The Howard and Lillian Lee Scholars Charter School is a long shot to open in August. Its founders are struggling to find a suitable temporary location for the school as they navigating the zoning approval process for a permanent site.
Amid opposition from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board and the local NAACP, the North Carolina State Board of Education approved fast-track status for the Lee School in February, clearing the way for the group to open later this year.
But now, as a backup plan, they say, the school’s brass has submitted a request to the state to open in 2013.
Danita Mason-Hogans, a member of the Lee board of directors, said the group identified one site in Chapel Hill and one in Carrboro but neither area was zoned for a school. She said she did not know the exact locations.
“There are some problems with both of the spaces based on the number of students we’d like to have in the school,” she said. “We had full intentions of opening in August. Now it looks like that may be put on hold.”
Southern Durham Development, which is behind the proposed 751 South development, has contributed more than $50,000 to The Durham Partnership for Progress, a Super PAC.
Here is the campaign finance filing, due today: Partnership_for_Progress_30April2012.pdf
As the Indy reported last week, DPP has ties to Southern Durham Development through Tyler Morris. He is a majority shareholder in Southern Durham Development and assistant treasurer of Durham Partnership for Progress.
DPP is behind a mailer supporting Durham County Commission candidates Joe Bowser, Brenda Howerton, Rickey Padgett and Michael Page. Bowser, Howerton and Page all voted to approve the controversial rezoning of 751 South, over the strenuous objections of many citizens and the Durham Planning Commission.
DPP spent $51,500 on the mailer, including $50,000 to Nexus Strategies, a political consulting group in Raleigh, and the Department of Marketing, which advises clients on branding, social media and website design.
Check back in Wednesday's edition of the Independent Weekly for more news about the Super PAC and the commissioners' race.
Early voting turnout in Durham and Wake counties is expected to meet or exceed the 2008 numbers. Early voting ends Saturday, May 5. Election Day is Tuesday, May 8.
In Durham County, about 20,000 people voted in the 2008 May primary with the bulk (12,000) casting ballots during the final week of the primaries, said Durham Board of Elections Director Michael Perry. This year, 12,500 people have voted so far in Durham County, with most votes expected to be cast this week.
Of the early voters, 62.7 percent are registered Democrats, 11.5 percent are Republicans, 0.3 percent Libertarians and 25.5 percent are unaffiliated. There have been some reported complaints at the polls related to campaigning, Perry said, most of them regarding the Super PAC Durham Partnership for Progress and allegations that it is coordinating with candidates, which is illegal under federal election law. These complaints have been forwarded to the state Board of Elections.
Wake County has reported 12,062 votes cast during early voting. Additionally, 950 absentee ballots by mail have been returned.
Wake County Board of Elections Deputy Director Gary Sims said that this year, the vote count will be on track with or exceed the 2008 total of 37,457 because the bulk of early voting in 2008 was done in only three days.
Of the citizens choosing to vote early, 48.6 percent are registered Democrats, 25.4 percent are registered Republicans, 0.3 percent are Libertarians and 25.7 percent are unaffiliated. Sims says that there are no reported problems at the polls except for confusion about the parameters of a primary election.
If a voter is registered with one party, then the only ballot that voter can cast is with that particular party. If the voter is unaffiliated, then he or she can choose to vote on any of the party ballots or the nonpartisan ballot.
In Orange County, early voter turnout was 6,827 as of Saturday. Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams would like to reach the 2008 total of 17,290 votes cast by the end of early voting, but unless a significant number of voters turn out this week, the county may fall short of that number.
Of the early voters, 59.7 percent are registered Democrats, 9.9 percent are registered Republicans, 0.4 percent are Libertarians and 30 percent are unaffiliated. Although there have been no reported problems in the polls, Reams said had hoped that turnout in northern polling sites would be heavier than it has been.
Tiara Hodges is an intern with the Independent Weekly.
If you’re a Durham County resident, you may have received campaign mailers supporting the slate of Michael Page, Brenda Howerton, Joe Bowser and Rickey Padgett for county commissioner. Here's the mailer:
That mailer was paid for by the innocuously named Durham Partnership for Progress. But innocuous it is not: DPP is actually an independent expenditure political committee—commonly known as a Super PAC—organized by developer Tyler Morris, a majority shareholder in Southern Durham Development.
