It may have taken a few decades, but the landfill-blighted Rogers Road community in Chapel Hill is getting some recompense.
Orange County commissioners unanimously approved a vote Tuesday night authorizing County Manager Frank Clifton to award a construction bid for no more than $650,000 to build a long-promised community center in the historically black, low-income neighborhood. Officials said construction could begin this summer with hopes of having the center open by summer 2014. It coincides with a plan to close the county landfill at June's end.
"It's a great opportunity for our kids to learn that, through perseverance, anything can be done," said David Caldwell Jr., organizer for the community center.
Commissioners seemed spurred last year to make progress on the center when Chapel Hill officials moved in August to close a Purefoy Drive home that Rogers Road residents had made into something of a makeshift center. Town leaders cited permitting and building code concerns for shutting down the center.
The new center will be situated on a roughly half-acre plot near the intersection of Purefoy Drive and Edgar Street. It is expected to include classrooms, a kitchen and a computer lab.
The future of Orange County's celebrated recycling program is before county commissioners tonight.
County commissioners will consider a number of proposals—including the widely-reviled prospect of privatization—when they meet at 7 p.m. in Hillsborough.
Expect a full story on the recycling program and its funding challenges in Wednesday's print edition of INDY Week, but in the meantime, sit in on tonight's meeting if you want an admittedly complicated primer. The program touts an unprecedented 59 percent waste reduction rate in the last two decades, but a 2012 court decision has put the program's funding in jeopardy.
Obtain tonight's agenda here.
After today, the fate of Dorothea Dix park will likely be out of your control.
The second and final public hearing of Wake County’s delegation of general assembly members is scheduled for 4 pm today at the legislature.
The many advocacy organizations that favor Dix park are asking people to come to the hearing wearing green to show solidarity. Those who are interested will be able to sign up to speak.
More than 300 people showed up for the first public hearing two weeks ago. Speakers last time also railed against a bill that would redraw—for the second time in two years—Wake County Board of Education districts to favor conservatives.
A senate bill that would revoke the city’s lease on the park has already been voted on once and passed. However, that vote came after last Monday’s meeting and Wake County Republicans broke rank, voting against the bill.
Dix supporters created this silent video last week to invoke their argument that legislators should honor the lease that was agreed to between the City of Raleigh and the state last December.
For the liberals out there: Rachel Maddow—the oh-so-sharp host of MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show"—has heard your cries.
On Thursday's show, Maddow panned the ominously-numbered Senate Bill 666, a measure that—for all intents and purposes—appears geared to curb North Carolina's college vote. In case you don't remember, college students made up a key demographic in North Carolina's Democratic election victories of 2008.
The Maddow gem from Thursday's broadcast?
"Do yourself a favor and go set your Google news alert to North Carolina Republicans. They have completely unchecked power right now, and their ideas about how to use that power are, as the political scientists say, rather amazeballs."
For people who don't know what "amazeballs" means, it's a trendy way of saying something is amazing.
The legislation, filed last week by eastern North Carolina Republican Bill Cook, strips tax deductions from parents of college students who choose to vote where they go to school. The measure also requires voters to register in the same county where their vehicles are registered, another shot at college students who retain vehicle registration in their home counties.
Watch Maddow's comments here:
The Affordable and Reliable Energy Act (House Bill 298), which would repeal the provisions in 2007's Senate Bill 3 mandating that a portion of electricity sold by utilities companies be from renewable sources—is gaining traction in the General Assembly.
At a public hearing today, the Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Energy and Emerging Markets approved a revised version of the bill by an 11-10 vote.
Speakers who oppose the bill, including clean energy business leaders, farmers and energy experts, say HB 298 will undermine North Carolina’s expanding clean energy industry, which has generated $1.7 billion and more than 20,000 jobs in the state since Senate Bill 3’s Renewable Energy and Efficiency Portfolio Standards (REPS) laws have been in place.
