Books, countless Johnny Cash CDs, PTA Thrift Shop jewelry, harmonicas, gently used guitars, bicycles, unpackaged single lightbulbs.
"His pockets were full of the strangest oddities, and they would come out at any moment," said Scott Conary, who owns Open Eye, the coffee shop where Harman was a staple.
"He gave me earrings with an 'L' on it," said Sara Gebhart, a former barista . "I said, 'You know my name doesn't start with an 'L.'' He said, 'That's for 'Love' God damn it.'"
Tuesday was the second day candidates had to file for two municipal races in Durham. Just like yesterday, today's filings were not big surprises.
Incumbent City Councilwoman Diane Catotti filed to run for one of three at-large seats on the council that are being elected in November. Early this year, Catotti wasn't sure whether she would be seeking another term, but announced late last month she would be seeking a third term.
Meanwhile, familiar candidate Victoria Peterson, the founder of a non-profit job training program and ever-present public commenter at city, county and school board meetings, also filed for a spot on the council. Peterson has run unsuccessfully for multiple public offices.
Catotti and Peterson join candidate Steve Schewel in the race. Incumbent Eugene Brown also said he will be running, but hasn't filed yet. Filing ends Aug. 12.
If more than six candidates file for the three at-large seats on the council, the county will hold a primary October 11. If no primary is required, the general municipal election will be held Nov. 8 and the three candidates for council who receive the most votes will be elected. (see a schedule)
Keep up with candidate filings here and at the Durham County Board of Elections page for candidate filings.
After taking a bruising in the prior session, advocates for the environment weren't exceptionally upbeat about the prospects for sustaining Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of two key pieces of legislation: Senate Bill 781, which reforms the states regulatory system, and Senate Bill 709, which clears the way for fracking for natural gas inland and drilling for it offshore.
Last week the North Carolina Senate overwhelmingly approved overrides of the two bills, which are among the 15 pieces of legislation Perdue vetoed this session, the most since veto power was established in 1996. Speculation turned this week to the House and the Democratic caucus increasingly fragile four-vote cushion.
As the chambers settled into session Monday, representatives erased any doubts about the direction of regulatory reform, overriding Perdue's veto by a vote of 76-42. Among the nine Democrats who crossed over to oppose Governor were members of the same group that sided with Republicans in the budget battle. These included Reps. Dewey Hill and Dan Brisson, who appear ready to switch parties (they voted with the GOP the rest of the day), and Rep. Bill Owens, who, despite giving a speech saying he would vote against the override, asked to officially change his vote after the fact and joined the winning side.
But even with the post tally defection, the vote was close enough to sustaining the veto (three-fifths of those present) that it offered some hope that the fate of S709—The Energy Jobs Act—might be different. It did not come up for a vote—sign the votes may not be there—but was added to Tuesday's calendar along with several other vetoed bills scheduled for reconsideration under the heading "Unfinished Business."
Grady McCallie, policy director for the N.C. Conservation Network, says the Legislature's drive to rein in regulation and make it more difficult to set environmental rules goes beyond what even major backers like the N.C. Chamber of Commerce wanted. Rather than deal with specific regulatory problems, McCallie says, they used a shotgun approach to all of it.
And while it might sound desirable to streamline the regulatory process, in the end, McCallie says, the result will be a bloated and more cumbersome system requiring detailed analysis and alternatives even in cases where there is agreement on what to do.
"There's a lack of understanding of how the regulatory system works," he says. "Its going to clutter up the process."
No big surprises on the first day of filing for Durham municipal elections.
Incumbent Mayor Bill Bell was the first person to file for office today at the Durham County Board of Elections office, vying for his sixth term. Bell was first elected in 2001 and prior to that, served on the Durham County Board of Commissioners for 16 years.
Bell is a retired IBM engineer and is currently an executive at UDI Community Development Corporation here in Durham. In 2009, political newcomer Steven Williams ran against Bell, but Bell swept up more than 77 percent of the votes. Bell faced perhaps his biggest challenge for the seat in 2007, when he battled against former Republican City Councilman Thomas Stith. Bell won 58 percent of the votes in that race, while Stith won 42 percent.
