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September 2009
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November 2009

October 2009

rXr CDs reopens, now at Mangum 506

rXr CDs -- the alternative music and movies store that was open for a while over on Parrish St. adjacent to Blue Coffee -- has found a new downtown home a bit to the north, becoming the first ground-level retail business to open shop in the Mangum 506 development across from Public Hardware at the southern end of the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood.

After an ongoing stint online, the store is celebrating its reopening as a physical store, today on (what else?) Halloween, with goodie bags for the first 25 patrons. The shop is scheduled to be open from noon to 6pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays, and features paperback books, t-shirts, pins and other miscellany along with their bread-and-butter of new and used CDs and DVDs.

Election day's Tuesday -- it's time to play guess-the-challengers' percentage total

We've only a few short days to the general election. Oh, where has the time flown?

From our Why-I'm-Voting-For... series earlier this cycle, it's no secret that yours truly is sticking with the incumbents.

Maybe I'm blind to the winds of change blowing -- though I really think that's just the jetstream in its usual seasonal shift -- but based on the results of the primary, and the generally low-attention this election's received, I'm inclined to say that the City Council come December will look a lot like the body come November.

Well, let's put some quantitative behind the qualitative, with the qualification that this one is just for fun. (Heck, while people are always interested in free concert tickets, I never could get Michael Bacon to claim the $25 I owe him from the last election cycle contest.)

My question to you, BCR readers, is: what do you think the combined percentage total of all four challengers (Steven Williams, Donald Hughes, Matt Drew, and Allan Polak) will amount to this cycle?

Answers should range from 0 to 400 -- though in the event either of those antipodes actually occurred, we'd be calling in Jimmy Carter as an elections observer. No decimal points.

BCR's guess? 72. Share your guess in the comments here, we'll see who comes closer.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 30, 2009

Besides the ongoing debate over a Jordan Lake critical watershed boundary change affecting the 751 Assemblage property -- covered here separately today at BCR -- there's more in the local news to note:

DDI Celebrates Downtown, DeLisle: Downtown Durham Inc. celebrated the arrival of $37m in ongoing downtown investment (the vast majority from private dollars) and the advent of new tenants and businesses like Burt's Bees, the law office of James Scott Farrin, and the forthcoming Beyú Caffé. It was also a chance to celebrate former Office of Economic and Workforce Development department head Alan DeLisle with a DDI Visionary Award. DeLisle, the surprise star of the event, has been recuperating in Durham since a 40' fall in a  Louisville building; DeLisle was injured during a stairwell collapse one month into his job spearheading the River City's own downtown renaissance. (Herald-Sun #1, #2)

Bonfield Talks Taxes, Budgets: The N&O reports that city manager Tom Bonfield is suggesting "nothing [is] being contemplated at this point" in re a City tax increase for next year -- though the municipality's budgeting process hasn't started yet, since the 1Q projections aren't even in. This year's budget process will actually initiate a three-year budget planning cycle in which the Council and administration look ahead to rough-sketch spending and revenues through FY2013. (N&O)

B6 RDU-BOS x3 QD in 2010: Discount carrier JetBlue will bump its number of daily roundtrips between RDU and Boston's Logan Airport to three per day starting next summer. (N&O)

Skate Away Nov. 7: Durham's new downtown skateboard park is set to debut November 7, at Durham Central Park between Rigsbee and Foster. (Though as friend and fellow-blogger Phil notes, the impending lack of a grand opening hasn't stopped some from skating there already.) (N&O)

751 oppo calls for a recount; Ruffin suggests courts are the appeal route

The case of the 751 Assemblage project doesn't ever seem to quite make it to resolution.

Jordan_Lake_Buffer_Petition_Map_web The latest twist: a press release on Thursday from the Haw River Assembly and the Southern Environmental Law Center announcing that the groups are challenging City/County Planning director Steve Medlin's finding that a protest petition on a Jordan Lake critical watershed boundary change was invalid.

A protest petition, if deemed successful by Planning, would have required a supermajority of 4 out of 5 BOCC members to support the project -- one more vote than the narrowly split BOCC provided in its 3-2 vote in favor of the boundary move.

Planning Dept. staff had tallied up the petition in the week before the Board of County Commissioners vote, and found that the HRA and SELC had fallen short of getting signatures from landowners representing 20% of the statutorily-designated neighbors.

