queer community to be angry with first-year student Quinn Matney.
He’d just put them through a roller-coaster week, first claiming to be the victim of an on-campus branding April 4 because of his sexual orientation and later admitting to police that his wounds were self-inflicted.
UNC Department of Public Safety investigators charged Matney on Friday with filing a false police report. He surrendered voluntarily and was released. He will appear in Orange County Court on May 16.
Earlier that week, allies had taken to the airwaves with declarative statements about campus safety and expressed outrage that an attack could happen on campus. They felt attacked at first, then confused, shocked and left wondering.
But on Thursday night at a meeting sponsored by the UNC Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Alliance, the Gardner Hall room was full of love, not anger.
“My first priority is making sure he know that the time is right for him to come back here, he will be welcomed with open arms."
As Gov. Bev Perdue contemplates how to respond this weekend to the House and Senate GOP's tricky moveof tying 37,000 people's unemployment benefits to cuts in next year's budget, let us turn our attention to a mounting long-term problem for the state.
North Carolina's prison population has increased 29 percent since 2000, despite a drop in crime, according to a Council of State Government's report authorized by the governor and legislature. You can learn more about this "Justice Reinvestment in North Carolina" project, and download the report, here.
If this continues, we're going to need hundreds of millions more to build prisons and lock people up, something the state already spends more than $1.3 billion on. More than 50 percent of the state's prison admissions in 2009 were for probation revocations, the report found. Many of those are simply technical violations.
What's needed, the study concluded, is more and better focused supervision of parolees and probationers, along with more and better focused treatment for addictions and mental health problems.
Facing opposition from the Raleigh Planning Commission and an organized campaign from neighbors, Hanson Aggregates Southeast decided Wednesday to withdraw its bid to purchase 170 acres and to rezone to property to expand its Crabtree Quarry operation.
Raleigh attorney Grey Styers, who represents Hanson, pointed to “current political realities,” in a letter to Raleigh City Council in which he informed that the company has decided not to buy the property, located between Duraleigh and Ebenezer Church roads and near to Umstead Park.
“We would love to see a vote and see it be voted down and send a message that hopefully this won’t come back,” he says.
“I’m looking forward to not having this hanging over our heads anymore.”
In the wake of a UNC student’s false report that he was badly burned in a homophobic hate crime, campus leaders now worry about what will happen the next time that a student is targeted.
“That’s the biggest fear that the community has right now in the aftermath of this is that people won’t be believed,” says sophomore Jeff DeLuca, co-president of UNC’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Alliance. “We want to join with administration to make it clear that you will be believed.”
The student organization was already planning a community conversation Thursday on the incident when UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp announced Tuesday that campus police “determined that the alleged aggravated assault reported to campus last night did not occur.” One day earlier, Thorp had termed the incident a hate crime and pledged to “bring the strongest charges possible against the attacker.”
But Quinn Matney, a 19-year-old first-year student from Asheville, wasn’t truthful when he told UNC Department of Public Safety officers April 5 that an attacker overheard a conversation that identified Matney as gay, grabbed his left arm and scorched his wrist through his flesh while yelling, “Here’s a taste of hell, fag!”campus to national and even European media this week. Television cameras showed Matney’s wounds: 3rd and 4th degree burns, three damaged nerves and a partially severed tendon causing him to lose full mobility of his finger and allies mobilized in Matney support.
DeLuca says he can’t divulge exact details of what happened. That’s up to Matney, who is still enrolled at UNC and faces yet-to-be-filed charges for falsifying the police report. He has not responded to media inquiries since Tuesday’s development.
“We only know one thing: The report that he filed was false and no assault occurred. That’s the only thing we know and anything else is just conjecture,” DeLuca says.
“I really don’t like the word ‘hoax’ because it implies some kind of malicious intent or attempt to get attention. I know for a fact that’s not that what happened.”
The N.C. House voted Monday to let Wake County's School Board chairman vote on all board issues, not just to break a tie.
Currently the board's "presiding officer," which is generally Chairman Ron Margiotta, but falls to Vice Chair Debra Goldman when Margiotta is absent, votes only to break ties on the nine-member board. House Bill 498 would make the presiding officer a regular voting member.
The bill passed the House 71-47 Monday, but must be voted on again to move to the Senate. That's likely to happen Wednesday, though an amendment may be forthcoming to formally set the dates the board votes for its chair and vice-chair, sponsoring state Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said.
Wake Democrats spoke against the bill Monday, with state Rep. Grier Martin saying the board needs a chairman who can be "a facilitator, a deal maker." Because of an ongoing, and racially charged, debate over school attendance zones, Wake's board is probably the most contentious in the state, Martin said.
The N.C. passed a controversial — and campaign promised —charter schools bill Monday evening and said that, if you run from the cops, you should lose your car.
The Senate voted to outlaw red-light cameras at the start of what will likely be a very busy week at the statehouse.
Portions of the state budget, crafted in part by Republican leaders meeting in secret, will likely be released this week, giving the public its first detailed looks at the GOP-run-legislature's answer to Gov. Bev Perdue's budget proposals. State Rep. Bryan Holloway, R-Stokes and an education budget subcommittee co-chairman, said the "tentative plan" is to release the education portion of the budget Tuesday, and have a committee vote on it next week.
"The key word is tentative," Holloway said Monday evening.
Tuesday's House and Senate sessions will be held in the old state Capitol building a block away from the larger and more modern state legislative building. It's a largely ceremonial session, but the state Senate is expected to take up the pardon of former N.C. Gov. William Holden ...
A Durham police sergeant was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with kidnapping and sexual assault after an internal investigation, according to a statement from the Durham Police Department.
Sgt. Lester Rhodes, 42, joined the Durham police in 1996 and most recently served as a patrol officer, the statement said. The charges are related to an incident that allegedly occurred Sunday, April 3, while Rhodes was on duty. He was taken to the office of the magistrate Friday afternoon to be charged.
"This is an ongoing investigation and we are not releasing further details at this time to avoid compromising the investigation," said Police Chief Jose Lopez.
The professional standards and investigations divisions of the police department probed the allegations. Rhodes has been placed on administrative leave with pay, the Durham police statement said.