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Friday, April 28, 2017

Durham-Orange County Light Rail Heads to the Federal Government

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 3:58 PM

GoTriangle's board of trustees approved updated transit plans for Durham and Orange counties today, allowing a proposed light rail transit system connecting the two counties to move forward for federal grant approval. The Federal Transit Administration had asked GoTriangle, which is heading up the $3.3 billion project, to submit updated transit plans, a cost-split agreement between the counties, and funding commitments by the end of the month in order to move ahead in its request for a New Starts grant that would cover half of the project cost. GoTriangle expects that 10 percent of the funding will come from the...

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Public Policy Polling Goes Trolling, Discovers That Hillary Voters Still Don’t Like Trump Very Much

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 10:45 AM

In response to a series of polls of Trump voters—surprise, most of them approve of the job he’s doing—the Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling firm conducted a survey of Hillary Clinton voters. The results are basically what you’d expect. Among Clinton voters, Donald Trump has a 6 percent approval rating (who are those people exactly?) and a 7 percent favorability rating (same question). Only 2 percent believe Trump has made America great again, and just 7 percent think Trump should keep white nationalist Steve Bannon on his staff. About a third of Clinton voters would rather see Vice President Mike...

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Morning Roundup: Trump Says Being President Is Harder Than He Expected, Might Need a Nap

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 8:38 AM

It’s Friday, I’m in love. Let’s get going. 1. Trump, in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters, says “major, major conflict” with North Korea is a possibility. The quote to haunt your dreams: "There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely." But, Trump says, we are seeking a diplomatic solution, adding that his administration was preparing a new round of economic sanctions to pressure to North Korean regime to back off its nuclear ambitions. (Yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the door to direct talks with Pyongyang, which until, well, yesterday...

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Despite Previous Agreement, Low-Income Forest Hill Apartments Residents Again to Vacate by April 30 or Face Eviction

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 6:28 PM

Residents of a Garner apartment complex are again in the midst of legal and personal turmoil after their Chapel Hill landlord posted notices this week indicating that they must vacate by April 30 or face eviction. It’s a turnaround from an agreement about the departures announced by Wake County officials last month, in which the developer agreed to let the low-income residents stay on until the end of the school year in June. City and county officials, clergy, housing advocates, and others started asking questions in mid-March, when Chapel Hill developer Daniel Eller, head of Eller Capital Properties, first told residents...

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Hog-Farm-Protection Bill Passes Senate

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 8:55 AM

House Bill 467, the controversial "Agriculture and Forestry Nuisance Remedies" bill, passed the Senate late Wednesday evening 30–19 and is on its way back to the House for concurrence. An amended version of the bill cleared the House Tuesday afternoon. As the INDY has previously reported, the bill would limit the financial damages people could collect in nuisance lawsuits filed against agricultural and forestry operations, including hog farms, and cap the amount of money property owners could collect at the fair market value of their property, which critics say can be often made lower thanks to the presence of nearby commercial farms. "If...

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Drive Through a Protest and Hit Someone? No Worries, State House Says.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 7:25 PM

Just when it seemed it was safe to protest in North Carolina, a piece of legislation that would shield people who hit protesters with their cars from civil liability passed its second reading in the state House Wednesday. Go ahead and read that again. We'll give you a moment to wrap your head around it. HB 330 was sponsored by Representatives Justin Burr, R-Montgomery and Stanly, and Chris Mills, R-Onslow and Pender, and moved through the second reading 68–48. A roll call has not yet been made available, but here's a look at this thing, which basically says that if a...

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Poll: Trump Tanking in North Carolina

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 11:43 AM

As the nation prepares to mark President Donald Trump's hundredth day in office, a new poll suggests that the man who captured nearly fifty percent of the popular vote in North Carolina is no longer feeling the same level of love from the Old North State. The Elon University Poll conducted a live-called survey of more than 500 registered voters between April 18 and April 21 and the news was less than spectacular for Trump. From the report: 41.6% of North Carolinians approve of how Trump is handling his job as president. North Carolina voters’ approval of Trump tracks closely with...

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Announcement: The INDY’s Durham Office Has Moved

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 10:56 AM

A quick note I meant to send last week but, well, didn’t: last Wednesday, the INDY packed up and left our Durham home of three years, the American Underground building at 201 West Main Street, and relocated to 320 East Chapel Hill Street. The mostly unexciting backstory is this: AU is growing and approached us last year to see, if they could help us find a space, whether we’d be willing to relocate. They’ve been very good to us over the years, so we agreed, and we spent the next several months looking for the right spot. (The Durham...

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Beer and Wine Wholesalers Gave $53K to ABC Committee Members Last Year, Beat Back a Proposal to Raise Breweries’ Self-Distribution Cap

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 10:14 AM

House Bill 500 is headed for a floor vote today without a provision that would have raised the cap on how much beer breweries can self-distribute. Currently, North Carolina breweries that produce fewer than twenty-five thousand barrels of beer per year can get a wholesaler permit and sell their own brew. Above that cap, however, they must sign on with a distributor. HB 500 initially sought to raise that cap to two hundred thousand barrels, but the provision (along with a section making it easier for breweries to break distribution agreements) was removed from the nine-page bill just before the...

