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November 2010

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for November 30, 2010

Last day of November? Really? What happened to, oh, all of 2010? For BCR's part, exhaustion and changing climates have us feeling a bit grumpier and lot more opinionated than usual, which should be self-evident from our view askew on the news:

DUPD Loophole Sought: As expected, a defense attorney is trying to get the rap-sheet tossed out for their undergraduate client, a 19-year-old accused of driving under the influence at 4am last month. The get-outta-jail free card being played? That Duke's campus police arrested the man, Thomas Holloway -- and that since Duke has at least nominal ties to the Methodist Church, its campus police force shouldn't have the power to arrest people. (Assuming the charges against Mr. Holloway are true, BCR postulates that he -- like the student who in '08 crashed his car into a tree on Buchanan Blvd. -- should really just be happy he didn't get an up-close-and-personal look at whether the Methodist worldview on the afterlife is accurate or not.) (Herald-Sun)

Falls Lake Debate: The N&O's Jim Wise has a wrap-up of where things stand with Falls Lake, looking at who pays and who gains, and why environmental groups aren't jumping with joy at the rules but say they hope they don't get challenged, either. (N&O)

Sweepstakes Cafes May Close: Barring last-minute court orders, a General Assembly ban on video gaming should close down the scourge of sweepstakes cafes in North Carolina -- though the industry, which is harder to exterminate than the cockroach it seems, vows to make changes to the games to allow them to continue. (N&O) Oh, and if you're one for irony this morning, a Google Alert last week sent me this review of one of Durham's "cafes," this one sitting in a shopping center owned by Fayetteville St. cleanup advocates Larry and Denise Hester. First thought: we didn't know smoking was allowed inside public spaces anymore; are cafes exempt? Second thought: if we're going to clean up Fayetteville St., is a sweepstakes cafe the right way to start?

In Durham, Politics are Crazy: You know those obnoxious TV commercials for the movie "The Expendables," showing has-been action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren teaming up to the tunes of 80s rock from Guns 'n Roses? Somehow, the N&O's series on the "Friends of Crystal Mangum" brought that commercial to mind. Steve Matherly gets a profile, as does the very perplexing Victoria Peterson, and group founder D.J. Register. Wait, here we go -- it's this page at their sister-organization, the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong, with all their names and photos scrolling by. Just like that "Expendables" commercial with all the names of the 80's action stars. That's the linkage. Anyway, the N&O concludes, not shockingly, that some wonder whether the support of the group is helping or hurting Mangum in her arson/custody legal battles. (N&O)

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

Where's BCR?

Just back in town after planned (and unexpected) travels for family matters that have taken me away from dear Durham seven of the past nine days. Still catching up on emails and missed stories; back here tomorrow with new content.

TBJ: Durham regains 4th-largest NC city designation -- and closes in on top 100 MSAs list

Two tidbits of population news on the Triangle Business Journal's web site add up to signs of further growth in the Bull City and the larger western Triangle region.

First up: Durham looks like it might reclaim the title of fourth-largest city in North Carolina from our western neighbors living in The Dash.

Those numbers come from a sister publication of TBJ's, one of the Charlotte-based ACBJ family, and project just over 237,000 residents for the Bull City as of this month, versus 234,000 for Winston-Salem.

That would mark a 1.3% year-over-year population growth for Durham versus the publication's 2009 estimates, and more than 19,000 new residents since summer 2007 Census numbers, for a growth rate of 8.9% over that three and a half year period, though comparing ACBJ data to Census numbers is a bit of an apples-oranges matter.

Continue reading "TBJ: Durham regains 4th-largest NC city designation -- and closes in on top 100 MSAs list" »

Must-read: Thanksgiving day N&O profile on TROSA and one of its graduates

TROSA is uniquely Durham. When Mrs. BCR and I were first preparing to roll out of our landing-pad apartment into our first house, we asked out landlord who to use and were told, "TROSA. They're the only company we recommend as movers and they do the best work."

They were right, and a very successful move and a solid experience with their contract lawn care service later, we're fans for life.

So is Susan Mowery, a TROSA program graduate who now works for the non-profit and is under consideration for a full-time position -- whose success lies in a residential program design that has one of the lowest recidivism rates you'll find anywhere.

