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April 2010

Superintendent search, budget, protest to mark busy week for DPS

We're on the verge of elections for the school board, and given the budget situation and personnel search, it won't exactly be a quiet last couple of weeks heading in to the big day.

First off: the search for a superintendent to replace Carl Harris in the leadership position on the school board. The board has long said they wanted an April conclusion to the search, and the word circulating around DPS has solidly been that they're on track to meet that schedule.

If that's to be the case, then this Thursday's school board meeting would be the most logical time for the name-drop. That fits with some information coming in from a couple of close system-watchers. In any event, I can't imagine any route by which the board would leave the decision to after the election, so you'd be hard pressed not to see the news this week.

Yet it's also coming at a time of intense budget pressure not just for DPS, but for school districts across the state and country.

Continue reading "Superintendent search, budget, protest to mark busy week for DPS" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 26, 2010

Before we get into local news, one out-of area story is worth a look this morning.

Richmond, Va. officials were in the Bull City recently as part of a look at the success of the Research Triangle region. If you read the article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and find yourself marveling over the regional cooperation described in our area... well, you've obviously never lived in RIC.  My one year living there in the 1990s was a fairly horrific experience, and one that makes life in the Triangle a continued blessing. Key take-away: a recognition on the part of Richmond leaders of the importance that annexation powers have played in the success of Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte and other NC cities. Pay attention to that when various points in the state legislature start advocating again for an end to the practice.

In local news:

Adult Establishment Planned?: In a move sure to bring groans to residents and elected officials alike, a Chapel Hill resident is considering building an adult-entertainment "establishment" like a strip club on Camden St. north of I-85 near the city's municipal buildings there. Consultants are still looking in to other possible uses -- and whether that particular use would work on the site given Durham's zoning regulations on such businesses. (Herald-Sun)

Rolling Hills Hits $9m City Contrib: The City's tab for the first phase of Rolling Hills development -- assuming you view the $6.6m spent to date on site acquisition as a sunk cost -- would come to just over $9 million of a nearly $20m total for all of Phase 1. McCormack Baron Salazar is still working to acquire state tax credits and other must-haves to move the project forward, but City leaders are getting a sense of the investment required from local sources to make the project a reality. (N&O)

School Board Profiles: The H-S takes a long look at some of the candidates who've thrown their hats in the ring for the District 3B (Steve Martin) and 4B (Kirsten Kainz, not seeking re-election) seat.

District 3B

District 4B

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 26, 2010" »

NYT next takes on Eno -- while City Council agenda dangles more details

When the Durham lodging data from April are released, our friends at the DCVB will certainly want to take a look at the breakdown of leading rationales for travel to our fair Bull City. BCR's guess month to date:

  1. Overnight stays by Wicked patrons
  2. New York Times reporters on assignment

Eno_restaurant We're only half-kidding. Days after the NYT took a deep look at the Durham dining scene, the paper's web site has another story posted, this one a feature on Coon Rock Farm and the forthcoming downtown restaurant Eno that it's set to support.

The N&O uses the appellation "when-will-it-ever-open" to describe the Eno, which like its namesake river has meandered a slow pace amidst its long-in-planning development and launch. First announced in summer 2008 with a winter 2009 opening date, that time came and went without fruition; it was followed by last spring's announcement that Portland, Ore. rising star Marco Shaw had been tapped to helm the restaurant.

We noted here last month that construction permit pulls suggested Eno was ready to spurt forward at last.

And this week's New York Times lovefest for Durham comes amidst more Eno news, after a fashion -- the reveal of a few more details about the business courtesy of a City Council agenda item.

