Pause for new North Durham high school -- assuming the BOCC approves the land buy

Virginia Bridges has an interesting story in this morning's The Durham News about the Duke Homestead Rd. site near the North Pointe shopping center that's been eyed as the home for a new high school to relieve overcrowding at Jordan and Riverside.

The site was selected last summer after consideration of a Duke Forest location, and whose site selection has been the subject to rumblings over whether it would, could or should disrupt the Jordan-Riverside and Hillside-Southern-Northern axes of districting and school assignments, with all the property value and where's-my-home-assigned-to handwringing that would follow.

Bridges notes that DPS wants to go ahead with the $4 million acquisition of the school site -- but it's put planning for the school itself on hold, while a broader capital planning effort is underway. And the over-capacity Jordan and Riverside have seen their combined overpopulation dwindle by 25% since the new site was considered, the paper reports.

The County Commission will have the ultimate say over whether to acquire the site, but at least one BOCCer frets that the General Assembly's new Republican leadership may look to drastically impact charter schools, a move that could have an even greater impact on reducing enrollment in public schools and any associated overcrowding.

See more over at The Durham News.

Ground control to Major Paul -- who's watching what Sheriff's Martin is saying?

When I read John McCann's story in yesterday's Herald-Sun, I would have known just whom the courts and crime reporter was interviewing by the words and turns of phrase the subject used.

"[P]otential for an ethnic war" between black and Latino gangs. "[A]bout 70% of the black community has retrogressed in Durham." "[A]ttributable to the thug culture." That people who claim to care about the problem are only looking to "grab for federal grant money" to build unachievable visions.

Perhaps you think McCann gotten an all-access pass to the commenters at WRAL? Maybe "whatelseisnew" or "underPSI" or one of those other social commentators has managed to find his way to claw at a phone long enough to initiate a dialing sequence? Or perhaps a representative of one of these Tea Party movements?

Ah, you'd think, but no. Had I not seen the interviewee name, I'd still have known it was Major Paul Martin, a senior officer in the Durham County Sheriff's Office and frequent, er, commentator on social issues.

Brand-new Wake County school superintendent Anthony Tata may be an occasional Fox News contributor and I'm-With-Grizzly-Mama fan, but I suspect if Martin were seeking sideline work, it might be more of the WorldNetDaily or NewsMax variety.

After reading the missile, er, missive yesterday, first place I went was to my email archives to pull up a Partners Against Crime - District 2 email blast that Major Martin had sent out to the listserv a couple of years back, which painted a similar dire picture of papaless criminals whose childhoords were warped by crack cocaine, with drug industry sympathizers holding see-kret political power around town and happy to let the mayhem continue. Oh, and that non-disabled, non-elderly persons getting social services money must get routine drug tests -- and mamas should have to identify the papas of their babies.

Come to think of this, this does sound like something that might fit one of Tata's novels.

Anyhow, apparently the PAC2 email was among the first things the Herald-Sun's Ray Gronberg thought of, too.

Continue reading "Ground control to Major Paul -- who's watching what Sheriff's Martin is saying?" »

$800k gift moves Durham Rescue Mission closer to expansion -- and to possible conflict with some neighbors

Update: Gary Kueber, referenced below in the article, has a very long post on the matter at Endangered Durham today, speaking from his ED blogger perspective, not the Scientific Properties one. Besides the details below, Gary notes that neighbors have filed a protest petition over the proposed land use changes required for DRM expansion.

The Triangle Business Journal and the Herald-Sun both have the news that the Durham Rescue Mission has received $800,000 from an Atlanta cooperative bank in a gift linked to one of that bank's members, Winston-Salem giant BB&T. (BB&T Durham city executive Earl Tye is quoted in the H-S coverage.)

DRM operates a facility at the corner of Main St. and Alston Ave., and a family shelter in a converted hotel off I-85 near Avondale Dr.

It's a big gift, the biggest in the DRM's history, per the H-S' John McCann. And it takes the charity, which serves the poor and homeless with shelter, meals and spiritual outreach, more than one-sixth of the way towards the mark it needs to build what McCann calls "a real nice-looking building in a North-East Central Durham community often associated with blight."

