Previous month:
December 2010
Next month:
February 2011

January 2011

Ground control to Major Paul -- who's watching what Sheriff's Martin is saying?

When I read John McCann's story in yesterday's Herald-Sun, I would have known just whom the courts and crime reporter was interviewing by the words and turns of phrase the subject used.

"[P]otential for an ethnic war" between black and Latino gangs. "[A]bout 70% of the black community has retrogressed in Durham." "[A]ttributable to the thug culture." That people who claim to care about the problem are only looking to "grab for federal grant money" to build unachievable visions.

Perhaps you think McCann gotten an all-access pass to the commenters at WRAL? Maybe "whatelseisnew" or "underPSI" or one of those other social commentators has managed to find his way to claw at a phone long enough to initiate a dialing sequence? Or perhaps a representative of one of these Tea Party movements?

Ah, you'd think, but no. Had I not seen the interviewee name, I'd still have known it was Major Paul Martin, a senior officer in the Durham County Sheriff's Office and frequent, er, commentator on social issues.

Brand-new Wake County school superintendent Anthony Tata may be an occasional Fox News contributor and I'm-With-Grizzly-Mama fan, but I suspect if Martin were seeking sideline work, it might be more of the WorldNetDaily or NewsMax variety.

After reading the missile, er, missive yesterday, first place I went was to my email archives to pull up a Partners Against Crime - District 2 email blast that Major Martin had sent out to the listserv a couple of years back, which painted a similar dire picture of papaless criminals whose childhoords were warped by crack cocaine, with drug industry sympathizers holding see-kret political power around town and happy to let the mayhem continue. Oh, and that non-disabled, non-elderly persons getting social services money must get routine drug tests -- and mamas should have to identify the papas of their babies.

Come to think of this, this does sound like something that might fit one of Tata's novels.

Anyhow, apparently the PAC2 email was among the first things the Herald-Sun's Ray Gronberg thought of, too.

Continue reading "Ground control to Major Paul -- who's watching what Sheriff's Martin is saying?" »

DPS settlement: $590,000 to three charter schools; Healthy Start, Kestrel Heights apparently still pending

Durham Public Schools-watchers have been wondering what's going on with a series of lawsuits against the district from five local charter schools over the level of funding passed along from school districts to their publicly-funded, state-chartered competitors.

As an Associated Press article noted over a year ago:

The state Supreme Court this month refused to review an appeals court ruling that said the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system undercounted how much it owed charter schools. School districts with charter schools are supposed to pass along a per student share of local education money to the independent public schools.

"The money that is going to be taken from them should have gone to the charter schools in the first place," said Richard Vinroot, the lawyer who represented five charter schools that successfully sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. The former Charlotte mayor and Republican candidate for governor sits on the board of a charter school, The News Observer of Raleigh reported.

Vinroot said other charter schools in the state could ask for three years' worth of money from public schools.

Well, Vinroot's lawsuit precedent has taken away some more public schools dollars -- this time bound for three Durham charter schools, whose lawsuits against DPS over the matter were detailed in a fall 2010 story by the Herald-Sun's Matt Milliken.

A public records request by Bull City Rising education correspondent Sharon McCloskey has unearthed the settlement documents between the district and the Carter Community School, Central Park School for Children and Maureen Joy Charter School. (Download the PDF: Download R0615873)

The school district agreed in November to settle with the three charters for $590,000, about half of what the three schools asked for (per the H-S) in their lawsuit -- but more than five times DPS' initial claim of funds owed to the schools.

Continue reading "DPS settlement: $590,000 to three charter schools; Healthy Start, Kestrel Heights apparently still pending" »

Convention Center one step closer to management change; future of Marriott "flag" unclear

The N&O and the Herald-Sun both have very good coverage this morning of the ongoing negotiations over the future of the Durham Convention Center, which has for fifteen years been operated by Shaner, the management firm responsible for the attached Marriott hotel.

That deal has drawn more jeers than cheers from local leaders over the year; though a new GM at the downtown Marriott has been credited with improving operations and satisfaction with the hotel, city and county officials -- who subsidize the loss-leader center -- have groused that the center requires too large a public subsidy, and that the joint hotel-convention center management deal to Shaner had allowed the hotelier to commingle hotel and convention center operating expenses, with public funds helping to meet facility costs.

Durham-conv-ctr Shaner has fought back, with the company's CEO flying to town for lobbying efforts and a last-minute revised bid for the facility management that saw some elected officials say it was too little, too late; the hotelier replied that it always thought its contract bid was a starting offer.

Be that as it may, the papers report this morning that the County Commission voted last night to allow county leaders to negotiate a management agreement with Global Spectrum, a Comcast-owned company that operates sporting arenas, convention centers and other public facilities.

A City Council vote on the management change and a final negotiated agreement acceptable to both governments is a prerequisite for the change going through; some BOCC members signalled that Shaner's much-ballyhooed possible loss of Marriott branding could lead them to rethink their position, a point noted well in the Herald-Sun's coverage.

