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Friday, June 30, 2017

The $3 Million Question: Why Didn’t Wake Divert a Property Tax Surplus to Its School System?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 6:37 PM

Three million dollars equals only about 0.0023 percent of the annual allotment that Wake County schools receive from the Board of Commissioners. But when county coffers took in that much more in property taxes this spring than expected, it started a row about county governance that appears far from over. At the heart of the disagreement is the action by Wake financial staffers to incorporate into the overall budget more than $3 million in revenues without first consulting the elected commissioners. County staffers describe the folding in of the money as a routine part of the budgeting process, which was...

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Breaking: Cooper Says State Board Of Elections Should Not Participate In Controversial Voter Roll Data Request

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 2:40 PM

Governor Roy Cooper released a short statement this afternoon in response to a controversial new request that states turn over their voter roll data to the White House by July 14. Cooper's statement indicated that he believes the State Board of Elections should not comply with the request, but he did not go as far as some other politicians, including Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who released a much more harshly worded response. "Integrity of our elections is critical, and a recent State Board of Elections investigation already found there was no evidence of significant voter fraud in North Carolina," Cooper said....

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Carrboro Floating $18M Project at Greensboro Street Lot

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 12:42 PM

A library, town offices, and a new location for the nonprofit ArtsCenter may soon fill a parking lot at the corner of Greensboro and Roberson streets in Carrboro. If the complex is built, it will be the town government’s second new construction project in a hundred years, Mayor Lydia Lavelle said following a public hearing on the concept Tuesday night. Plans for 203 South Greensboro Street are, at this point, just that: a concept. Jim Spencer Architects is modeling what can fit on the 0.89-acre site, including the possibility of a parking deck; in addition, the ArtsCenter is figuring what it...

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Primer: Late-Night Lawmaking, Donald Gets on the Twitter Machine, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 9:07 AM

Hey, y’all. Happy Friday, and happy holiday weekend. Let’s do this. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. LATE-NIGHT LEGISLATING ON JONES STREET. THE GIST: Late last night—technically, early this morning—the General Assembly wrapped up its long session. Here’s a quick rundown of some things that passed at the eleventh hour. Expanded gambling: Assuming Governor Cooper signs the bill, restaurants and bars will now be able to host nonprofit fundraisers that feature both games of chance and alcohol, though they’d need a permit and would be limited in how many of these events they could host a year. In addition, business and trade...

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Zillow Backs Off Threat to Sue McMansion Hell

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 6:27 AM

Zillow will stop its legal dogging of N.C.-bred Kate Morgan, founder of the viral architecture blog McMansion Hell, and Morgan is back online. Artist/sound designer Morgan, of Southern Pines and UNC-Greensboro, received a cease-and-desist letter early this week from the $8 billion Seattle corporation for using pictures derived from Zillow. She shut down her shoestring, highly popular site, but not for long. During a phone interview Thursday from Baltimore, she said her site is back up, but she also said she's backing off the use of Zillow pictures. "I don't need them," Morgan said. "I was not planning on...

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Durham-Orange Light Rail Nears Next Step in Grant Process, Has No Guarantee of Federal Funding

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 12:20 PM

The Federal Transit Administration could decide within a few weeks whether the proposed Durham-Orange light rail can move onto the next phase of an application to win a grant that would cover half the cost of the $3.3 billion project. Mike Charbonneau, communications director for GoTriangle, which is working with Durham and Orange counties to head the project, said the transit authority expects to hear from the FTA by the end of July. If the FTA gives its approval, Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit can move from the project development phase of a federal grant application process to the engineering and design phase....

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Brunch Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 9:01 AM

A bill that would allow Sunday morning alcohol sales and let distilleries sell more of their products directly to customers is headed to the desk of Governor Cooper. Senate Bill 155, or as it's better known, "the brunch bill," passed the Senate 37–9 late Wednesday night. Before it can take effect, the bill must be signed by the governor and local governments must opt in to the Sunday sales provision by passing an ordinance. The bill would allow restaurants and stores to begin selling alcohol at ten a.m., two hours earlier than under North Carolina's blue law. SB 155, among...

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Primer: N.C. Republicans Want to Impeach Elaine Marshall, Because Why Not, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 8:54 AM

Howdy everyone. How’s Thursday treating you? We’ve got a bunch of state news to plow through, with the legislature about to wrap up its work for the year. So let’s get to it. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. N.C. REPUBLICANS WANT TO IMPEACH ELAINE MARSHALL. THE GIST: Republican Representative Chris Millis—he’ll make another appearance in item 3, if you want to skip ahead—does not like Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who had the audacity to win reelection in November. So yesterday, he introduced a resolution requesting an investigation of Marshall to see if she should impeached, the first time a...

