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April 2010

"Bad Luck Lopez" -- and Durham's rep -- gets a bad break

Fortune favors the bold, the Roman aphorism tells us. But fortune has not been with Durham P.D. Chief Jose Lopez, who's had a ridiculously long streak of bad-luck, bad-timing events since his arrival in the Bull City.

Not that it's tied in any way to his crime-fighting prowess; crime has continued its steady decline in the Bull City, something in fairness that owes as much to the work of predecessors and to a national trend in this area as it does Lopez's work per se. 

(Of course, there remains a noteworthy and worrisome uptick in shootings and homicides this year to date, something that is a very real cause for concern -- and the fallout from last fall's D.P.D. overtime scandal, after which Lopez's leadership is likely getting as much scrutiny as it's ever enjoyed.)

Still, Lopez seems to have the knack for being in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. And that losing streak got a bit worse yesterday.

Continue reading ""Bad Luck Lopez" -- and Durham's rep -- gets a bad break" »

15-501, get ready to get your chain restaurants on

The N&O's announced that the Patterson Place shopping center is getting itself some new tenants, courtesy of its latest expansion.

And if you're a fan of Moe's, Five Guys, or Applebee's, and you happen to live off Mount Moriah Road? Well, hey, it's your lucky day. All three are coming to the South Durham center, along with a Duke Medicine clinic -- where presumably you can get your heart checked out after gorging on Five Guys burgers and Applebee's, well, whatever they put in that stuff.

It's no surprise that such retailers would pony up cash to be part of the So-Dur retail "node" at that intersection. And more confirmation of the grim secret of national-scale retail, something Barry Ragin and I talk about when he grouses about why no one will lease-up the old Kmart and movie theater on Avondale Drive, and why instead mega-franchises like these seem to sidle up next to each other like old pals.

We've talked here before about the South Durham National Retail Distortion Field, that demographic asterisk amidst Durham's funky self that magically persuades national retailers, "Hey, it's safe to open your business here!"

Continue reading "15-501, get ready to get your chain restaurants on" »

WTVD: Greensboro's Eric Becoats the new superintendent

Eric_becoats WTVD ABC 11 is reporting that Eric Becoats is the new Durham Public Schools superintendent selectee, replacing Carl Harris in the role.

Becoats is currently the chief administrative officer in the Guilford County (Greensboro) system, and has told press outlets in the past of his desire to become an urban superintendent. The Greensboro N&R reports he had previously been a finalist for the St. Louis superintendent job.

From our far-less reportage -- Becoats resembles to a tee the candidate we spotted while hanging out in the Millenium Hotel lobby, the one who was whisked away by a nervous-looking DPS official a few months ago. So, there's, er, that.

If it's true, one thing's for sure: Becoats may set a record for drawing at least one resident's flak before his appointment, if he is to so be designated. 

Former school board member Jackie Wagstaff remarked to us and to school board candidate Christine Baker that Becoats had a spotty track record from his time in Charlotte -- including accusations of conducting personal business on government time, a charge related to the accusation of resale of Char-Meck school data through a consulting business he ran.

(For the record, not everyone saw the matter as one in which there was a conflict of interest, but the N&R reports that Becoats did resign from CMS in 2004 after the matter, and that he's been in Greensboro since.)

More as we've got it. Right now, the meeting room at Fuller is filled with the media, elected officials, and school board candidates, with everyone waiting to see the outcome of tonight's discussion.

It's official: new superintendent announcement tonight

Looks like the dogs of speculation have all been barking up the right tree.

BCR has learned that the school board is expected to name the new superintendent of Durham Public Schools tonight after the closed session of their 6pm meeting. Expect a goodly number of public officials and dignitaries to be on hand for the announcement.

