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October 2009

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 27, 2009

In today's Raleigh news: Mike Easley is a big, fat money-grubbing schmuck. Er, alleged shmuck. In today's Durham news:

EMC Snags Data Center Site: EMC, which finalized an incentives deal with the city and county last week, bought a 450,000 sq. ft. distribution center in Imperial Center outside RTP as the site of its new data center facility. The firm will use about half the facility, much of which is currently leased by Sanmina-SCI, for its data center. (N&O, Triangle Business Journal)

Drought Countin' Time (Again?): Although there's been regular rain this year, it hasn't been heavy -- and if current rainfall trends continue, 2009 could end up being the driest year in the Triangle since recordkeeping began in 1887. Durham Co. is back in "moderate drought," with 162 days of "premium," easily treatable water and 225 days of total supply remaining. Wake Co. officials opine that the conservation measures implemented after the last drought seem to be holding up. (WRAL, N&O)

DPD OT Response Promises More Org Changes: City manager Tom Bonfield tells the Herald-Sun's Ray Gronberg that further changes in Police Dept. policies are on the way, which may include blocking senior officers and leaders from taking off-duty jobs, and which may include what the H-S terms "organizational- and leadership-development" efforts. The story also goes into more detail on the "kerfuffle" between BCR and the City on Monday over an improperly-redacted document released by the City, with an attorney for the Herald-Sun and the NC Press Assn. weighing in on the question. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 27, 2009" »

'08 Secondary Employment report raises more worries on Lopez's leadership in OT scandal

Update: This story has been reposted, modified slightly from its original form. Details here.

BCR may take the weekends off, but we expect our readers don't -- which means you probably already know that there were more follow-up stories on the Durham P.D. overtime scandal on Friday night and Saturday morning than you could shake a stick at.

Chief The new twists in the case came after the City released a 2008 report that was only briefly mentioned in the recently-released audit of overtime excesses alleged on the part of the department's Secondary Employment Coordinator (SEC), Alesha Robinson-Taylor. Robinson-Taylor was fired after the report's belief, while deputy chief BJ Council -- whose role as the OT approver came under a great deal of scrutiny -- unceremoniously left the department with early retirement.

(Robinson-Taylor was placed into the SEC role in summer 2008, amidst this earlier investigation into secondary employment; according to the N&O, she served as the back-up SEC coordinator at the time of the 2008 report.)

The 2008 report raises a number of new questions, including concerns over favoritism and possible racial bias in off-duty work assignments that led to the restructuring and full-time posting for the SEC role in the first place.

But the biggest question that arises in this observer's mind after reviewing the 2008 SEC report -- which made its way into the public eye on a Friday after multiple media requests -- comes down to the leadership Chief Lopez did, or should have, provided on the matter when the issue of questionable overtime claims arose in the spring.

Continue reading "'08 Secondary Employment report raises more worries on Lopez's leadership in OT scandal" »

A special note to BCR readers

The most regular of BCR readers will note that a story published earlier this morning on the Durham Police Dept. overtime scandal, and the 2008 City report that led up to it, is not currently published on the site. It has been temporarily removed after correspondence from the City of Durham's public information officer.

BCR's attorney (you wondered where those ad dollars go to, didn't you?) is currently reviewing the matter. Any reposting of the article, in an original or modified form, will occur after that review is complete.

Thanks as always for reading BCR.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An update on this rather unusual situation. The story in question has been republished, with a minor change on a technical point -- and some (frankly, needed) improvements to the overall thrust of the argument. Writing blog posts at 6am isn't always the most conducive path to fine writing, or completeness, two issues resolved in the updated version.

The temporary removal of the story came about during a re-examination of one of the sources cited in the story: information contained in the 2008 Secondary Employment Coordinator (SEC) report released to the news media by the City on Friday.

That report, a PDF document, contained information that the City thought it had redacted -- when, in fact, it had not been completely cleansed.

Continue reading "A special note to BCR readers" »

Brains.... mmm, brains.... 3rd annual Durham Zombie Lurch... mmm, brains...

If it's late October, it's time for the undead to come out.

