Election day's Tuesday -- it's time to play guess-the-challengers' percentage total

We've only a few short days to the general election. Oh, where has the time flown?

From our Why-I'm-Voting-For... series earlier this cycle, it's no secret that yours truly is sticking with the incumbents.

Maybe I'm blind to the winds of change blowing -- though I really think that's just the jetstream in its usual seasonal shift -- but based on the results of the primary, and the generally low-attention this election's received, I'm inclined to say that the City Council come December will look a lot like the body come November.

Well, let's put some quantitative behind the qualitative, with the qualification that this one is just for fun. (Heck, while people are always interested in free concert tickets, I never could get Michael Bacon to claim the $25 I owe him from the last election cycle contest.)

My question to you, BCR readers, is: what do you think the combined percentage total of all four challengers (Steven Williams, Donald Hughes, Matt Drew, and Allan Polak) will amount to this cycle?

Answers should range from 0 to 400 -- though in the event either of those antipodes actually occurred, we'd be calling in Jimmy Carter as an elections observer. No decimal points.

BCR's guess? 72. Share your guess in the comments here, we'll see who comes closer.

Gregson St. bridge gets 11foot8.com tribute, proves moral failings of local blogger

11foot8_screencap_gregson_st_railroad_bridge We all face crises of character in our lives, those moments at which we stand at the precipice between moral probity and ethical lapse.

Friends, your humble correspondent isn't above reproach on such matters. I found that out all too much this weekend as I traveled south on Gregson Street, towards what I've called the "railroad tracks of doom."

But I can't put all the ethical blame on myself. I was framed, see? Set up for moral failing by the web site 11foot8.com, a Durhamite's compilation of all the many tall truck-meets-low-bridge moments that have happened over the years at the railroad crossing near Brightleaf Square.

You see, I visited the site this past Saturday morning to show the footage to family in town for the weekend. Moments later, we piled in the car to head to Southpoint.

Turning off of Englewood to head south on Gregson, I look in my rear-view mirror as a driver is wont to do. And what should I see but -- o moral crucible! -- a big ol' truck hauling a massive shed on its flatbed. A truck and load that needed both lanes of Gregson to slog its cargo down the street at 5 mph.

I could see the hilarious disaster impending a mile down the road. And I? I succumbed to temptation, the fruit of schoolboy humor.

I pulled over around Knox, set my hazard flashers, and waved to the truck driver as he crawled past me, before I rejoined the travel lane.

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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.)

It's time for W.W.B.D.: What Would Bowser Do? (751 rezoning edition)

Tongue half in cheek, it's time to introduce a new game at BCR. We'll call it "WWBD" -- for What Would Bowser Do, your chance to put yourself in the shoes of Durham's erstwhile, and certainly outspoken, County Commissioner.

So put your thinkin' cap on, grab that Metric wrench, and see if you can pick the response that matches (for this challenge) Bowser's recent answer to a citizen's correspondence.

Your challenge: let's say you're Commissioner Bowser, and you received this email from a citizen angry over the BOCC's 3-2 vote on the Jordan Lake rezoning the other night?

I am very disappointed on the short-sightedness and lack of integrity of your vote. The planning commission thoroughy researched this issue and presented compelling evidence, which you ignored. The only thing I can deduce is that you are [unduly favoring] the developers....

All of my friends and I are talking about this. We won't forget about this come election-time.

What're you gonna pound out on your keyboard?

Answer A: Ms. Citizen, thank you for taking the time to write. I'm sorry you disagreed with my vote. This is a difficult subject to which there are many sides, not all of which have gotten equal play. I care about our water and wouldn't have voted in a way that I didn't feel was scientifically-researched and supportable. Our water supplies matter and I support quality development proposals that bring jobs and housing to Durham and grow our tax base. I'm sorry we won't agree but thanks for your letter.

Answer B: I'm sorry, but I don't think you're right on this issue. I care about water too but the other side was wrong on this issue. You heard a lot of things from these environmentalists from Chapel Hill that I just don't agree with. We need to focus on creating good jobs in a bad recession and I don't need to defend or justify a vote for those things.

Answer C: You are one sick person.  How does it feel to have Becky and Ellen [unduly favored]?

The answer is after the jump.

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You can't make this up: ALE agents get assault rifles, really bad gun safety tips

Thanks to the N&O for providing a good laugh to start the day. This courtesy of an article on the heavily-armed Alcohol Law Enforcement agents who police our bars and nightclubs looking for violations of alcohol sale and purchase laws -- and who are apparently armed to the teeth with assault rifles, sez the Old Reliable.

(A status that the N&O's Michael Biesecker points out makes ALE the only state agency to give assault rifles out across the board to its LEOs.)

Oh, and ALE agents get high-end handguns, too -- perfect, it seems, for accidental self-mutilation: 

On July 20, the same day an agent in Charlotte reported that his handgun had been stolen out of his car, [ALE director Bill] Chandler sent an e-mail instructing his officers to secure their side arms with handcuffs.


On Aug 24, ALE Special Agent Nelson W. Corthell accidentally shot himself in the hand at home in Hendersonville. The bullet lodged in his arm, according to his 911 call.

About two hours later, another e-mail was sent to all ALE officers.

"Whenever you secure a weapon using the issued cable lock or any other means (handcuffs, etc.) it is vital that the weapon be rendered safe by unloading it," wrote Patrick Forbis, a special agent-in-charge in Elizabeth City. "This unloading should be done first prior to placing any security device on the weapon."

A salesman at Hill's Sporting Goods, a Raleigh gun store, said Friday that he has never heard of anyone using handcuffs to secure a firearm, especially a loaded one.

