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Where the Asphalt Ends
On March 4, the Durham City Council plans to hold an official funeral for its controversial proposal to put asphalt plants twice as close to houses as they are currently allowed. But the measure's exact moment of death came on the afternoon of Feb. 21 when asphalt industry executives pulled the plug on its life support and council members didn't intervene to revive it. In separate letters barely longer than the 10-word public hearing notice that drew citizen criticism of the planning department [see "Paving the Way," Feb. 20], representatives for Rifenburg Construction and Asphalt Experts Inc. told the city they would drop their proposal to cut the required buffer around plants from 1,500 feet to 600 feet, a move that would have created 10 new sites for asphalt factories.

Though tempted to let the measure die quietly with no public discussion at the Feb. 21 work session, the city staff and elected leaders once again had to contend with the citizen coalition that mounted aggressive opposition to the proposed new plants. The group, led by Durham NAACP board member John Schelp, decried the plan based on the environmental health hazards of asphalt pollution and the location of the potential new plant sites in poor minority neighborhoods. At the Feb. 21 work session, the citizens called for a more definitive decision on the matter.

"I ask that you not put this in my backyard or anyone's backyard," neighborhood activist and planning commission member Jackie Brown told the council. "Let's throw this baby out with the bathwater."

With that prompting and some legal advice about proper procedures, council members concurred that an official vote--not allowed at work sessions--was needed to formally bury the plan for at least a year, the required waiting period before the industry could try again.

"Let's put this to rest at the next council meeting," said Councilman John Best Jr., who drew a shushing from the city attorney for volunteering that he would vote against it, a position most council members have indicated they share. "I think the people who are proponents of this can count."
--Jennifer Strom

A Rare Duke Turnover
While Duke University's men's basketball team is known for protecting the ball and allowing few turnovers, the same can't be said of the fraternity brothers at the campus chapter of Sigma Nu. Here's proof, according to a crime brief in The Chronicle: A student reported that at 3:05 a.m. Feb. 16, a man ran by as he and some friends were playing catch in front of Sigma Nu, grabbed their $30 large blue exercise ball and ran toward Kilgo Quadrangle. The subject was described as a white man, 19 to 20 years of age, 5'8", 165 pounds, of medium build with brown, short, spiky hair and wearing a dark blue dress shirt and gold tie.
--David Madison

Find Lost Raleigh
The point of looking in on "Lost Raleigh," the exhibit opening this weekend at the Raleigh City Museum, isn't to bemoan all the grand places that used to be in the Capital City and aren't any more. Oh, the roll call of the missing goes on and on: the original Statehouse, the Yarborough House, the Governor's Palace, City Auditorium, Metropolitan Hall ... and that's the top of the list of buildings that once stood on Fayetteville Street. No, the point is to imagine the kind of downtown Raleigh could have in the future if it made a plan and followed it, starting perhaps with tearing out the Fayetteville Mall and reopening Fayetteville Street to through traffic? Perhaps you are not aware that the City Museum, which opened two years ago, is on the Mall. You can be forgiven, because nobody goes to the Mall unless they have to, and few have to. Otherwise, all you see of the Museum is an unmarked back door as you whiz by with the one-way Salisbury Street traffic.

But the move to jack-hammer the Mall is in full swing now, led by the business folks who run the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, and the major issue seems no longer to be whether to do it but how--or, in its short-hand form, with parallel parking or diagonal. There's also the small matter of how to pay for it, of course. But it would pay for itself many times over if it resulted in an architectural future for Fayetteville Street--and for surrounding downtown streets--that would be the equal of Raleigh's lost past.

Lost Raleigh: An Architectural and Cultural Odyssey, is free, and opens Saturday, March 2. Museum members (and you could be one for $25) are invited to a preview Thursday, Feb. 28. For information, call 832-3775.
--Bob Geary

Pet Projects
While Durham County Animal Control Director Gilles Meloche fights for his job after challenging the Animal Protection Society's plans for its shelter expansion, another refugee from Durham's remarkably political world of animal welfare is starting over in a neighboring county. Deborah Courtney Cook began a new job as the shelter director at the Wake SPCA last week. Cook was the shelter director of the Durham Animal Protection Society for seven months last year before the APS board fired her over stark differences of opinion about animal care. At the shelter, which contracts with the county but is a private nonprofit, Cook implemented many new programs, such as testing dogs' temperaments to evaluate their pet potential before adopting them out. Her efforts reduced the average number of animals put to death each month by nearly half and raised adoption rates from 11 percent to 19 percent during her brief tenure. But her methods also clashed with the tightly knit APS board's established practices and got her booted.

