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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weatherization program still seeking applicants; nearly half of federal funds remain

Posted by on Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 4:54 PM


Agencies across North Carolina are seeking low-income families to apply for the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides home improvements that can cut utility bills and make homes safer and more energy efficient.

The Weatherization Assistance Program provides low-income households with an energy audit that tests for air infiltration, heat loss and carbon monoxide levels. The federal money pays for improvements, such as insulation, carbon monoxide detectors and sealing cracks and other leaks to cut utility bills and improve residents’ safety.

The national weatherization program began in 2009 to help create green jobs, and has been largely funded by federal stimulus money. As of June 30, North Carolina has spent only $71.7 million of the $132 million from the federal stimulus said Seth Effron, communications director for the N.C. State Energy Office. The program has until March 2012 to use the stimulus funds, however there is no deadline to use state or local funds. The state goal is to weatherize 12,250 homes by March 2012, and as of June 30, 9,660 homes have been weatherized.

The program got off to a slower start across the state than initially expected ("N.C. scrambling to catch up on weatherization goals," Sept. 1, 2010)

More than 25 agencies across North Carolina administer the program. In the Triangle, those organizations are Operation Breakthrough in Durham County, Joint Orange-Chatham Community Action (JOCCA) in Orange and Chatham counties, and Resources for Seniors in Wake County.

To qualify for the program, a household must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level and complete an application process. Households that receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) automatically qualify. Priority will be given to the elderly, the disabled and families with children. There is no deadline to apply, but North Carolina has until March 2012 to use the federal funding for the program.

The program can provide assistance for single-family homes, apartments, condominiums and mobile homes. You do not have to own your home to be eligible, but renters must have written permission from their landlord.

For more information or to apply for the program:

In Durham County contact Operation Breakthrough at (919) 688-8111

In Orange and Chatham Counties, contact JOCCA at (919) 542-4781

In Wake County contact Resources for Seniors at (919) 713-1570

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jason Baker enters Chapel Hill Town Council race

Posted by on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 4:59 PM

Jason Baker announced today his run for Chapel Hill Town Council and is the first candidate thus far to opt in to the Voter-Owned Elections public financing in this campaign. He joins Augustus Cho, Jon DeHart and Lee Storrow in seeking one of four seats on the line in the November election.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt is expected to announce his re-election bid at a supporters’s event at 7 p.m. tonight at the Crunkleton on Franklin Street. Challengers are yet to surface. Filing starts Friday at noon and runs until July 15.

  • Photo courtesy of Jason Baker
Baker, who ran while a UNC student in 2005 has served five years on the town’s planning board, sits on the Comprehensive Plan Initiating Committee and completed a term on the transportation board. He is the political chairman of the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club (a position he will step down from during election endorsement season), third vice chairman of the Orange County Democrats and works at Weaver Street Market coordinating public relations and outreach.

He says environmentally sensitive growth, economic development that helps preserve the town’s aesthetic appeal and using technology to improve communications will highlight his campaign.

“In general I think the direction of the majority of our council has been fairly aligned with what I hope they will continue to do and what I hope to drive,” Baker said.

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Study: Asheville, Durham, Carrboro lead N.C. in same-sex couples per capita

Posted by on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 2:34 PM

North Carolina is home to 27,250 same-sex couples, 7.28 per 1,000 households, according to a 2010 Census-driven study released today by the UCLA Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Law and Public Policy.

The report, part of a larger effort focusing on all 50 states, found that Buncombe County (15.52 couples per 1,000) and Asheville (19.72) are the most gay-friendly county and city, respectively. Durham County and the City of Durham were second on both lists, and 1,232 of the county’s 1,391 gay couples reside in the Bull City. Orange was fourth and Carrboro was third.

Williams Distinguished Scholar Gary Gates is studying the 2010 Census for national and statewide data on same-sex couples.
  • Photo courtesy of UCLA
  • Williams Distinguished Scholar Gary Gates is studying the 2010 Census for national and statewide data on same-sex couples.
Unfortunately the 1990 and 2000 census don’t provide apples-to-apples data to compare and the Institute has only released reports on 11 states thus far, but for some context, San Francisco has 33 same-sex couples per 1,000 households.

Study author Gary Gates, the distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute, says the N.C. report backs up anecdotal evidence that Asheville, which sits in Buncombe, is one of the most accepting areas in the state.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Catotti to run for third Durham City Council term; three at-large seats on the ballot

Posted by on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 5:47 PM

  • Catotti

Filing for Durham City Council municipal candidates hasn't yet begun, but current Councilwoman Diane Catotti confirmed Monday that despite earlier plans to give up her seat in December, she now plans to run for her third term.

Catotti, who works in international health, has three children who will be starting college in the next two years, she said. With the costs of sending multiple children to college, she previously thought that she'd have to work full time and wouldn't be able to squeeze council work into her schedule.

But Catotti said she recently figured out a way to work part time and still make another council term work, if elected.

"We've addressed our financial constraints," Catotti said. "I'm not ready to go. There's lots of stuff I still want to work on and contribute."