"That doesn't sound safe," said Bobby Simpson, who has sold rifles and pistols for 36 years.

Helpful hint to those working on our home state's image: it's hard to shake the Mayberry stereotype here in North Carolina when ALE agents are out there doing their best to impersonate Barney Fife.

From BCR's WTF department: "Keep Durham Out of Carrboro?"

Update: The owner of Open Eye Café writes in the comments that this sticker was never authorized by his business and is an unauthorized use of his business' logo. More in the comments.

Look, we're used to a relatively friendly détente with our friends down in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

Sure, there've been some uneasy moments in our relationship, like when it was rumored that one of our downtown developers tried to steal part or all of the Cat's Cradle from the funky town nestled against Chapel Hill. Or when Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton fought new water draws from Jordan Lake unless Durham passed growth restrictions mirroring those in his town and Chapel Hill.

On the Durham side, folks sometimes grouse about both of our Orange County neighbors' failure to provide sufficient affordable housing or even market rate housing -- something that has, frankly, driven residential growth in the Bull City. (Given how much tax revenue Durham gets because Southpoint had to get built on our side of the county divide, though, we shouldn't complain too loudly, perhaps.)

We complain too over our supposed comrades-in-progressiveness blaming all their crime issues on the Bull City -- from the snipes on Durham gangs' presence leading Chapel Hillians to cancel the Apple Chill festival, to the rather appalling rumor last year that law enforcement officers to our south reportedly described the target of their investigation into the death of UNC president Eve Carson as TOD -- a code word for "Thug Out of Durham," we heard at the time.

And we've gotten our digs in, too -- like when the president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce's president bemoaned the loss of his towns' perceived "coolness" to the Bull City, saying it "kills [him] every time" he hears a WUNC 91.5 FM call sign coming from the American Tobacco Historic District in downtown Durham.

Still, we're all friends, right? Hey, we like transit. And basketball -- even if we cheer for different teams much of the time. And we're all about food co-ops -- Weaver Street Market was an offshoot of the recently-deceased Durham Food Coop retail store's success, and now the new Durham Central Market is drawing inspiration from Weaver Street.

Plus: what could be wrong with a town that gave us Tyler's Taproom -- a town that, like Durham, sprouted up around the interesting confluence of rail lines and manufacturing in the post-Civil War era?

Which is why we were shocked, shocked, to get this photo in the inbox at BCR:


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Main St. driver almost experiences West Village streetscape "underground vaults" firsthand

The only thing worse than getting one's car stuck in wet concrete, perhaps, is getting one's car stuck in wet concrete and having the whole experience caught on camera and submitted to the FAIL Blog:


Yes, that's a shiny Beemer that found itself, er, inconvenienced in trying to make a turn onto Fuller St. from Main, it seems.

The comments over at FAIL Blog have been predictably sophomoric, and we'll leave them aside. What we're wondering at BCR, though: was the road blocked or passable at the time?

While the FAIL Blog'gers are sharp-tongued over the presence of construction barrels on the street, streetscape watchers know that Main St. has been re-opened to limited traffic in recent weeks. It's not clear from this photo whether the quicksand-sedan moment happened at a time when Main was detoured, or whether the BMW slipped through at a time when the road was nominally open to traffic.

Either way, just remember: if you drive through wet concrete on the streetscape, your car's likely to get a streetscrape. Har, har.

(H/t to Fullsteam Brewery for alerting us to this one via their Twitter feed.)

Aggression or agitprop? "Angry Neighbor" highlights citizen anger on traffic speeds

Speedlimit_crop Traffic calming remains a passion for many urban Durham neighborhoods, which find themselves caught between suburban neighborhoods and a rapidly renovating downtown and the freeways that serve it and RTP.

Small victories happen here and there, mostly at the street and block level with traffic calming devices. (Tonight's City Council consent agenda, for instance, contains funding for the first, trial neckdown on Gregson St., part of a Trinity Park traffic calming effort funded out of City bonds and a state Board of Transportation allotment.)

But the larger war continues to be fought -- and in the minds of some residents, it's a battle they seem prepared to join first-hand.

Witness the arrival, then, of Angry Neighbors with Paintball Guns, a putative group implying (though, clearly, not threatening) the presence of air-powered plastic globules of paint as a more, er, direct method of slowing traffic on local streets.

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Spotted: DC goes Locopops (kinda)

We were driving east on Pennsylvania Ave. -- our GPS unit has a peculiar sense of humor, be it routing us through the Holland Tunnel, then south on the West Side Hwy. and up Manhattan's east side to get from Jersey City to Boston, or in this case shooting us through the heart of the District rather than around us -- when we spotted this car right ahead of us:


Note the Locopops sticker above the Volvo plate.

Ah, DC, if you only knew what sweet cream- and water-based paletas could do for the soul, you'd give up the HOV lanes and the Beltway politics and the annoyance of Tyson's Corner and drive down to the Bull City for the day. Oh, but bring the Metro with you.

What, incumbents worry? Durham City Councilfolk show almost no fundraising in mid-year reports

Though a number of challengers are preparing to put up challenges to Mayor Bell and the three ward incumbents running for re-election, it's been unclear how much danger any of the four incumbents feel themselves to be in.

If the mid-year election fundraising reports are any indication, the answer is: not much.

In fact, if you were to somehow break into the campaign accounts of Bill Bell, Cora Cole-McFadden, Howard Clement and Mike Woodard, you'd find you'd almost do better cash-wise just stealing an old gas guzzler and turning it in for the $4,500 "Cash for Clunkers" program -- once you factor in the much-lower effort to get that giveaway.

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