Several state senators expressed concern Wednesday over a bill that would allow digital billboards across the state’s interstates and highways, regardless of local rules that might prohibit them. The bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown of Jacksonville, said he just wanted feedback Wednesday, and no vote was taken. He is expected to revise the bill and bring it back to the Senate Transportation Committee.
Several senators said their major issue was the idea of taking away a community’s control of its own appearance from highways and interstates.
“I don’t think we ought to take the control away from our local governments,” said Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, who noted his district is home to a large billboard company. “We do too much micromanaging up here as it is.”
The bill (SB183) would override local rules on signage, even those banning digital billboards, and would allow broader cutting of trees and other vegetation in front of the signs to increase visibility. The signs and tree-cutting would disregard local ordinances governing those very issues.
If passed, the bill wouldn’t allow any new billboards to be put up, but would allow old billboards on interstates and major highways to be replaced with signs that have changing images, whether through digital screens or rotating parts. As it’s currently written, the law would be effective Oct. 1.
Just last year, Durham City Council unanimously shot down a request from Fairway Outdoor Advertising to change its sign ordinances to allow for digital billboards, in part due to overwhelming opposition from residents who launched a campaign against the local issue. Several other municipalities, including each of the state’s largest cities, have spoken out against the bill, said Paul Meyer, chief legislative counsel for the N.C. League of Municipalities. Several other groups, including the North Carolina chapters of the Sierra Club and the American Planning Association, the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition and Preservation North Carolina have also announced their opposition to the bill.
“We need to have the ability with each local government to decide what they want and what they will permit in their communities,” said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham. “There are different local norms. I think enhancing the beauty of our communities and the uniqueness of our communities is something we should respect.”
The Bull City ranked No. 11 on the Men’s Health list of the 100 fattest cities in the U.S.
And Raleigh, before you start gloating about your rotund neighbors to the west (besides, our insulation allows us to survive much longer in cold water), uncinch your belt a notch because you ranked No. 47.
The magazine arrived at its rankings using several criteria:
Greensboro received a No. 70 ranking, while Charlotte was 74th.
Corpus Christi, Texas, came in at No. 1, while San Francisco, unsurprisingly, was last.
RALEIGH/LEGISLATIVE BUILDING—The N.C. House voted 66-50 in favor of House Bill 2 on Wednesday, supporting legislation that would exempt the state's citizens from the federal health insurance mandate and force Attorney General Roy Cooper to join legislation that challenges the law.
The bill, “Protect Health Care Freedom,” now moves to the N.C. Senate.
House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, one of four primary sponsors, equated the health care bill to forcing colonists to drink tea and pay a tax.
“More than anything this bill is about what you think about yourself,” he said. “Are you a citizen or are you a child, are you a ward of the state?”
Democrats argued that the legislation was rushed and unnecessary, noting that the issue is already being reviewed in federal courts and that North Carolina, whether it signs on as a plaintiff or not, will be subject to the decisions.
“I find it disappointing that we are taking our time here in North Carolina to address an issue that is already in the federal courts,” said Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange. “There is no outcome that will result except possible unintended consequences.”
They also said the public should have been allowed to comment during committee meetings. Republicans said the legislation was a key platform plank and that citizens are already aware of the bill and have spoken on it on the campaign trail.
House Minority Leader Joe Hackney asked Republicans to offer a better health care plan, not just defeat the one passed by U.S. Congress. They did not have one.
Meanwhile in Washington, the U.S. Senate defeated legislation today that would have repealed the health care reform law.
RALEIGH—In case the Republicans who took officially took control of the N.C. General Assembly on Tuesday thought they had arrived, Raleigh resident Frank Ragsdale reminded them, “We are watching you. You are on probation.”
That was the message he orated to three dozen Tea Party supporters who rallied in the rain Tuesday on the Halifax Mall, a few hundred yards away from the N.C. Legislative Building on the opening day of the session.Moccasin Creek Minutemen and NCFreedom urged legislators to slash spending, curb taxes and reduce governmental oversight of the private sector. Supporters held signs reading “Don’t Tread on Me,” and “Taxed Enough Already.”
“Do not, as many of your predecessors have done, forget your campaign promises,” Ragsdale said. “Stop spending our money. Our checking account is closed. The people of North Carolina have nothing more to give you to spend and waste.”
Other speakers took aim at immigrants. William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration laid out his three-point plan for more rigid enforcement.
He wants to review voter rolls to insure that illegal immigrants aren’t allowed to participate in elections, stop providing non-emergency services to them and pass a law similar to but even stronger than Arizona’s infamous Senate Bill 1070.
With Republicans now in power, Gheen is full of optimism. House leaders are already floating a voter ID bill.
“This is one of the most beautiful days in my life,” Gheen said.
Overhead, the sky remained gray and the rain droplets became more rapid.
RALEIGH—Passionate neighbors dressed in red and overflowed from the Raleigh City Council chambers Tuesday night to urge the council and planning commission to deny a rezoning request that would allow Hanson Aggregates to expand its Crabtree Quarry operation.
