Over the next two months, watch for a run on moving boxes in Raleigh. Elections signal a transitional time in state government, as staffers leave their jobs and look for new places to land.
Philanthropy Journal has scooped up Jill Lucas, the soon-to-be former communications director for the N.C. Department of Administration. She has been named the new managing editor of Philanthropy Journal. Lucas starts her new job next week.
A journalist by trade, Lucas also served as the governor's deputy press secretary and the public information officer for the Governor's Highway Safety Program of the N.C. Department of Transportation.
N.C. State University's Institute for Nonprofit Research, Education and Engagement (INPREE), publishes Philanthropy Journal. Founding editor Todd Cohen and several staffers left the publication earlier this year.
An interfaith group of North Carolina clergy members will deliver a petition at Lowe's headquarters in
Morrisville Mooresville on Tuesday demanding that the home improvement giant apologize for removing ads from TLC's All-American Muslim TV show.
The petition, which organizers say has 200,000 signatures, will be presented at 11:30 a.m. at 1000 Lowe's Boulevard.
TLC's reality show follows a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan. Lowe's pulled advertising last week after pressure from groups who claimed that the show is doing damage by not presenting Muslims as extremists, Huffington Post reports.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the station was WUNC-TV. The correct name is UNC-TV.
WUNC, the radio station, is not under this board and is not affiliated with the TV station. Read about WUNC here.
Two conservatives, including one with direct ties to millionaire and right-wing political magnate Art Pope, have been named to the UNC-TV Board of Trustees, according to WRAL.
UNC-TV is the statewide public television station.
Robert Orr, executive director and senior counsel for the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, was appointed by Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis.
As the Indy and Facing South reported in March, Pope is the institute’s treasurer and has served as chair and vice chair of its board of directors. The institute has received more than $3.2 million from the Pope Foundation since its founding in 1994.
Orr also served as a former N.C. Supreme Court associate justice.
Rick Martinez is a conservative columnist for The News & Observer and is news director of radio station WPTF. He co-hosts a radio program with his wife, Donna Martinez; she worked as an associate editor for the Carolina Journal, the flagship media program ofh the John Locke Foundation. The foundation has received more than $20 million from the Pope Foundation; Pope, who helped launch it in 1990, sits on its board.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, a Republican, appointed Martinez.
There were two other appointments: Jim Goodmon, president of Capitol Broadcasting, was appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue. Capitol Broadcasting is the parent company of WRAL.
The UNC Board of Governors appointed Sabrina Bengel of New Bern, a travel and tourism executive and a member of the North Carolina Travel & Tourism board.
Correction: The original version of this story stated the station was WUNC-TV. It is UNC-TV, which is different from WUNC, the radio station.
Google announced today it selected Kansas City, Kan., for a free fiber-optic network that promises Internet speeds 100 times faster than those currently available to most homes and businesses in the U.S. It's a project worth millions. The news likely dashed the hopes of the more than 600 communities across the country that asked to be considered for the project, including Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
We wrote about Google fever last March. The frenzy to get Google's attention prompted a lot of stunts. Topeka, Kan., renamed itself Google, people were jumping into freezing lakes in the middle of winter—it was big. Here, our efforts were more mild—Durhamites spelled out 'Google' for an aerial photo at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
We understand. It's a little disheartening to be passed over for Kansas. Here in North Carolina, we actually have a lot in common with Kansas: breathtaking landscapes (but we've got the beach), great barbecue (vinegar, baby) and exhilarating college basketball (although both Roy Williams and Dean Smith chose to settle on Tobacco Road).
This isn't the first time Kansas has beat out North Carolina for a multi-million dollar investment. In 2006, both North Carolina and Kansas were on a short list of states where the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was considering building National Bio and Agro Defense Facility. The NBAF is a huge federal complex for the research of "pathogens and pests" that threaten plants and animals vital to the country's agricultural systems, including zoonotic diseases, or diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.
