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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rowand art gallery vandalized; personal art collection to be auctioned

Posted by on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 12:24 PM

Update: The Joe Rowand Art Gallery was vandalized Saturday, Nov. 26, according to a Chapel Hill police report. Two large flower pots were broken, the business' banner sign was torn and the building was spray painted. Damage is valued at $1,100. No arrests have been made. The report is here. policereport.pdf
The Indy redacted some personal information for privacy reasons.

After declaring personal bankruptcy last year, Joe Rowand, former president of the now-defunct Somerhill Gallery, is auctioning 164 pieces from his own art collection Dec. 2–3 at Leland Little Auction and Estate Sales in Hillsborough.

Rowand filed for individual bankruptcy around the time Somerhill declared Chapter 7. The gallery owed artists hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work; this included some pieces that had been sold several years ago but for which the artists were not paid a commission. Meanwhile, according to court records, Rowand was drawing a $15,000 monthly salary from the gallery.

Ironically, Rowand’s personal cache, available online at, contains works by two artists listed as creditors in the Somerhill bankruptcy: Ginny Stanford of California, whom Somerhill owed $13,000, and John Beerman of Hillsborough, $40,000. These assets are not part of the gallery, and thus separate from any corporate legal proceedings.

Now legally absolved of his Somerhill debt through bankruptcy, (although since he didn’t pay the artists, one could question whether he has met the ethical obligation), Rowand has a new gallery on Legion Road in Chapel Hill.

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    Joe Rowand Art Gallery vandalized

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Durham County to levy 1/4-cent sales tax in April

Posted by on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 4:02 PM

With the approval of almost 57 percent of voters, Durham County Commissioners officially adopted a resolution Monday night to begin collecting a new quarter-cent sales tax on April 1, 2012. The tax will apply to the sales of goods, but not food, medicine, housing, gas or utilities.

Voters approved the tax, which will benefit public education in Durham County, through the Nov. 8 ballot.

That ballot also included a new half-cent tax for mass transit, which voters also approved by 60 percent. But the transit sales tax won't be levied until Durham leaders see whether leaders and residents in Wake and Orange counties will also consider a similar tax to move forward on regional commuter and light-rail projects.

The first full year of collections for the education tax in 2013 is expected to generate as much as $9.2 million. Most of the revenue will preserve teaching jobs and pay for school facility improvements in Durham Public Schools. Durham Technical Community College will also receive funds that will be used for scholarships, and Durham's Partnership for Children, which provides educational and other programs for young children.

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    New sales tax will benefit public education in Durham County.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

751 South case delayed; new plan could produce more runoff

Posted by on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 4:47 PM

Proposed area for 751 South

Opponents and supporters of the controversial 751 South development geared up for a big day in court today, only to have the case continued to Jan. 9.

The long-pending civil lawsuit, brought by property owners in Chancellor's Ridge against Durham County was supposed to go to trial today. Opponents to the project were hoping the judge would find in their favor and reverse a county vote last summer that will allow Southern Durham Development, also a party to the lawsuit, to build a large, mixed-use development outside the city limits—one that's sure to cause traffic headaches and could also threaten environmentally sensitive Jordan Lake.

But an attorney for SDD is still waiting for the N.C. Department of Transportation to produce relevant documents, he told Superior Court Judge G. Wayne Abernathy today. Abernathy granted the continuance to Cal Cunningham so he could continue to gather evidence from N.C. DOT in the case.

The case appears to hinge upon which employees of the N.C. DOT signed documents accepting the rights to a strip of land along N.C. 751, which the state one day could widen. The acceptance of the land rights by N.C. DOT threw a technical twist into the rezoning process last summer, and essentially aided zoning approval for the developer. If a judge finds the signature was valid and legal, SDD could keep its zoning for a large mixed-use project that could include 1,300 residences and 600,000 square feet of offices and shops. If the judge finds the signature was not from a person legally designated by the state to accept the land, the developer might lose the zoning and have to go back through the process, which has been winding and torturous.

In court Monday, attorney Dhamian Blue and his father, Sen. Dan Blue of Raleigh, represented the plaintiffs. Dhamian Blue said Cunningham's request boiled down to a delay tactic to drive up legal costs for their clients, unhappy property owners across from where 751 South is supposed to be built.

In the past year, lawyers for the developers have made no secret of the fact that time is money—about $2,000 a day in carrying costs for the 167-acre property SDD purchased in 2008 for $18 million. On Monday, Cunningham cited the figure at $3,000 a day in interest, and denied any purposeful sluggishness.

