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October 2010

September 2010

Price/Lawson to debate Fri. Oct. 8 at Durham Station

This fall's election is coming up, and U.S. Rep. David Price is seeking re-election in the district that serves Durham, Orange and portions of Wake County -- the heart of the western half of the Triangle. Price's undefeated in decades of service, with the small exception of the "Republican revolution" in 1994's Contract With America era. No election since '94 has drawn comparisons to that year the way that 2010 has. Will B.J. Lawson fare better in a rematch with the Price campaign this fall?

And -- ubiquitous horse race factors aside -- which candidate reflects the values, choices and issues that match yours?

The Independent Weekly is organizing a debate between the candidates next Friday, October 8 at 6:30pm at the Durham Station transit center in downtown Durham, and has been gracious enough to allow Bull City Rising to be a co-sponsor of the event; yours truly will be one of the panel asking questions of the candidates.

Do you have issues or questions you'd like to see asked of Lawson and Price next Friday? If so, post them in the comments or email them to, or via Twitter (@bullcity). And come down on the 8th to meet the candidates and hear what they have to say.


BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for September 30, 2010

Apologies for the sparseness of my appearances here in recent days; we'll just say it's been an interesting one on the homefront and leave it at that. In the news:

Off Again, Maybe On Again?: Roy Taylor, the Republican challenger for Durham County sheriff, announced earlier this week he would withdraw from the race against incumbent Worth Hill for not meeting the residency requirements -- but now says he's still contemplating whether a temporary absence from Durham Co. during a divorce runs afoul of rules, since he intended and ultimately consummated a return to the county. Taylor tells local media that the residency question arose after he applied to renew a concealed carry permit, at which time the candidate claims a sheriff's office representative began passing the residency question along to local media outlets. This one's still worth (or is that Worth?) watching. (Indy Weekly #1, #2, #3; Herald-Sun)

Transit Plan in Focus: The hybrid transit plan for the Triangle calls for equally priced ($1.1-1.2 billion each), equal length (17-18 mile) light rail segments, one from UNC Hospitals to Alston Ave. via 15-501, the other from Cary to North Raleigh -- with an NCRR-tracked commuter rail system providing occasional service linking the city centers and suburbs. (Herald-Sun) It's still cheaper than the $3.5 billion cost today of the scuttled TTA rail plan that'd have connected Raleigh and Durham, but there are real questions about whether both lines would move forward first; despite equal ridership projections, Triangle Transit's projection of greater transit-oriented development potential on the Wake Co. side could leave that as the first phase. 

Ninth St. Development Plans: Terry Sanford Jr. and Clay Hamner are moving forward with planning requests for a possible 300 multi-family residential project on part of the field between Erwin Mills and Ninth Street North/Erwin Square. A hotel is still possible on part of the site and there's been talk of other commercial development to boot. The developers have been shopping ideas around to neighborhood representatives and businesses and will be meeting with Planning officials soon. (Herald-Sun)

Water Bill Snafus: At least five customers have received water bills over $10,000 in error, including some who have had meter change-outs; in a couple of cases the City tried to draft the funds from the homeowners' bank accounts and turned off service when the bills weren't paid. City manager Tom Bonfield has asked that his office be directly notified of any such problems. Other households are complaining about multi-hundred dollar or low-thousands bills. (N&O)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for September 30, 2010" »

Bonfield fields street paving bond questions at INC

City manager Tom Bonfield's street-paving roadshow made its way to the InterNeighborhood Council meeting last night, where delegates seemed receptive to the logic of a $20 million issue for street paving bonds this fall -- though concerns over funding priorities and on traffic calming/road safety came up from more than one direction.

Still, Bonfield offered delegates a stark reality of Durham's road conditions, one of the more complained-about features on the Bull City, and one that City Councilman Mike Woodard said started in the 1990s when previous City Councils were for a time paving only a dozen or so miles a year even as suburban growth expanded the road network.

All told, Durham's got 680 miles of City-maintained streets, Bonfield pointed out, and with a 20-year expected lifecycle for pavement, that works out to almost 35 miles a year just to keep up on deterioration.

A $20 million bond issue would allow City leaders to catch up once and for all, officials say, assuming voters approve the levy this November.

Continue reading "Bonfield fields street paving bond questions at INC" »

A better RDU Terminal 1 coming -- but more retail pain before the gain?

RDU's continued expansion with the glorious new Terminal Two -- which looks at its best like a 21st-century reboot of Washington-Dulles, at least on the inside, and which has glorious soaring ceilings and public art -- finally gives the region an airport it can be proud of.

Only problem is, of course, that if you're flying the airport's market-leader, you're shunted into Terminal One.