When it was proposed that the facility be located in Butner, residents and community leaders across the region gathered in fervent opposition. In 2009, Homeland Security announced the NBAF would be located in Manhattan, Kan. So, maybe being passed over for Kansas isn't always a bad thing.
(Also, our good state's name hasn't been branded by melodramatic prog-rock for the past four decades. Just saying.)
Update Monday afternoon: Barry Van Deman, president and CEO of the Museum of Life and Science, wrote to City Council members today about the museum's position on digital billboards. You can read the letter, but in essence he reiterates the museum "has not taken and does not intend" an official position on the billboard ordinance. museumlettermonday.pdf
Tonight's Durham City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. If the main City Council Chambers fills, there is other seating in an overflow area where people can watch the proceedings on TV screens. The meeting will also be broadcast on Channel 8.
As of Friday, City Council had received more than 750 e-mails opposing changes to the billboard ordinance and four supporting the amendment, which would allow digital billboards.
The relationship between some local nonprofit groups and Fairway Outdoor Advertising is in question three days before a pivotal http://www.ci.durham.nc.us/council/ vote Monday night on digital billboards.
Fairway, which is pushing for a change to city and county ordinances that would allow it to place digital billboards in Durham, routinely gives away billboard space to nonprofits.
However, some of those same nonprofits that received free billboard space from Fairway have sent letters to city council members promoting their partnerships with the Georgia-based advertising company—and pushing the benefits of digital billboards for their groups.
(Clarification posted Saturday morning: The letter obtained by the Indy is addressed to Mayor Bill Bell, who also sits on city council; however, at least one city council member received the letter in an envelope sent from Fairway. museumletter.pdf )
And in one case, a strategist working with the billboard industry appeared to troll for nonprofits by asking a City Councilwoman about her favorite groups.
Although Fairway has been courting community groups about digital billboards for at least two years, the most recent examples of Fairway’s wooing of nonprofits date from June, when several nonprofits sent letters to City Council members supporting the ordinance change.
The Museum of Life and Science sent a letter on June 8 noting that “Fairway was a valued partner” in helping the museum publicize its new Dinosaur Trail exhibit. “The Museum and other nonprofits will benefit from the proposed digital billboard opportunity,” the letter said.
Nonprofits receive free space but pay for the printing of the billboard message. With digital billboards, “this cost is eliminated and resources are available for our mission,” the letter reads.
Julie Ketner Rigby, the museum’s vice president for external relations, said the letter was intended to “point out information” about the value of its partnership with Fairway.
Rigby said the museum board has not taken a position on the billboard ordinance.
The strategy of cozying up to nonprofit groups is emphasized in materials of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, a trade group representing the billboard industry. Scenic America, a nonprofit that opposes billboards, quotes the association as saying, "Know the public service and/or charity interest of the mayor, planning director, council members, ... their wives and husbands ... Direct your public service efforts toward these causes ... Make these persons aware each time you donate space to a cause and/or group for which they have an interest."
Steve Toler, a local consultant and strategist who has been working with the billboard industry, appears to have used this tactic with one elected official.
At least a year ago, Toler asked to have lunch with City Councilwoman Diane Catotti. At the end of the conversation, which, until that point had not mentioned billboards, Catotti told the Indy, Toler casually asked her about her favorite nonprofit groups. Catotti said she named a couple, including the Durham Crisis Response Center. She said she thought nothing of it until at some point after that luncheon when she saw billboards for those same groups. Catotti told the Indy that Toler did not follow up with her about the billboards and she has not been contacted by Toler or Fairway since the original lunch.
Toler did not responded to a phone call and an e-mail requesting comment.
Fairway General Manager Paul Hickman said late Friday afternoon that he knows nothing of Toler’s lunch with Catotti. He said the company has long donated space to nonprofits, which is “very common” in the outdoor advertising industry.
As for the recent letters sent by nonprofits supporting Fairway, Hickman said the proposed text amendment clearly states that Fairway will donate one 8-second spot each minute to public service announcements, including nonprofits.
“As the nonprofits learn about the text amendment, they know it benefits their business,” Hickman said.