"The costs are clearly being borne by my client," Cunningham told the judge. "They've got me moving fast, and I'm moving fast."

With the continuance, Cunningham expects to take sworn statements from several N.C. DOT employees in December, he said.

Meanwhile, SDD has announced that it plans to file a new application with Durham's planning department to amend three commitments it made when county commissioners approved the project in 2010.

Of the three changes, the most drastic appears to be a request from SDD to increase the amount of impervious surface in the development.

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    Developer could add another 20 acres of impervious surface to project.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Senate committee to consider Racial Justice Act repeal Monday

Posted by on Sun, Nov 27, 2011 at 9:10 PM

A special session of the N.C. General Assembly convened briefly Sunday night, with prayers, recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance and just a few announcements in each chamber.

The real action starts tomorrow, when lawmakers take on a bill that would repeal the Racial Justice Act. The bill is up for discussion and public comment before the Judiciary I committee, which meets at 2:30 p.m. in room 643 of the office building behind the legislature. Members of the public must sign up in advance to comment.

A Democrat-led legislature passed the Racial Justice Act in 2009, a law that has gained national attention, as it allows death-row inmates to challenge their sentences if they can prove that racial bias played a role in their trial, sentence or conviction. The law does not free inmate; it spares their lives if they can prove racial bias was a factor in their case. Instead of being put to death, inmates who proved racial bias influenced their cases would be allowed to spend their lives in prison without the chance for parole.

Nearly all of the 157 inmates on death row have filed appeals under the 2009 law. Those appeals are making their way through the courts.

Prosecutors across the state have railed against the law, and have pushed through the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys to repeal it. The organization renewed its efforts with conservative legislators two weeks ago to repeal the law.

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    Committee meets at 2:30 p.m. Monday.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anti-lingering ordinance rescinded in Carrboro

Posted by on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 12:16 PM

The Carrboro Board of Alderman voted unanimously to end the town’s anti-lingering ordinance Tuesday, ending a four-year old rule that restricting anyone from standing or sitting at the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie roads between 11 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The ordinance, passed in 2007, applied to the corner where Latino day laborers congregate to seek work. Neighbors complained that men, most who were not day laborers, would hang out there, drink and create trash.

Chris Brook, a staff attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, who helped campaign to end the ordinance and challenge its legality, called it “a request for dignity” from day laborers.

“Folks who were impacted by this ordinance had their voice heard,” he said. “Their representatives heard them and responded. It’s always exciting to see democracy work in the way it should.”

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How potent is pepper spray? That shit can stop a bear.

Posted by on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 5:28 PM

See the Huffington Post slideshow on parodies of pepper spray-wielding cop Lt. John Pike.
  • See the Huffington Post slideshow on parodies of pepper spray-wielding cop Lt. John Pike.

Police officers from coast to coast have made headlines in the past few months when they have used tactics including pepper spray to subdue protesters with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Most recently, the public turned its attention to campus police officers at the University of California-Davis who saturated the faces of seated, nonviolent protesters who were criticizing tuition increases. (See a roundup of pepper spray use at The Atlantic.)

While some public figures have understated the power of police-issue pepper sprays (It's from a vegetable, right? Nom, nom.), others are criticizing the practice and questioning its potential harmful effects.

This Scientific American guest piece has made the rounds. It explores the history of pepper spray, and answers that persevering question—just how hot is it?

According to this handy graphic that goes with Deborah Blum's story, the kind of U.S. grade pepper spray used by police is as much as 25 times hotter than a cayenne pepper, and 1,500 times hotter than a mild jalapeño.

It damages all the soft membranes it touches—your eyes, your airway, even your stomach lining, Blum writes. And yes, that shit could stop a bear. (Pepper spray for both humans and bears contain capsaicin and related capsaicinoids)

But can it kill you?

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    Plus: The parodies of UC Davis police Lt. John Pike.

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Chapel Hill weighs Northside, Pine Knolls plan

Posted by on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 4:49 PM

Chapel Hill rolled out a proposed Community Plan for Northside and Pine Knolls on Monday that leaders hope will help combat a student-rental takeover that is pricing out the town’s black and working class residents.

The plan comes during a six-month moratorium on development in those neighborhoods meant to buy time to craft a plan to keep housing affordable and better relations between students and long-term, single-family residents.

“I feel like I’m fighting for my life, and I shouldn’t have to feel like that, but the reason I feel like that is because investors came into my community with greed,” Keith Edwards, a long-term Northside resident, said during the public hearing.