Her priorities remain the same, she said. Among them: safer neighborhoods, more safe and affordable housing, expanded job and recreational programs for young people and a fully-funded long-range plan for mass transit, including light rail service.

Even though candidates may not file with the Board of Elections for the three expiring at-large council seats until July 25, Catotti said her news is official—her daughter even updated her Facebook profile, Catotti said.

"Durham's good and getting better," she said. "And I want to be a part of that."

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Durham voters to weigh transit, education taxes on November ballot

Posted by on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 10:07 PM


Durham's Board of County Commissioners approved resolutions Monday night to offer two new sales taxes on nonessential goods for approval on November's ballot.

Both taxes—1/2 of a penny for transit and 1/4 of a penny for education—would help fill in gaps in state-level funding further widened by this year's General Assembly, which voted to end a temporary 1-cent sales tax for education, said Board of County Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Ellen Reckhow.

"We do have a window of opportunity here to raise some critical resources for education [and transportation] when the state's backing off," Reckhow said. She noted that her board was proposing a combined sales tax increase of three-fourths of a penny, which would still lead to a net reduction for Durham shoppers once the state's 1-cent sales tax expires next month.

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It's official: Heron announces she'll resign Aug. 1

Posted by on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 8:21 PM

Durham Commissioner Becky Heron, 83, will resign Aug. 1 to spend more time with family.
  • Durham Commissioner Becky Heron, 83, will resign Aug. 1 to spend more time with family.

It's been almost 30 years since she was first elected to Durham's Board of County Commissioners. Now, Commissioner Becky Heron, 83, says she's ready to step down from her seat, effective Aug. 1, to take some time for herself and her family. Heron has also had some medical issues that caused recent absences from commissioners' meetings, and she says that also factored in her decision.

Heron, elected in 1982 and currently serving her 13th term, made the official announcement of her mid-term resignation at Monday's meeting of the board of commissioners. Her colleagues on the board praised her service and recounted some of her accomplishments.

"If she's fighting for you, you've got a great crusader working on your behalf," said Durham County Attorney Lowell Siler.

Heron has been a relentless spokeswoman for environmental protections, the humane treatment of animals and services for the elderly. As Durham County Manager Mike Ruffin noted, Heron also cast one of the deciding votes that made Mayor Bill Bell the first black chairman of the Durham Board of Commissioners.

Bell and Heron had a lot in common and both wanted to bring more transparency to the public board, Ruffin told Heron at Monday's meeting: "He, like you, wanted to see decisions made in the board room and not the back room," Ruffin said.

In recent years, Heron has been an advocate for improvements to the Durham County animal shelter and the start of Durham's senior center. She has also staunchly opposed the controversial 751 South development near Jordan Lake, a development that took nearly five years and several votes to get through Durham County's approvals process. Heron has served on myriad local and regional boards. (See her résumé.)

"I cannot think of anyone who has served their community more," Commissioner Brenda Howerton said.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Countless frivolous lawsuits?" Unlikely.

Posted by on Sun, Jun 26, 2011 at 9:53 AM

I'm in danger of belaboring points here on a vetoed bill, but the hyperbolic rhetoric dial is still turned up on Senate Bill 33, the medical malpractice bill Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed Friday.

Take a look at Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger's statement on the veto, and particularly the first sentence:

"In countless frivolous lawsuits, trial lawyers win big and drive up health care costs for everyone ..."

Roughly 50 percent of the malpractice insurance in North Carolina is written by Medical Mutual or MAG Mutual insurance. This is from MAG Mutual's 2010 annual report:

This localized approach is a major reason MAG Mutual won 91 percent of all cases taken to verdict in 2010.

And this is from Med Mutual's 2010 annual report:

We tried a total of 20 cases in 2010, with only one resulting in a plaintiff verdict.

If either company is worried about frivolous lawsuits, neither mentions it over the course of their 20-page annual reports. In fact, Medical Mutual lists a "favorable claims experience" as one of the primary reasons it was able to book record profits last year.

Medical providers absolutely practice defensive medicine, ordering procedures they think are probably unnecessary. Ask them. They'll tell you.

Fear of a lawsuit is one of the reasons they do this. But is that a reasonable fear?

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Friday, June 24, 2011

State eugenics task force hears from survivors; report on possible compensation due Aug. 1

Posted by on Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 9:16 PM

Elaine Riddick, a victim of forced sterilization, speaks before a state task force that could recommend compensation for the nearly 3,000 living victims sterilized through the N.C. Eugenics Board.
  • photo by Adam David Kissick
  • Elaine Riddick, a victim of forced sterilization, speaks before a state task force that could recommend compensation for the nearly 3,000 living victims sterilized through the N.C. Eugenics Board.

At an age when most of their peers share family memories and photos of children and cherished grandchildren, several men and women instead professed to state investigators this week how North Carolina's forced sterilization program wrongfully robbed many of them of that privilege.