Former Durham Public Schools board member Steve Schewel, who is also the founder and majority owner of the Independent Weekly, also filed today for one of the three at-large seats available this fall on the Durham City Council. Schewel is a visiting assistant professor of public policy at Duke University, where he also earned his bachelor's and doctorate degrees. He served on Durham's school board from 2004 to 2008, serving as vice chairman for part of his term.
Both Bell and Schewel announced their intentions to run earlier this year. Incumbent council members Eugene Brown and Diane Catotti also announced their intentions to run for the two other at-large spots on the council, but did not file Monday. Councilman Farad Ali has said he will not be seeking another term in his current seat.
Stay tuned as the names trickle in, both here and on the Board of Elections website.
As criticism on the Republican drawn Congressional, N.C. House and N.C. Senate maps flowed forward, Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Bob Rucho pointed out that he would entertain alternatives, but the Democrats had failed to submit them.
Well, until now.
As the General Assembly engages in a floor debate on the Republican proposal, the Democrats are offering maps of their own.
Among other key changes, they include Asheville in the 11th District, and Brad Milller and David Price would not be double-bunked in the 4th District.
You can find the maps here:
This long and winding case dates back five years. Read our timeline to see how we got here.
IIt will be the end of next week—or even longer—before Superior Court Judge G. Wayne Abernathy will decide on a lawsuit against Durham County regarding 751 South, a controversial development planned near Jordan Lake.
Abernathy presided over a hearing on July 21 and 22 in the civil case the Chancellor's Ridge Homeowners Association and individual residents brought against Durham County last fall. Southern Durham Development later joined the county attorneys as a defendant, asking for the case’s resolution.
Both the county and SDD's lawyers say Abernathy should find that the Durham County commissioners acted appropriately last August when they voted to rezone more than 160 acres near Jordan Lake. SDD needed the rezoning to move forward with plans to build 751 South, a community that could include 1,300 homes, apartments and condos, plus retail and offices.
The plaintiffs, Chancellor’s Ridge HOA, who sued the county last fall, say Durham County commissioners didn't properly account for the HOA’s protest petition against the rezoning when they voted 3 to 2 to approve the zoning change. Their lawsuit argues that the petition met all requirements and was valid, and that the county didn't follow its own ordinance, which requires at least four commissioners to vote to approve a rezoning if there's a valid protest petition.
Arguments both Thursday and Friday focused on a small strip of land—less than four acres—and who owned or controlled it at the time of the Durham commissioners' vote. Just before county commissioners voted on the rezoning, SDD gave the N.C. Department of Transportation right-of-way access on a strip of land running along the front of its property line on N.C. 751. If SDD were to build the project, it would eventually transform a portion of N.C. 751, currently a meandering two-lane road, to a four-lane divided highway, and the N.C. DOT would need access.
But the developer also granted the strip of land to invalidate—on a technicality—the protest petition filed by neighboring property owners. The petition's validity depends on whether those property owners who signed it were physically close enough (within 100 feet) to the boundary of the land SDD owns to legally petition its rezoning.
When the property owners filed their petition in July 2010, they were within 100 feet of the property line. But when SDD donated the land to N.C. DOT, it widened the distance (on maps) between its property boundary and the protesting property owners—just far enough away (105 feet) that the petitioners suddenly became just out of reach to legally protest the rezoning.
Attorneys for Durham County and Southern Durham Development, the company trying to build a major new development near Jordan Lake, pushed for a resolution to a lawsuit against the county in Durham court Thursday. Superior Court Judge Wayne Abernathy heard arguments for about two and a half hours Thursday before adjourning court until Friday morning. Ultimately, Abernathy will decide whether to make a summary judgment in favor of the developer and Durham County, or whether the case should go to trial.
Both the county and SDD's lawyers say Abernathy should find that the Durham county commissioners acted appropriately last August when they voted to rezone more than 160 acres near Jordan Lake. SDD needed the rezoning to move forward with plans to build the large, dense community known as 751 South.