Mowery's featured on the front page of today's News & Observer in an article that I think you'll find is a moving start to this Thanksgiving.

Happy holiday, friends.

In non-shocker, Cary beats out Durham for safest-city tag -- and why we couldn't care less

Mandy Jones Hoyle over at the Triangle Business Journal is a terrific reporter, so I'm going to hope for a moment that this groaner of a headline came from a copy editor or someone else on the news staff:

"Cary shines in safest cities rankings; Durham doesn't"

Ahh, the headline. It's one way to draw people in to read your stories, especially when it gets blasted out in an afternoon news-brief from the TBJ. Hey, works for me; you bet I clicked on that story quickly.

But the story that the headline foreshadows doesn't exactly follow the path you might expect. And, it seems, there's more to what's happening here (both in the story, and not in it) than you'd guess from the splash.

To the TBJ's credit, the front-page animation announcing the story this morning gives more nuance to the treatment. ("Among other local towns, Raleigh fares better than Durham does, though both beat out the four N.C. municipalities ranked among the 100 most dangerous in the nation.")

Still, the question of looking at crime ratings often misses broader context. And in this case, I'd argue, misses the point that there's more to a place to live than crime ratings, too.

Bottom line, Durham's crime rates put it in the lousy company of Berkeley and Boston. Wait, what?

But more importantly, count me out when it comes to obsessing over crime rates or wanting to live in the "best" place for somesuch reason.

Continue reading "In non-shocker, Cary beats out Durham for safest-city tag -- and why we couldn't care less" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for November 23, 2010

It's a quiet day in the local papers, as newsmakers are on holiday and newsers seek stories to write.

Duke Hospital Court Hearing: A Superior Court hearing yesterday in Charlotte was the next step in an ongoing legal battle between Duke Hospital and several patients over the impact that might have occurred after hydraulic fluid was accidentally used to sterilize surgical instruments. Some of the exposed patients are accusing Duke of trying to spin the follow-up studies on long-term exposure impact, while other patients who were initially alerted to the problem but who were not actually operated on with affected instruments say they didn't get that non-exposure information until after filing suit. (WRAL, WTVD)

Big DPS Cuts Possible: The H-S' Matt Milliken takes a look at what budget cuts could be under Gov. Perdue's proposed spending reduction scenarios to close a nearly 15% budget gap in a post-stimulus world, and the answer's not pretty -- more than $17 million and more than 110 positions could be on the chopping block, or nearly one out of fifteen positions in the school system. Look for this to re-open the debate this spring about Durham County's cash reserves and whether the County should -- against the advice of administrative staff -- sacrifice its AAA credit rating to hold the line on teacher jobs. Paging Michael Oehler... Michael Oehler? (Herald-Sun)

Becoats Speaks: Meanwhile, DPS super Eric Becoats made it out to the Oxford Manor public housing community yesterday to hear feedback from residents on what's working and what isn't in the schools. Disciplinary suspensions -- both the rate thereof, and the impact on graduation and educational attainment -- joined special ed and magnet schools as topics of discussion. (Herald-Sun)

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for November 22, 2010

751 BOA Hearing Off: An appeal of the zoning case for the 751 South development project is off the Board of Adjustment's schedule for this week after both sides in the case agreed it would make more sense to bring the matter before Superior Court instead of the citizen quasi-judicial land use panel. (Herald-Sun)

Potti is Outti: The Chronicle covers the resignation of Anil Potti, the embattled Faux-des Scholar whose groundbreaking cancer discoveries can't be replicated. Besides the Chronicle's story, the comments section is not to be missed. (Duke Chronicle #1#2)

Mental Illness Challenges for Jails: Kudos to the H-S' Keith Upchurch for an interesting story in today's paper on the challenges facing the Durham County Sheriff's Office and others across the state as the closure of state mental institutions is leading to more persons with mental illness falling into the criminal justice system and getting quasi-last-line care there, all from a department designed to handle law enforcement and finding itself stretched into more social issues. A must-read from the morning paper. (Herald-Sun)

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

Wine Authorities partners part ways as burger project moves forward

The two-guys riff of the Wine Authorities is no more -- though both parties "remain friends."

