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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Can school districts truly affect which charter schools are approved?

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 5:40 PM

Most public school officials won't be shy if you ask them how a charter school impacts their local budgets. For every student who is eligible to enroll in a traditional public school but chooses to attend a charter, the student's home school system must send the charter a chunk of money. In short, the money follows the student through the public system. At a meeting of the State Board of Education (SBE) this morning in Raleigh, one state official likened the payments to alimony—painful in many cases, but necessary by law. In a district such as Durham County, with eight...

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Chapel Hill opts against independent review in Yates incident

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2012 at 2:58 PM

Chapel Hill’s now infamous Yates raid won’t be subject to an independent investigation, the Town Council decided Monday in a 7-1 vote with Councilwoman Laurin Easthom dissenting in frustration. Instead town officials will gather first-hand accounts via its website, seek specialized training for officers confronting political protesters and answer the questions posed by the council-appointed Community Policing Advisory Committee, which will take up the issue again at its Feb. 8 meeting. Last week CPAC petitioned the Town Council to ask for funding for an independent investigator. Chairman Ron Bogle, a retired judge, said that the Yates incident was a special...

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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....

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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...

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Friday, January 20, 2012

751 South opponents begin appeals process

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 5:40 PM

An attorney for plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit over the controversial 751 South development filed a notice in court Friday that they'll appeal a judge's ruling in favor of Durham County and the developers. Property owners near the land to be developed, including the Chancellor's Ridge Homeowners Association, sued the county in 2010 over the county's decision to rezone the proposed site of the development. The 167 acres along N.C. 751 in the southwestern part of Durham County is in the watershed of Jordan Lake, a source of drinking water for several communities in the region. Neighbors and other opponents...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

$142K in property taxes past due for 751 South

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Durham County property taxes were due Jan. 5, but more than a few property owners haven't gotten around to paying them, including Southern Durham Development. SDD owns at least 170 acres of land in South Durham where the company is looking to build its controversial 751 South development. According to tax records on the Durham County government website, the company owes $142,000 for five parcels. The company just won a major victory in civil court last week, when a visiting judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by opponents to the project who filed a protest petition against the rezoning of...

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Carrboro declares corporations are not people

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Tuesday night the Carrboro Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a resolution supporting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would deny corporations personhood, affirming that corporations are not people and money is not speech. This vote was a symbolic gesture, proposed by Alderman Dan Coleman and seconded by Alderman Sammy Slade, in order to protest the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. That controversial ruling recognized corporations as persons and effectively removed prior restrictions on how much corporations are able to donate in electoral campaigns, including that of the presidency. On Jan. 9, the Chapel Hill...

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Black farmers stake claims against USDA

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 8:48 AM

On the day set aside to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy, hundreds of North Carolina black farmers met individually with attorneys from the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, seeking recompense for decades of discrimination. Appointments and walk-ins were welcomed on Monday at the Durham Marriott City Center. Farmers were called to file their claims to receive part of a $1.25 billion settlement the Obama administration signed into law aiming to rectify decades of discriminatory practices by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. State Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., D-Durham, addressed the crowded Marriott ballroom, saying, "Thank you for...

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Monday, January 16, 2012

On MLK Day, the most tolerant U.S. city? It's our very own ...

Posted By on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 at 2:23 PM

photo by Bob Geary ... Durham, N.C. San Francisco is 3rd, my old home town of Trenton, NJ, is 7th, and Raleigh checks in at a not-too-shabby 18th, just behind Orlando, Fla., and San Diego and ahead of Riverside, Calif., and Tampa. It's all right here in the Daily Beast. (And who could argue with the DB?)...

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Durham trying to reduce gun violence

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 4:27 PM

It’s not even halfway through January and Durham has experienced three homicides committed with guns, and one person was injured in an armed robbery, according to a press conference Friday held by Mayor Bill Bell. Bell called the press conference with other Durham leaders to discuss new developments and strategies to reduce crimes involving firearms. The aftershock of these crimes has caused a stir among the community, leaving citizens to wonder what is being done to protect themselves and their families from gun-related crime. “This is a disturbing trend that we, as a community, should not and cannot accept,” Bell...

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Judge: Controversial rezoning for 751 South was legal

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 12:56 PM

file illustration by V.C. Rogers Editor's note: This story has been modified since its original post. A judge in Durham dismissed a lawsuit Friday (PDF) that opponents of the controversial 751 South development near Jordan Lake filed in 2010. The ruling means the judge agreed with the defendants, that the actions Durham County Commissioners took to rezone the case in 2010 were legal. No word yet on whether the plaintiffs will appeal. Residents near the land to be developed brought the civil lawsuit against Durham County after Durham County Commissioners voted to rezone the land to allow a large, dense...

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chapel Hill police committee asks for independent investigation

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Chapel Hill’s new Community Advising Police Committee (CPAC) voted to request that the Chapel Hill Town Council hire an independent investigator to review the details of the Nov. 13 raid on squatters at the vacant Yates Motor Co. building. The committee’s actions countered Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil’s recent report endorsing police actions in the raid. CPAC board member Jessica Smith suggested three alternatives: 1) Have the town manager revise the report to address the one-sided nature of the internal review, which solely had police accounts. 2) Create an independent review board, which would be time-consuming and essentially be...