Part 1950s-era brick building, part 1980s-era planned warehouse hustled into passenger use, Terminal One is a Carolina blue mess, and a pain in the butt in many ways. Not least of which, of course, because the connections to the parking deck bring you in amidships on the terminal, at which time you trundle up to the 1955 structure that now houses Southwest Airlines' gates.

In 2012, Terminal One is scheduled to get a double-amputation and renovation, as the current Southwest gates and the 2001 expansion on the airport's south side are demolished and a smaller (and renovated) nine-gate facility takes its place.

But on the retail front, things will get sparser it seems in 2011 before they get better.

Continue reading "A better RDU Terminal 1 coming -- but more retail pain before the gain?" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for September 27, 2010

Rain, Rain, Welcome Today: It's been raining almost without end since Sunday morning, and the waters are expected to continue to drop today. City officials note, as you'd expect, that the recent dry spell means much of the water will likely soak into the parched ground instead of making its ways to creeks, though this still is the first step in recharging the rivers that feed our reservoirs -- especially since the stream flows in those have slowed to much less than 1% of the daily draw for the water system. (Herald-Sun)

Buffers Discussion on E. Durham Mixed-Use: A Durham County mixed-use project with more than 1,300 homes and 1.25m sq. ft of retail and office space near the airport and Brier Creek got the necessary rezoning nods a few years back, but developers Tri Properties and Crosland are concerned that the property might be impacted by pending changes in stream buffers from 50' to 100' in width, and will be asking the City Council on Oct. 4 to be grandfathered in under the current rules. (Herald-Sun)

Good Day for a Pride Parade: The rainy weather held off for Saturday's NC Pride Parade and Festival, which drew 2,000 participants and many more spectators to the area off Duke's East Campus. The event's official schedule noted partnership events elsewhere in the Triangle and Triad, but Durham is ensconced as the home of one of the largest such events in the southeast, and one that's drawn significant corporate sponsorships and support. (Herald-Sun)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for September 27, 2010" »

More on Natalie Beyer's Scantron dissent: whither site-based feedback?

The Herald-Sun and N&O noted this week's decision by Durham Public Schools to use excess funds from their one-time in-house research, testing and assessment division budget to buy a licensed system from Scantron that would purportedly improve the frequency as well as quality of student testing. 

(Excess funds, it seems, since department director David Sneed and several staff have left the unit, opening up outsourcing opportunities for the district... though one also wonders whether we'll ever see Sneed et alia pop up doing outside consulting for Durham and other districts. One David A. Sneed of Durham, NC is a registered agent for and member-manager of one ED DESIGNS, LLC, founded in 2007.)

Tests would move from quarterly to every few weeks, but most school board members seemed impressed by the new administration's assurances that test results would provide feedback to teachers on each students' strengths and weaknesses, not merely an assessment of their likelihood of passing end of grade tests.

Most, but not all. Natalie Beyer, who defeated Steve ("Not the Comedian or Banjo Player") Martin for a seat on the board this summer, was a dissenting voice. And she expressed her reasons why on the Durham DARE parents listserv:

After the presentation about Scantron at our subcommittee meeting last week, I recommended that DPS administrators take the Scantron product to our Teacher Council (or similar representative group of classroom teachers) so that teachers could interact with it and see if it would be helpful to them in the classroom.  At that time, the contract was still being negotiated.  In the meantime, as I visited schools, I asked several teachers and Principals if they had heard anything about the Scantron proposal.  I couldn't find anyone that answered "yes".  That concerns me.  

While DPS needs to be a responsive decision-maker, we need to find ways to better include classroom teachers in the major decisions that will impact our students and teachers for years to come.  If teachers are involved from the early stages we will have better fidelity and better outcomes.

Whether the Scantron system is an improvement or not over existing testing, Beyer's dissent -- and more importantly, the reason for it -- is an issue to watch in the near future as DPS works to make progress under a new superintendent and very new senior leadership team, much of which has seen turnover as Eric Becoats' team has come in the door.

Beyer's drumbeat in the email is nothing new; as the pressure to meet No Child Left Behind and other state and federal guidelines for student proficiency has risen, the district has been working feverishly for years to mandate improvements in test results and education, two hopefully-linked concepts, though a vocal group of parents and stakeholders has expressed skepticism about how much the former has to do with the latter. Yet that has long involved centralized mandates for curricular activities.

It's an issue to watch as the new administration -- and the newly constituted board, which added Beyer and Nancy Cox -- grow into their roles.

Durham, Raleigh racial segregation by the dots

Yours truly was first intrigued a week ago, when Gawker, Flowing Data and other web sites pointed out an interesting Flickr photostream by Eric Fischer, who reviewed 2000 Census data for major metropolitan areas and mapped out residents by race to show, visually, what level of segregation or integration existed then in communities.

