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September 2007

NCCU/Young Dems' debate: Questions 1-3 in-depth

Today at BCR: Answers to the first three of the seven questions posed to the Durham City Council candidates at last week’s NCCU/Young Democrats forum. Tomorrow, the remaining questions, and on Friday, we’ll cover the candidates’ closing statements.

As before, these are paraphrased answers. If the paraphrase doesn’t make sense – the original answer might not have, either. (If any candidate wishes to offer corrections or clarifications to these answers, please feel free to do so via email or in the comments.)  Our analysis appears below each answer.

See this article from last week for a wrap-up of the forum event.

Continue reading "NCCU/Young Dems' debate: Questions 1-3 in-depth" »

More on the Bull City Blues Festival and the perennial noise question

Bluesfest_2007 As we discussed here in passing a couple of weeks ago, this year's Bull Durham Blues Festival once again had a stellar line-up, packed crowds, and a rockin' Durham Athletic Park. You could hear the good times a mile away.

Which, as we noted, remains an ongoing point of contention for some of the neighboring residential districts for these two nights each year. I've speculated (and really, I'm no acoustic engineer, or any kind of engineer for that matter) that the DAP's location at a low point in Durham's topography -- one of the tributaries of Ellerbe Creek runs under it -- could contribute to an amphitheater effect.

Or was the music simply louder than in past years? BCR checked in with one of the board members at St. Joseph's Historical Foundation, which puts on the blues fest each year. According to Ed Gomes from St. Joseph's (and also, coincidentally, a work colleague of mine):

"I do know that we've had complaints every year from some folks in the Trinity Park area because of the noise levels. It was also interesting to note that someone that works for me wanted to know if we lowered the volume this year because he couldn't hear it at the same level this year as it had been in years past.  I guess there are a lot of environmental factors that go into how the noise carries from the event, which is obviously something that we can't control.

My sense was that it was no louder than any other event we've had in the past.  We're very clear with the city on what our schedule is and we have to abide by the noise ordinance documentation that we are given by the city for each day of the event.  We actually had folks from the Durham police department show up on Friday night to check in because of some complaints.  I don't know whether they took any noise levels when they were on site, but the end result was that they didn't require us to adjust the levels."

There will likely be some further conversations on the subject (possibly through the Trinity Park Neighborhood Association, with whom Gomes has offered to talk about the noise questions at an upcoming meeting.)

Much of the debate on the listservs around the issue has settled around the urban vs. suburban debate that seems never-ending for neighborhoods like Trinity Park. What is acceptable noise? Should any noise be audible a half-mile from the event? Are there different standards for, say, student parties than for a partially city-sponsored event? If noise is unpreventable, is the DAP the right location for such an event?

It's a thorny issue, but to my mind there's one overriding factor that has sometimes not come out in the debate: the challenge in reconciling today's neighborhood concerns with the nature of the non-profit that the blues festival supports.

Continue reading "More on the Bull City Blues Festival and the perennial noise question" »

City Council candidate forum tonight at Durham's Hilton

Still trying to make up your mind on whom to vote for in the City Council and mayoral races? There's a debate for candidates in both races scheduled for 6:00 p.m. tonight at the Hilton on Hillsborough Road (just west of Cole Mill Rd.) WTVD's John Clark will moderate the event.

It's an important election, so what are you waiting for? Stop in and learn more about your choices this election season.

Speaking of debates: I'll be in Boston through week's end, but Wednesday through Friday on the blog, we'll have more questions and responses from last week's Council debate at the Hayti Heritage Center. (See the debate summary and opening statements here.)

The Indy covers the East End Connector

In case you missed it, this week's Independent Weekly gives pretty good coverage to the issues around the East End Connector. Check out the article here.

One of the really satisfying pieces about the article is its ability to bring focus to the real issue about the EEC: making sure that those families and businesses impacted by the road receive a fair settlement from the state government for the property taking and for relocation costs such that they are able to re-establish their households without financial pain (and, hopefully, with some reasonable gain.)

The article highlights concerns from a couple of opponents to the road -- notably Rev. Sylvester Williams, who spoke notably in opposition to the highway earlier this year -- but finds most residents on record as resigned to or in favor of the road, with most of the stated concerns centered around whether they'll receive equitable treatment from the state for the value of their houses.

Continue reading "The Indy covers the East End Connector" »

H-S: Lakewood Y on track to remain open

The Herald-Sun (alone among local media outlets in covering this) and the N&O both did a nice job of reporting the Save the Lakewood Y group's meeting with the CEO of YMCA of the Triangle on Thursday night.

The Lakewood Y, a forty-odd year old facility that had rented part of its facility to the Kestrel Heighs charter school before the latter moved to its own permanent space, has been under a threat of shut-down for the better part of this year. It is adjacent to a very active and strong neighborhood (Tuscaloosa-Lakewood) as well as Southwest Central Durham, a neighborhood fighting to provide recreational opportunities to local youth who might otherwise be swayed into gangs or drugs.