Seth Gross and Craig Heffley have been the faces of the popular Rockwood-area store since the store's opening, with their visages headlining the web site and bringing plenty of character together to the wine shop, as "Salamanzar" and "Grand Poobah," respectively. 


But according to the press release, the two have decided to move in different directions.

Heffley has bought out Gross' stake in the retailer and will continue as sole owner, with Gross focusing on his newest project, the Bull City Burger and Brewery on East Parrish Street.

Gross' predilection for campy titles isn't going anywhere, mind you; his email signature lists a title of "Burger Flipper and Beer Tester," naturally. Gross and BCB&B's landlord Greenfire Development were approved for a downtown building improvement grant recently by City Council that'll help fund the upfit of the space.

Full release beyond the jump.

Continue reading "Wine Authorities partners part ways as burger project moves forward " »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for November 19, 2010

Falls Lake Rules: NC's Environmental Management Commission has signed off on the Falls Lake clean-up rules -- which could cost Durham and other upstream communities as much as $3 billion over the coming decades -- and they'll go into effect in January, though a new Republican-led General Assembly can take a run at the rules if it wants. The EMC preserved the compromise position of local governments that sees lower Falls Lake meeting water quality standards in a decade's time, while giving the upper Falls section thirty years and a re-evaluation of the science and goals in 2016. (N&O)

Positive City Budget Signs: The City's budget fiscal year-to-date is in relatively good shape; spending is running $2.6m below plan (largely due to savings from voluntary employee departures), and sales tax revenues were up slightly in the first two months of FY'11. As more tax revenue collections data becomes clear in the new year, city manager Tom Bonfield may suggest a bonus for City workers who've gone two years without a raise; meanwhile, the City remains on track to start baking in higher annual allocations to road paving, starting in next year's spreadsheets. (Herald-Sun, N&O)

RDU Terminal 1 Renovation Approaches: JetBlue is poised to head to spankin'-new Terminal 2 at RDU early in 2011, leaving just soon-to-merge Southwest and AirTran in the brick and blue behemoth. The two remaining low-cost carriers in T1 will then take up US Airways' space in the northern section of the structure while the rest of the terminal gets spruced up in a $50-60m construction project that will eventually make the structure home to Southwest, JetBlue again (maybe), and up to two new low-costers. (You know what the RDU Authority has to be thinking, right? Virgin America to SFO? One can dream.) (N&O)

Diploma-Light Approved for DPS: School board members approved a provision to offer a "general diploma" path requiring fewer credits, intended for DPS students who are high drop-out risks. Board vice-chair Heidi Carter, the Herald-Sun's Matt Milliken tells us, calls the move a "stopgap" measure rather than a route to "prop up" graduation rates; newcomer Natalie Beyer was the lone dissenting vote. (Herald-Sun)

NCCU at Duke, on Duke: NCCU chancellor Charlie Nelms tells a crowd at Duke that the university, to quote the H-S's Neil Offen, is "not as engaged in the community as much as [Nelms] would like," adding that Central isn't either. I'm tempted to add my own thoughts on the subject here -- but further affiant sayeth not. (Commenters?) (Herald-Sun)

Epocrates Acquires Durham App Maker: Modality, a Durham-based developer of Apple iPhone/iPad applications for medicine and education verticals has been bought by Silicon Valley pharma reference company Epocrates; Modality, which will adopt the parent company's name, will focus solely on its medical products and is expected to double in employment to 34 as Epocrates chooses to add new engineers in the Bull City instead of in the more competitive Bay Area market. (Hey, did we mention we'd really like to see Virgin America service to SFO?) (N&O)

Downtown Durham, Inc highlights last years accomplishments- and looks forward to future challenges

Wednesday marked the celebration of Downtown Durham, Inc's 2010 annual meeting.  The event, which serves as a version of a shareholders meeting for those interested and active in downtown's redevelopment, provides an annual re-cap of accomplishments in Downtown Durham's renaissance.

 The meeting is also forward-looking, however, and remarks by Bill Kalkhof, DDI's president, and Jim Goodmon, owner of Capitol Broadcasting and the American Tobacco Campus, give the citizenry a picture of the current challenges and opportunities in downtown re-development.  A summary of the meeting follows after the jump.

Continue reading "Downtown Durham, Inc highlights last years accomplishments- and looks forward to future challenges" »