The plaintiffs, who sued the county last fall, say Durham's Board of County Commissioners' 3-to-2 vote to rezone the land did not consider their protest petition against the rezoning. The complainants, which include the Chancellor's Ridge neighborhood Homeowners Association and resident Kimberly Preslar, say the document met all requirements and was valid. They argue that the county didn't follow its own ordinance, which requires at least four commissioners to vote approval in a rezoning where there's a valid protest petition.
Abernathy, a visiting judge from Alamance County, said at the beginning of Thursday's hearing that he recognized the political significance that the case has had in Durham County and that he has no ties to Durham, and "I call 'em like I see 'em." (See a timeline of the embattled 751 South development)
The former provost for N.C. Central University, Dr. Beverly Washington Jones, may have failed to properly register her business with the state, county and city. A Durham city official said Wednesday he sent a notice to Jones to prompt her to file for a business license after inquiries from the Independent Weekly on whether the business was registered.
Jones' education consulting company, Academic Enrichment Services and Systems, is based in Durham with a post-office box and physical office on South Duke Street, according to the company's website and documents at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. The company is one of many tutoring providers approved by N.C. DPI to give additional help to some students in schools with below-par test scores. Last year, AESS received $29,000 from Durham Public Schools for working with at-risk elementary schoolers.
It was unclear whether the company is a corporation or small private business, and would have been required to file with the N.C. Secretary of State, where the Indy was also unable to find records for the company.
However, the business, regardless of its status, should have notified the city when it formed last year that it was operating out of Durham, said Paul Mason, billing and collections manager for the city's finance department. Certain types of businesses may be exempt under state law from paying local taxes and fees, but at the very least, the business owner or agent is required under local ordinance to notify the city, Mason said. AESS might also have been required to file with the county Register of Deeds, he said.
Mason said he would send a letter dated Wednesday giving the company a month to reconcile the issue.
Jones' attorney, James D. "Butch" Williams declined to answer questions on Jones' behalf after the Indy ran a story last week on Jones' possible involvement in a scandal surrounding a now-defunct NCCU program. ("Students lose in alleged money-skimming scheme at NCCU," July 13, 2011)
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, Person, one of 10 state senators drawn into the same district as another sitting senator under the redistricting proposal Republicans released Tuesday, says she would seek to hold onto her seat, but running against a colleague would be “a very difficult situation.”Sen. Bob Atwater, D-Chatham, Durham, Lee, in his fourth term, would be forced to square off.
“Bob is a very good senator in Chatham County and running against a friend and fellow senator is very disappointing to me,” she said. “It’s a stressful situation and we certainly are not looking forward to it.”
The situation is not new for Kinnaird who defeated colleague Howard Lee in 2002 when their districts were merged. She won a hard-fought, but respectful primary campaign by just 119 votes.
Tim Sookram heard about a month ago than an election was coming up in November.
Never mind that he moved here just last summer, that this is his first bid for any office or that he’s never attended a Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, Sookram is running for the mayor’s office.
Sookram moved to town from Austin, Texas with his fiance, who got a job at UNC Hospitals. He says he’s “always whining to her about how things could be better.”
Among his critiques are that the community should be better connected with bus service that runs later in the evening. He says he can get downtown for dinner from his University Mall-area abode, but that the buses stop running while he’s eating, leaving him stranded.
He wants development that’s “more central, more connected, less suburban-anywhere-America kind of look.”
“Chapel Hill is kind of in a bit of an urban crossroads here where we’ve built up a lot of stuff and we’re not really sure where to go,” he says.
Admittedly a novice on the local government scene, the Gentle Robot guitarist says he’s open to new ideas and wants to hear from voters.
“I’ll do my best. Mayor Kleinschmidt, I spoke to him, and he seems like a really nice guy, but you never know. It’s just the two of us in the race so far; the filing period ends Friday,” he says. “If it’s just me and him, hey, I’ll look at it as 50-50. … Stranger things have happened.”
He’s already won something. He owns the chapelhillmayor.com URL and Twitter handle.