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Passage of HB 13 Would Lower Wake Schools’ Funding Request by $12 Million

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 9:43 PM

Wake County schools’ request for local dollars in the 2017–18 school year will shrink to $45.4 million from $56.6 million if the General Assembly passes the class-size bill called HB 13. That was the word from Superintendent Jim Merrill to Wake County Board of Education members at a work session Tuesday. The bill, which was amended Monday night to loosen a state mandate to shrink class sizes in the school year that starts in July, passed the Senate Tuesday and will return to the House. Although HB 13 now offers Wake schools a significant breather, many pieces of the budget...

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"Protesters Are Economic Terrorists" Bill Dies in Committee

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 7:15 PM

It was a tough day for Republican state Representatives John Torbett and John Faircloth (of Gaston and Guilford counties, respectively), the guys who wanted to label some North Carolina protesters “economic terrorists” and charge them with felonies. Thankfully, House Bill 249 died today in a 6–5 vote. Here’s what HB 249 would have done, from the INDY's Sarah Willets: A bill introduced in the state House today could label some disruptive protesters as “economic terrorists” and criminalizes blocking streets while participating “in a riot or other unlawful assembly.” […] The bill seems to fall in line with others filed recently by Republican...

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Amended Hog Nuisance Bill, Courtesy of Big Pork Pal Senator Brent Jackson, Clears N.C. Senate Committee

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 6:14 PM

An amended version of a controversial hog-farm-protection bill, HB 467, passed the Senate Agriculture Committee Tuesday afternoon and is now headed to the Senate Rules Committee. As the INDY has previously reported, HB 467 would restrict the amount of money property owners could collect in nuisance lawsuits filed against agricultural operations, including hog farms. If passed, it would essentially cap the damages property owners could collect in nuisance lawsuits at the fair market value of their property, which critics say is often made lower by the presence of commercial farms. A particularly contentious (and legally dubious) part of the bill...

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Durham Commissioners Approve Light Rail Plans, Cost-Share Agreement

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 3:07 PM

Durham County commissioners gave their approval Monday night to an updated transit plan that includes light rail, commuter rail, and improvements to bus service. The commissioners’ approval was one of the final stops for light rail plans before being submitted to the Federal Transit Administration as part of a grant application. GoTriangle, the agency heading up the project, must submit the plans to the FTA by the end of the month in order to move from the planning phase of the grant process to the engineering phase. Board chairwoman Wendy Jacobs called it “the most important vote that I will...

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The Downtown Raleigh Alliance Says Downtown Raleigh Is Growing Fast and Growing Right

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:02 PM

According to a lengthy report released Tuesday by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, the City of Oaks is growing rapidly and adding amenities indicative of the right kind of expansion. Among the highlights noted in the annual State of Downtown Raleigh report are: • $1.75 billion in recent, ongoing, and upcoming development; • 3,672 new residential units; • $200 million in food and beverage sales last year • An additional one thousand hotel rooms coming to the city's core; • The construction of three hundred acres of additional green space. If you have some time to kill, check out the complete...

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The Morning Roundup: Tensions Escalate on the Korean Peninsula

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 9:01 AM

We might not have much time. Let's get right into it. 1) North Korea flexes its military muscle. Trump sends nuclear submarine as a "show of force." North Korea paraded around some missiles and held a "large-scale artillery drill" to celebrate its military's anniversary. Not a new thing—but this time, there's a catch. Experts say the country is capable of expanding its nuclear arsenal at an alarming rate. From The New York Times: Behind the Trump administration’s sudden urgency in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis lies a stark calculus: a growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports...

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Monday, April 24, 2017

HB 13, Bill That Addresses Class Sizes, Moves Forward

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 9:05 PM

In a response of sorts to concern about possible repercussions of state-mandated K–3 class-size reductions, a Senate committee on Monday night rapidly moved forward a modified bill designed to phase in smaller classes. The bill, an altered version of HB 13, gives systems more flexibility in reducing classroom size and paying specialties teachers in the school year that begins in July. In presenting the bill, Senator Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, said that the General Assembly will create an additional allotment for music, art, and physical ed teachers in the 2018–19 school year, after the state Department of Public Instruction satisfies legislators that money sent to districts is being...

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Consultants Hired to Create New Image for Raleigh Also Behind Hated Rebranding Campaign in Western Massachusetts

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 2:42 PM

A rebranding campaign for three Massachusetts counties—designed by the same Oklahoma consultants hired to create a new core image for Raleigh government—has received such negative reaction that it's been put on hold by its sponsors. Raleigh officials say they’re aware of the controversy surrounding the Massachusetts proposal by Cubic Creative but remain happy with the firm's work, under an $83,000 contract, for Raleigh. "I'm very pleased with the work they've provided us so far and think we are off to a great start," says Damien Graham, the city’s communications director. In February, after its contract with Raleigh had been signed, Cubic...