I'm not talking about election season (though some candidates, you gotta wonder about.) No, it's time for the third annual Durham Zombie Lurch, a grassroots movement bringing halting, staggering movement to City sidewalks each fall in downtown since 2007.

Zombies may be the living dead and unable to contemplate much beyond than warm, tasty brains -- but they have managed to connect to the Internet, with this Facebook page dedicated to spreading the word, and a Flickr stream full of photographic evidence.

Zombie_lurch_logo Last year's lurch turned out almost 80 participants, who get made up as zombies -- or who decide to become the hunted instead of the hunters. Hey, Durham's an equal-opportunity sort of town.

New this year: you can choose to be come a zombie hunter and take the enforcement of the natural order of things into your own hands. (Hey, we hear BJ Council isn't doing much these days? Then again, the overtime scandal suggests someone's brains had already been snacked upon....)

The fun kicks off Friday, October 30 in the parking lot adjacent to Piedmont Restaurant and the downtown YMCA; the free event will mosey though downtown's sidewalks and along towards Brightleaf Square -- where event creator and organizer Vera Reina notes that diners seem to get, er, a bewildered thrill out of the sight.

It's a 6:30 kickoff this year. 

(See BCR's 2007 story on the inaugural event for our thoughts on who we'd like to see turn out for a Durham zombie lurch.)

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 26, 2009

Besides the very-newsworthy issues surrounding the release of a 2008 Durham Police Department report on the secondary employment/overtime mess -- we'll touch on that in its own post -- there's a few other newsworthy stories of note in the papers of late:

Northgate Park Plans Again Scrutinized: The Ellerbe Creek stream restoration-cum-park renovation at Northgate Park has a number of local residents concerned that a back-to-nature proposal for grasses and shrubs will take too much recreational space and leave the park site overly-forested in areas -- thus risking it becoming a magnet for criminals and drugs, an issue of concern in a neighborhood that's seen a surge in break-ins recently. (Herald-Sun)

Joint Transfer Station a Possibility: Orange Co., still struggling with where to build a new waste transfer station, looks more serious than ever about partnering with Durham Co., with negotiations approved by Durham's City Council over the possible use of the East Club Blvd. transfer station on an interim basis -- and possible collaboration on a joint two-county transfer site. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 26, 2009" »

Pop's to West Village, and Dos Perros starts serving breakfast

Food blogs are all the rage in Durham these days, but the always-dependable Joe has been writing about cooking and restaurants -- often with a Durham twist -- at Eat at Joe's since 2004.

Pops-logo And this weekend brought two bits of breaking news from Joe's place.

First, the Italian restaurant Pop's will be moving from its home at Richard Morgan's Peabody Place development to West Village, sometime in the coming months.

Joe tells us that the owners of Pop's -- who also founded Rue Cler in the city center district -- will be keeping the Pop's Backdoor pizza shop at its Peabody Place site for now, across from Parker & Otis' interior entrance.

Continue reading "Pop's to West Village, and Dos Perros starts serving breakfast" »

"Blood Done Sign My Name," Fuller/Fergus talks highlight weekend events at Hayti Heritage Center

Two events that look back on a tumultuous time in Durham's history are among the best bets for activities this weekend.

Blooddonesign Jeb Stuart's Hollywood adaptation of author/historian and Duke University scholar Timothy Tyson's memoir "Blood Done Sign My Name" -- a retelling of the murder of an African-American man in Oxford, NC and the uprising that followed -- isn't set to hit theaters until 2010, but the Hayti Heritage Center has two sneak-peek screenings tonight.

The film, starring Rick Schroder and Nate Parker, was shot in North Carolina; Stuart and Tyson will be present at the Hayti Heritage Center tonight for a panel discussion with several actors from the film. The 7:30 show is sold out, but a 10:30pm showing has been added. Visit the Hayti Heritage Center box office or call (919) 683-1709 ext. 21 to reserve a ticket.

Meanwhile, a panel discussion this Sunday at the Center promises to be a memorable look at Durham's own history in the 1960s. Howard Fuller -- the head of Operation Breakthrough in Durham in the 1960s, and a key figure in local civil rights activities -- will return to town to speak in a discussion framed in part around Vanderbilt assistant professor of history Devin Fergus' new book Liberalism, Black Power and the Making of American Politics.