Global Spectrum operates a couple of dozen convention centers nationally, including the new downtown convention center in Richmond, Va.

(Hotel photo by Ildar Sagdejev, via Wikimedia, shared via Creative Commons)

Old Havana Sandwich Shop now open for business on East Main

Old-havana-logo We noted here back in August that Elizabeth Turnbull and Robert Matos' new Cuban sandwich shop would open soon in the 310 East Main St. building that was a nineteenth-century home to the old Durham Sun newspaper.

Now comes word, via social media and the Sun's successor, that Old Havana Sandwich Shop has opened for business.

With "local, pasture-raised pork" and a promise of authentic Cuban cuisine and flavors -- Matos and some of the key culinary staff are of Cuban descent -- the restaurant is the latest addition to downtown's growing dining scene.

Sandwiches are the focus, but Old Havana opens at 7:30am on weekdays and promises coffee, espresso drinks and other fare in addition to lunchtime meals; with a 5:30pm closing time, take-out for dinner is also a possibility. (Besides the work week, Old Havana is open 9:00am-4:00pm on Saturdays.

The site's proximity to the current courthouse and to county offices promises a new option for local government workers and court visitors at lunch. And with coffee options (plus free wifi), Old Havana provides another option for the laptop-and-lounge crowd downtown.

(Photo via Old Havana's Facebook page.)

RDU-Two opens in nick of time for NHL all-star fĂȘte -- but is hurry-up opening a big city or Mayberry move?

Flying back in on the Nashville to RDU late-night flight on Sunday, I walked the corridors of a more deserted-than-usual Terminal 1, where nary a soul scurried beyond the bustling gates of Southwest, the largest carrier by passengers at the airport.

Of course, Saturday evening had marked the big to-do, as US Airways and Continental shimmied over to the all-new Terminal 2, the second half of which opened to the traveling public this weekend.

It cost about a half-million dollars to accelerate the opening date for the new terminal to this weekend from its original February debut, something intended to give better first impressions, we hear, to those fans and officials flying in for this weekend's NHL All-Star Game at the RBC Center.

Assuming, of course, you're not a fan of the Predators, Lightning, Thrashers, Flyers or another team for which you're taking a non-stop on Southwest or AirTran, in which case, it's T1 for you.

Or a Devils or Caps fan, for that matter; RDU T2 may look brand new, but when USAir or Continental fly you in in equipment with manufacturer names like "Embraer" or "Bombadier" -- especially when you're in one of the latter's old DeHavilland Dash turboprops -- you know you're kicking it small-city.

All of which got me thinking: was accelerating RDU-Two really the best way to show off our region? Or is it, as I'm kinda inclined to think, the kind of men-of-commerce boosterism you'd associate with a small city?

Continue reading "RDU-Two opens in nick of time for NHL all-star fĂȘte -- but is hurry-up opening a big city or Mayberry move?" »

"Wideband" Internet on way to Durham from Time Warner -- just make sure your wallet's set to "wideband," too

We may all be getting ready to "Marry Durham" come March, but Google hasn't even shown a willingness to return our phone calls after that initial flirtation they made with municipalities nationwide for their fiber-optic program. (Or, for that matter, anyone's calls -- there's no sign that the Big G has picked any community for a residential gigabit network.)

Instead, we've been stuck in a relationship with Time Warner Cable that's been pretty monogamous, though some Durhamites have tried to stray with mixed success.

Clear Wireless' 4G network makes passes at folks' mailboxes with come-ons for home and mobile broadband, but as we saw in last year's BCR tests (and in discussions on listservs), the network seemed to, er, have trouble performing. Meanwhile, the old DSL service from Verizon is now sold by Frontier, but many neighborhoods are limited by the locations of central offices and have challenges getting the network to run as fast as was promised back during the wooing.

And that's to say nothing of AT&T's U-Verse service, which has shown no interest in expanding beyond the company's old BellSouth footprint -- something that doesn't include the Bull City.

Now comes news, though, that our longstanding partner, Time Warner, is investing in so-called wideband service in Durham and the region this spring.

Continue reading ""Wideband" Internet on way to Durham from Time Warner -- just make sure your wallet's set to "wideband," too" »

$800k gift moves Durham Rescue Mission closer to expansion -- and to possible conflict with some neighbors

Update: Gary Kueber, referenced below in the article, has a very long post on the matter at Endangered Durham today, speaking from his ED blogger perspective, not the Scientific Properties one. Besides the details below, Gary notes that neighbors have filed a protest petition over the proposed land use changes required for DRM expansion.

The Triangle Business Journal and the Herald-Sun both have the news that the Durham Rescue Mission has received $800,000 from an Atlanta cooperative bank in a gift linked to one of that bank's members, Winston-Salem giant BB&T. (BB&T Durham city executive Earl Tye is quoted in the H-S coverage.)