There are nearly 3,000 living victims of North Carolina's eugenics program; a small group of them appeared before a state task force Wednesday, describing the personal humiliation, stilted relationships, shattered marriages and even drug addictions resulting from choices the government made to take away their ability to have children. It was the first time some of the survivors had spoken publicly.

"My problem was environmental," said Elaine Riddick. "I am not feebleminded. I couldn’t get along with others because I was hungry. I was cold. I was dirty. I was unkempt. I was a victim of rape. A victim of child abuse, neglect. My problem was environmental because everyone wanted to bully me."

"They said I was feebleminded. I was a little teeny kid. I seen my mother get cut ear to ear. I seen someone throw acid in my mother’s face. And you say feebleminded? They put my mother in jail instead of putting her in a hospital for treatment. You tell me what type of person should I be? I never got out of 8th grade. Yet still I acquired a college degree. Yet, still, I’m labeled feebleminded."

The N.C. Eugenics Board was established in 1933, almost eight decades ago, with a revision of a 1929 eugenics law. Composed of five representatives from different state agencies, the board oversaw the sterilizations of anyone deemed “mentally diseased, feebleminded, or epileptic.”

An estimated 7,600 people were sterilized throughout the program, which was dismantled in 1974. Three months ago, Gov. Bev Perdue established a task force to investigate the N.C. Eugenics Board and to recommend whether and how victims should be compensated.

The five-member task force must draft a preliminary report by August 1, and a final report on Feb. 1, 2012. With the deadlines approaching, the panel has met once a month to study the history of the program and examine the documents produced by the N.C. Eugenics Board. But this, according to task force Chairwoman Dr. Laura Gerald, was the first chance to hear the stories of victims directly.

Like Riddick, more than 71 percent of the victims were branded as "feebleminded"—a vague descriptor now acknowledged by researchers as a placeholder for other, less genteel labels: “promiscuous,” “truant,” or “lazy.”

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Candidates gearing up for Chapel Hill Town Council race

Posted by on Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 5:21 PM

One week before the candidate-filing period officially opens for municipal elections contenders for Chapel Hill Town Council are lining up for the campaign season.

Four council seats are up for grabs: Donna Bell, Sally Greene, Matt Czajkowski and Jim Ward all must defend or give up their slots. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt also is up for re-election.

Among the challengers thus far, former mayoral and congressional candidate and Transportation Board Chairman Augustus Cho has announced a run for council, and past candidate Jon DeHart is gearing up for another campaign.

DeHart says he has “done a better job defining my message” this time, and lists his top priorities as economic and environmental sustainability, affordable housing and increased transparency. He’s also served on the town’s transportation board for the last year and completed the inaugural Chapel Hill Citizens Police Academy.

“I’m going to work harder and meet more people. I’ve developed more relationships,” he says. “Nobody knew who I was two years ago.”

Newcomer to the field Lee Storrow, who graduated from UNC this spring and who serves on the town’s Initiating Committee for the Comprehensive Plan says he plans to knock on 1,000 doors in July and 1,000 more in August.

“I expect to be the most hard-working candidate and reach out to the most people” said Storrow, 22, managing director of the N.C. Alliance for Health. “I will be hot and sweaty all summer long.”

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bank postpones Greenbridge June 27 foreclosure auction to allow negotiations for potential debt purchase

Posted by on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 5:36 PM

Bank of America has indefinitely postponed the auction for Greenbridge, a prominent mixed-use development at 601 W. Rosemary St. in Chapel Hill that is facing foreclosure, Bank of America spokeswoman Shirley Norton confirmed. The auction was previously scheduled for June 27.

Bank of America postponed the foreclosure auction to give potential investors time to negotiate the purchase of more than $29 million in outstanding debt on the project, according to a Saturday story in The News & Observer. There have been three formal offers to buy the debt, which totals over $29 million, Toben told The N&O. Toben could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Greenbridge Development took out a $43 million loan from Bank of America in 2008, but had problems filling the pair of 10- and seven-story buildings offering energy-efficient retail space and condominiums. Currently only 37 of the 97 condos are occupied. After Greenbridge Development failed to make payments on the loan from December 2010 to March 2011, Bank of America filed for foreclosure in April.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett have met with potential investors to answer questions about investing in Chapel Hill and the community, Bassett confirmed this week. However, he said that he and Kleinschmidt have had no direct role in the negotiations.

Bassett said he hopes that by avoiding foreclosure, the stalled Greenbridge project could change hands and begin contributing to the community and local economy.

“It certainly isn’t good for any market to have foreclosures period,” he said.

In related news, a lobby at the Greenbridge condos was the site of protest and vandalism Saturday. According to news reports, an estimated 15 to 20 people sprayed Silly String, broke furniture and moved couches to block the elevators. Chapel Hill Police arrested three people, charging each with one count of felony rioting and two counts of misdemeanor damage to real property.

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They need to lock that pig cop up!!!!!!!!!!!!

by William Parker on Durham police excessive force case goes to Court of Appeals (News)

Very surprised you did a follow-up on this very lightweight story. Have you no journalistic shame??

Since when did …

by MJKopechne on Republicans defend possible Board of Elections conflict (News)

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