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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Unemployment rates are up in 72 N.C. counties since January

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 1:39 PM

So much for the Carolina Comeback: according to some recent labor market data on unemployment released by the left-leaning NC Justice Center, unemployment is up in North Carolina. 81 counties in the state continue to have more unemployed workers than before the beginning of the Great Recession—roughly December of 2007—and 91 of the state’s 100 counties had more than one jobless worker per job opening in August. And last night, the General Assembly passed a bill that will restrict food aid for poor, childless adults who live in the counties in the state where jobs are the fewest, no...

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Who’s behind this ridiculous full-page ad in the News and Observer?

Posted By and on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 11:32 AM

This morning, the N&O’s print readers awoke to this full-page ad, paid for by a political action committee called Wake Citizens for Good Government, attacking Raleigh City Council member Mary-Ann Baldwin and candidates Matt Tomasulo ((BTW, guys, Matt Tomasulo, not Mike  Tomasulo) and Ashton Mae Smith for their support of downtown bars into the ongoing fight over sidewalk patios. (The INDY, while generally favoring downtown bacchanal, has endorsed Tomasulo but not Baldwin or Smith.)  “Raleigh City Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin and other candidates, fueled with contributions from the bar and night club owners, are trying to reshape the city’s downtown with...

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Alliance Behavioral Healthcare has imposed sanctions on Family Legacy Mental Health

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 10:33 AM

Today, we’ve published an in-depth look at a Durham and Raleigh mental health provider, Family Legacy Mental Health Services, that received almost $3 million in Medicaid money over the last two years. Yet, many of its past and present employees say they haven’t been paid regularly since March. A key question here is how this clinic remains a public mental health provider, despite the fact that the organization that oversees public mental health services in Durham and Wake counties, Alliance Behavioral Healthcare, is aware of these allegations. We received an update from Alliance past deadline yesterday, indicating now that they...

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

DENR and the "total surrender and collapse" of its $7 million coal ash deal with Duke Energy

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 2:05 PM

Because it's been a few days since environmentalists were primed to eviscerate North Carolina's top environmental agency, the former N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, now named the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), has announced a $7 million settlement agreement with Duke Energy. Both parties are claiming that this agreement, a significant cut to the $25 million fine the state levied for coal ash pollution in March 2015, resolves groundwater contamination claims at all 14 of the energy company's coal ash facilities in the state. At least from the state and Duke Energy's perspective. The Southern Environmental Law...

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Legal challenge to N.C.'s voter ID law to go forward next year

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 2:18 PM

It seems North Carolina is due a legal autopsy of its voter identification law next year, no matter what.  This week, a Superior Court judge denied North Carolina's motion to dismiss a pending voter ID lawsuit. State lawyers attempted to argue that the case—brought by plaintiffs that include the League of Women Voters of N.C. and the A. Philip Randolph Institute—should be dismissed after lawmakers approved an amendment to their mammoth voter law in May.  The modification will allow some voters in the March 2016 primary to vote without proper ID provided they show they have a "reasonable impediment" to...

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Report touts the housing benefits of inclusionary zoning

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 1:24 PM

We've written extensively in these pages about the Triangle's affordable housing struggles. Chapel Hill is still waiting for the fruits of its 2008 inclusionary zoning ordinance, a policy that requires new developments to include affordable housing components or make a payment in lieu. Durham doesn't seem quite sure how it will approach this issue. Leaders in Raleigh have been cool to the idea of an inclusionary zoning policy from the start. But a recent report from the Massachusetts-based Lincoln Institute of Land Policy throws the thinktank's support behind Chapel Hill. The report, released Thursday, argues that the zoning policy has...

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Early polling shows Mark Kleinschmidt with a sizable lead in Chapel Hill mayoral race

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 1:51 PM

We're in for a treat. Rarely do you get the chance for some real insight into local municipal races.  Per Chapelboro's Blake Hodge, a recently-commissioned Chapel Hill survey by Public Policy Polling found Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt with a somewhat comfortable spot atop the candidates. Of course, we're still seven weeks out from the election, but Kleinschmidt tweeted some relief.  According to Chapelboro, Kleinschmidt leads all candidates with 37 percent supporting his re-election. Another 25 percent back Pam Hemminger, the candidate endorsed earlier this week by Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, and 5 percent support Gary Kahn. It's much...

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

North Carolina residents impacted by coal ash form alliance

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 2:22 PM

Following the disastrous coal ash spill at the Dan River nearly two years ago, the North Carolina Legislature and Gov. McCrory charted a path to begin to address the state’s 14 coal-fired power plants. The Coal Ash Management Act emerged last August, requiring Duke Energy to clean up four high-priority coal ash lagoons, and in June, the company announced it would clean up basins at three more facilities. (Last week, a judge rejected a bid by the state’s environmental agency to block this cleanup effort; DENR claimed that the move would circumvent the public rule-making process designed by the...