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Darryl Howard, Wrongfully Convicted in a Double Murder, Is Suing the City of Durham

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 3:49 PM

Darryl Howard, who was released from prison last year after a judge overturned his convictions in the 1991 murders of a Durham woman and her teenage daughter, is suing the city of Durham and a police officer he says fabricated and suppressed evidence. The civil suit was filed in U.S. District Court last month and names the city, four then-employees of the Durham Police Department, and a Durham fire official as defendants. The lawsuit claims the defendants violated Howard's constitutional rights and seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Durham City Attorney Patrick Baker said the city is reviewing the suit and...

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Zillow Threatens N.C.’s Kate Wagner over McMansion Hell Blog

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 3:30 PM

A threatened lawsuit from the giant Zillow corporation over her McMansion Hell blog has landed North Carolina-raised musician-designer-composer Kate Wagner in the midst of a legal wrangle between homegrown cyber-lore and corporate America. Wagner, a UNC-Greensboro grad from Southern Pines, started McMansion Hell less than a year ago as a vehicle for her mordant, satirical, often hilarious comments on the stylings of giant suburban homes. She adorned photos, some credited to Zillow, with commentary such as “doors to nowhere,” “seriously do any of these windows match?” and “doors & windows: divorced just like mommy & daddy.” “When I started the blog...

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Farad Ali Officially Kicks Off Durham Mayoral Campaign

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 1:03 PM

Farad Ali wanted to have a community gathering and not just "another speech" to kick off his campaign for mayor of Durham. So Tuesday night, he addressed a crowd at Forest Hills Park. It’s not just "another park" either, Ali said. “This park is in between affluent and less affluent neighborhoods. It’s in the middle. We’re all here,” Ali said. “We’re so much stronger together.” Ali is one of four candidates to announce a bid for mayor of Durham. The other three are Pierce Freelon, an entrepreneur, professor, and musician,; Steve Schewel, a city council member since 2011, former school...

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Primer: The Senate Health Care Bill Stalls, Problems in N.C. Hog Country, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Wed, Jun 28, 2017 at 9:38 AM

Morning, everyone, and a happy Wednesday to you. My apologies for this arriving later than usual. True story: one of the dogs managed to let the cat outside, which kickstarted a chain of events that no doubt appeared rather comical to everyone who wasn’t the cat or me. Anyway, everyone is safe and secure inside now, so away we go. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. THE SENATE DELAYS ITS HEALTH CARE BILL. THE GIST: Following a devastating CBO score Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided he didn’t have the votes after all. At least, not yet. Yesterday afternoon, Republican leaders...

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

GOP’s Delay on Health Care Coincides with Raleigh Die-In Outside Tillis’s Office

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 5:28 PM

It was the biggest one yet. That was the word from organizers of Tuesday's protest at the downtown Raleigh office of U.S. Senator Thom Tillis. About 150 people gathered in front of the federal building on New Bern Avenue for speeches, chants, and songs. The event also offered spins of a "Wheel of Misfortune" and a "die-in" staged to show potential impact on the estimated one million North Carolinians who could lose health insurance under the Senate version of a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. "This is the biggest crowd we've ever had so far," co-organizer Karen Ziegler told...

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Orange County School Board Balks on Confederate Flag Ban

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 5:08 PM

Citing a lack of protections for LGBTQ students and students with disabilities, the Orange County School Board balked on officially adding new language to the school system’s dress code that would ban the Confederate flag, swastikas, and other racially intimidating symbols from county schools. The measure, which would prohibit students from wearing clothing and accessories that are “indecent, profane, or racially intimidating,” passed its first reading June 12. Advocates saw Monday's final vote as merely a formality. But board member Donna Coffey said she thought the new language failed to address protections for LGBTQ and disabled students and motioned for the matter to...

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Estimate: 1.3 Million Tar Heels Would Lose Insurance Under Senate Health Bill

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released its highly anticipated score of the Senate plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, projecting losses in insurance coverage over the next decade. According to the report, the GOP bill would leave fifteen million people uninsured in the next year, twenty-two million by 2026, and would substantially increase premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for low-income Americans and those nearing retirement. The CBO analysis dealt a blow to Republicans' multiyear effort to repeal President Obama's signature health care law. Their score leaves Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to get a vote before the July 4...

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Orange County Commissioner, Wake County Judge Announce Court of Appeals Bids

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 11:03 AM

Mark Dorosin, chairman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, says he plans to run next year for a seat on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Dorosin announced the bid in a Facebook post Monday night. He was first elected to the Board of Commissioners in 2012 and was reelected in 2016. For eight years, he has been the managing attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights. "My desire to serve as an Appeals Court judge stems from my belief that the courts too often are out of touch with the people of this state. My work...

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Primer: Senate Health Bill CBO Score—Fatal Blow or Flesh Wound?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 10:08 AM

Hey, y’all. There’s A TON of news today, and, as ever, I’ll move through it as expeditiously as possible. First, though, a teaser: later this afternoon, the INDY is going to drop part one of what will be a three-part series on North Carolina’s pork industry and its effect on the state’s environment and hog farms’ eastern North Carolina neighbors. Reporters Erica Hellerstein and Ken Fine have been working on this project for months. It’s deeply reported and a very (in my estimation) important read. Keep an eye out for it. Anyway, let’s begin. 1. CBO SAYS 22M WILL LOSE...