But the gift also accelerates a possible conflict that's been brewing in recent months over the expansion plans for the shelter, which have intersected with a neighborhood-led effort to upgrade the Golden Belt national historic district to a local historic district, something that's gained the requisite percentage of signatures but the opposition of Mills and the Rescue Mission.

Continue reading "$800k gift moves Durham Rescue Mission closer to expansion -- and to possible conflict with some neighbors" »

Where's the Fishwrap?

As some of you know, and others have noticed, blogging's been a bit scarce in recent weeks. I've been traveling frequently with an ill parent out of state; with the ensuing drama that entails, I've lost more than a bit of my free time blogging of late.

I'm in Tennessee this morning after an unexpected hospitalization, so content will be intermittent at least through the first part of this week. No Fishwrap this morning but we do have an update on the 108 Morris St. project and its possibly controversial mid-block traffic circle to share.

Back soon.

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for January 12, 2011

The H-S' Ray Gronberg has excellent coverage today of the ongoing debate over the future of the Durham Convention Center, where city and county staff are proposing a change in the management of the taxpayer-subsidized facility that would take operational responsibilities away from Shaner Hotels, which runs the connected convention facility. Shaner's made a last-minute improvement to their bid that Councilman Woodard said seemed like a "Hail Mary" pass, while fretting that they could lose the Marriott brand for the hotel over the change.

City attorneys, meanwhile, say Shaner was never entitled to say the hotel and convention center were permanently linked for operations, and say any such assertion -- or the financial nature of Shaner's latest deal itself -- could cause tax headaches for the city and its use of muni-bond funds for the facility. (Herald-Sun #1, #2)  And if you're interested in reading more on this, don't miss former DCVB chief Reyn Bowman's blog post this week, which sharply criticizes Shaner and gives more background from Bowman's perspective on the problems at hand.

In other news:

Worst Over for Ice: The H-S notes that there were few power outages and mostly minor accidents in Durham from the tenth of an inch of ice we got, not enough to cause power lines and trees to fall. Major roads are in pretty good shape (something we've seen first-hand out and about around downtown). The biggest issues appear to have been more distal from the core, with slick roads in eastern Durham County including a jackknifed truck on I-85 near the Granville Co. line. (Herald-Sun #1, #2)

Another 751 Move?: The Indy is reporting that County Atty. Lowell Siler has filed to dismiss a lawsuit brought over his office's rejection of a protest petition on the 751 South rezoning, this time saying the plaintiffs in the suit didn't bring their case in time. All the always-gory details courtesy of Samiha Khanna at the Indy. (Indy Weekly)

Continue reading "BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for January 12, 2011" »

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for January 11, 2011

1/11/11. Don't all those 1's look just like... oh, I don't know... icicles coming down? You bet they do. And how appropriate for an icy day here in the Bull City.

As every reader doubtlessly knows, most of Durham is shut down or in limited operations due to the roads. I have to say, the route I took to downtown this morning (Duke/Gregson and W. Main, down to American Tobacco via Corcoran with a stop outside the Post Office) weren't bad at all, though the risks of refreezing tonight seem real and significant. Just be careful if you go out there, ok?

Not that there are many places to go. Duke has extended its severe weather policy until 7pm at least and cancelled classes today, and many local businesses have followed suit. Most flights out of RDU are on ice, too.

We'll spare everyone the spate of Red Hat stories, given the coverage yesterday, as the Linux software manufacturer is staying in the Triangle, albeit in Wake County. In other news:

More on BDP/West Village: In case you missed it, the N&O had a revealing article this weekend on the travails of Christian Laettner and Brian Davis, including info from a deposition of Blue Devil Partners' comptroller documenting numerous money transfers between corporate units, to Davis, and to financial advisor Anthony Delfre -- whom a Google search reveals was recently sued in a court case involving a professional football player, too. One former BDP investor now has the right to send in tech experts to copy the hard disks of company computers... and, FWIW, I think Messrs. Laettner and Davis are better at jump shots than knowing what a Guttman wipe is. (N&O)