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The Morning Roundup: A Forgettable 100 Days of Trump

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 10:11 AM

It's a new week. Let's get going. 1) Critics note Trump's rocky start. Trump disagrees. On Saturday, President Donald Trump will mark his hundredth day in office. From CNN: President Donald Trump lives for superlatives — he wants the biggest, the best, the greatest. So it's no surprise he's already fuming about uncomplimentary reviews of his first 100 days in office. Trump is approaching the first symbolic milestone of his presidency on Saturday with a familiar mix of bluster and smokescreens, meant to disguise the reality that he has produced one of the least-prolific first 100 day debuts of any...

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

“We Are Not Afraid of Action”: Thousands March for Science in Downtown Raleigh

Posted By on Sun, Apr 23, 2017 at 11:56 AM

Thousands of people marched in downtown Raleigh on Saturday to support the worldwide March for Science, under the slogan “Science, not Silence.” With over six hundred cities participating worldwide, the march demonstrated widespread support for the scientific process—and for the role science should play in policymaking. The marches also arose partly in protest of President Trump’s proposals to slash funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, including nearly $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, as well his rollbacks of anti-climate-change initiatives. In Raleigh, people gathered at Shaw University’s Estey Hall to begin the march. Before it...

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Autopsy: Cops Shot Kenny Bailey in the Back, Front of the Leg

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 5:49 PM

An autopsy of Kenneth Bailey Jr., who was fatally shot by Durham Police on February 15, shows he was shot in the left side of his upper back. The autopsy, conducted by the Office of the State Medical Examiner, says that same bullet traveled upward, punctured both of his lungs, and was found lodged near his right shoulder, suggesting he had been shot from the side and by someone at a lower angle. Although the autopsy notes damage to the vessels surrounding Bailey's heart, it says the heart itself was intact. Durham Police have maintained that Bailey, fleeing, had pointed...

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Durham Has a Backup Plan for the Former Army Reserve Center: Make It Part of Lyon Park

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 4:31 PM

At least six nonprofits have applied to use the former Army Reserve Center on Carroll Street to assist the homeless. But if none of their applications is approved by the federal government, the property could go to the city. The building, which has been vacant since 2012, was declared surplus in December. Under law, the U.S. General Services Administration must look first to see if it can be used for homeless services. If there is no suitable application in that category, the property can be conveyed to a local government through the Federal Lands to Parks program. If there are...

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The Morning Roundup: President Trump Brings His Classy Friends to the White House

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 10:11 AM

Welcome to Friday, everyone. Let’s do some headlines. 1. The president brought some classy friends to the White House Wednesday. That would be Kid Rock, Sarah Palin, and Ted Nugent, mocking the official portrait of Hillary Clinton. The New York Times has the tick-tock: “We were there for four hours, man!” Mr. Nugent, a 68-year-old Detroit native, said in a telephone interview on Thursday, using a four-letter expletive to signal his amazement at Mr. Trump’s willingness to spend so much time with his three casually dressed visitors. “He gave us a wonderful personal tour of every room and talked about...

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Durham Floats Tax Relief Program for Residents of Gentrifying Neighborhoods

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 9:10 AM

Durham city officials are working on a loan program to help residents whose property taxes have gone up because of city-initiated revitalization, but it’s unclear still whether residents or the city would bear the costs of administering that program. The idea sprang from a November city council work session in which longtime residents of the Southside neighborhood complained of an increase in their property taxes as a result of the city’s work to redevelop that area. Residents there saw their tax bills go up $314 on average in 2016. At a work session yesterday, Mayor Bill Bell pitched a deferred loan...

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Days After the NCGA Forced Counties to Pay More for Inmate Hospital Care, the DHHS Dropped Inmates from Medicaid Coverage

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 2:34 PM

A state rule change that made sure Medicaid benefits were cut off for county jail inmates came days after the legislature put responsibility for their hospital care squarely on the backs of county taxpayers. Recent concern about the multimillion-dollar cost of inpatient care for inmates, especially in large counties, put a spotlight on events that took place during 2013, when Medicaid was run by Governor Pat McCrory, Department of Health and Human Services director Aldona Wos, and Medicaid director Carol Steckel. McCrory lost a close gubernatorial race last year, Wos stepped down in 2015, and Steckel left in September 2013...

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HB 500 Sponsor: Wholesalers “Made Clear They Weren’t Going to Discuss” Raising Barrel Cap

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 12:38 PM

At least for now, the North Carolina Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association has succeeded in quashing a proposal before the General Assembly that would have allowed breweries to self-distribute more of their own beer without having to go through a wholesaler. The group has come out strongly against House Bill 500, which until Wednesday would have raised the self-distribution cap for breweries from twenty-five thousand to two hundred thousand barrels per year and would have made it easier for breweries to get out of distribution agreements. Apparently wholesalers were able to sway enough legislators to keep that language out of...

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