Of course, these data are likely to change come 2010, as maps nationally don't show the level of Latino population that came to many communities -- including Durham, which saw a decade-long boom in Hispanic residents. But they still show patterns of residential activity particularly in term of self-identified Caucasian (red dot) and African-American (red blue dot) residents. Asian residents appear in green, Latino in yellow/orange, and gray for other ethnicities, with each dot representing 25 residents.

The initially release of metro areas didn't include the Triangle, but the latest run of maps includes Raleigh, and Fischer was kind enough to zoom out enough in his mapping to include at least the eastern side of the Bull City. (Click on the image for a larger view.)


Continue reading "Durham, Raleigh racial segregation by the dots" »

Motorco set to open tonight

After more than six months of construction, Durham now has another new music venue.  Motorco Music Hall, a 450-person music venue in the Durham's Central Park district, is set to open its doors for the first time tonight.

Motorco is tMotorcohe second music venue to open in Durham this month, fresh on the heels of The Casbah, a 300-head club in the Brightleaf Square area.

First introduced to the world as The Geer, Motorco Music Hall is a collaboration between Chris Tamplin, Jeremy Roth, and Mike and Candy Webster.  With a capacity of 450, the new venue will be the fourth-largest daily rock venue in the triangle.

Booking at the new venue is being headed by Chris Tamplin, who was formerly in charge of booking the Local Band, Local Beer series at Raleigh's Tir na nOg.  The series became quite successful over the last three years, with Tamplin eventually becoming responsible for booking music 3 nights a week at the bar.  Tamplin's experience booking Tir na nOg led him to meet Motorco's three other partners, who were in pursuit of opening a new Durham venue.

The group has spent the last six month renovating the Weeks-Allen Motor Company building at the corner of Rigsbee and Geer.  After countless hours of hard labor by the group, the new venue is ready to open.

Tonight, Motorco hosts a CD release party for the Chapel Hill band North Elementary.  The venue has a second show  slated for tomorrow night, featuring Luego and The Huguenots.

Although all are excited for the new venue to open up at 723 Rigsbee, Roth warns that tonight's party will indeed be a soft opening.  Motorco is waiting on their ABC permit, the last of the hurdles to complete before fully opening.  Music fans shouldn't fret, however, as Triangle Brewing Company will be present with a selection of their beer.

Tonight's show starts at 9:00pm and has a $6 cover.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for September 24, 2010

Water Restrictions On Way: An Oct. 7 start date seems likely for Stage One water restrictions in Durham, as the primary reservoirs in North Durham are down to three-quarters full amidst a typically dry fall season. One saving grace: the 10 million gallons/day of processed Jordan Lake water that we can buy from the Town of Cary through a system interconnect beefed-up after the 2007 drought; City staff note that interconnect can provide as much as half of all Durham's wintertime water needs. (Herald-Sun)

Modest Raises at Duke?: University provost Peter Lange told the school's faculty governance committee that a "modest salary increase" is in the works for 2011, after two years of no pay increases for campus staff (though lower-earning employees were eligible for one-time bonuses.) Improved levels of philanthropy and continued belt-tightening by the university -- which is closer to meeting its goal of multi-year reductions in operating budgets than ever -- are credited with the move. (Herald-Sun

Rolling Hills Roils Housing Backers: A new report from community affordable housing activists discussed in a two-hour presentation at City Council's work session yesterday takes the City to task for proposing to focus almost all its federal housing obligation dollars on Rolling Hills' redevelopment, calling the subsidy for such units much higher than that given to local nonprofits, and saying it would exhaust resources for turnaround efforts elsewhere in Durham. Housing officials countered that for all the one-off investment in areas they've never been able to "[turn] a neighborhood around" with housing efforts -- though conceding that city manager Tom Bonfield is riding the affordable housing team hard to come up with ways of resolving complainants' criticisms, not yet it seems to TomBon's satisfaction. (Herald-Sun)

New Testing Program...: The new Scantron testing system discussed yesterday passed the DPS board by a 6-1 vote, with some board members taking comfort in a description of the system as providing feedback on strengths and weaknesses of individual students' achievement and learning, not simply a statistical prediction of the students' likelihood of passing end of grade tests. New board member Natalie Beyer cast the dissenting vote. (Herald-Sun)

...And New Staff: Meanwhile, a Chapel Hill/Carrboro assistant principal will take the reins at Pearsontown Elementary, while Carrington's principal will take over an assistant superintendent position, and NC DPI staff member Paul LeSieur becomes the executive director for budget and management services -- what sounds like the replacement for long-serving COO Hank Hurd, who retired last spring after his interim stint as superintendent ended. (N&O)

Preservation NC Meeting: Preservation North Carolina is holding its annual meeting in Durham for the first time ever, and kicked off their downtown conference with plenty of learning about how the Bull City has turned around its old tobacco warehouses into housing, retail and office space -- and about how preserved, walkable neighborhoods are key to attracting "creative class" residents and workers. (Herald-Sun)