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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

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

Primer: North Carolina Might Be the Future of U.S. Politics and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 8:51 AM

Morning, folks. There’s a lot of ground to cover today. I’ll do so as expeditiously as possible. Let’s begin. 1. IN N.C., THE FUTURE OF POLITICS. THE GIST: Jason Zengerle is out with a piece in The New York Times Magazine this week that poses something of an unsettling question: “Is North Carolina the Future of American Politics?” It leads with the Air Horn Orchestra—the INDY’s former managing editor, Grayson Haver Currin, and partner-in-rabble-rousing Tina Haver Currin get a shoutout—shutting down and then reconvening to protest Governor Cooper’s HB 2 compromise. But the bulk of the story centers of the...

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Wake School Board Grapples with Getting Half of the Money It Asked For

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 6:27 AM

Wake County school board members had plenty to say and plentiful ground to make up Tuesday, the day after the Board of Commissioners provided less than half the new schools funding requested. For board chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler, the lowered amount of money—$21 million instead of $44 million—meant the schools would have a tough time providing all the services that today's children may need. With financial pressure on human services, social work, law enforcement, and other government functions, schools have become the last hope for some marginalized children, Johnson-Hostler said. "Every part of what I would consider necessary to have a...

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

HUD: Orange County Housing Authority Is “Troubled”

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 4:52 PM

The Orange County Housing Authority’s Section 8 housing program has been listed as “troubled” by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for nearly nine months. The designation was made on September 30, 2016, after the housing authority received a score of less than 60 percent from the Section 8 Management Assessment Program, or SEMAP, which annually measures housing authorities based on 14 indicators, according to HUD spokesman Joe Phillips. Authorities that score 90 percent or higher are listed as high-performing, 60–89 percent scores are considered standard, and scores of less than 60 percent are deemed troubled. Troubled agencies...

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Update: All Four Escaped Red Wolf Pups Recaptured at Museum of Life and Science

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 12:02 PM

Three (adorable) red wolf pups who had escaped from their enclosure at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science have been "safely recaptured and reintroduced the red wolf pups with their parents," the museum said in a statement this morning. Four of the seven-week-old pups, who were born at the museum, escaped their enclosure early Monday. One, a female, has not been captured but is inside the perimeter fence around the wolves' habitat. "Ongoing recapture efforts include offering extra food and water where the pups have been spotted and humane traps specially designed for live capture have also been...

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NCGA Budget Gives $2.6 Million to Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 10:58 AM

After weeks of negotiations, Republicans in the General Assembly announced the details of their $23 billion budget agreement Monday, outlining plans to increase teacher pay and slash taxes by a projected $530 million.  An oft-cited provision in the GOP budget would raise teacher pay by an average 3.3 percent and give other state employees a flat $1,000 bonus. The budget would also make a series of tax cuts effective in 2019: lowering the corporate income tax rate from 3 to 2.5 percent, reducing the personal income tax rate from 5.499 to 5.25 percent, and decreasing the franchise tax on small...

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Primer: The NCGA Has a Budget and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 8:20 AM

Greetings and salutations, readers. There’s a lot in the news today, but before we get started, a quick reminder, if you have any thoughts/questions/suggestions/tips as to how we can make Primer better—or if you’d like to get this blog delivered straight to your inbox every morning—email them to indyprimer@indyweek.com. Also, please support our sponsors. (This week’s Primer sponsor is the Raleigh Flyers, the Triangle’s professional Ultimate Disc team.) They keep the lights on. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. WE HAVE A BUDGET. THE GIST: Yesterday, the General Assembly unveiled its $23 billion compromise budget, which would boost teacher pay by 3.3...

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Durham’s $429 Million Budget Raises Taxes to Fund Affordable Housing, Additional Firefighters

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 5:25 AM

The Durham City Council on Monday night approved a $429.4 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year that invests in affordable housing, public safety, and infrastructure. The budget includes a property tax rate increase of 1.79 cents in order to dedicate a second penny of the tax rate to affordable housing and hire thirty new firefighters, among other investments. The property tax rate will increase to 57.86 cents per $100 of property value. The average homeowner will pay about $32 in property taxes than last year as a result of the increase. A penny of the tax rate generates about...