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Join us live for the Raleigh City Council candidate forum

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 6:50 PM

Tonight, WakeUP Wake County, the League of Women Voters of Wake County and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority are hosting a forum for all 18 candidates for Raleigh's City Council and the Mayor's office.  We're here at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, live blogging the forum from 7 to 9 p.m. Thanks for joining!  6:52: We're in a brightly-lit room  behind the Pullen church, and there look to be about 150 or so people here already, a mostly older crowd.  6:58: People are still flowing in. I think I've spotted all the candidates. And they're being asked to make their way...

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With the election looming, Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town shuns incumbents in its endorsements

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 4:06 PM

No big surprises today, as the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town, better known as CHALT, announced its formal endorsements in the town's races this fall.  The grassroots group, which has hinged its platform on criticism of the Town Council and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, endorsed a spate of challengers for the November election, shunning incumbents altogether.  The organization chose Pam Hemminger, a former county commissioner and school board member, in the race for mayor. Hemminger is running against Kleinschmidt and challenger Gary Kahn, who the Indy profiled this month, for the mayor's seat. CHALT has focused its outreach on...

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Wake County extends protections to LGBT workers

Posted By on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 3:08 PM

On Monday, the Wake County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to add sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to its anti-discrimination policy. The county has practiced equal employment opportunity for some time already, according to Commissioner John Burns, and the County's updated Equal Employment Opportunity Ordinance enshrines protections for LGBT workers and job applicants into law. The ordinance contains the following language:  “Discrimination against applicants to and employees of Wake County Government in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, job training, classification, referral, and other aspects of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and...

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Friday, September 18, 2015

In separation agreement, Chief Lopez and City of Durham agree not to publicly bash each other

Posted By on Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 2:00 PM

You might have been surprised by this week's announcement that Durham Police Department Chief Jose Lopez was being forced into retirement at the end of the year. Then again, if you've followed Lopez's eight-year career with the city—rising violent crime numbers, great racial tumult, reported allegations of racial profiling and an increasingly chilly relationship with the City Council—perhaps not.  Today, the Indy has obtained a copy of Lopez's separation agreement, which was signed by the chief on Monday. In addition to the usual legalese, Lopez and the city have agreed to a clause that neither party will "denigrate, defame, disparage,...

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

NC bill could change what adolescents learn in sexual health education classes

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 3:53 PM

Imagine your child, in public school, learning that contracting HIV is God’s way of punishing promiscuity, or that contraceptives are harmful or cause abortions. A bill heading to the state Senate, which makes changes to the state’s Healthy Youth Act, could broaden the scope of the resources teachers can use to educate middle-schoolers on sexual health, from the medically accurate with scientific backing to the patently false with a touch of the totally insane. On Wednesday, House lawmakers changed who can determine which instructional materials are acceptable for classroom use, from “experts in the field of sexual health—” like...

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Budget compromise comes as a blow to mental health funding in prisons

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 3:10 PM

We knew there would be casualties. Consider mental health reform in North Carolina prisons to be at least a partial casualty of the Senate and House budget compromise. The agreement announced this week allocates about $11.9 million for reform efforts in the next two years. Based on the proposal, which Gov. Pat McCrory has indicated he will sign, the state would spend about $7.7 million opening new mental health treatment units at eight prisons. Another $4.2 million would be allocated to fund 66 positions in the mental health wing of Raleigh's Central Prison, the primary medical and mental health facility...

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Raleigh City Council candidate lays into state budget

Posted By on Wed, Sep 16, 2015 at 6:36 PM

The Eastgate Shell station on Wake Forest Road is a fitting place for Raleigh City Council District A candidate JB Buxton to bring attention to one of the worst provisions in the new state budget: the sales tax on auto repair, maintenance and installation services that will go into a fund to benefit the state’s rural counties. The Shell is Buxton’s neighborhood gas station and auto shop, where he’s brought his vehicles in for service for 15 years. He says the new sales tax will directly impact this business and working families in District A, and that local...

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another North Carolina county moves to pass fracking moratorium

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 1:26 PM

Chatham and Lee counties may soon have company in their attempts to take advantage of a loophole in the state's fracking law. With Chatham approving a temporary moratorium on drilling last month and Lee County considering a similar ban on Monday, leaders in rural Stokes County near the N.C.-Virginia border may do the same.  Per the Winston-Salem Journal, county commissioners in Stokes deliberated Monday about passing a three-year drilling moratorium. As the Indy reported last week, state law forbids outright bans on drilling, but says nothing of temporary moratoriums.  Stokes commissioners set a public hearing for Sept. 28 to consider...

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Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez is out

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 11:59 AM

After an often torturous tenure at the helm of the Durham Police Department—including, most recently, last week's controversial Tasering of an unarmed black man at a Durham Harris Teeter—Chief Jose Lopez Sr. is out.  Durham City manager Thomas Bonfield announced Tuesday morning that he had reached a separation agreement with Lopez, which would result in his retirement effective Dec. 31.  "After careful consideration, I have determined that a change in leadership is necessary at this time for the City of Durham and the Durham Police Department to continue to meet the law enforcement expectations and needs of the community," Bonfield said...

