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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fracking hearing tonight; fake DENR apology making email rounds

Posted by on Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 12:50 PM

When issuing an official press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources—or pretending to—it's wise to include the agency secretary's name.

That was among the tells when the Indy received a "press release" alleging that DENR has apologized for its controversial draft report on fracking, in which the agency said it could be done safely in North Carolina if the right protections were in place. The release also falsely stated that DENR had reversed its position.

More reasons to doubt the release's legitimacy:
A) That's too good to be true.
B) The email came from director@askdenr.org (DENR addresses have a .gov suffix) and the "Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs" (which does exist).
C) I sent the email to DENR for verification; an agency spokesperson said that the email is fake.

I then plugged the originating IP address into to several databases that trace these addresses, but the results were inconclusive; the email could have been sent from several computers or mobile devices, or the databases could be wrong. Nonetheless, the cities of origin came back as Clayton, Rocky Mount and Elizabeth City, so the best guess is "east of Raleigh."

As the Indy reported last week, the draft report contained 444 pages of scientific research that cast doubt on fracking—research that contradicted the report's political conclusion that it could be done safely.

A public hearing about the report is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. today at East Chapel Hill High School, 500 Weaver Dairy Road. DENR is also taking public comment via email until April 1: shale_gas_comments@ncdenr.gov

The Indy has long reported on the potential environmental and socio-economic damages from fracking. Readers could rightfully argue that we've been skeptical of fracking to the point of advocating against it.

But even if we agree with the underlying argument that fracking is a bad idea—issuing a fake press release? It's not a very convincing way to get your point across. Very 2008. Yawn.

And the name of the DENR Secretary is Dee Freeman.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hackney won't seek re-election; clears path for Insko

Posted by on Thu, Feb 2, 2012 at 10:45 AM

N.C. House Minority Leader Joe Hackney announced his retirement this morning, opting not to wage a re-election campaign against long-time colleague Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.

The two veteran legislators were drawn into the same district, the 56th, by the Republican-produced new maps last year.

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Hackney will stay in office until his tenure ends in January.

Hackney has served 16 terms, 32 years, in the General Assembly representing the 54th district, which includes Orange, Chatham and Moore counties. He was elected Speaker of the House in 2007 following Jim Black’s removal. He severed as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Orange County talks trash, next steps when landfill closes in 2013

Posted by on Fri, Jan 27, 2012 at 12:43 PM

The Orange County Board of Commissioners are committed to closing the local landfill, a burden that the Rogers Road-Eubanks community has been saddled with for 40 years now, in June 2013.

But, at last night’s Assembly of Governments meeting, leaders from the three Orange municipalities who dump garbage there as part of an interlocal agreement said they want to work together but differ on how to move forward. They have just 17 months to decide.

Chapel Hill is hiring a consultant, hopefully next month, to study its options and wants to consider keeping trash local and converting it to energy.

Carrboro is balking at the cost, both in dollars and in pollution, of the county’s plan to transport waste to Durham’s transfer station and then onto a landfill in Virginia. The Board of Alderman unanimously supports studying the feasibility of building a waste transfer station in Chapel Hill near the northwest intersection of N.C. Hwy 86 and I-40.

Hillsborough is OK with whatever everyone else decides so long as it doesn’t cost significantly more than what is being done now.

All want to offer remediation for Rogers-Eubanks and agreed to form a task force to work on creating a lasting community center for the neighborhood and on providing the water and sewer connections for neighbors that were promised when the site was built in 1972.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chapel Hill still wrangling with Yates review decision

Posted by on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 8:52 PM

The Chapel Hill Town Council voted Monday night to continue discussing the next steps to take in the investigation of the recent police raid on squatters in the vacant Yates Motor Company building, but there was little enthusiasm for an advisory group’s proposal to hire an independent investigator.

The Community Policing Advisory Council (CPAC) had recommended that an independent investigator could provide more factual evidence about the Nov. 13 incident. The CPAC and some residents had expressed concern about possible biases in a report about the incident filed by Town Manager Roger Stancil.

Ronald Bogle, chairman of CPAC, said he left the meeting “confused about the exact intentions of this council.” He also expressed concern about the role and expectations of the recently created CPAC, a volunteer board. Bogle told the Town Council he would “respect any decision you make” about pursuing an independent investigation.