But these groups are asserting that Planning's count was off on the matter.

Continue reading "751 oppo calls for a recount; Ruffin suggests courts are the appeal route" »

Downtown parking, or, why vacant on-street parking is an urbanist's worry

East_deck For reasons I comprehend perfectly intrinsically, but have trouble putting into words, many of my worries and fears about whether Durham and Raleigh can succeed as real, honest-to-goodness urban areas comes down to one word:


Of course, my radio show co-host Barry and I often go back and forth on the question of downtown parking. I note that we're still going to have parking decks in the urban core for some kind, since most people don't live in downtown and will drive to and fro.

Barry argues that it's like building horse stables downtown in the late nineteenth century, and that just as cars supplanted the buggies, he feels transit will (or at least ought to) make today's investment in structured parking obsolescent.

Still, while I accept the need for parking decks, two things worry me relative to our urban future:

To wit, how people park in them -- and how few people seem to look for anything but the familiarity of those structured parking decks.

Continue reading "Downtown parking, or, why vacant on-street parking is an urbanist's worry" »

Hayti Heritage Center forum focuses on black community activism's priorities -- then and now

Fergusd Note: Vanderbilt University history professor Devin Fergus, whose comments led off last Sunday's forum at the Hayti Heritage Center, will be Barry and my guest on the Shooting the Bull radio show tonight, 7:30pm, WXDU 88.7 FM (streaming at We'll talk about his new book "Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics," and his forthcoming work on the inequities that impoverished Americans face through high costs of financial services, loans and insurance products.

Last Sunday's forum at the Hayti Heritage Center focused on community activism in Durham, as told through the lens of those who'd been at ground zero during efforts like the founding of Malcolm X Liberation University, or the ambitious Soul City "new town" effort in Warren County, or the Joan Little murder case.

All three of these events stand at the center of Vanderbilt University history professor Devin Fergus' new book examining the interplay of liberalism and Black Power in the 1960s and 1970s. And the presence of principals in all three events gave them an opportunity to reflect on Fergus' arguments, their own Durham and regional history -- and to share their own concerns of what today's activist messages and missions should be.

If one thing was clear, it was that the passions of those who fought for civil rights, access to education, justice, and economic opportunity for minorities four decades ago still feel passionately about what matters to them today.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Durham was home to many key players in the civil rights movement, from Duke Law graduate Karen Bethea Shields (who defended Joan Little in her Beaufort Co. murder case) to Howard Fuller (active in MXLU's founding and the local head of Operation Breakthrough in the 1960s) to the late Soul City founder Floyd McKissick (whose daughter, Dr. Charmaine McKissick Melton, spoke at the forum).

St. Joseph's Historic Foundation director Dianne Pledger argued in her opening remarks to the forum that this was no accident, with Durham's post-Civil War founding as an industrial and manufacturing center freeing it from some of landholders' biases and existing social structures that impaired progress for African-Americans in other cities.

Continue reading "Hayti Heritage Center forum focuses on black community activism's priorities -- then and now" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 29, 2009

The big news in today's papers: the County's FY11 budget process. Yes, we're only four months in to the FY10 budget, but County Manager Mike Ruffin is bringing budgetary ideas to the BOCC earlier than ever in light of what he predicts could be a very challenging financial situation for next year.

Ray Gronberg sums up the approach, and the problem, in two short paragraphs in this morning's Herald-Sun coverage:

Ruffin was hoping to get commissioners to agree to a set of policy guidelines administrations would then apply to their budget work. The approach is similar to what his counterpart in Durham's city government, City Manager Tom Bonfield, did last winter in framing a fiscal 2009-10 budget.

But while Bonfield was able to secure quick agreement on major points from his employers, Ruffin had no immediate luck in pinning down commissioners on the key question they face: how high they might be willing to go on the property tax rate.

At issue: a $4.4 million increase in debt service costs for school buildings and new county facilities like libraries and the human services complex under construction -- while County revenue may drop as much as $10 million, to say nothing of the specter of more state budget cuts or a lawsuit underway with IBM over how the County computes taxes on the company's computer equipment.

The N&O and Herald-Sun note that the BOCC faces an unpleasant choice: a tax increase during the recession (even its trailing edges) versus deep cuts in programs.

More news beyond the jump.