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Wake Passes $1.26 Billion Budget; Schools Get $21 Million in New Funding

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 7:20 PM

The annual fiscal wrangle between Wake County's governing bodies ground to a halt Monday as the Board of Commissioners approved a $1.26 billion budget on a 5–2 vote, bumping up the schools’ allocation by $5 million over the county manager’s recommendation to provide $430.9 million in local funding. Commissioner Matt Calabria, who moved to include the extra $5 million, acknowledged that Wake County schools would still lag beyond many other counties in the state even with the increase. Use of a recent $1.5 million rise in sales tax revenues and transfers from debt service and capital funds meant that the...

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Supreme Court Rules That North Carolina Can’t Deny Sex Offenders Access to Facebook

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 11:26 AM

A unanimous Supreme Court today struck down a North Carolina law that makes it a felony for a registered sex offender “to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages.” That’s pretty much all of them: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. The case, Packingham v. North Carolina, centers on sex offender Lester Packingham, who was convicted for posting “God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismissed the ticket before court even started? No fine, no court costs,...

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Primer: U.S. Escalates in Syria, Afghanistan and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 8:24 AM

Happy Monday, everyone. Let’s jump right into the news. 1. U.S. SHOOTS DOWN SYRIAN AIRCRAFT. THE GIST: Yesterday, the U.S. military shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that the Pentagon says had bombed local forces aligned with the Americans, which the Associated Press calls a “new escalation of the conflict.” Nut graph: “While the U.S. has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight [the Islamic State] that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat...

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reverend Barber Says Banning Him from the Legislature Won’t Stick

Posted By on Sat, Jun 17, 2017 at 7:12 AM

The Reverend William Barber II has been told to keep away from the main General Assembly building until his return to court June 30 on trespassing charges brought at the legislature May 30. However, the Goldsboro-based civil rights leader said Friday that similar attempts to ban him and other protesters have been made in the past but had been overturned. Barber’s lawyer criticized the restriction as unconstitutional under both the state and U.S. founding documents. "They banned all of us," Barber, fifty-three, told the INDY via text message Friday. "They've done it before and the courts change it[,] smile." Barber...

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Primer: Cuba Crackdown and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 9:27 AM

Happy Friday, y’all. Two thoughts before we begin: 1) As always, your feedback is appreciated; this newsletter is an evolving creature, and we’re perpetually trying to make it better. 2) Tomorrow is Saturday, which means it’s the day this week’s Primer sponsor, Beer Camp on Tour, comes to town. So one last time: if you’re looking for something fun to do, or if you need a last minute Father’s Day gift (dads like beer!), click here, or click the ad image at the bottom of the page, and check it out. One last thing: After I published the newsletter...

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Primer: Trump Under Investigation + Five Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 9:22 AM

Happy Thursday, everyone—or, as a former colleague used to call it, Little Friday. Let’s jump right in. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. TRUMP UNDER INVESTIGATION. THE GIST: Under normal circumstances, this would qualify as a bombshell, except I imagine most people assumed it to be the case after former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week: The Washington Post reported last night that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for obstruction of justice. Nut graph: “Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not...

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

FADE Coalition on Frank Clark: "We Want Answers. We Want Justice.”

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 1:01 PM

After the Durham Police Department cleared three officers involved in the November shooting death of Frank Clark, the Durham FADE Coalition is asking for more transparency, cooperation, and accountability from the city. "All too often, victims of police shootings are blamed, shamed, and framed as if they would still be alive if they had acted differently, when in fact, the cause of death usually starts with the police instigating an encounter for no clear or apparent reason," FADE (which stands for Fostering Alternative Drug Enforcement) wrote in a letter to the Durham City Council via SpiritHouse today. You can read the...

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A Year Ago, Wildin Acosta Was in Solitary Awaiting Deportation. Yesterday, He Graduated from Riverside High.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 9:27 AM

“Maybe I’ll go to the beach?” Wildin David Guillen Acosta has taken the week off. Yesterday, he graduated from Riverside High School, the first in his family to complete an American education. He should have graduated last June. Instead, this time last year he was being held in solitary confinement at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Once processed in that infamous prison, detainees have a very poor chance of getting out. Eighty-seven percent are deported, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Acosta celebrated his temporary freedom and a milestone—one he says is a “huge step” for his future—among hundreds...

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Primer: A Congressman Is Shot, Trump Hates Trumpcare, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 9:06 AM

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Just as I was finishing up the newsletter version of Primer—which you can sign up for by emailing us here—some news broke: Representative Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and the House majority leader, was shot this morning during a congressional baseball practice. From CNN: “Rep. Steve Scalise was shot in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday morning, Rep. Mo Brooks told CNN. Brooks said he was on deck at a practice for the congressional baseball team when the shooting occurred. Scalise appears to have been shot in the hip and it appears two Capitol Hill police agents were shot. Alexandria police...

