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Monday, October 31, 2011

Redistricting decision looms

Posted by on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 10:15 AM

Tomorrow is the scheduled day for the First Out for redistricting plans submitted for North Carolina's congressional and state legislature districts.

First Out is explained by the Justice Department thusly:

The date appearing under the heading "First Out" is the initial date by which the Attorney General must make his determination or inform the jurisdiction that the date will be modified.

It's still possible DoJ will seek an extension, but it's very likely we'll see something very soon. The department tends to publish its rulings on a Monday, so maybe today, maybe next Monday.
This DoJ response will begin the long process of establishing the final districts in the state.

So, plenty to chew on. Here we go.

Linkage:
Department of Justice Section 5 info page
LA Times article on redistricting plans and DoJ
Char-O today

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bowser wants to cancel social services investigation

Posted by on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 12:41 PM

Durham County Commissioner Joe Bowser
  • Durham County Commissioner Joe Bowser

Update: This blog was updated from its original form to include comments from Lowell Siler and Michael Page.

It's been more than a month since Durham County Commissioners voted unanimously to request a probe into actions by the board of the county social services board, and the service of the agency's former director, Gerri Robinson. (Read the letter asking for the investigation, PDF)

The commissioners in September asked for an investigation by the state attorney general into matters surrounding Robinson's firing in July, and the subsequent appointment of an interim director, Gail Perry. Perry joined the DSS Board last summer. At her first meeting, the board voted to fire Robinson. During the same meeting, Perry was appointed as the new interim director to replace Robinson.

But with the primary interest of the attorney general being criminal matters, the office chose not to delve into allegations such as ethics violations, a large part of what commissioners had wanted an investigator to dig into. The county also tapped a retired judge, but he turned the county down, Commissioner Joe Bowser said Wednesday at a meeting of the DSS Board.

Bowser said he would prefer to end the search for an investigator and drop the issue.

"I think what we have here is just a whole bunch of hot air," Bowser said. "And when individuals look at it, they're not going to be bothered with it. ... As far as I'm concerned, there's really nothing to be investigated. It was just a matter of trying to quiet those down who were doing the talking."

Much of that "hot air" from September targeted Bowser. Supporters of Robinson said Bower led an unscrupulous effort to can Robinson, despite her receiving positive employee reviews from the DSS Board. Others questioned whether Perry joined the DSS Board and consented to Robinson's firing with the foreknowledge she could be named Robinson's replacement. In subsequent media reports, Michael Page, chairman of the Durham commissioners, also accused Bowser of trying to get Robinson to employ his friend. These accusations were among the many items to be investigated, commissioners agreed.

Bowser said he would talk to his fellow commissioners to see if they all would agree dropping the matter.

"It appears that we're moving forward quite nicely," Bowser told the DSS Board. "We just don't need that interruption and distraction at this point in time."

Reached by phone later Wednesday, Page said the board would have to consider whether it would be willing to cease the investigation, but that he believes the ethics questions should be probed.

"The community deserves to know whether there's legitimacy to those questions," Page said. "The community deserves transparency from our government." Page said he was scheduled to meet with County Attorney Lowell Siler to discuss what other individuals could lead the investigation. Siler confirmed Wednesday that he had previously asked a retired judge from another county to take up the investigation, but that person declined. Siler has been out of the office for several weeks on family leave and just returned this week, he said, so he hasn't had an opportunity to approach other possible candidates to investigate.

In other matters Wednesday, Perry updated board members on an ethical issue regarding temporary employees at the social services department, which she corrected, she said. She recently discovered that an employee had hired, supervised and signed the timesheets for a relative who was working as a temporary employee, she told the board.

The employee has been disciplined, Perry said. She said she also worked with county attorneys to craft a policy statement in regards to working with relatives that has been distributed to the entire staff.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Group calls for end to Carrboro's anti-lingering ordinance

Posted by on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Three dozen Carrboro community members, including social justice activists, day laborers and elected officials, assembled in solidarity at the corner of Davie and Jones Ferry roads Tuesday morning and called for an end to the town’s anti-lingering ordinance.

The controversial local law, which passed in 2007, forbids anyone from standing, sitting, reclining, lingering or otherwise remaining on that corner after 11 a.m. Day laborers often assemble on that corner trying to find work.

Supporters of the ordinance say it’s needed to address a few people, many of whom aren't looking for work, who allegedly drink and cause public disturbances on the corner.

On some days as many as 60 day laborers, many of them Latinos who live across the street at Abbey Court apartments, await trucks coming buy to pick them up for a shift.

Day laborer Angel Martinez addresses the crowd of supporters who are pushing to rescind Carrboros anti-lingering ordinance
  • Photo by Joe Schwartz
  • Day laborer Angel Martinez addresses the crowd of supporters who are pushing to rescind Carrboro's anti-lingering ordinance
Angel Martinez, one of two day laborers who spoke through a translator said he relies on the corner “to live a better life.”