Since leaving Durham last summer, Cook has been dedicating her time to getting married, traveling and running a no-kill rescue group she founded with a friend. Her new job in Wake will give her a chance to try the programs she was working on in Durham. The Wake County SPCA, a private nonprofit, contracts with Wake County to shelter 60 percent of the county's stray and abandoned animals, while a county-run shelter handles the other 40 percent.

"I figured I needed to give sheltering one more shot," says Cook, a veterinarian by training who got hooked on helping homeless pets during a vet-school internship.

Personnel changes abound in the Triangle's animal shelters this winter. At the Wake SPCA, former Raleigh City Councilman Mort Congleton just came on board as the executive director--and Cook's new boss--while long-time Orange County APS Director Pat Sanford parted ways with that organization last month. Meanwhile, the Durham APS has hired former Orange County APS assistant director Dean Edwards to replace Cook.

Meloche, who was fired last month for writing a letter to the Durham County Commissioners criticizing the APS leaders' expansion plan, has appealed his case.

AFL-CIO Endorses Pile of Money
Was anyone surprised that the state AFL-CIO, after closed-door meetings, endorsed Erskine Bowles over Dan Blue in the U.S. Senate race? Here's the explanation, from Bowles-backer Asenath McCloud, who is recording secretary for Local 553 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBOE) in Durham: "We're not very strong, it's true. ... Of course, it's all about money."

Democrat Bowles, with his wealth and Washington connections, can get enough money together to maybe beat Elizabeth Dole, the presumptive Republican nominee. The other Democrats can't, and labor--in North Carolina, anyway--can't get it for them. "The Republicans have more money than--than you even want to think about," groans McCloud.

Some Blue-backers, though, think it isn't just money. They recall that when the choice in the 1990 senate race was between former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt and a little-known Southport D.A. named Mike Easley, the AFL-CIO backed Easley. In fact, top labor leaders convinced Easley to run despite Gantt's strong financial base in Charlotte. "I think Harvey won the primary, though," scoffs Bennett Taylor, president of UNITE, the textile workers union, Local 1948-6 in Roanoke Rapids.

Gantt, like Blue, was attempting to become the Senate's only African-American member. He defeated Easley (and others) in the Democratic primary, then lost narrowly to U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. Taylor, who is also African-American, thinks if labor had really come together for Gantt after the primary, he'd have beaten Helms in '90. "Let's put it this way, I find it hard to believe that everybody who said they supported Harvey actually did support him."

Taylor stops just short of saying that Blue was a victim of racism, and he concedes that Bowles "did put on a good show" when he spoke to the labor delegates. "But I'm a textile worker," Taylor adds. "And knowing all the jobs that NAFTA cost us, and fast-track trade deals cost us, and knowing that Bowles pushed for them. ... And then when we have a friend (Blue) who has stuck with us on the issues for many years and who's been a leader for labor in this state, I couldn't see going another way."

Fearing what was coming, the Blue campaign reminded AFL-CIO members that Bowles was President Clinton's point person when NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) was enacted. The delegates got copies of a 1997 article written by Bowles, then White House chief of staff, in favor of extending Clinton's fast-track authority in trade negotiations. With fast-track, the Senate must vote on the deal the president makes--without amendments. "It means giving the United States the credibility to negotiate tough trade deals," Bowles wrote then, "because other nations know agreements will not be reopened provision-by-provision by Congress."

Clinton's fast-track bill failed, but this year President Bush is again trying to get fast-track authority renewed--over Bowles' objections. After he entered the Senate race, Bowles wrote an op-ed article saying he'd vote against Bush's bill: "Under 'fast track,' the Senate could not amend a negotiated agreement," Bowles complained. "No changes could be made to add stricter enforcement measures or greater protections for workers or the environment if the president had not already negotiated them into the agreement."

Blue, for his part, won labor its biggest victory ever in the legislature when, as speaker, he forced through worker health and safety reforms in the wake of the fatal Hamlet chicken plant fire a decade ago. His record on labor issues is "excellent," the IBOE's McCloud concedes. Two other Senate candidates, former Durham city councilwoman Cynthia Brown and N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, also have pro-labor records. But Bowles, as part of the Clinton Administration, compiled an excellent record, too, except on trade. "He is in favor of working families," she says, "and now he's changed his position on NAFTA."