Continue reading "NYT next takes on Eno -- while City Council agenda dangles more details" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 23, 2010

Auto Transmission Firm Rebounds: AW North Carolina, the Treyburn area manufacturer of Toyota transmissions, will soon be back up to its pre-recession staffing strength, thanks to its adding a front-wheel-drive production line and an estimated 360 jobs over the next two years. Combined with the firm's 900 or so staff today, when all is said and done employment will suffice early 2008's level of 1,100 FTEs. (Herald-Sun)

Trinity Dean Departs: George McLendon, the dean of Duke's faculty of Arts & Sciences and of Trinity College, is leaving for the provostial role at Rice in his native Texas. McClendon came to Duke from Princeton in 2004. (Duke News via H-S)

Federal Appliance Rebate: Buyers on Thursday snatched up fully one-third of the federal stimulus rebates allocated to North Carolina for energy-efficient appliance purchases; the deal has appliance stores opening early and supplanting the 15% at-the-register rebate with their own sales. (Herald-Sun)

Lyon Park to Calvary Ministries: The City is close to a deal to transfer the operation of the Lyon Park community center to Calvary Ministries of the West End. The City stepped in with bond dollars to rehab the onetime school bought by the church in the early 90s. Under the proposed deal, the City would lease back about 5,000 sq. ft. of space for parks & rec facilities. (Herald-Sun)

EPA Adds Solar: The EPA's offices in RTP will soon have rooftop solar panels tied back in to the Duke Energy grid; it will join other NC sites including dairy treat faves Maple View Farms in the Duke tie-up. (N&O)

Food trucks keep rolling through Bull City streets

We've been meaning to dig in (pun intended) to Durham's burgeoning food truck scene in recent days, but fortunately, there's a great article by the Herald-Sun's Monica Chen looking at what's happening in the eats-on-wheels world.

Of course, Durham's many mobile taquerias and the OnlyBurger food truck set the stage, along with Daisy Cakes, which itself just got a nice mention in the New York Times look at Durham dining.

And now there's more places here or on the way.

Continue reading "Food trucks keep rolling through Bull City streets" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 22, 2010

Downtown Y Reopening Noon: As noted in the comments here, the downtown Durham Y's reopening after smoke and water damage from a laundry room fire is now pegged for noon today. (Herald-Sun)

287(g) Used As Intended in Durham: The Durham Voice -- a great online and print publication in NECD (more here on it soon) takes a look at a UNC-CH study on the use of the controversial 287(g) program that allows local law enforcement to initiate identification and deportation of undocumented immigrants. The study found that while the program was intended to target only those immigrants who were security risks, almost nine-tenths of the persons falling under it statewide were misdemeanor suspects. The City of Durham draws kudos in the report for using the program only on those accused of felonies. (Durham Voice)

Infant Theft Stopped: A Louisburg woman was stopped allegedly trying to abduct a baby from Duke Hospital earlier this week, only days after reportedly attempting the same thing at a Henderson hospital. WRAL reports that the suspect tells authorities she was in debt to someone, suggesting a baby heist for profit. (Herald-Sun)

CRL Protest Draws a Dozen: About a dozen protestors from Americans for Prosperity made it to a protest outside the offices of the Center for Responsible Lending, despite a big robo-call campaign the night before; reports BCR's received (and we're not an unbiased voice on this) suggest almost all or all were affiliated with AFP, not grassroots protesters -- but then, their signs look like they were all painted by the same people. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 22, 2010" »

Downtown Y (except After-School) closed today due to fire, ATC facility open for business

The downtown YMCA on Morgan St. had a small fire in its laundry room this morning and is closed for the day, officials report via an email blast to members.

The damage was minor but led to smoke's spread in the facility. After a thorough clean-up today, the Y will re-open on Thursday at its normal time.