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Chapel Hill police committee asks for independent investigation

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 2:54 PM

Chapel Hill’s new Community Advising Police Committee (CPAC) voted to request that the Chapel Hill Town Council hire an independent investigator to review the details of the Nov. 13 raid on squatters at the vacant Yates Motor Co. building. The committee’s actions countered Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil’s recent report endorsing police actions in the raid. CPAC board member Jessica Smith suggested three alternatives: 1) Have the town manager revise the report to address the one-sided nature of the internal review, which solely had police accounts. 2) Create an independent review board, which would be time-consuming and essentially be...

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Task force recommends $50,000 for eugenics victims

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 9:34 AM

The living victims of North Carolina's eugenics program came closer Tuesday to receiving compensation when a task force authorized by Gov. Bev Perdue last March voted on its final recommendations. "We were told that this would be a tough job. I don't think we knew at that time how tough it would be," Dr. Laura Gerald, the task force chair, said. In keeping with the task force's preliminary recommendations and debates, the task force voted 3-2 in favor of recommending a $50,000 lump sum to verified living victims. With the vote, the stage is being set for a tough battle...

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Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro, 2.0

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

File Photo by Jeremy Lange 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...

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Task force meets Tuesday on compensation for N.C. sterilization victims

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 at 7:00 AM

file photo by Adam David KissickElaine Riddick, a victim of forced sterilization, speaks before a state task force that could recommend compensation for the nearly 3,000 living victims sterilized through the N.C. Eugenics Board. A state task force will meet Tuesday to decide what compensation the state government should offer victims of North Carolina's eugenics program. The N.C. Eugenics Board forcibly sterilized at least 7,600 men and women from 1929 to 1974. More than 2,900 of those victims are thought to be alive today. Nearly anyone could petition the state to sterilize someone and prevent them from reproducing because they...

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Monday, January 9, 2012

UPDATE: DSS investigation: legal missteps, unfair salaries and benefits, and possible cronyism

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 5:46 PM

Tupungato via Dreamstime UPDATE, 1/9To update our previous report, Durham County Internal Auditor Richard Edwards confirmed today that the unnamed commissioner he mentions in his report as asking department heads to consider hiring specific people is Commissioner Joe Bowser. According to Edwards, Bowser approached the director of The Durham Center, which provides mental health services for county residents, as well as the head of the Durham County Health Department. Both incidents happened some time within the past two years, he said. It was the head of The Durham Center who felt uncomfortable receiving the recommendation from Bowser, Edwards said. Ellen...

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Fracking and the menace of methane

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 3:32 PM

If anyone in the General Assembly listened to the scientists at the hydraulic fracturing workshop at Duke University today, then any pro-fracking legislation should be dead in North Carolina. That’s not a given: Last week, the GOP-led majority threatened a midnight override to Gov. Perdue’s veto of Senate Bill 709, which would have opened the door to fracking in North Carolina, but the party couldn’t muster the votes. Considering the Legislature’s shenanigans over the past year, we shouldn’t assume the majority would base a vote on facts. But for the rest of you who don’t have campaign coffers to fill...

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Fracking and earthquakes

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM

I'm at the fracking workshop at Duke today and someone just asked a question about the connection between fracking activities and earthquakes, such as those that occurred last year near fracking operations in Arkansas and Ohio. Michael Parker of ExxonMobil, who is among the speakers, was quick to mention that the wells potentially related to the quakes are injection wells—not drilling wells. Companies use injection wells, also known as disposal wells, to dump the material that is extracted with the gas or oil. This can include drilling chemicals and corrosion inhibitors. Think of the wells as a place to dump...

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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...

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Fracking workshop today at Duke

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2012 at 9:07 AM

A workshop about the environmental and social implications of fracking—also known as hydraulic fracturing—is starting right now at Duke University's Reynolds Theater, which is in the Bryan Center. It is open to the public; there are a few seats left. It runs until 3 p.m. If you can't attend, the workshop is being streamed live at nicholas.duke.edu/hydrofrackingworkshop2012...

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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...

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wrapping up Iowa

Posted By on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 9:50 AM

So, Mitt Romney has won the popular vote here, by the extraordinary margin of eight votes over Rick Santorum, out of over 100,000 votes cast. The winner of the popular vote total is not significant in terms of determining the composition of the Iowa delegation to the GOP national convention. Iowa will end up sending 25 delegates, out of over 2,000 total. Winning precinct caucuses determines how many delegates will attend the state GOP convention in Iowa, which will determine later in the Spring, who the national delegates will be. In other words, there are several degrees of separation between...

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Iowa caucuses: A depressing spectacle

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 10:06 PM

As the caucuses wrap up, and regardless of who wins tonight, the identity of the eventual nominee seems clear. Despite months and months of debating and campaigning, and as the GOP’s base seemed desperate to anoint a new non-Mitt Romney every month, the former Massachusetts governor is clearly the man to beat. He has unmatched organizational assets, the backing of much of the GOP establishment, enormous financial support from Wall Street and an image as a palatable alternative to independent voters that the other GOP contestants lack. Winning the caucuses would certainly burnish Romney’s front-runner status, but the GOP’s...

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Lawmakers to make final decision on Racial Justice Act today

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 8:26 PM

File photo by Jenny WarburgDeath chamber at Central Prison, Raleigh State lawmakers will meet Wednesday at 2 p.m. to decide whether to uphold the historic Racial Justice Act, a law passed in 2009 to spare the lives of death-row inmates who could prove that their trials, convictions or sentences were influenced by racial prejudice. Under the law, inmates who successfully prove their cases would be allowed to serve life sentences without parole instead of being put to death. Recently released studies have shown patterns of racial bias in the selection of juries in North Carolina over the past 20 years,...

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