“This is one of the only venues where we can provide for our families,” he said, adding that many who want the ordinance abolished did not attend the event for fear of retribution. “Once we are asked to leave, there’s nowhere else we can go.”

Chris Brook, staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which is challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, read a petition signed by 112 residents. Among the signatures are representatives from the Human Rights Center of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, the Orange County Democratic Party, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP, local business owners, former Board of Aldermen members and candidates.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Rouzer's contribution list packed with ag interests, lobbyists

Posted by on Sun, Oct 23, 2011 at 1:25 PM

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Johnston County State Senator David Rouzer is running for congress in NC-7 and hopes to unseat Democratic incumbent Mike McIntyre in a district redrawn to be a little more GOP friendly.

Since he's running for congress Rouzer is allowed to raise money for his federal campaign in ways not allowed a sitting North Carolina legislator. State legislators are forbidden to take contributions when the General Assembly is in session and are barred from ever receiving contributions from lobbyists.

Rouzer's congressional campaign was able to do both and his first official federal campaign report shows a huge take in the first six weeks of his campaign.

Report main page

List of contributions

The report details 205,491 in contributions most of which came in September via more than 188,000 in individual contributions. So, who were those individuals?

The list in Rouzer's filing, which covers contributions through September 30, is a who's who in big ag in eastern NC. Hog producers like Wendel Murphy, tobacco farmers like Benson's Lee family and the leadership of the Goldsboro Milling Company are among the farm interests on the list.

Also on the list are several lobbyists, mostly representing ag industries like the NC Pork Council's Angela Meier and Tommy Stevens. Oh, and Rufus, too, wherever he fits in.

Although the individual contributions outpaced Rouzer's take from PACs, there are still plenty of familiar names who jumped into with both feet, including the aforementioned NC Pork Council, NC Farm Bureau PAC, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and trial attorney PAC Ward & Smith.

Rouzer is co-chair of the NC Senate's Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources committee.

Further reading:
Indyweek — Campaign contributions, influence and the N.C. Legislature
Crossposted from the Exile on Jones Street blog

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Durham: we won't use conservation money to cut down trees

Posted by on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 5:25 PM

The Triangle Land Conservancy is logging on some of its lands, including this tract in northern Durham County.

In the week since the Indy published a cover story on controversial logging practices by the Triangle Land Conservancy, Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard says he's been flooded with questions on the city's connection to the nonprofit group.

As reported last week, the council in June approved a water use surcharge that is expected to raise about $100,000 annually to purchase land for conservation in conjunction with local land trusts, such as the TLC. This would be an extra 84 cents a year on the water bill for the average Durham user.

Concerned residents, including members of the city's Environmental Affairs Board and the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission, contacted the council to learn more about where the money was going, Woodard said.

"At this point, all we've done is adopt the rate surcharge, and haven't entered into any agreements to use those funds" said Deputy City Manager Ted Voorhees. There is one project the city is discussing with a conservation group, but it "doesn't involve the TLC at all," Voorhees said.

The intent of the surcharge was to broaden the funds available to purchase land for conservation in the watershed area for Lake Michie and other drinking water supplies, to preserve water quality. Intact watersheds help to clean water as it flows from developed land into the waterway.

The city intends to use the revenue to acquire more conservation land, and may do so as a joint project with a conservation group. However, no revenue from the surcharge will be given to any third party, such as the TLC, to purchase land, City Manager Tom Bonfield reiterated.

Any decisions to spend revenue from the surcharge to purchase land will have to be made by the council, Voorhees said. He also said that the city hasn't developed a plan for spending the conservation money, but that it won't involve clear-cutting trees.

"Even though we haven't developed specific program plans, we don't log our land, and we don't typically entertain that as part of a management program," Voorhees said.

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    Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard says he's been flooded with questions on the city's connection to the Triangle Land Conservancy.

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Alston Ave. widening could please more pedestrians, businesses

Posted by on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 4:25 PM

The above video, created by the N.C. Department of Transportation, simulates what traffic on Alston Avenue would look like under previous plans to widen the road and create two travel lanes in each direction.

Few property owners and residents in East Durham have been happy with N.C. Department of Transportation plans to widen Alston Avenue into a four-lane divided highway. Many were especially troubled by the idea that it might have put Los Primos, the only grocery store near the neighborhoods just east of downtown, out of business.

But it looks like engineers from the N.C. DOT heeded requests from Durham's city council to make the design for widening a little more pedestrian-friendly, according to Mark Ahrendsen, director of transportation for the City of Durham. Ahrendsen told the council Thursday that the new N.C. DOT design also will make less of an impact on both Los Primos and the Durham Rescue Mission, two businesses that were destined to lose portions of their properties to accommodate the $25 million project.