Hickman said the nonprofits took the lead on sending the pro-billboard letter: “Every nonprofit that wrote a letter” contacted Fairway and said ‘Can we help you? And we said, ‘You can make a phone call or write a letter, if you want. It’s up to you.’”
Interestingly, the museum letter went beyond its personal interest in publicizing its exhibits. The letter echoed Fairway’s talking points on Amber and Silver alerts, noting “… the opportunities for Amber and Silver alerts are all important considerations for this proposal.”
Asked why the Museum of Life and Science would be concerned about Amber and Silver alerts, Hickman replied that nonprofits could have obtained information about the text amendment from many sources, including the company’s website. “I don’t know why they wrote what they wrote,” he said.
However, Rigby said Fairway provided the museum with information about digital billboards in a sample letter. She said she “picked and chose” from the many points Fairway listed in that template, adding she has seen other nonprofits’ letters. “They are all a little bit different,” she said.
Amber and Silver alerts were a key part of a July 2009 presentation before the Durham Crime Cabinet. There, Patrick Byker, an attorney with K&L Gates, which represents Fairway, emphasized how digital billboards are more effective than other media at drawing attention to Amber and Silver alerts.
A rift formed among PAC representatives after Fairway attorneys pitched the proposal to a City Wide PAC meeting, a gathering of the leaders of the five PAC districts. During the pitch, Fairway asked for the City Wide PAC’s support.
By a 3-2 vote, the City Wide PAC allowed Fairway to claim that the group supported the text amendment—even though those five leaders had not cleared it with their individual district groups.
Bill Anderson (PAC 2) and Patty Coninger (PAC 3) voted against the text amendment, according to PAC e-mails.
Marion Lambert (PAC 5), Harold Chestnut (PAC 4) and Wanda Boone, (PAC 1) voted in favor of Fairway’s proposal.
Boone, executive director of Durham Together for Resilient Youth (T.R.Y.), received harsh criticism from billboard opponents because she supported the ordinance change, yet had received free billboards from Fairway in 2007, about a year before the company’s main push for a change to the ordinance.
Boone declined to comment for this story, but she told her PAC colleagues in an e-mail that "the request for me to speak came via Harold Chestnut ... to voice the result of City-wide PAC's vote (period) in favor of the electronic billboard 'for the safety of our Durham Community.' ... I carried the message. "
John Schelp, an outspoken opponent of digital billboards, said he is not surprised by Fairway’s apparent wooing of nonprofit groups. “We said a year and a half ago that Fairway would do this. Sure enough, it’s all happening.”
Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill/Carrboro were among 36 municipalities in North Carolina and almost 1,100 nationally to apply for Google Fiber, the company announced today.
The response was much more than they expected.
Now Google has launched a site that centralizes their efforts and calls on communities to translate their push for Google Fiber into a move for national and local legislation to create fiber infrastructure.
The site also features a thank you video that features, among others, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton. Does that provide any clues? We’ll have to wait to the end of the year to find out who Google has selected.
The bill's title—“No Nonvoted Local Debt For Competing System"—hides the measure's true intent: to kill cities' and towns' authority to build high-speed Internet systems that could compete with the telecommunications companies. It sponsored by Sens. David Hoyle, Dan Blue (a Wake County Democrat), Peter Brunstetter, Fletcher Hartsell, Clark Jenkins, and Jerry Tillman.
The bill's language was revised this past week to include a moratorium. If the bill becomes law, the moratorium would extend through August 2011 when the legislature's long session ends, thus buying the telecommunications companies time to flex their political muscle.
The moratorium carefully exempts current broadband systems like those built in Wilson and Salisbury, but affects cities that did not launch their own broadband feasibility study, before yesterday, June 1. Provisions of the revised bill include informing the industry (i.e., AT&T, Embarq, Time Warner Cable, etc.) when a city or town is considering creating its own system.