We'll have more tonight from Fuller Street.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 28, 2010

More DPS Signs: It's looking more and more certain that there'll be a superintendent announcement taking place tonight at the Fuller Bldg. The Herald-Sun weighs in on the speculation game in this morning's paper, giving some background on the search. School board chair Minnie Forte-Brown wouldn't be interviewed for the H-S' Matt Milliken, but did tell the N&O's Stan Chambers, "Tomorrow's a big day; just be in the room." (Herald-Sun, N&O)

Bullocks Scrutinized: Family-owned BBQ fave Bullock's saw a public health warning go out after more than a dozen patrons got a food-borne illness, possibly salmonella. The food in question was picked up as a to-go order, not consumed on premises, and owner Tommy Bullock tells the H-S that he doesn't think other patrons got sick, questioning whether food safety was imperiled after the chow left the restaurant. (Herald-Sun)

Magnolia Grill Featured: The N&O takes a nice look at the culinary history of Magnolia Grill's Ben and Karen Barker, this generation's deans of Triangle dining, through the lens of the many chefs they've mentored through their careers -- many of whom have moved on to helm other renowned restaurants in the Triangle or elsewhere. It's a solid read and gives some more background into the dissemination of the work of the Barkers', both James Beard award-winners, and the only two such winners in North Carolina. (N&O)

New NCCU Plan: NC Central is preparing to kick off its new, full-decade strategic plan, looking this time to get input from alumni for the first time ever in such a process. In the past five years (guided by the last such plan), enrollment is up 11% at Central and the number of graduating students rose nearly 20%. (Herald-Sun #1, #2

District 1A Feature: All three of today's profiles in the school board race candidates series are must reads. And if anyone figures out what the heck John Tarantino is saying in the fourth from last paragraph of his feature, let me know, 'kay?

Durham's Tobacco Road Sports Cafe opens at lunch today

Today marks the official opening of Tobacco Road Sports Cafe, opening with lunch service today at 11am. The restaurant's opening comes with might be an all-time record for downtown Durham space upfit -- only about 90 days from start to finish, though having the brand spankin' new Diamond View II doesn't hurt. 

It also marks the second location for the restaurant, currently based in Glenwood South and family-operated. The opening comes after a week-long soft-opening culminating in a pre-launch dinner last night.

The comments section here when the arrival was announced was energetic to say the least, with the restaurant's arrival starting to get chopped up into lots of different lenses about what Durham "is" or "isn't," and with the presence of the word "Sports" in the restaurant's name eliciting a number of different reactions.

I had a chance to have dinner there last night and walked away pretty surprised -- in a good way. 

Continue reading "Durham's Tobacco Road Sports Cafe opens at lunch today" »

East End Connector hearing comes amidst business park interest, DCABP and small biz frowns

This afternoon from 4-7pm, NCDOT will hold a second public hearing at the Holton Center in East Durham, musing that session #2 was needed due to a relatively late notice for the first hearing.

Eec_from_nc147 That said, the state agency everyone loves to hate got plenty of feedback the first time it set to hearing the feedback of the public.

Not that there was an overwhelming turnout by the vox populi, mind you, with only a handful of speakers turning out. But among those speakers were several who consider themselves the vox of perhaps a larger subset of the populi than they represent.

Still, the big news out of the March hearing (and the items worth watching in tonight's session) revolved around two relatively new developments in the effort.

First, concerns from new business owners that the new road is geared to through traffic as opposed to helping local businesses, something NCDOT is reportedly thinking about adjusting -- and something likely to be crucial as NCDOT moves to a new, less-politicized method for scoring projects' cost-benefit and allocating funds, in which economic growth impact matters more than ever.

And second, the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, courtesy longtime EEC nemesis and brand-spankin'-new Committee VP of economic development the Rev. Sylvester Williams, is raising concerns over the road.