Among the changes:

— The state will still widen Alston Avenue to accommodate four travel lanes. They will stripe the road to create four travel lanes (two in each direction) from the Durham Freeway to Main Street. But on the portion from Main Street north to Holloway Street, which passes through a more residential area, they'll stripe the road to create only one travel lane in each direction. With the rest of the widened road, they'll create bike lanes and parking spaces—as many as 120—on the sides of the road. The parking spots will create parking for local businesses, while also helping to slow traffic.

— The N.C. DOT has revised its traffic projections for that section of Alston Avenue, and with less traffic than originally expected, they will eliminate dedicated right-turn-only lanes, Ahrendsen said. This will shorten the distances pedestrians have to bridge to get across the road. It also creates a slight shift in the layout near the Main Street intersection, and will reduce the impact on both the Durham Rescue Mission and Los Primos properties, Ahrendsen said.

— Finally, the new design would shorten the length of left-turn lanes, specifically the length of the lane dedicated to drivers waiting to turn their vehicles left. The reduction means more median, and could mean more area for landscaping.

The N.C. DOT will begin acquiring rights on Alston Avenue for widening in September 2012, Ahrendsen said. Construction would begin in December 2014.

"This has been hard-fought," Councilwoman Diane Catotti said. "This is very good news."

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Bower bows out of CHCCS race

Posted by on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 11:06 AM

Brian Bower, who said his top priority if elected to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board would be “to pick my jaw from off the floor,” removed that possibility Wednesday night by dropping out of the race.

Bower, a UNC graduate student who was running primarily to establish in-state residency and earn lower tuition costs, is withdrawing from the race both because of the “remote possibility that my candidacy might jeopardize the re-election of Ms. (Jamezetta) Bedford,” he wrote in a statement, and because UNC recently approved his application to be an in-state student.

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What time does the bus get here? Find out on GoLive

Posted by on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 8:00 AM

If you've ever turned a corner to see your bus just pass the stop, or sat twiddling your thumbs for a late bus, rejoice. GoLive is a new web, smartphone and text message service that provides real-time updates of several major bus schedules in the Triangle area: Capital Area Transit in Raleigh, Chapel Hill Transit and the N.C. State Wolfline are online now. The Durham Area Transit Authority, Triangle Transit will be online Nov. 18. And C-Tran in Cary will launch in early 2012.

GoLive can be accessed in several forms: on the web at live.gotriangle.org, via a smartphone app or by text message. Both the web and smartphone versions feature a satellite map in which icons representing buses move in real time on color-coded routes. Users can zoom in or click on stops for estimated arrival times. Another option is texting, which provides an estimated arrival time for more than 3,000 Triangle area stops.

CAT on the move - IMAGE COURTESY OF LIVE.GOTRIANGLE.ORG

The majority of GoLive's $1.6 million in funding comes from the ARRA federal stimulus package, with additional contributions from state and local funds. It was developed over 18 months by Raleigh-based company TransLoc, in cooperation with federal, state and local agencies, and the six transit companies above.

Similar systems have been seen around the U.S., including Raleigh and Chapel Hill. But, as TransLoc spokesperson Josh Cohen points out, this is the first time several data streams from different transit systems have been integrated into a regional real-time transit map. "People would have to go to multiple places to get this information," Cohen says. "The fact that we can take this real time data from different vendors and put it all in one place is pretty exciting."

The six transit agencies have been working to coordinate and streamline their services since 2003 as part of the GoTriangle organization. Brian Schulz, communications officer at Triangle Transit, calls the project an "extension" of the standardized fare boxes, trip planning services across bus lines (switching from CAT to a TTA bus, for example) and other services.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chapel Hill food truckin’, What a long strange trip it’s been

Posted by on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Chapel Hill inched closer to allowing food trucks within town limits Monday night at a Town Council public hearing.

Council members received a proposed ordinance, already approved unanimously by the town Planning Board, which would:
-allow food trucks to be located downtown in private lots, at least 100 feet away from a restaurant entrance, as long as the trucks and the lot owner each have a permit;
-allow one food truck per 30 parking spaces in other commercial districts, with permits;
-require food truck vendors to comply with local, county and state tax regulations and to display health permits at all times;
-require food truck vendors to dispose of all trash and grease, and forbid them to offer seating;
-restrict food truck signs to those permanently attached to the vehicles and a portable menu sign smaller than 6 square feet.

“Based on these regulations, would we be able to have a food truck at the Town Hall parking lot for council meetings?” asked Councilman Matt Czajkowski asked, the only question in the 20-minute hearing.

“I believe you can do that now,” principal planner Kendal Brown answered. “It’s public property, (you could) with a special permit.”

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Photos from Occupy Raleigh Sunday, Oct. 16

Posted on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Aaron Zalonis, who participated in the Occupy Raleigh Protest and March on Sunday, Oct. 16, shared the following photos with us.

To learn more:

Occupy Raleigh website

Occupy Raleigh Twitter

Occupy Raleigh Facebook

Continue reading…

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    Aaron Zalonis shared these photos with us.

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