According to BriAnne Dopart's reporting in Friday's Herald-Sun, a formal decision on the Lakewood Y won't be reached until November, but YMCA of the Triangle CEO Doug McMillan is in his words "99.5%" certain that the center will remain open in some fashion.

By all accounts, this isn't the first time that the regional merger between Durham and Raleigh's YMCAs a few years back has created issues in the Bull City. Three years ago, Duke University pulled the Y out of its Duke Fitness Club facilities list after the post-merger Y (which assumed at least at the CEO level the Raleigh-based leadership) refused to provide same-sex couples with the family rate, instead of the individual rate, for local Y memberships. (The Durham Y had allowed this pre-merger, consistent with Duke's progressive policies on benefits for same-sex couples and families.)

According to the H-S, the Save the Lakewood Y committee proposed re-marketing the Lakewood Y as a community center -- a role that it has informally provided in making a commons for Durhamites for years. It remains a strong possibility that YMCA leadership will down-size the Lakewood facility, maintaining core services there while leasing out other parts of the facility to another school or a different organization.

Still, if there's a lesson this time around for the Triangle Y folks, it's that you can't ignore the power and efforts of neighborhoods in Durham, which are really exceptionally able at drawing social capital and time from its constituents to stand up for shared values. Which is why so many of us love this place, wouldn't live anywhere else -- and are happy to be loud about it.

An early congrats to Chuck Clifton and the Save the Lakewood Y folks on what looks to be a victory.

Quick update: WTVD response on the City Council work session article

A brief update to this morning's story: Just got off the phone with WTVD's Gerrick Brenner, who graciously called to talk about my concerns over their station's coverage of Thursday's City Council work session debate over illegal immigration.

Continue reading "Quick update: WTVD response on the City Council work session article" »

"Sanctuary city" rebuked; watch the shell game begin

The City Council addressed Durham's policy on illegal immigration in work session yesterday, and decided to take no action on changing the policy, after new D.P.D. Chief Lopez said, no, the current City Council resolution and D.P.D. policy are consistent with the current practice. The D.P.D. practice currently in effect states that individuals who are not under arrest will not be asked their immigration status, but that those who are arrested will be.

See Ray Gronberg's excellent Herald-Sun piece or Matt Dees' N&O article for more details.

So, this one's over, right? Not quite. Now is the time to get ready for the shell game to begin.

And what game is that? You see, this issue provides a great example of the challenges of narrowcast versus mass media in modern America. Durham's bloggers (BCR included) and the Durham and Raleigh print media have covered this story in depth, discussing the finer points of aligning policy with practice, avoiding liability, etc. Not to mention pointing out, repeatedly, Stith's admonition that this was all about the legalese, and not about sending D.P.D. around to crack-down on illegal immigrants found on the street.

Fast-forward to today. Now, we have visuals -- the Council debating the topic in work session, with policy-change opponents in full force. Now, it's time for the TV media to come out, and give it a 60-second treatment.

And, bless their hearts, WRAL and WTVD have just combined to lower the civic discourse by about 60 IQ points.

Continue reading ""Sanctuary city" rebuked; watch the shell game begin" »

Watts Grocery edging closer to opening

Walking by the old Pars Oriental Rug shop -- now about to be rechristened as Watts Grocery, the newest eatery from Sage & Swift's Amy Torquist -- one can see the work wrapping up on the construction and renovation work at the new restaurant, including paint, lighting, and interior decorations. It's really a staggering transformation from the retail shop that was formerly in this building, and should be a great addition to join Broad Street Cafe and High Strung as the Broad St. shopping district comes back to life.

Tornquist has posted a menu and hours at her web site. Watts Grocery will be open for lunch, dinner and late-night dining (until 2am) Tuesdays through Sundays, with brunch on Sunday. More on a final opening date once it's annnounced.

Meanwhile, the Broad St. Cafe is drawing closer to the end of their renovation process, which has been marked by something very Durham -- the opportunity for volunteers to come in and help with the renovation of the old Ooh La Latte space. One reason Broad St. Cafe has been a success is that its owner understands the diversity of the Durham ethos, from leaving room for community postings to evening activities varying from musical jams to poker nights to poetry slams.

Snow Building, changing hands, pushes 'six feet under' button on elevator

Now the title on this post is a bit of a misnomer, since a manually-operated elevator doesn't really have a button that mere mortals can push, now does it? But it's an appropriate if slightly stretched metaphor for a big change in a downtown landmark.

For years, the Snow Building has been a fixture of interest downtown, for a couple of reasons in particular: its largely intact and unusual Art Deco architecture, and the fact that it's been home to the last manually-operated elevators in the state. (This spring, it gained some new notoriety when a fire severely damaged a top-floor apartment, though no one was injured and repairs are well-underway.)

Durham blogger Claire reported the sad news over at her new web site, Crone Report. (Welcome to the City of Blogicine, Claire!) The stately old building is changing hands, and the new owners are planning a number of welcome systems and infrastructure improvements, but sadly those changes include a new elevator, too. Not too surprising, and as Claire points out not entirely a bad thing, since the current carriage only works when the operator is on the job during business hours.

More as soon as we have it on the changes in ownership at the building.