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Democracy in Crisis: Yo Senators, Quit Being So Mean to Jeff Sessions

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 8:10 PM

If you didn’t know, via obscure Latin etymology, that the word testify is related to the word testicles, you could guess it from watching Senate testimony pretty much any time ever, but certainly this year. (For what it’s worth: in Rome, you swore on your testicles to tell the truth). Back when now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in the middle of the confirmation hearings in which he seemingly perjured himself about contacts with Russian officials, Senator Elizabeth Warren tried to read a letter Coretta Scott King wrote to the Judiciary Committee about Sessions into the Congressional record. King wrote the...

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City Staffers Pick York Properties to Manage Union Station

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 7:54 PM

A long-familiar Oak City company got the nod from city staff Tuesday for providing leasing and management duties at the under-construction Raleigh Union Station. York Properties, with roots as a construction company dating to 1910, submitted the best among three proposals, said David Eatman, transit administrator for the city. The other contenders were commercial real estate companies Cushman and Wakefield and NAI Carolantic. The transportation staff's choice will have to be signed off on by council members, likely at a July 5 meeting. "The firm has a vested interest in the community," Eatman said. "York Properties presented what I thought...

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Primer: Trump Is Thinking About Firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 10:27 AM

Happy Tuesday, everyone. There’s a lot in the news, and we’ll get to it straightaway. But first, may I ask a favor? Our first Primer seemed to go well; the response was overwhelmingly positive. But if you are experiencing any problems or have any suggestions about how we can make this newsletter more readable—e.g., if the formatting looks wonky on your computer or device—please pass them along to jbillman@indyweek.com. This is a new venture, and we’re learning as we go. So with that said, let’s go. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. HE WOULDN’T DARE. (WOULD HE?) THE GIST: According to one of...

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Orange County Schools Takes Step Toward Confederate Flag Ban

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 5:56 AM

More than six months after the parent of an Orange High School student founded the Hate Free Schools Coalition in response to Confederate flags on T-shirts, backpacks, and hats on campus, the Orange County Board of Education voted Monday evening to ban racially intimidating symbols from inside local schools. While the policy change won't be official until a second vote is held, should the board move forward with the revision to the system's dress code, students would be prohibited from wearing "clothing, buttons, patches, jewelry or any other items with words, phrases, symbols, pictures or signs that are indecent, profane,...

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Southpoint Mall Posts Signs, Can Tow GoTriangle Park-and-Riders Now

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 5:51 AM

Following a spat with GoTriangle, the Streets at Southpoint has installed new signs on park-and-ride spots that will allow the mall to tow cars belonging to transit riders if they violate parking rules. Last week, transit users reported finding fliers on their cars saying they could be towed if parked in designated park-and-ride spots outside of the hours of six a.m. to six p.m. But parking lot signage did not specify any such time limits, so according to Durham’s planning director, towing would have violated city code. The Streets at Southpoint has since installed new signs reading “Reserved for Park...

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Wake Commissioners Walk a Fine Line Between Being Fiscally Cautious and Fulfilling Campaign Promises

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 6:08 PM

There’s a thin line between being fiscally cautious and fulfilling campaign promises to support public schools to the hilt, members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners learned Monday. At issue at a commission work session was the gap between the $45 million in new money the school system originally proposed and the $16 million—plus the schools’ reserve fund—that county manager Jim Hartmann has proposed to fund the system in 2017–18. Wake County schools have no taxing authority, so there’s a yearly exchange of opinions on how much the Board of Commissioners should include for schools out of the county...

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Activists Plan to “Storm” Durham County Budget Hearing Tonight

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 4:39 PM

Two local advocacy groups want Durham County commissioners to hold Sheriff Mike Andrews accountable and plan to make their demands known in a budget hearing tonight. A public hearing on the proposed 2017–18 county budget will be held during the Board of Commissioners' regular seven p.m. meeting tonight. Inside-Outside Alliance, which works on behalf of inmates, and Alerta Migratoria NC, an immigration advocacy group, are asking supporters to "storm" the hearing. What do they want? For Andrews (whom they call “Lyin' Andrews”) to take questions under oath about his department's practices, for the Sheriff's Office to cease any cooperation with...

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