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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Three People Have Applied for the Vacant Durham City Council Seat

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 12:56 PM

The Durham City Council's Procedures Committee met Wednesday to discuss how they will go about appointing someone to fill a vacant at-large seat on the council and to tweak an applicant questionnaire. Although at least seven people have publicly announced plans to apply for the seat, as of Wednesday afternoon the city clerk's office had not received any applications. Three came in today, according to the city clerk. Applications, which can be found on the city's website, are due December 19 by five p.m. The three people who had applied by Thursday afternoon were Pastor Fredrick Davis, El Centro Hispano...

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Durham Attorney Scott Holmes Challenges N.C. Court Fees as Unconstitutional

Posted By on Mon, Dec 11, 2017 at 3:09 PM

A group including the ACLU of North Carolina and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice is challenging the constitutionality of court fees being levied in North Carolina. Durham attorney Scott Holmes filed a constitutional challenge to the court costs statute today in Wake Court Superior Court, saying the state constitution requires such fees to go to public schools. Instead, he says, the revenue is funding the court system. “This is an important step in reversing the flow of resources in the school-to-prison pipeline. Our Constitution requires that the fees collected in criminal cases shall fund the education of our children...

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Durham City Council Lays Out Plan for Filling Vacant Seat

Posted By on Thu, Dec 7, 2017 at 4:05 PM

Durham City Council members will meet next week to discuss criteria for applicants looking to fill Steve Schewel's seat now that he has been sworn in as mayor. The council on Thursday gave the city clerk the go-ahead to advertise the vacancy and put out an initial, basic application that will be due December 19. In the meantime, members who sit on the Council Procedure Committee—Schewel, Jillian Johnson, Charlie Reece, and new member Vernetta Alston—will meet next Wednesday at three to go over a questionnaire that will go out to eligible applicants. So far, at least five people have announced...

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Cases Continued for Durham Confederate Monument Protesters; One Gets Deal for Deferred Dismissal

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 2:20 PM

Cases for eight people accused of toppling a Confederate monument in Durham this summer were continued Tuesday morning, and a ninth defendant will see their charges dropped after paying restitution and completing community service hours. Loan Tran received a deferred prosecution agreement, according to attorney Scott Holmes. Tran has until March 26 to pay $1,250 in restitution and do one hundred hours of community service with the Triangle Nonprofit and Volunteer Leadership Center. Once completed, three misdemeanor charges against Tran—damage to personal property, damage to real property, and defacing a public monument—will be dismissed. Tran had initially been charged with inciting...

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Wildin Acosta Could Learn Today Whether He’s Being Deported

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 9:27 AM

Today, Wildin David Guillen Acosta of Durham faces what could be his last immigration court date in Charlotte. Acosta, now twenty, was detained as an eighteen-year-old on his way to school at Riverside High. He is among six North Carolina youth who had fled danger in Central America and were detained by ICE that same winter and placed at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Today’s one p.m. court before Judge Stuart Couch could decide whether Acosta is granted asylum or is deported back to Honduras. In October, Couch extended Acosta’s case until today. He said at a hearing then that...

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With the RNC’s Full Embrace of Accused Child Molester Roy Moore, American Politics Has Hit Rock Bottom (Right?)

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 9:11 AM

Yesterday morning, Donald Trump formally endorsed accused child molester Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race. Following his lead, the Republican National Committee reversed its previous decision to cut all ties with Moore and will instead cut him a check. “At Mr. Trump’s direct urging, and to the surprise of some Republican Party officials, the national committee, which severed ties to Mr. Moore weeks ago, opened a financial spigot that could help Mr. Moore with voter turnout in the contest’s closing days.” “But even as senior Republicans again coalesced around Mr. Moore, there were reminders that the party’s internal divide...

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With a Message of Inclusivity, Steve Schewel Sworn in as Durham Mayor

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 6:59 AM

In his first remarks as mayor of Durham, Steve Schewel delivered a vision of the Bull City as a “progressive beacon" that is inclusive and welcoming to all. "We the people of Durham envision a prosperous, innovative, green, walkable city that thrives on diversity and difference, that puts racial and economic justice at the top of our civic agenda, that defends the vulnerable among us, that cherishes robust, respectful debate with difficult questions, that believes science is real, that embraces nonviolence, that embodies the belief that all residents get an opportunity to share in our prosperity, that serves as a...

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Durham Police Equipped with Body Cameras, Mental Health Training

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 10:12 AM

Nearly all Durham police officers have undergone mental health training, and most are equipped with body cameras, according to the police department's third-quarter crime report, which covers the first nine months of 2017 and was presented to the city council Monday night. Chief C.J. Davis said she made eight hours of mental health training a requirement for more than five hundred officers. "It gives them more information about how they could misunderstand a person's mental or physical condition," including responding to substance abuse issues, Davis said. All officers ranked captain and below are now equipped with body cameras—"one of the...