And not coincidentally, DPP is bankrolled, so far, by Southern Durham Development, which plans to build the controversial 751 South project in the sensitive Jordan Lake watershed.
Also not coincidentally, Page, Howerton and Bowser—all incumbents—voted to approve a controversial rezoning that allowed 751 South to move forward. Padgett supports the project; he also applied for an appointment to the commission last year to fill the seat held by Becky Heron, who resigned because of illness. (The commissioners instead appointed Pam Karriker, who is not running for election.)
Morris is listed as DPP's assistant treasurer. Rhonda Sisk, the DPP treasurer, lists an address that is Southern Durham Development's company office.
Here is the statement of organization: statement_of_organization.pdf
The first donations to the DPP are from Southern Durham Development: $2,500 in-kind and $100 in direct funds. expenditures.pdf
The $2,500 went to pay for a survey by Public Policy Polling that asked several questions of potential voters, including if they would vote for commissioner candidates who support 751. The survey also asked if the developers should sue the City of Durham.
In February, six Durham City Council members voted unanimously to reject the developer's request that the city provide water and sewer service to the 751 South. Councilman Howard Clement was absent due to illness.
Super PACs such as the Durham Partnership for Progress can receive unlimited funds from unlimited sources and spend unlimited amounts of money, according to Michael Perry, director of the Durham County Board of Elections. The only stipulation is that the Super PAC must not directly or indirectly make contributions to candidate committees or other committees that make contributions to candidates. Super PACs cannot coordinate with candidates, although that distinction is often not apparent.
Durham Partnership for Progress complies with that requirement by stating on the mailer that it is not endorsed by any candidate.
The DPP Super PAC sets a troubling precedent in Durham. It can accept enormous amounts of money from the wealthy development community—including out-of-towners like Morris, who lives in Raleigh—and use it to influence local elections.
First-quarter campaign finance reports are due April 30, the contents of which could further demonstrate the reach and influence of the DPP Super PAC.
The N.C. Department of Justice's Consumer Protection Division released its draft report today on the impacts of fracking on landowners. In a word: If you're a landowner in North Carolina and you've signed away your mineral rights—or have been liberated of them by a homebuilder—you could be in trouble.
The report was presented at a meeting of the Environmental Review Commission, which is composed of 18 state legislators.
You can read it here: Oil_and_Gas_Study.pdf
Some key points of the DOJ's presentation include:
Strong landowner protections are needed before the state moves forward on legalizing fracking.
There is no requirement in North Carolina for a property seller to disclose up front to a prospective buyer that the mineral rights on a parcel of land have been sold or conveyed to another person or company. The disclosure can happen as late as the closing. This is important because homebuilder D.R. Horton had assigned mineral rights on at least 426 properties in the Triangle to its subsidiary, DRH Energy. In some cases, homeowners said they were not fully informed of the ramifications of this deal, or if they were informed, it happened at closing.
As for signing leasing agreements to oil and gas companies, landowners need a "cooling off period," during which time they can cancel the deal without penalty. Land men—brokers working for energy companies or independently—often show up at someone's home and pressure the owner to sign a leasing agreement. Property owners need to talk to an attorney and their mortgage lender to fully understand the implications of signing that agreement. Some mortgages prohibit the granting of these rights to a third party; a homeowner could technically be foreclosed on for doing so.
We're working on a longer piece for next week's paper. However, the DOJ is taking public comment on the draft report. The DOJ is expected to make recommendations in its final version.
Durham County voters have reason to be confused this election season, according to a new metric trotted out Thursday by Democracy NC.
The Voter Confusion Index, which measures the total number of split precincts in each county for the General Assembly and U.S. Congressional seats, lists Durham as the third worst. Wake County is 16th. Orange is 81st. Cumberland and Wayne, respectively, top Durham.
We were out of the office yesterday when D.R. Horton began returning mineral rights to homeowners in the Triangle.
A quick update in case you missed it: The deed corrections are being issued—47 and counting in Durham County alone. The one attached here includes the language that the rights "were inadvertently saved, excepted and reserved" by D.R. Horton. (Our emphasis.) unfracking.deed.pdf
It's incredulous that D.R. Horton, one of the nation's largest homebuilders, "inadvertently" granted mineral rights to 426 Triangle properties to its subsidiary, DRH Energy, but that's how the deed correction reads.