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    Chapel Hill Town Council was not enthusiastic about the Community Policing Advisory Council's proposal to hire an independent investigator.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro, 2.0

Posted by on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 9:29 AM

The band of people that descended upon and dismantled Occupy Chapel Hill was friendly, and also a bit sentimental. About a dozen Occupiers showed up Tuesday afternoon to remove the tents, tarps and random detritus that had sat with them in Peace and Justice Plaza since Oct. 15.

The voluntary disencampment isn't an abandonment of Occupy Chapel Hill. At the press conference that followed, Katya Roytburd, who helped organize the event, proclaimed, "I would like to welcome everyone here to Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro's celebration of Occupy 2.0, the next phase of our existence."

The decision was made last December at one of the group's general assembly meetings amid concerns over the camp's long-term sustainability. At its peak, the camp filled the small square except for a thin strip of walkway. Up to 35 people slept there overnight; at least one person was there during the day. Food and medical supplies had to be provided. Sanitation and cleanup were ongoing concerns.

Stephanie Daugherty has slept the majority of the past three months in an OCH tent and was often responsible for arranging night watches. OCH occasionally had confrontations with drunk and belligerent college students, the homeward-bound patrons of nearby bars and homeless people.

"It's taken a lot of time and energy," Daugherty says, sounding drained. The tents and overnighters have dwindled to five and around a half-dozen, respectively. "The proximity to the street and the proximity to the bars, the concrete, how exposed the space really is [means] the site is really a great site to make a political statement. It's really not a great site to camp in."

By breaking down the encampment, the next phase of OCH frees up much energy and personnel for other goals. Future plans include other and more frequent events, outreach seminars and teach-ins. For instance, OCH is participating in Occupy the Courts in Raleigh on Jan. 20, and promoting a Jan. 21 foreclosure prevention seminar hosted by the N.C. Central University School of Law in Durham.

And even the tents won't be completely gone. Temporary encampments will sprout up around Chapel Hill and Carrboro as occasion and causes demand—the Roving Occupy. "It actually expands our ability to connect and make alliances with more people in our community, because not everyone comes to this corner of Franklin Street," says Maria Rowan, who is part of the Roving Occupy working group. She hopes that only having occasional campouts will renew enthusiasm and turnout for OCH events.

Others in OCH fretted about the value of a permanent physical presence. Daugherty says, "The encampment's been a visual disruption as you go down Franklin Street and gives you an idea that something's not right here." Arturo Escobar, a professor of anthropology and self-described sympathizer of OCH who makes occasional small donations, said it's "very important to keep the issues in the public imagination. They might take the camp down today, but this needs to continue in different ways."

OCH is mindful of preserving its momentum. The group's website and blog will continue to be updated, and the listservs will be carefully tended. Peace and Justice Plaza will continue to host the regular general assembly meetings, open to all. And there are talks of getting a permanent indoor space or setting up information tables on the Plaza.

Ultimately the disencampment is a calculation that OCH hopes will pay off. "We're voluntarily taking this down, which is a huge change from other Occupy camps," says Lila Little, whose large, brown tent loomed before the post office door. "But everybody's different, and I think this will suit us fairly well."

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    The Occupy CH-C encampment is dismantled to make way for a new vision

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Protest, march to Chapel Hill Town Hall on tap tonight in wake of Yates report

Posted by on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 9:58 AM

A group angered by Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil's endorsement of the Nov. 13 police action at the Yates Motor Co. building on Franklin Street will gather at 6 p.m. tonight at Peace and Justice Plaza and march to Town Hall where Stancil's report will be considered by the town council.

On that crisp Sunday afternoon in November, a Special Emergency Response Team charged and arrested eight people who broke into and occupied the Yates building, also known as the Chrysler Building, in attempt to turn the long-vacant property into a community center.

Critics say the police rushed in without warning and that the takeover of the building was peaceful and did not warrant a squad of police bearing assault rifles.

Stancil found in his report that the incident took place without injury and was warranted after two unsuccessful attempts by police to talk to the occupants.

Council will receive Stancil's report, released to the public late Friday, at its 7 p.m. business meeting.