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thomas Farr and the Radical Remaking of the Federal Judiciary

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 9:15 AM

Last night, the INDY’s Thomas Goldsmith reported that Thomas Farr, the longtime North Carolina Republican lawyer who is now President Trump’s nominee for the federal bench, appears to have lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr, a nominee for a federal judgeship, knew well in advance about a controversial 1990 postcard campaign designed by Republicans to intimidate blacks who wanted to vote, according to a former Department of Justice investigator. The statements made this week by Gerald Hebert, a federal attorney in 1990, directly contradict Farr's sworn testimony in September before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that...

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fine, Let’s Talk About the Dumb Raleigh Christmas Parade Fight

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 9:23 AM

WRAL VS. THE GRMA, AND NOBODY WINS. I’ve been reticent to weigh in on the ongoing dispute over the downtown Raleigh Christmas parade, simply because I have a hard time getting worked up over these things. But now that the grievances have reached something of a fever pitch, here we are. The backstory: Last month, WRAL lost its longtime contract to sponsor the Christmas parade to its rival WTVD. But then WRAL announced that it was going to broadcast Saturday’s parade anyway. To the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, which puts on the parade, this lowers the value of future...

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

District Attorney: Felony Charges Remain Against Defend Durham Protesters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 1:08 PM

District Attorney Roger Echols says felony charges against a group accused of pulling down a Confederate monument downtown still stand, despite an announcement in court this morning to the contrary. This morning, seven people charged in connection with the August 14 toppling of the monument appeared in court, where their attorney, Scott Holmes, said Echols had agreed not to proceed with felony charges of inciting a riot. In an email, Echols said the charges remain. The demonstrators are also facing misdemeanor property damage charges. "I wasn’t in Court but I understand Attorney Holmes made comments about felonies being dismissed or...

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Charges Against Three Defend Durham Demonstrators Dropped

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 3:39 PM

Charges against three people accused of damaging a Confederate monument torn down in Durham this summer have been dismissed.  Alexander Caldwell, Taylor Cook, and Myles Spigner were among twelve people charged in connection with an August 14 demonstration in which a crowd, gathered in response to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville the weekend before, pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier that had stood in front of the former Durham County Courthouse. The demonstration, and the vehement response from the Durham County Sheriff's Office, spawned a movement known as Defend Durham. "It's not surprising that these...

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Pierce Freelon Could End Up on the Durham City Council After All

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 3:29 PM

Pierce Freelon, the musician and entrepreneur who energized progressive voters in Durham's mayoral primary, says he'll apply for the city council seat that will open up when council member Steve Schewel is sworn in as mayor. Freelon, who did not garner enough votes in October to advance to Tuesday's general election, made the announcement on social media today. "For everyone who has been asking me 'what’s next?' here’s your answer: #WeAintDone," he wrote. Freelon won about 16 percent of the votes cast in the primary and says he's spent the past month recharging after a busy election season. In the post,...

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Durham City Councilman Steve Schewel Elected Mayor

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 12:17 AM

City council member Steve Schewel—who founded The Independent Weekly in 1983 and sold the paper in 2012—will serve as Durham’s next mayor, taking over the seat held by Bill Bell for sixteen years. Surrounded by friends, family, and campaign staffers, Schewel proclaimed victory from atop a table at Pompieri Pizza in downtown Durham, as the last precincts reported results in Tuesday's election. He took the lead early on Tuesday and finished the night with 59 percent of votes cast in his favor. The council will have to appoint someone to finish out his term, which expires in 2019. "It feels great,"...

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Man Found Dead in Durham Jail Cell Identified as James Earl Staton Jr.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 2:41 PM

The Durham County Sheriff's Office has identified a forty-year-old man who died in jail custody on Sunday as James Earl Staton Jr. According to the Sheriff's Office, Staton was last seen alive by jail staff at 4:21 p.m. He was found unresponsive twenty-three minutes later. An autopsy is being conducted by the state medical examiner, but the Sheriff's Office says "preliminary findings suggest Staton died of natural causes." Staton's death is the second at the jail this year and the fifth since the start of 2015. In March, seventeen-year-old Uniece Glebe Fennel was found hang in her cell. A state...

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It’s Election Day in Raleigh and Durham. Here’s What You Should Know.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 9:03 AM

THE GIST: In Wake and Orange counties and the city of Durham, voters—if history is a guide, not all that many of them—will go to polls and chart the futures of their respective municipal governments. The marquee races are in Raleigh (mayor) and Durham (mayor, city council). In Raleigh, an increasingly vituperative campaign has culminated in challenger Charles Francis attacking Mayor Nancy McFarlane for overlooking the city’s poorest residents while the rest of Raleigh thrived, and McFarlane hitting Francis for speaking to the local Republican Party and taking money from antigay bigots. McFarlane outperformed Francis by twelve points in October...

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Cora Cole-McFadden Plagiarized Parts of Her People's Alliance Candidate Questionnaire

Posted By on Mon, Oct 30, 2017 at 5:04 PM

It sure looks like longtime Durham City Council member Cora Cole-McFadden, who is seeking reelection to her Ward 1 seat, copied parts of a candidate questionnaire. The questionnaire was sent out by the People's Alliance, an influential PAC that endorsed Cole-McFadden's opponent, DeDreana Freeman, in this year's elections. Cole-McFadden's answers contain word-for-word passages from Internet sources. Reached for comment Monday afternoon, Cole-McFadden responded that she often uses outside sources for research. She said she unintentionally left out citations because she was in a hurry. “I should have done that. Usually, I do cite sources, but those are just things I'm...