Duke-Progress Merger: In a move that has more effect on Wake than Durham, downtown Raleigh is losing a corporate HQ as Progress Energy will get absorbed into Charlotte-base Duke Energy, which promises to keep a major base of operations in Raleigh -- though not the corner suite. One has to suspect the announcement that Red Hat is staying in Wake was a quickly-timed move to backstop the psychological impact of the Progress announcement. (Herald-Sun)

RDU-LAX Back in May: Delta Air Lines is resuming non-stop flights to Los Angeles this spring, after pausing it in November. (N&O)

More Outdoor Dining Downtown?: Downtown Durham Inc. staff are pressing to allow more "casual outdoor seating" space, both inside the City Center district and throughout downtown, though they'll need to raise the money for a ordinance change. (Herald-Sun)

Changes to DPS Food: A new federal law on child nutrition should help grow the amount of healthy foods in DPS and other local school systems, while expanding access to free and reduced lunch programs among those families who are eligible. Some local officials worry that slightly higher prices for non-F&R lunches are possible, and about other impacts of the new regs. (Herald-Sun #1, #2)

More on NCCU Fundraiser: NC Central is getting serious about doing more to raise funds from alumni, something the university hasn't made a priority in the past -- even, I believe, outsourcing some of its annual fund work. Lois Deloatch comes to Central after decades at Duke, and lays out her strategy for improving philanthropic giving in her new vice chancellor role. (Herald-Sun

No Fishwrap today

No Fishwrap today per se -- and not simply because the trout ponds seem like they're veritably ready to freeze over, it's so cold out. No, this one's simply because of the intervening of some matters personal and professional. 

Though we can shortcut things to reassure that there isn't too much happening on the local news scene, save for the frigid weather and chance for icy roads as the dreaded "wintry mix" arrives. The biggest news in the region comes from the City of Oaks, where Duke Energy is buying Raleigh-based Progress Energy in a move that'll rob downtown Raleigh of its corporate headquarters in favor of Charlotte, though "significant operations" will remain in our eastern neighbor. (N&O) And if the loss of one corporate HQ isn't going to motivate Raleigh to increase the push to keep Red Hat based there, I don't know what will.

Durham makes NYT's list of 41 places to visit in 2011

Nyt-bull-not-bull-city-per-se-but-hey-onlyburger-vibe-amirite We've noted here before that Manhattan/Brooklyn relocators tend to like Durham quite well when moving to the region. But even those staying in NYC seem to have developed an affection for the area.

The New York Times in particular has been a persistent fan of the area this year, from a story calling out Scratch Bakery as one of the hot new places for pies and other fresh goods, to a NYT Style piece on things to do in the Triangle ("North Carolina's axis of cool") that included a number of Durham-specific entries, including the local food truck obsession and downtown's Merge Records.

Now comes Durham's appearance in another way in The Gray Lady: the Bull City and its downtown made their list of the 41 places to go in 2011, a travel story full of global destinations that is currently the number-1 story on the Times' web site. And not surprisingly, food's at the top of the list of reasons to visit. From today's paper:


A decade ago, downtown Durham was a place best avoided after sundown. But as revitalization has transformed abandoned tobacco factories and former textile mills into bustling mixed-use properties, the city has been injected with much-needed life. In the heart of downtown, a crop of standout restaurants and cafes has recently sprouted around West Main Street, where low rents have allowed chefs and other entrepreneurs to pursue an ethos that skews local, seasonal and delicious.

The farmers’ market favorite Scratch Bakery has a brand-new storefront for its seasonal homemade pies that include chestnut cream pie and buttermilk sweet potato pie. At the cafe-cum-grocery Parker and Otis, the menu features sandwiches made with freshly baked bread from nearby Rue Cler and locally roasted java from Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee. And at the sophisticated Revolution, squash tamales, mascarpone gnocchi, and tuna with wasabi caviar rotate through the seasonal menu. 

Durham was one of just a half-dozen US destinations on the list; two Washington state spots, Miami, and Park City, Utah also made the cut. Oh, and so did Oahu, Hawaii.