Continue reading ""Blood Done Sign My Name," Fuller/Fergus talks highlight weekend events at Hayti Heritage Center" »

New downtown boutique Magpie to alight at West Village this fall

Magpie_logo So it turns out that the pitch we made here at BCR a few weeks ago about the new Bakatsias restaurant "George" that's proposed for West Village isn't quite letter-perfect accurate in saying that the eatery would be settled cheek-by-jowl next to the West End Wine Bar.

No, any such restaurant will have as its immediate neighbor a new clothing boutique called Magpie that's currently under construction in the historic complex's Walker Warehouse.

It's the first entrepreneurial try for the husband and wife team of Tad Schwendler and Po-Ming Wong, two Watts-Hillandale residents who saw the need for a clothier that could offer a wider range of fashion choices for upwardly mobile women (25-45 year olds are their target market.)

Wong said that the few boutiques in Durham and Chapel Hill didn't always have what she was looking for -- or what she could find on trips to Atlanta, New York or San Francisco. 

The owners are hoping to have the store up and running early in the holiday season -- hopefully by Thanksgiving weekend, depending on the progress made with construction.

Continue reading "New downtown boutique Magpie to alight at West Village this fall" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 23, 2009

Landmarks Debated: City Council members are again debating a provision that allows local historic landmark properties to earn a 50% abatement on their property tax for life. Although the program is meant to make it affordable to undertake expensive renovations and maintenance on aging structures, a range of Council members implied that the policy -- started when urban neighborhoods near downtown were decaying -- may have worked to the point that it makes fiscal sense to back off the promise for new applications. (Herald-Sun)

Council Hot on Healthy Start: City Councilmen Eugene Brown and Howard Clement expressed concerns at yesterday's Council work session that leaders of the Healthy Start Academy didn't appear to talk about elected officials' concerns over the possible demolition of two Jackson St. houses on property the school wishes to re-use. The Herald-Sun notes the somewhat limited, but still present, "leverage" that Council has thanks to the presence of a public alleyway between the houses, which would have to be closed via a public hearing for any land uses that bridged the two properties. (Herald-Sun)

DPS Updates Suspension Policies: The school board voted last night to make some changes to the school's suspension policy, a move that will allow suspended students to remain in school under supervision pending a safe destination, and which will provide more information to parents on students' rights for appeal. Controversy remains over the impartiality and latitude (or lack thereof) of review panels comprised of teachers reporting to the principal who made the suspension decision in the first place. (Herald-Sun)

Durham Chef on Rachael Ray: Local chef (and Rockin' the Stove blogger) Shirlé Koslowski learned this week that her ingenious coffee can-to-wine rack segment taped for the Rachael Ray show will appear on air this coming Monday. (Herald-Sun)

Durham Committee adds Bell, Woodard to endorsees list; incumbents join Hughes, Clement on slate

The last of Durham's political action committees have weighed in with the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People's picks -- and, like the Friends of Durham before them, it's full steam ahead for incumbents in the two races that didn't face primaries.

Mayor Bill Bell and Ward 3 incumbent Mike Woodard got the nod from the political committee and the floor vote tonight, BCR has learned, with the Durham institution maintaining its endorsements of challenger Donald Hughes in Ward 1 and Howard Clement in Ward 2.

That's the headline to this one, though you can be sure that, as with all things DCABP these days, more points of interest and intrigue are likely to bubble up in the days to come.

Still, the picks do nothing but cement the perception that's existed in the minds of many since the early October primary that the race may be just about over in everything but counting the votes. In three races, incumbents are unanimous choices of the PACs -- and in Ward 1, Cora Cole-McFadden still earned almost 70% of the primary vote (almost four times that of Hughes) despite the Committee's passing over of the two-term Councilwoman in favor of her energetic young challenger. (Cole-McFadden earned the Friends of Durham and People's Alliance nods.)

More on this one as we learn it.

Update: The Herald-Sun is noting that Bell's endorsement came after a run-off vote after some initial support for challenger Steven Williams.