After-school programs will operate at the Downtown Y, with program staff pledging some "fun activities" to keep children away from the repair work and smoke smell. The Y facility at American Tobacco is open its regular hours.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 21, 2010

Water Bills Mess: You know, I thought something funny was going on with my water bill last month. Turns out, I might have been right. A City meter-reader was fired for not properly recording meter levels, with City officials thinking he just made 'em up through guesstimation a couple of times. The result: low bills followed by a really high one when the numbers came in. Department officials will be sending out a letter today to possibly affected customers. (Herald-Sun)

Manning Hearings on DPS: DPS officials will be asked to testify before Superior Court Judge Howard Manning in Wake Co. next month over the progress of school improvement efforts. Manning, whose decision in Leandro has led to his significant oversight of school progress and academic challenges in poorer rural and in urban districts, in the past threatened to shutter Southern and Hillside High if they didn't see big improvements. (Herald-Sun)

Alston Church Moving: NCCU had previously announced the relocation of an historic African-American Catholic church on Alston Ave. to the Fayetteville St. corridor to make way for the university's new nursing school. The church's move has now been announced to start Friday and wrap up on Saturday. (N&O)

Cree Profit Soars: Durham-based LED lighting firm Cree saw its quarterly profits quadruple year over year, to $51m vs. $12m last year. The firm employs 1,800 persons at its Durham plant and offices. (N&O)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 21, 2010" »

Center for Resp. Lending faces protest -- let's tell the teabaggers how to find 147 South

Here's a groaner from the Google Alert: The "good people" of Americans for Prosperity -- the right-wing advocacy group that gets itself in the news for media stunts like its giant pig statute during the recent prepared foods tax in Durham -- is latching onto whatever straws it can find to oppose financial reform on the national level.

And it thinks it's got a hook in the form of a Durham-based organization to do so with, planning a faux-protest downtown this afternoon.

The Center for Responsible Lending is a non-profit off-shoot of Self-Help, which itself has been vital to the revitalization of Durham and of cities nationwide. And they've been lobbying for financial and lending reforms since long before the current financial malaise.

Along the way, they've fought to end abuses in the pay-day lending and cash advance industries, two dim corners of the financial sector that do little but suck the cash out of the pockets of the neediest in communities. And they've released study after study on problems in consumer lending.

And that's something that has made the CRL a target for industry lobbying, with so-called "Astroturf" advocacy groups funded by Big Finance working hard to discredit the Center, which itself is regularly quoted and cited by mainstream media and academia.

Continue reading "Center for Resp. Lending faces protest -- let's tell the teabaggers how to find 147 South" »

NYT takes a big bite out of Durham food scene

Nyt_durham_feach Speaking of downtown and image -- the New York Times tonight published a nice profile on Durham and its local foodie scene, including a photo-essay spread that looks as good as the food it features.

Says the Gray Lady:

Of the rivalrous cities that make up the so-called Research Triangle — Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham — Durham 10 years ago was the unkempt sibling: scruffy and aging....

Now, a drive around town might yield the smell of clams from the coastal town of Snead’s Ferry, steaming in white wine, mustard and shallots at Piedmont restaurant; pungent spice and sweet fennel from the “lamby joe” sandwich at Six Plates; and seared mushrooms and fresh asparagus turned in a pan with spring garlic at Watts Grocery.

The vast brick buildings still roll through the city center, emblazoned with ads for Lucky Strike and Bull Durham cigarettes. They are being repurposed as art studios, biotechnology laboratories and radio stations.

More important for food lovers, hundreds of outlying acres of rich Piedmont soil have “transitioned” from tobacco, and now sprout peas, strawberries, fennel, artichokes and lettuce. Animals also thrive in the gentle climate, giving chefs access to local milk, cheese, eggs, pigs, chickens, quail, lambs and rabbits. 

Watts Grocery's Amy Tornquist, DaisyCakes' Tanya Catolos, and Six Plates Wine Bar's Matthew Beason are among the local restaurateurs featured in the story, which is one of the nicer features on Durham in the national press in some time, and certainly evocative of Bon Appetit's appellation of Durham and Chapel Hill as America's foodiest small town a year or two back.

Not to be missed: the photo essay, with pictures by Travis Dove that capture the Farmers Market and local restaurant scene. (They have the stark contrasts and early-morning lighting that I love about Indy Weekly and NYT freelancer Jeremy Lange's occasional pictures of his Bull City hometown and other subjects; check out Jeremy's web site to see what I mean.)