Let it not be said that we here at Bull City Rising aren't committed to increasing the worldly opportunities for cultural interchange. So consider this an open invitation to the residents of Oahu: hey, let's celebrate our common recognition together. I hereby offer a house swap for one week (beachfront properties only); offer expires February 28. And come soon, it's, er, beautiful in Durham this winter!

Update: NBC 17 has a video segment on the news--

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for January 6, 2011

Joey D's to Carrboro?: The N&O has the latest on the city permits battle of Joe Scarfo, whose Joey D's New York Dogs tow-cart has been a fixture at some food truck rodeos and, more generally, at a parking lot space he leased near Duke's West Campus. But that location has run afoul of city rules; unlike food trucks, which are mobile, the single location requires a special use permit and other niceties except in downtown. After getting a suggestion that he try to get the ordinance changed, Scarfo says he'll likely relocate the cart to Carrboro -- ironic, since in the food truck biz per se, Durham's more liberal rules have drawn the trucks to the Bull City over other Triangle urbs. (N&O, Eat at Joe's)

307k to DPAC: More than 300,000 people saw a show at DPAC last year, with 59 of 151 performances selling out, including a number of performances of the Broadway hit "Wicked" and a number of concerts. (Herald-Sun)

New Judges: We haven't linked to each and every one of the stories heralding the swearing-in of new members of Durham's judiciary bench, but the Herald-Sun's John McCann wraps up the days-long series of installation events with a summary of who's in and out in District and Superior Court. (Herald-Sun)

DPD Outreach: Durham PD's "Safety in Numbers" campaign -- intended to get Bull City residents thinking about gun crime and aware of ways to reduce its prevalence -- reached almost 1 in 8 Durham residents, though the H-S noted gun crime still rose 2% this year; Chief Lopez tells the paper it can take more time to see the impact from such programs and hopes for more impact in the next year or so. (Herald-Sun)

Irving Return?: Star Duke basketball point guard Kyrie Irving's departure with a toe injury hasn't yet cost the Blue Devils wins on the court, but a report that a feared season-ending injury may not require surgery could give the team more depth heading into the toughest part of its schedule and the NCAA tournament. (Herald-Sun)

BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for January 5, 2011

Today's news looks like a lot like new views on yesterday's news stories:

Durham Connects: Both the N&O and the Herald-Sun have more details on the announcement that the Durham Connects program to send nurses out to homes of newborns is expanding to incorporate all new births in the county; the program is funded by the Duke Endowment and operated by Durham's social services department with support from Duke University. Mind you, stories like this are the kind of good-news, good-government stories that don't necessarily merit digging beyond the press conference stage -- but on the other hand, we'd wonder whether there's data from the program's first years on its impact on reducing abuse and neglect, raising infant weights or the like (Herald-Sun, N&O)

Clorox Takes Burt's Bees Charge: Consumer products company Clorox spent $925 million on Durham cosmetics firm Burt's Bees in '07, just before the recession, and the resulting "slower sales growth" is leading Clorox to take an accounting charge of $250 million on the value of the unit -- though Burt's Bees is still ahead of the company's core business units for growth and profit. Clorox execs left voicemails for all Burt's Bees employees yesterday reassuring them that the firm remains an important and valued part of the California consumer goods firm. (TBJ, N&O)

Unemployment Stalls: The Durham MSA did better in adding jobs that most of the state, but as the workforce shrinks (due to discouraged workers, we'd guess), Durham's jobless rate rose to 7.3% in November, a 0.2% increase. (Herald-Sun)

More on Duke-Docs: The H-S has more details on the concerns of some local physician practices over Duke's increasing preference to refer patients on its insurance plan to in-house doctors, something drawing the ire of physicians with private practices. Ray Gronberg notes that Duke employees can turn to the more-expensive BCBSNC for inclusive coverage, and that health care reform is likely to lead to more hospital-health system consolidations for efficiency's sake. (Herald-Sun)

Mixed News on Tourism: Spending by visitors in Durham was down by 7.5% in 2009 vs. 2008 -- a sign of the recession, no doubt -- even as the number of visitors rose 4.5%, according to the DCVB; overnight stays were the big point of decline, notes the Herald-Sun, though spending again appears on the rise based on projected tax collections. (Herald-Sun)