Tobacco Company Pissed Off
The Greensboro-based Lorillard Tobacco Co., maker of Newport cigarettes, sued the anti-tobacco Legacy Foundation recently claiming the group violated a 1998 settlement agreement by "vilifying" Lorrilard in a radio ad about dog piss. In the ad, which aired last summer on WBBB in Raleigh, a "professional dog walker" named John calls Lorillard on the phone looking to sell the company dog urine. "My dogs, they pee a lot, usually on fire hydrants and people's flower beds," says John. "That's a total waste of quality dog urine. I thought why not collect it and sell it to you tobacco people. ... Dog pee is full of urea and that's one of the chemicals you guys put into cigarettes."

John goes on to boast that he has, "Chihuahua, golden retriever ... some high-test rottweiler."

In its lawsuit, Lorillard insists that it does not lace its smokes with urea. But according to the Legacy Foundation, whose mission it is to educate the public about the risks of smoking, all tobacco contains urea.

"Lorillard does add urea to its cigarettes because urea is naturally occurring in tobacco, and Lorillard obviously adds tobacco to its cigarettes," says the foundation in a recent press release. "Second, it is apparent from documents on Lorillard's Web page that Lorillard has experimented with the addition of urea to its cigarettes."

ABCs of School Reform
What happens when you bring six of the country's leading education policymakers together in the same room to talk about school reform? Sadly, if last week's Education Leadership Summit at Duke is any guide, there won't be much that's new up on the blackboard.Accountability (read: high-stakes testing), school choice (read: vouchers) and local control (read: no more busing)--education reforms that have been debated for at least a decade--are still at the top of the roster. The only real change seems to be that now, there's more bipartisan acceptance of testing and other forms of "school accountability" as the way to go.

To celebrate its own 150-year history of teacher training, Duke invited all five of the country's living former secretaries of education, along with current Secretary Roderick Paige, to an afternoon-long summit. They all came save one: Jimmy Carter's appointment, Shirley Hufstedler--the nation's first education secretary--who was down with the flu. The moderator was none other than former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt, who made a national name for himself as a leading proponent of standards-based school reform. That push rewards teachers and students at "high performing" schools that earn the title via standardized tests, and makes schools labeled "low performing" subject to state control.

The distinguished group addressed a packed audience of more than 400 students, teachers, administrators, school board members, university presidents, legislators and assorted civilians, who filled rows of tiered seats in the auditorium of Duke's Business School. The setting was fitting, because while the summit was charged with tackling such fault-line issues as racial diversity, racial achievement gaps and the "digital divide," most of the debate centered on the topic of standards--a favorite business-backed education reform.

Here, a few differences emerged. Hunt called for more testing: "We ought to test more often rather than less often to see how they're doing day to day," he said. But Richard Riley, Bill Clinton's education secretary--and the one who probably did more to push for performance standards than anyone on the podium--warned against the use of a single test for all students. "I believe in standards, but I don't believe in standardization," he said.

The most radical of the bunch were Lauro Cavazos, who served at the end of Reagan's second term and the beginning of the first Bush administration, and Cavazos' successor, Lamar Alexander, a former Republican presidential wannabe. Cavazos called for a renewed focus on urban schools, hiring of more minority teachers and a rejection of vouchers and other strategies that "take attention and students away from public schools." (He got the highest score on the applause meter.)

Alexander proposed a new funding strategy for schools modeled on the aid system that now operates for colleges: "Let the money follow the students to the schools of their choice," he said. "Grants would go to students, not schools." (He didn't say how big those grants would be).

Among the pressing issues that weren't talked about: rising college tuition, online education, lifelong learning, early childhood education, the role of historically black schools and--most surprisingly--the arguments being heard that very day by the U.S. Supreme Court on vouchers.

But the real 800-pound gorilla in the room was the country's ongoing war on terrorism and what it will mean for future school reform efforts--or any other reform efforts that need money. "We will not fund failure," thundered Secretary Paige, who's a former Houston school superintendent. "What we need to do is talk about educating all of the children."

But when Paige said, "We need to shift the emphasis from spending to investing" in education, he didn't say where the money would come from, or in what schools it would be invested.

Guess that part's not on the exam.
--Barbara Solow

"Some nice redears are being taken. Catfish are hitting small bream, goldfish and big minnows on trotlines. White bass are hitting Roostertails."
--Excerpt from a fishing report from the Arkansas Game and Fish CommissionPlease send all tips, digs, cheers and fish recipes to: or call David Madison at 286-1972 ext. 154.

Trotline is illustrated by V.C. Rogers.


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