Another deed correction, however, does not include that clause. fracking.redacted.pdf
We have not seen deeds in which DRH Energy has returned mineral rights to homeowners.
The Indy reported on April 4 that D.R. Horton had stripped homeowners of their mineral rights—in some cases without the homeowners full understanding or knowledge of the ramifications of the deal. Many lenders and financial institutions won't back mortgages if the property doesn't include the mineral rights.
Last week the N.C. Attorney General's office asked D.R. Horton for additional information about its disclosure policy. Additional information is expected to be included in the consumer protection portion of a fracking report due to the Legislature next month.
Bakker is the co-founder of Revolution Church and preaches in New York City. He is the subject of the 2006 documentary One Punk Under God.
Here is the press release:
The "Faith in Action: Get Out the Vote" ... will focus on the harms of a constitutional amendment on the May 8, 2012, North Carolina primary ballot that would threaten protections for the state's unmarried couples.
Rally speakers include Quaker peace activist David LaMotte, Pilgrim United Church of Christ pastor Rev. Ginger Brasher-Cunningham, evangelical author Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, charismatic Christian leader Jimmy Chalmers and Baptist minister Brian Ammons.
Directly following the rally, attendees will march to the polls to take advantage of Sunday voting during the early voting period. The afternoon concludes with a party at Durham's Fullsteam Brewery, 422 Rigsbee Ave., beginning around 3 p.m.
We received an email today from D.R. Horton, one of the nation's largest homebuilders, explaining its disclosure policy about mineral rights. NC_Retention_of_Mineral_Rights_Fact_Sheet_1_.pdf
"D.R. Horton requires that its mineral rights reservation be disclosed to prospective homebuyers multiple times throughout their purchase experience," the document reads in part. "D.R. Horton also currently requires closing attorneys paid by D.R. Horton to conduct closings to provide a separate written disclosure for the buyers, discuss the disclosure with them and have the buyer sign the disclosure prior to closing."
As the Indy reported April 4, D.R. Horton has granted the mineral rights to at least 425 properties in the Triangle to its energy subsidiary, DRH Energy. That means DRH Energy can explore, drill, or mine for natural gas, oil and other hydrocarbons beneath those properties—starting at 501 feet—and would collect any revenue from the sale of those sources. If North Carolina legalizes fracking, which seems to be on the fast track after a bill
However, that's not the only downside for property owners or prospective homebuyers. Many financial lenders, including the State Employees' Credit Union, will not back mortgages on properties without the mineral rights included.
Although D.R. says it requires full disclosure of its mineral rights policy, that doesn't mean those disclosure are actually being made. One homebuyer interviewed by the Indy said she had never been told about the mineral rights; another said she was told only at closing. Other media have reported similar stories of homebuyers who felt they had not been fully informed of the ramifications of the severance of their mineral rights.
The N.C. Attorney General's office had asked D.R. Horton to explain its policy; it is expected Horton's comments and further analysis will be part of a fracking report due to the Legislature in early May. D.R. Horton wrote in today's document that it is working with the AG's office and the N.C. Real Estate Commission regarding concerns raised about this issue. "We are cooperatively reviewing our disclosures with them," the statement reads. "D.R. Horton intends to require an additional disclosure in a separate written document to be signed by our buyers prior to a contract."
And apparently D.R. Horton knows some legal shift is on the horizon:
"We expect that the adoption of a comprehensive regulatory framework by N.C. officials will result in lenders having fewer concerns or revising the standards for their loans. Regardless, D.R. Horton will continue to accommodate mortgage lenders' concerns in connection with their loans."
On Wednesday, a state senate committee chaired by Bob Rucho proposed lifting North Carolina's ban on fracking. There are several troubling provisions in the bill, including the invalidation of local ordinances prohibiting fracking. Town and city councils in Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Creedmoor, Durham and Pittsboro have passed resolutions that in some form oppose fracking.
Half of North Carolina voters have no opinion on fracking, according to a recent survey of 975 people by Public Policy Polling.
"The reaction for a plurality of North Carolinians, when asked about it, is 'huh?'" PPP stated in a press release.
Of those who did have an opinion, 27 percent oppose the controversial energy drilling practice, while 24 percent approve.
"The party lines on the issue are pretty predictable," PPP stated. "Republicans support it; Democrats and independents are opposed."
The automated telephone poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.14 percent.