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 29, 2009" »

Gregson St. bridge gets tribute, proves moral failings of local blogger

11foot8_screencap_gregson_st_railroad_bridge We all face crises of character in our lives, those moments at which we stand at the precipice between moral probity and ethical lapse.

Friends, your humble correspondent isn't above reproach on such matters. I found that out all too much this weekend as I traveled south on Gregson Street, towards what I've called the "railroad tracks of doom."

But I can't put all the ethical blame on myself. I was framed, see? Set up for moral failing by the web site, a Durhamite's compilation of all the many tall truck-meets-low-bridge moments that have happened over the years at the railroad crossing near Brightleaf Square.

You see, I visited the site this past Saturday morning to show the footage to family in town for the weekend. Moments later, we piled in the car to head to Southpoint.

Turning off of Englewood to head south on Gregson, I look in my rear-view mirror as a driver is wont to do. And what should I see but -- o moral crucible! -- a big ol' truck hauling a massive shed on its flatbed. A truck and load that needed both lanes of Gregson to slog its cargo down the street at 5 mph.

I could see the hilarious disaster impending a mile down the road. And I? I succumbed to temptation, the fruit of schoolboy humor.

I pulled over around Knox, set my hazard flashers, and waved to the truck driver as he crawled past me, before I rejoined the travel lane.

Continue reading "Gregson St. bridge gets tribute, proves moral failings of local blogger" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 28, 2009

We'd be remiss if we didn't point out Sunday's N&O investigative story on the NC School of Science and Math, a piece that looks at significant growth in the salaries of a number of chief administrative positions -- along with allegations by the Raleigh-based paper over the ties between NCSSM Chancellor Gerald Boarman and many of the top lieutenants he's hired, some of whom worked for him at Maryland's Eleanor Roosevelt High School. The story is worth a read. (N&O)

In today's news:

NCCU Forum turns on DPD Report, Emails: The Herald-Sun's recap of last night's municipal candidate forum at NC Central suggests the debate largely followed the lines of recent forums held by the League of Women Voters and other groups, with the notable exception of new criticism of incumbents over the 2008 Secondary Employment report released by the Durham P.D. and the City last week. Ward 3 challenger Allan Polak also raised a concern that the City has been unable to produce all emails from his competitor, incumbent Mike Woodard, after a public records request; Polak asserts that this reflects a failure of the Council to oversee required electronic records retentions standards. (Herald-Sun)

The N&O's account goes further, documenting the interchange between Polak and Woodard at Tuesday night's forum. Polak asserted that Woodard was somehow tipped off by City Hall to the records request and intimated the Councilman lied about it; Woodard told the N&O's Jim Wise after the forum that public officials are always made aware of email records requests involving them, since they have to provide their password to City staff. An email from Woodard to City staff on Friday asks them to check again for email records, which he believes are unavailable due to a technical fault. (N&O)

Population Growth Strong in Triangle, other Tech Meccas: The Raleigh region joined Austin, Portland OR, Charlotte and Seattle among big jumps among college-educated or better residents while cities with lower technology-based economies -- including Orlando, Detroit and Cleveland -- all saw slow or negative growth and higher foreclosure and job losses. The AP article suggests that it's a "resurgence of braniacs" in tech-savvy and new economy metros. (WRAL)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 28, 2009" »

Peters Design Works seeks new home for second time in three years

Peters_design_works One of the benefits of downtown Durham's long slumbering has been the availability of large, inexpensive factories and warehouses for use by artists, creatives and other uses that wouldn't have taken flight in a more heavily-developed urban core.

The Independent Weekly looked at this with the Venable Building on Roxboro a few years back when the alt-weekly was moving into that downtown structure from Hillsborough Rd. -- itself a gentrifying tenancy, with the Indy moving into shiny renovated space even as it told the tale of the artists and businesses displaced by that very renovation.

One of those businesses was Peters Design Works, an eclectic home for just about anything you could ever want to fix up an historic home or building -- from clawfoot tubs to old wood doors to windows.

Caught up in the Venable renovations himself, Peters decamped to a Foster St. warehouse on the eastern side of the old Durham Athletic Park three years ago.

And now, Peters finds himself looking to move again, spurred this time by a rent increase that Peters says is more than he can pay for a fairly low-revenue operation.

Peters Design Works faces a late November deadline for closing down operations at the business' current home, and bringing its stay on Foster St. to an end.

Continue reading "Peters Design Works seeks new home for second time in three years" »