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Lawsuit Alleging Illegal No-Hire Agreement Between Duke and UNC Reaches Partial Settlement

Posted By on Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 5:30 PM

A judge has granted preliminary approval for UNC to settle a lawsuit over allegations that a no-hire agreement between the university and Duke violated antitrust laws. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 on behalf of Danielle Seaman, who was an assistant professor of radiology at Duke, who says she was passed over for a similar job at UNC because of an agreement between medical schools at the two institutions not to hire each other's employees for positions of the same rank. The law firm representing Seaman announced the partial settlement news this morning. Duke has not settled in the case. Duke...

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Bill Bell Endorses Farad Ali for Mayor of Durham

Posted By on Fri, Oct 20, 2017 at 7:06 AM

In a surprise press conference Thursday afternoon, Durham mayor Bill Bell threw his support behind former city councilman Farad Ali to serve as his successor. Bell had already made a public endorsement in the Ward 1 city council race, supporting incumbent and mayor pro tem Cora Cole-McFadden, but had yet to weigh in on the mayor's race, which will see Ali go up against current city councilman Steve Schewel. In a primary earlier this month, the two earned the most votes out of seven candidates on the ballot.  The general election is November 7 and early voting is underway. ...

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Durham Applies for a Federal Grant to Two-Way the Loop, and It’s About Damn Time

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 11:06 AM

This morning, the city of Durham announced that it had applied for a $12 million U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER Grant to convert the hated downtown loop into a two-way street. If the city wins the grant—part of a $500 million discretionary pool of money that the feds use for infrastructure projects—it would use it to change pavement markings, modify traffic signals, and construct roundabouts. “For decades the downtown loop, and the system of other one-way downtown streets, has been widely viewed as confusing, unsafe and a detriment to revitalization,” the city said in a press release. “The loop,...

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

With More Court Cases Continued, Defend Durham Calls Out Sheriff Andrews, Lifts Up LGBTQ Activists

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 5:15 PM

Four people charged in connection with the August 14 dismantling of a Confederate statue in Durham and a spontaneous August 18 anti-Klan rally downtown have had their cases continued to December 5. Jessica Jude, Qasima Wideman, Dwayne Dixon, and Gregory Williams appeared in Durham County court this morning. They are among fourteen people facing charges related to the two demonstrations. The arrestees and their supporters have coalesced into an antiracist movement known as Defend Durham. Jude and Wideman are charged with inciting a riot, injury to personal property, and injury to real property in connection with the toppling of the...

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Cole-McFadden Survives Durham Council Primary, Moffitt Does Not

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 2:03 AM

The Durham City Council will have at least two new members come December, after Tuesday's primary knocked out one incumbent. In the Ward 1 race, incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden and challenger DeDreana Freeman will advance to the November 7 general election. Mark-Anthony Middleton and John Rooks Jr. will square off for the Ward 2 seat being vacated by Eddie Davis. In Ward 3, incumbent Don Moffitt came in third, so it will be Vernetta Alston against Shelia Ann Huggins. (And in case you haven't heard, Steve Schewel and Farad Ali made it through Tuesday's mayoral primary). The Ward 1 race had...

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Durham's Next Mayor Will Be Steve Schewel or Farad Ali

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 12:31 AM

Steve Schewel and Farad Ali came out on top in Durham's crowded mayoral primary Tuesday. Even if you expected those results, the margins may have come as a surprise. Schewel won 51 percent of votes cast and Ali 29 percent, enough to advance both to the November 7 general election. The winner of that contest will be Durham’s first new mayor since 2001, when Bill Bell was first elected to the seat. Pierce Freelon was the third-highest vote-getter, with about 16 percent of the ballots. Sylvester Williams, Shea Ramirez, Tracy Drinker, and Michael Johnson rounded out the field, in that...

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Friday, October 6, 2017

Should a Planned City Development at Durham Station Have All Affordable Housing?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 6:21 AM

Durham City Council members on Thursday got an update on plans to build affordable housing next to the Durham Station transportation hub—but they still have decisions to make on what the development will look like. A year ago, the city issued a request for proposals to develop the two-acre site, which is city-owned, stipulating that 80 percent of the apartments be set aside for tenants earning less than 60 percent of Durham’s median income. They got one proposal back, from DHIC Inc. and Self-Help Ventures. Since then, the two groups, along with city staff and Cline Design Associates, have been trying...

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Protesters Renew Calls for Change at the Durham Jail—This Time Through Song

Posted By on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 at 7:26 AM

Demonstrators rallied at a Durham County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night in what one participant called "a renewed opening salvo" demanding changes at the county jail. About twenty-five people, including members of Inside-Outside Alliance and Alerta Migratoria, gathered in front of the county government building on Main Street. Earlier in the day, barricades were put up around the base of the now-dismantled Confederate monument that stood in front of the county government building. Before demonstrators showed up, about a dozen deputies gathered around the monument, prompting one of the first arrivals to sarcastically ask the officers if they were...

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