“They came in and just ran over us like a bulldozer taking away our way of life.”

Born out of meetings with stakeholders and drafted by town planners and the Sustaining OurSelves coalition, the plan focuses on affordable housing, cultural and historic preservation, enforcement, education and outreach, parking and zoning.

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Old North Durham Park: Size matters

Posted by on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 4:26 PM

A seven-year struggle over the use and redesign of Old North Durham Park, including its beloved soccer field, may have reached a turning point—but many neighborhood residents are still unhappy.

More than 150 people attended last week’s public meeting, hosted by the Durham Parks and Recreation Department, about the park’s future, which includes hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of improvements that could start early next year.

DPR Assistant Director Beth Timson presented the plans, which would “improve the playing field, improve pedestrian access, and replant to replace the trees lost to age and drainage repairs.” She confirmed Old North Durham Park’s value both as “an important social meeting place for the community,” and as downtown Durham’s sole full-size athletic field. (There is a second field in East Durham at the Holton Center.)

As the Indy reported in April, the size of the soccer field lies at the core of the bitter debate. The Durham Coalition for Urban Justice and the Central Park School for Children have clashed over whether the park’s soccer field, which is often used by local residents, should be reduced to make room for nature trails, a butterfly garden and picnic spaces more likely to serve the school’s students. (Update: The City Parks Department noted that neighborhood residents also requested these amenities. However, they were also in the school's master plan for the park.)

The park is long overdue for repairs. Worn picnic tables are scattered around a solitary set of metal bleachers. When it rains, portions of the 3.5-acre park flood because the storm drains are clogged with leaves. The field is little more than scraggly grass except for a large, rocky bald spot in its center.

And yet, nearly every evening and all through the weekends, the park is alive with the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. They are mostly low-income Latino and African-American residents who come to play soccer in pickup games and community youth leagues. Others congregate at the picnic tables to chat, or to toss Frisbees or to stroll the park with their dogs.

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    Soccer field will meet minimum regulation size; neighbors still suspicious

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Chapel Hill protesters to demonstrate at police station, Town Council meeting Monday

Posted by on Mon, Nov 21, 2011 at 8:35 AM

"Protest Police State Chapel Hill" flyer
  • "Protest Police State Chapel Hill" flyer

A group of Occupy Chapel Hill members plans to gather at the police station at 6 p.m. Monday and march to Town Hall and the Town Council meeting at 7 p.m. in opposition to last Sunday's raid at the Chrysler Building.

Mike Connor, who was handing out flyers that read "Protest Police State Chapel Hill" on Sunday, says he expects 200 supporters to participate.

"Some people are going to go in and lecture (the town) on civility," he said. "Other people are going to stand outside, have an open mic and have our own Town Council meeting."

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

In Durham's Lakewood 'hood, goodbye green space, hello all-way stop

Posted by on Sun, Nov 20, 2011 at 1:57 PM

Former green space in the 1900 block of Bivins Street
  • Lisa Sorg
  • Former green space in the 1900 block of Bivins Street
One of the small pleasures of living in Durham's Lakewood neighborhood (full disclosure: I do) is strolling by a thicket of forest and bamboo in the 1900 block of Bivins Street. The stalks lean every which way or another and to peer through that jungle is to look through a kaleidoscope. And early in the morning, the woods rustles with birds and other critters.

(On this Google satellite map, it's the green space between James and Chapel Hill streets on the north side of Bivins.)

Well, say goodbye to most of that urban oasis. Neighbors knew the 6.6 acres was slated for development—10 bungalows, starting from $170,000, the B. Wallace Design & Construction sign reads—but now it's for real. Last week, the bulldozers, Bobcats and chainsaws started flattening, trampling and cutting to make way for a development similar to the one B. Wallace built on Nation Avenue. About two and a half acres will remain as green space.

Future residents of what Bamboo Park (that's what I've chosen to call it) will find an all-way stop at the perilous corner of Bivins, Chapel Hill and Jersey streets. Indy intern Jason Y. Lee wrote about that intersection in the paper last week. The N.C. Department of Transportation has erected a flashing sign near the intersection alerting drivers to the new traffic pattern, which is goes into effect Tuesday, Nov. 22. Be advised.

Take advantage of the new traffic pattern by rolling down your window and inhaling the aroma emanating from the Mexican bakery on the corner. Stop and smell the empanadas before they're gone.

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    Green space on Bivins Street being developed; all-way stop imminent for the intersection from Hell

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