DRM operates a facility at the corner of Main St. and Alston Ave., and a family shelter in a converted hotel off I-85 near Avondale Dr.

It's a big gift, the biggest in the DRM's history, per the H-S' John McCann. And it takes the charity, which serves the poor and homeless with shelter, meals and spiritual outreach, more than one-sixth of the way towards the mark it needs to build what McCann calls "a real nice-looking building in a North-East Central Durham community often associated with blight."

But the gift also accelerates a possible conflict that's been brewing in recent months over the expansion plans for the shelter, which have intersected with a neighborhood-led effort to upgrade the Golden Belt national historic district to a local historic district, something that's gained the requisite percentage of signatures but the opposition of Mills and the Rescue Mission.

Continue reading "$800k gift moves Durham Rescue Mission closer to expansion -- and to possible conflict with some neighbors" »

Is phone polling a better portent for possible H-Teet at Ninth/Markham/H'boro?

Among Durham's retail rumors in recent months, few have been more intriguing than the suggestion that grocer Harris Teeter might end up expanding not at the old Loehmann's Plaza off I-85 as had been long rumored, but that a close-to-downtown site just off Ninth St. could be in the works instead.

A December article by Monica Chen in the H-S noted that H-Teet wasn't ready to commit to Loehmann's, leading the site developer to look at other options -- but added that the old Erwin Mills complex where a hotel and apartments are planned might also get the Charlotte area-based grocer:

Harris Teeter, which has one other location in northern Durham -- across from the Willowdaile Shopping Center on Guess Road -- has reportedly also been in talks on the Erwin Square apartments project near Ninth Street.

When reached for comment, Harris Teeter spokeswoman Catherine Reuhl said only that the company has not signed a lease for either location.

Interestingly, we got a report a couple of days back from BCR reader who lives in North Durham and got a phone call (we're not sure who made it) asking questions about their grocery habits. Reports the reader:

There were a lot of hypothetical questions, but they then switched to say that a Harris Teeter would be built [at] Ninth and Hillsborough near Markham, and asked how likely I would be to shop there.  


Of course, the question of whether a Harris Teeter will really go to the Ninth St. area seems hypothetical, too, given that one wouldn't seem likely to do a market demand study on a committed location, only a location up for consideration.

Still, it serves as more confirmation that there definitely seems to be something going on with this rumor. Stay tuned.

Local transit agencies now work in Google Transit, plan data warehouse promising interesting apps to come

Google knows just about everything about your life -- more than you might want it to know, maybe. But until very recently, it didn't know a darned thing about transit options in the Triangle.

The Google Transit system relies on mass transit providers to provide data on scheduled routes in a useful fashion, at which time they can be used to provide a route plan akin to their automobile and pedestrian plans via Google Maps.

Last time I was in Charlotte, it was handy getting an integrated view of bus and light rail schedules to get around town, especially when planning a late-night trip that can be worrying without good data.

Now the Triangle is getting that kind of transit planning service -- and with it comes a data warehouse announcement that portends well for innovative smartphone and web apps to come.

Continue reading "Local transit agencies now work in Google Transit, plan data warehouse promising interesting apps to come" »

Developer sheds more light on Morris St. partial two-way idea -- and hints local restaurateur plans a move there


108-morris We've written here before about the recently-discussed idea of a mid-block traffic circle of sorts on -- of all places -- Morris St. downtown, after the N&O piqued everyone's curiosity with a mention of such a device in mind for the one-block, one-way stretch.

The goal? Using a tiny rotary to allow Morris St. to be two-way from the Downtown Loop to the middle of the block, providing access to a parking lot, the Durham Arts Council and a Morris St. building that has a possibility for new life.

At Thursday night's Partners Against Crime District 5 (PAC5) meeting, representatives from the development team were present to get feedback from the community on the idea, which is looking to move from artists' renderings to full-stop approval.

The project's Wilmington-based developer says that he'd like to redevelop the 10,000 sq. ft. Greenfire-owned building at 108 Morris St. from a defunct nightclub (Cafe Blayloc) into a new restaurant, one which he says would require a heightened level of vehicular activity.

Capital Centre Development's John Fife is mum on exactly what restaurant would go there -- though after Thursday's PAC5 meeting, the project team did go so far as to say the prospective tenant would be a "local restaurateur" who was excited by the downtown dining scene and was looking to relocate into the city center. 

(A fact which, in and of itself, is sure to lead to interesting speculation on just who's poised to make the jump -- and depending on the source of such a relocation, possible interest at the neighborhood and community level, too.)

But according to the developer and their unknown client, the re-do on Morris St. is a prerequisite to bringing the project to fruition. (Image courtesy Kimley-Horn.)


Continue reading "Developer sheds more light on Morris St. partial two-way idea -- and hints local restaurateur plans a move there" »