John Morrison, chief operations officer at Chapel Hill’s Strata Solar, said North Carolina is on track to becoming the fourth-largest solar energy provider in the country. “House Bill 298 sends the message to the investment community that North Carolina is no longer open for business for solar investors,” Morrison said.
HB 298 sponsor Rep. Mike Hager, and speakers from conservative political advocacy groups Americans for Prosperity and the Civitas Institute, argued that ratepayers are unduly burdened by REPS that factor into their power bills.
Duke Energy media spokesperson Jeff Brooks said yesterday that the charges passed along to ratepayers by utilities companies for complying with REPS laws are small. Utilities companies may charge ratepayers only up to $12 a year for compliance with REPS; currently they are charging roughly half that. Progress Energy Carolinas customers pay 56 cents a month, while Duke Energy Carolinas customers pay 22 cents a month to cover REPS.
Molly Diggins, state director of the N.C. Sierra Club, said, “Today, by a one-vote margin, a divided House subcommittee turned its back on hundreds of small business owners and thousands of jobs. Today’s vote was a triumph of right wing ideology over investment in our economy, environment and positioning our state for future prosperity.”
Just a quick post here to take note of two bills moving quickly through the general assembly that reshape the idea of who should face criminal background checks.
One would mean that all residents applying for food stamps or welfare undergo a criminal background check.
Currently, all DSS workers are required to do is ask an applicant if they — or anyone else who would be on the receiving end of the benefits — currently have a warrant out against them.
The bill would require DSS workers to provide information such as address, phone number, Social Security number and a physical description of the applicant to law enforcement [to see] if the background check turns up an outstanding arrest warrant anywhere in the state.
The other bill would mean that people applying to teach at charter schools are NOT required to undergo a background check.
This provision is part of a much larger bill to expand charter schools that was in committee again today. One Republican senator put forward an amendment that would’ve required background checks, but it was shot down, according to NC Policy Watch.
My takeaway: corporations don't need oversight, but poor people do.
GOP lawmakers haven’t floated the idea of secession yet, but that may be what’s next.
A joint resolution filed by Reps. Harry Warren and Carl Ford argues that the establishment clause of the First Amendment does not—read NOT—apply to North Carolina, or any state for that matter.
If the First Amendment doesn’t apply to the states within the United States, does that leave Puerto Rico and Guam?
The resolution, stunningly, goes on to say “the Constitution of the United States does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional.”
In fact, a decision written more than 200 years ago says that federal courts have exactly that power.
If a federal court, a.k.a. the Supreme Court of the United States, doesn’t have the power to decide what is constitutional, who does? Should each state be able to interpret the Constitution differently?
Reps. Warren and Ford haven’t yet returned my calls for comment.
Let’s back up for a minute. This bill emerged because the Rowan County Commissioners like to pray specifically to Jesus Christ before each meeting. The ACLU of North Carolina has sued them for that and the U.S. Court of Appeals has already ruled that specific religious prayers are unconstitutional.
(Praying before a meeting is legal, but praying to the god of a particular religion is not. The legal argument is that such practices exclude elected officials or other people attending the meeting who might belong to another religion or no religion at all. It has been ruled to violate the establishment clause, which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an Establishment of Religion.”)
In an email response the ACLU’s communications director Mike Meno had this to say: “The bill sponsors fundamentally misunderstand constitutional law and the principles of the separation of powers that date back to the founding of this country.”
I'm pretty sure he was being generous.
The Rowan County situation is lightly referred to in the resolution, but its language seems to include the entire state.
These bold declarations come directly from the text:
The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
The good news is that a resolution does not, as they say, carry the force of law.
A resolution, therefore, likely wouldn’t be challenged in court. However, as long as government bodies like the Rowan County Commissioners continue to pray to Jesus, the ACLU will continue to sue them.
At that point, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide who is right, whether North Carolina legislators say it can or not.