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North Carolina finally has something resembling a state budget

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 10:22 AM

Updated: The N.C. Senate voted to approve the budget 33-16 Tuesday afternoon. Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, who voted against the budget wrote on his Facebook page that it "it fails NC's school kids, teachers & future." Stein said according to the General Assembly's Fiscal Research division, the cost of the corporate tax cuts and tax provisions in the budget will be $3.94 billion to the state over the next five years. "And we don't have enough money to raise teacher pay? Hire more teacher assistants? Buy more textbooks? Give state employees a raise?," Stein wrote. "I think schoolkids and...

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Environment N.C. report bullish on N.C. solar power

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 1:40 PM

Just in time for legislators' ongoing discussion over rolling back renewable energy tax credits, environmentalists are pushing back. Hard. On Thursday, the nonprofit Environment N.C. and a couple of legislators, a Republican and a Democrat, released a report that touts North Carolina's vast potential for solar energy production. The report ranked the state fourth nationally for total solar electric capacity, and ninth per capita. This may come as a surprise, but only California, Arizona and New Jersey have more capacity for solar production today.  Don't thank North Carolina's omnipresent sunshine. Thank state leaders who rolled out a system of tax...

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No McDowell County magistrates officiating marriages until March

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 10:39 AM

Marriage equality is the law of the land, and North Carolina is, officially, the land of the absurd. On Thursday it was reported that all four magistrates in McDowell County, near Asheville, have recused themselves from performing gay and straight marriages for the next six months. That’s their right under Senate Bill 2, which became state law this summer. According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, magistrates from neighboring Rutherford County, which shares a judicial district with McDowell, are stepping in for ten hours a week to assist with officiating marriages, because Hilary Hollifield, Thomas Atkinson, Debbie Terrell and Chad Johnson...

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

McCrory administration member warns of leftie conspiracy

Posted By on Thu, Sep 10, 2015 at 3:38 PM

  You really can't make this stuff up. Via N.C. Policy Watch, we've learned that McCrory administration member Ilario Pantano, the assistant secretary of veterans affairs for the Department of Administration, has some, um, unique views. Enjoy this half-hour clip from Pantano's address earlier this month to the Cape Fear Christian Men's Fellowship in Wilmington, in which he denounces leftist plans to deny that the country was founded upon Christianity.  A little background on Pantano, who earns $91,000 annually from the state: He's a former Congressional candidate in North Carolina and occasional conservative speaker on Fox News, but he's...

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Koch brothers tell lawmakers to tell other lawmakers: REPS bad for N.C.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2015 at 5:12 PM

Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards are responsible for the creation of 23,769 fewer jobs in North Carolina since the Great Recession in 2008. REPS cost the average North Carolina family $3,870 in 2013. Renewable energy sources are significantly more expensive than traditional options that are available. Farmers are being pushed off of their land by solar farms. These are some of the “facts” that panelists at a forum hosted by the American Energy Alliance, the lobbying arm of the Charles Koch-founded Institute for Energy Research, shared at the General Assembly on Wednesday morning. The panel was moderated by Tom Pyle,...

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Chapel Hill Councilman Lee Storrow pledges to stay in this fall's race for re-election, despite DWI arrest last month.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2015 at 11:27 AM

Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow hears the calls for him to stay out of this fall's race for re-election following last month's arrest for driving while impaired. He chooses not to heed them however. In an exclusive interview Tuesday with the Indy, Storrow said he will continue his campaign, less than a week after pleading guilty to DWI in an Orange County courtroom. Police said Storrow registered a BAC of .16, twice the legal limit, after he was stopped by police in the early morning hours of Aug. 26. Storrow was stopped for driving 63 mph in a 35-mph-zone...

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On Labor Day, what's wrong with labor in North Carolina?

Posted By on Tue, Sep 8, 2015 at 12:35 PM

Labor Day's come and gone. If you listen to some economists, so has the recession. But many are probably wondering when that message will get to them and their paychecks.  Over the holiday weekend, the left-leaning nonprofit N.C. Justice Center released a scathing report on the state of North Carolina labor. Key points? The unionization rate of N.C. workers is now just 1.9 percent, the lowest in the country. More than 60 percent of workers in the state are without employer pension plans. About 1.2 million workers do not have paid sick leave. More than 11 percent of the labor...

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Chapel Hill Councilman Lee Storrow pleads guilty to DWI

Posted By on Fri, Sep 4, 2015 at 3:40 PM

There's still no word on whether Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow plans to remain in this fall's race following last week's arrest for driving while impaired, but he's facing the legal consequences this week. Storrow pled guilty to DWI Thursday in an Orange County courtroom after Chapel Hill police stopped him Aug. 26 for driving 63 mph in a 35-mph-zone on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. He is set for a sentencing hearing Nov. 17. Police said Storrow's blood-alcohol content was .16, twice the legal limit in North Carolina. Last week, Storrow apologized, but did not comment on whether...

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What part of illegal don't they understand. Congress is considering the DACAs plus all other illegal aliens in a bill …

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