The protest is endorsed by the Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective and Croatan Earth First!. The full press release is below.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stancil's report supports police in Yates raid

Posted by on Sat, Jan 7, 2012 at 12:24 PM

In Town Manager Roger Stancil's eyes, Chapel Hill Police made "the best decisions that could be made given the information available at the time," when a Special Emergency Response Team armed with assault rifles arrested "anti-capitalist occupiers" who claimed the long-vacant Yates Motor Co. Building downtown in mid-November.

Stancil released his much-anticipated, yet-unsurprising internal review of the incident late Friday. He backed the police, who report to his office, because no one was injured in the Nov 13. raid, the building had not been inhabited or a decade and was unfit and because attempts to communicate with those inside were unsuccessful.

"The use of the SERT Team was appropriate because of their continuous training for special situations and their habitual training to act as a team," Stancil wrote. "This training minimizes the potential for unintended consequences and injury."

He found fault only with the way the two members of the press, Katelyn Ferral of the News & Observer and freelancer Josh Davis, were detained on scene. To that end, Stancil and Police Chief Chris Blue have met with some local media to create a fresh media relations policy that will be used by the police, emergency management and the fire department as protocol during emergency response situations.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Occupy Chapel Hill/Carrboro going tentless

Posted by on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 10:31 AM

Occupy Chapel Hill/Carrboro will enter its second phase next week when the group removes its tents from Peace and Justice Plaza on Franklin Street, according to press release issued this morning.

Occupiers have been holding camp in front of the Post Office there since Oct. 15, but amid the coming cold, and safety and morale concerns drawn from sleeping on the street in close quarters each night, the group is shifting strategy.

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Monday, December 5, 2011

New faces on Triangle boards & councils starting tonight

Posted by on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 10:07 AM

This blog entry and headline have been updated since they were originally posted.

The Durham City Council will swear in Mayor Bill Bell and three recently elected members tonight, beginning with a 6 p.m. reception outside the council chambers. Incumbents Bell, Eugene Brown and Diane Catotti were re-elected on Nov. 8 and will each begin new terms today. Newcomer Steve Schewel, who is the majority owner of the Independent Weekly, will also take his seat at the 7 p.m. meeting, replacing Farad Ali, who chose not to run for re-election after one term.

In Chapel Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt will be sworn in for his second term as mayor at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. Town council incumbents Donna Bell, Matt Czajkowski and Jim Ward were all re-elected last month and will take the oath of office tonight, as well as Lee Storrow, who at 22 will be the council's youngest member, and the youngest elected leader in North Carolina.

In Raleigh, the City Council will also hold a swearing in at 7 p.m. Mayor-Elect Nancy McFarlane will replace outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker. The eight-member council has one new face, Randy Stagner, who replaces McFarlane in District A. The remaining members being sworn in are all incumbents: John Odom, Eugene Weeks, Thomas Crowder, Bonner Gaylord, Russ Stephenson and Mary-Ann Baldwin.

In Carrboro, Mayor Mark Chilton will be sworn into his fourth and final term at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Board of Aldermen incumbents Dan Coleman and Lydia Lavelle and newcomer Michelle Johnson will also take the oath. Johnson replaces Joal Hall Broun, who opted not to run for re-election after serving three terms.

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Friday, December 2, 2011

Dr. Steve Auerbach of Physicians for a National Health Program to speak in Triangle

Posted by on Fri, Dec 2, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Steve Auerbach, the pediatrician with Occupy Wall Street and leader of Physicians for a National Health Program has scheduled two appearances in the Triangle:

Today at 4 p.m., Dr. Auerbach will speak at 207 Alumni Hall on the UNC campus, followed by a teach-in at 5 p.m. at Peace and Justice Plaza.

On Saturday at 10 a.m. he will speak in Durham at the Snow Building, 331 W. Main St., in the basement conference room.

According to a press release, both his presentations will focus on "how extreme economic and social inequalities, combined with the greed of private health insurance companies, are harming the nation's health and economy. He will also speak about how a single-payer health system ­ an improved Medicare for all ­ is a key remedy."

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    Dr. Steve Auerbach will speak in Chapel Hill and Durham about a single-payer health system.

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Dibs on the Gay house. Any investors out there?

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