But the message was clear to Mayor Charles Meeker, who, in an unusual move, asked supporters and opponents to raise their hands and be counted. Meeker, council and planning members even walked into the hallway, where 150 people were watching the proceedings on a television feed.
The official tally: 20 people in support of the rezoning and 400 against it, Meeker noted.
“This is certainly the biggest crowd I’ve seen in my 10 years here,” the mayor said.
Two brothers who operated the J&A Framing and Carpentry have been indicted on several charges, including trafficking immigrants whom they employed at the Durham-based business.
A grand jury yesterday indicted Juan Antonio Ponce and Jose Alfredo Lopez Ponce, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorneys office in Raleigh. The Ponce brothers allegedly hired coyotes, or smugglers, to bring undocumented immigrants into the U.S. to work for the business. The employers also allegedly failed to pay employment taxes while paying the immigrants less than minimum wage. In addition, the Ponce brothers charged the workers rent for spartan accommodations.
A month ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided three work sites in Cary, Apex and Chapel Hill and arrested 18 workers. Eight of those arrested pleaded guilty to misdemeanor immigration-related charges and served 30 days in the detention center, while 10 men await their indictments and court hearings.
The Lopez brothers entered the U.S. illegally in the 1980s, according to the U.S. Attorney, but have married U.S. citizens and become naturalized.
This story will updated as more information becomes available.
RALEIGH— Neighbors peppered Hanson Aggregates Southeast officials with questions Tuesday night at an information session on the company’s plans to expand its Crabtree Quarry operation.
The crowd packed the Glen Eden Community Center parking lot and overflowed from the room with brooms being used to prop open back and side doors to get a view of Hanson’s presentation.
Residents worried about the noise, the vibrations, the view and their property value. They reminded Hanson that the their current quarry, which was built in the 1940s, is now surrounded by neighborhoods.
“The amount of activity for the quarry area does not change by the quarry size,” Styers explained. “It’s a function of demand.”
Blasts now occur once every two weeks. The current quarry, located between Duraleigh and Ebenezer Church roads has two decades of life remaining, Hanson officials estimate.
The group has the option to purchase 100 acres of property once slated for the Hamptons at Umstead Development. The move, if the City of Raleigh approves a rezoning request, would occur in about three years, General Manager Chris Ward said.
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.
Thursday morning, the chairman and commissioner of North Carolina’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission denied the City of Raleigh and Harris Wholesale the advertising exemptions necessary to put Bud Light’s name and logo on the $2.5 million downtown space. The decision would have set a new precedent for the state, which does not allow public buildings to be named for alcoholic products.
“The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is not here to condemn alcohol as an industry, but we are here to regulate the alcohol industry,” said Chairman Jonathan Williams after seven representatives of various religious, legal and social organizations spoke against the name. “And it’s a highly competitive industry. The dynamics of opening up this kind of competition in the advertising field would be difficult to contain. For that reason, I am inclined against granting the exemption.”
Williams went on to wish the city well in its search for a new sponsor to replace funds—$300,000 annually—lost with the nixed proposal, calling it “a wonderful project and a wonderful asset for the community.”
As reported in an Independent Weekly story earlier this month, if Raleigh Convention Center, which manages the new venue, cannot find a sponsor, the financial burden will fall to tax payers. The city, meanwhile, might fall behind in its seven-year plan to pay for the space.
“As a taxpayer, I know the cost of increased alcohol advertising is way more than what the city needs to cover its costs,” said Aidil Collins, a coordinator at Youth Empowerment Solutions, an organization that pays teenage students statewide to speak out against alcohol and tobacco marketing in North Carolina.
Just before the hearing drew to a close, Collins led three Raleigh high school students into the meeting room. They took turns holding a massive sign that read, “How will your vote protect me?” and delivering prepared remarks about the potential impact of the exemption.
Representatives of the Raleigh Convention Center and City of Raleigh did not speak, though they offered to answer any public questions about the proposal. The convention center’s assistant director, Doug Grissom, did not return phone calls about the decision Thursday morning, though the city did issue a press release looking for new sponsors less than an hour after the decision was delivered.
“This is a very attractive venue that has great appeal to other potential sponsors,” Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said in the statement. “The City is actively pursuing other name and title opportunities to defray the costs of operating this facility.”
In a follow-up to our cover March 10 cover story, "Gaga for Google's fiber," we'd like to update metrics of the involvement of the Triangle's top three participants.
Durham's still ahead in Facebook presence, with 2,180 fans on its "Bring Google Fiber to Durham N.C.," page, while 935 people have signed up for "Bring Google Fiber to Raleigh!". The western part of the Triangle is not far behind: the Facebook group "Bring Google Fiber to Chapel Hill & Carrboro N.C." boasts 906 members.
The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and UNC-Chapel Hill, will hold a public forum at 7 p.m. today at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., to receive public comment regarding community interest in the fiber optic trial and how residents would use an ultra-high speed Internet network.
On Thursday, Durhamites hope to make a splash by corralling thousands of locals into the Durham Bulls Athletic Park at 11 a.m. Thursday to spell out "We want Google" on the field, to pose for an aerial photograph. More here >>