Hoyle introduced the “anti” municipality broadband bill nearly a month ago at the Revenue Laws Study Committee. He called the bill a "good one since neither side likes it" and admitted he wasn't all that fond of it himself.
While Hoyle calls North Carolina a state known internationally a business friendly, he overlooked the necessity of successful businesses having high-speed connectivity.
Today, commenting on his bill, Hoyle focused on his "philosophical" ideals: that government should not compete with private enterprise. He said allowing municipal broadband systems creates, “uncontrolled competition on an un-level playing field."
Municipal cable and broadband consultant Catharine Rice of Action Audits said it's important to remember Time Warner Cable is a multi-million dollar business, adding that Sen. Hoyle's "fairness" argument is misguided.
"This is a sad day for our state," said Rice. "Especially, when we saw yesterday that China plans to bring fiber to the homes of its citizens by the end of the year—that's 18 million homes—yet in North Carolina we just had legislation passed that stops cities that want to bring fiber to their citizens homes."
Sen. Joe Sam Queen, a Democrat representing Avery, Haywood, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, and Yancey counties, spoke out against the bill. "The private sector is not getting it done fast enough for my taste," he said citing the educational opportunities children in rural areas he represents need internet connectivity—connectivity the telecommunications companies are slow to provide.
Sen. William Purcell, a Democrat representing Anson, Richmond, Scotland, and Stanly counties had one question Sen. Hoyle: "What insurance do we have that the big companies supplying cable won't overlook the small less profitable markets and cities in N.C.?"
Hoyle casually replied: "The same reason small cities shouldn't get into the broadband business to begin with."
Purcell ended his comments by saying, "I hope that in the end we do keep small rural communities in mind. They need it [broadband] just as much as the cities do."
State Rep. Faison says Caswell County Commissioners decided they needed to expand on North Carolina law, which allows municipalities to build their own broadband systems. In 2005, an state appeals court ruled that towns and cities had the right to offer high-speed Internet to their residents.
In making his case for the bill, Faison cited as an example electrical co-ops across the state that brought basic utilities services to under-served towns. "High speed internet is just as important today as electricity was in another era as a basic service," said Faison, a proponent of municipal broadband.
"We need to supply to every one. Where AT&T will go and provide at a reasonable cost, I am happy to let them do it—but where they won't go, someone must step up and bring that service to those people," he added.
Faison called Sen. Hoyle's bill, S 1209, a "poison pill" to municipal broadband, adding that high-speed internet access might be considered a luxury—just as roads, electricity and phone once were—but in the global marketplace, success depends upon bandwidth.
The bill was pulled from the Senate Finance Committee meeting Wednesday; it is scheduled to be heard Tuesday, June 1 at 1 p.m.
Introduced by state Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, at the Revenue Laws Study Committee meeting on May 5, the bill quickly sparked concern over its requirement that local governments hold a public vote to build, repair or expand Internet services. Telecommunications companies support S 1209 because they don’t want to compete with cities and towns in providing high-speed Internet service.
Sen. William Purcell, a Democrat representing Anson, Richmond, Scotland, and Stanly counties, attended yesterday's meeting, and said he cannot support S 1209 as written.
“I hope the bill is going to come back changed,” said Sen. Purcell. “I have had a lot of calls and emails from local governments in my district who are very concerned about this bill."
Sen. Purcell is most concerned with the burden the bill places on local governments to apply for and receive General Obligation Bonds before implementing a broadband system or repairing an existing project. “Local governments going up against powerful communications people who have the money to do a large campaign against a broadband project during a general election, could make it virtually impossible for any city to put in their own system.”
Municipal cable and broadband consultant Catharine Rice of Action Audits said, “I think Sen. Clodfelter finally understands that there are negative impacts to Sen. Hoyle's bill.”
“These Senators have to hear from the grassroots,” said Rice. “They need to hear from their own people who don't want our state handed over to Time Warner Cable and AT&T.”
If you can't make it to the legislature, you can listen to the proceedings online.
Read the Indy's coverage of the issue and the bill which would effectively kill local governments' ability to build their own broadband networks.