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Durham Commissioners Approve $633M Budget

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 6:11 AM

Following less-than-expected education funding in the state budget, the Durham County budget will give more funding to Durham Public Schools,  but not as much as advocates say is needed to ensure teaching positions aren't cut. The commissioners approved the $633.14 million budget, including $134 million for Durham Public Schools, after Commissioner Heidi Carter, a former school board member, tried unsuccessfully to get her colleagues to add another 0.15 cents to the property tax rate to help cover shortfalls in state education funding. Education proponents, including members of the Durham Association of Educators, left the meeting following a unanimous vote of approval....

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Over Accusations of Gerrymandering, Republicans Introduce Bill to Redraw Judicial Maps

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 6:05 AM

A controversial and last-ditch effort to overhaul the state’s judicial maps before the legislative session ends generated fierce debate at a committee hearing Monday, but passed and is headed to the House floor for debate. The Republican proposal, sponsored by Representative Justin Burr of Stanly, would fundamentally alter the state’s existing judicial districts by redrawing prosecutorial districts as well as district and superior court lines—an effort critics say is a transparent attempt to stack the bench with Republican judges and an attack on the judicial branch. They also expressed concern that the bill was drafted without consulting key stakeholders...

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Roy Cooper Vetoes GOP Budget, GOP Leaders Pledge Quick Override

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 12:37 PM

This morning, Governor Cooper announced he would veto the budget passed by Republicans in the General Assembly last week, citing concerns about education funding as well as tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. "This budget shortchanges our state at a time when we don’t have to," he said at a press conference. "Rather than matching the dreams and aspirations of our people, this budget is shortsighted and small-minded. It lacks the vision that our state demands at this pivotal time of growth and change." The proposed $23 billion  budget would raise teacher pay by an average of 3.3 percent and make...

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Primer: What Gerrymandering Means in N.C. and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Mon, Jun 26, 2017 at 9:24 AM

Greetings, comrades and fellow travelers, and welcome to Monday. I hope your weekend was relaxing and/or productive. We’ve got lots to catch up on this morning, so let’s get to it. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. N.C. AMONG THE MOST GERRYMANDERED STATES. THE GIST: Over the weekend, the Associated Press came out with a deep dive into the partisan advantage of congressional and legislative districts across the country. Its findings were less revelatory than a confirmation of what we already know: Republicans, who gained control of state houses in 2010 and thus controlled the most recent redistricting process, locked in a...

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Primer: The Biggest Week of the Trump Presidency and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 9:22 AM

Happy Friday, y’all. Next week looks to be the biggest—or at least most consequential—of the Trump presidency so far, with tens of millions of people’s health care on the line as the Senate moves forward with its health care reform. We’ll talk about that in much greater detail in a second. But first, I wanted to take one last opportunity to plug this week’s Primer sponsor, the Raleigh Flyers, who are playing their final regular season home game tomorrow night. You can click here or on the ad image at the bottom of the page to pick up tickets. —Jeffrey...

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Orange County Housing Authority Has Appealed Its 'Troubled' Status

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 3:16 PM

Annette Moore, the county's interim housing director, says the agency has appealed a September determination by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that its Section 8 program is "troubled." Housing Authorities that operate Section 8 program are assessed and scored annually on fourteen factors. Scores below 60 are considered troubled, scores from 60 to 89 percent are standard and scores above 90 are considered high performing. According to Moore, the Orange County Housing Authority received a 59 on its most recent assessment on September 30. Moore said she expects another assessment will be conducted in August or September,...

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Primer: What The Senate Health Care Bill Looks Like and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 9:54 AM

Morning, newshounds. I miiiiight have hit snooze a few too many times this morning, so my apologies for getting this posted a little later than usual. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. HERE’S WHAT THE SENATE HEALTH BILL WILL LOOK LIKE. THE GIST: After spending weeks crafting their version of health care reform in secrecy, Senate Republicans plan to finally unveil their bill today, ahead of a planned vote next week. According to reports in The Washington Post and other outlets, it will look a whole lot like the hugely unpopular American Health Care Act that passed the House, with a few...

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Get Out Your Wallets: Durham Monthly Parking Rates Are About to Go Up

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 3:17 PM

As if parking in downtown Durham wasn't already the bane of your existence, monthly parking rates are about to go up. Effective July 1, monthly rates for most customers at city surface lots and decks will go up by $15. Residents who live within the downtown loop will see a more modest increase. According to a notice from the city, the increase will help pay for a new downtown parking garage, elevator and security updates, and upgrading parking access and pay stations. Daily rates went up in March, when the city installed paid on-street parking. Since the rollout, some tweaks...

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