Continue reading "East End Connector hearing comes amidst business park interest, DCABP and small biz frowns" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 27, 2010

DPS Proposes Massive Reform for Challenged Schools: In what is sure to be a very controversial move -- and one coming just days before the District is called to account before a Wake Co. judge for the low performance of some of its schools -- DPS is proposing a plan to give its lowest performing schools four years to turn around. Continued low test scores could cause principals to lose their jobs and teachers to have to reapply for theirs, with the ultimate penalty being a closure of a school with students reassigned elsewhere, or with a charter school or other system brought in to operate the facility. Look for much more of this in the days to come. (Herald-Sun #1, #2; N&O)

Hodge Retires: Ron Hodge, the long-time deputy chief in Durham P.D. who was a finalist in the chief search that ultimately brought Jose Lopez to the Bull City top-cop job, has retired effective Apr. 1, something he had intimated he was considering for some time. (Herald-Sun)

Little Ousted: Darius Little, the one-time City Council candidate whose scrapes with the law have been well-publicized -- and with recent scrutiny over a mediation business and accusations of unlicensed practice of law and fraud, those scrapes aren't over -- was voted off the Durham Planning Commission in what continues to be an embarrassing, headline-generating story for the Board of County Commissioners. Oddly, the vote was only 3-1 in favor of the removal, with the always-quotable Joe Bowser voting to keep Little on because he said he didn't have enough familiarity with the original runner-up now appointed, Antonio Jones. That vote followed an attempt by Bowser to keep Linda Huff-Smith on the DPC after all, after the BOCC turned her out for a Republican activist. (Herald-SunIndy) Incredibly, this has managed to now consume parts of several BOCC meetings; hey Durham, just keep remembering: public meetings turn into a circus when you elect clowns to public office. 

DPS 2A Focus: The H-S follows up its candidate series looking at the school board race with profiles of the two candidates for the District 2A seat, incumbent Fredrick Davis and challenger Regina Stanley-King.

Circ Down for H-S, N&O: New circulation woes for state newspapers includes an impact at the Triangle's two local papers. The Herald-Sun's daily circulation is now down to just over 25,000, while the N&O's Mon.-Fri. numbers stand at about 138,000, rising by about 50% from that on Sundays. (N&O)

Mentoring Center Fire: The LOVE Center in North Durham, a space for free mentoring and after-school programs for kids through teenagers and which just had its first anniversary, was consumed by fire in the early morning hours on Monday. Arson is being investigated as a possible cause. (Herald-Sun)

DPS superintendent pick: is a Wednesday announcement on tap?

Call this 100% speculation -- even more so that the question we raised this morning on whether Thursday's board meeting would see the hiring of a new superintendent.

DPS announced this evening a special board meeting to take place on Wednesday at 6pm in the Fuller St. DPS office building. Now, the District holds special meetings about as often as you or I take out the curbside recycling bins. But could this be the superintendent announcement?

Certainly it has the potential to be good news, or bad news, for someone. DPS' announcement notes that the meeting will be held pursuant to NCGS 143-318.11.(a)(6), a specific section of our state statutes that, a web search suggests, has one of two meanings:

To "consider the qualifications, competence, performance, or condition of appointment of a public officer or employee or prospective public officer or employee," 


to "hear or investigate a complaint, charge, or grievance by or against a public officer or employee[.]"

Well, I'm certainly pulling for the former.

Continue reading "DPS superintendent pick: is a Wednesday announcement on tap?" »

Bulls get exposure on MLB Network

Count this as one of the more bizarre experiences of my short Bulls fandom.

So I come home to grab a quick bite for lunch today, noticing on my way out of American Tobacco's South Deck the significant number of cars queued up all along the streets around the ATC. "Huh," I tell myself, "it's got to be a day game over at the DBAP."

I make it home, heat up some lunch in the kitchen, and decide to throw the TV on for a few minutes while I'm eating before heading back to work. I figure I'll turn on the MLB Network, to check in and see what's happening in the majors. Maybe I'll catch a few minutes of the Rays-Jays series.

Instead, what should I see except... a shot of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park outfield. Hmm, must be a show about minor league baseball.

But -- there's a graphic on the screen that says "LIVE." And there's a Bulls game against the Gwinnett Braves, whom the Bulls are playing in a home-and-home series.

Yeah, apparently the Bulls-Braves game is being covered live on national cable TV.

Somehow, I went from being at work in the Strickland Bldg. unaware there was even a game on, to being at home watching the game taking place across from my office. And shortly I'll head back to work... where I'll again be blissfully unaware of any game taking place just across the street.

Kinda one of those little surreal moments, no?