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Durham divided on nonprofit grants

County commissioners Chairman Fred Foster wants the city’s advice on nonprofit funding, but his fellow Commissioner Michael Page wants the city to rethink its policies.

Grants to nonprofit agencies came up during a meeting of commissioners and City Council members last week, when Foster asked Mayor Bill Bell how the city ended its “non-city agencies” grant program

“We put a plan in place over a four-year period, told those in the queue we would be ending funding after a certain time and no new applications would be taken,” Mayor Bill Bell said.

The city program ended after the 2011-12 fiscal year. Durham County still makes cash grants to various organizations that apply for its Nonprofit Agency Funding Program. For the current fiscal year, the county gave out $794,849 to 41 agencies.

“It can be a burden without a benefit,” said Councilman Eugene Brown. The grants constituted about .25 percent of the city budget, but took as much council time in budget meetings as the Police Department, he said, and some organizations were doing no fund-raising on their own.

“I agree with you,” Page said, but then said, “I really do hope at some point you rethink this process.

“There are some nonprofits that are really providing services … that work very hard to serve citizens, particularly citizens no one else serves,” Page said.

Durham does give money to some “very targeted nonprofit initiatives,” particularly in low-income housing, City Manager Tom Bonfield said. Some city departments have partner arrangements that support nonprofits through departmental budgets or by in-kind donations.

“We realize we have limited resources,” said Bell. “There are instances where we’ve had people come in who had no experience working with the city … and ask for city money.”

Page said the county got “an enormous number of applications” for arts and recreation programs, areas the city formerly funded as non-city agencies.

“You were carrying some of this weight,” he said.

“People can always ask,” said Bell.

Norfolk Southern 'willing to negotiate' on Durham Belt Line

Mayor Bill Bell said Norfolk Southern has replied to his letter about Durham acquiring its disused Belt Line right of way for a greenway (http://bit.ly/Xg84fw).

“They’re willing to negotiate,” he said during today’s City Council work session. Bell didn’t give any details, but said he passed Norfolk Southern’s reply on to City Manager Tom Bonfield.

“The manager’s going to fix it,” he said.

Bell, Brown criticize Durham Historic Preservation Commission

Mayor Bill Bell wants the City Council to have a conversation on “what our vision is for the city … what we would like to see in terms of physical development.”

Bell made the comment at today’s City Council work session, and with it some questions about the role of appointed committees in general and the Historic Preservation Commission in particular after its hearing on the City Center project Tuesday.

“I question some of the issues that were being raised,” Bell said, and mentioned comments about the 26-story building’s effect on the Durham skyline.

Durham misses cut for Bloomberg prize

Durham missed the cut in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge contest for innovative solutions to major urban problems.

Last fall, Durham was named one of 20 finalists in the nationwide competition. Winners were announced earlier this month. Providence, R.I. won the $5 million top prize and four other cities won $1 million each to use in implementing their innovations.

“I said all along that we’re already winners by virtue of having been selected among 20 out of 350 or so applicants across the country,” Mayor Bill Bell said.

“To have been the ultimate winner would have just been more icing on the cake that already had some, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Durham’s entry was a proposal to create entrepreneurship hubs in three distressed neighborhoods to foster job creation, family stability, workforce training, and overall economic growth in those areas. It was prepared by the Neighborhood Improvement Services department.

“The staff did an excellent job,” said Bell.

Providence’s winning proposal was a program to build vocabulary for young children growing up in low-income households.

Other winners were Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston and Santa Monica, Cal. For information on all the proposals, see http://bit.ly/LJ36TE.

What's in today's Durham News

Today's big local story broke too late to get into the print paper but is now on our website.

TAKING DURHAM OUT OF DURHAM REGIONAL: You heard it. Find out why Duke, which manages the regional hospital, wants to change its name. Jim Wise has the story at www.thedurhamnews.com

BELL'S BAIL BOND BILLS: Well, he doesn't have the proposed legislation just yet. But Durham Mayor Bill Bell's push for tougher bail rules for suspects in gun crimes is already running into some opposition. Find out what two local judges think in our story at www.thedurhamnews.com

BAD, BAD MAN: That suspect charged with robbing a Durham bank last month? Police have now charged him with robbing two. Find the link on our home page now at www.thedurhamnews.com or search under the News/Crime page.

Baker, entrepreneur and urban farmer Kifu Faruq has now added teacher to her resume. Find out whom she's educating in today's My View and how you can too. Rev. Barber and the Durham-based state NAACP is urging the General Assembly to resist extremism in the upcoming session (read about an unprecedented proposal to slash unemployment benefits on the front page of today's N&O).

And Glenn McDonald says a former American Idol finalist is coming to DPAC. ... All that and lots more in today's Durham News.

Thanks for reading,
Mark

What's in today's Durham News

Today's big local story broke too late to get into the print paper but is now on our website.

TAKING DURHAM OUT OF DURHAM REGIONAL: You heard it. Find out why Duke, which manages the regional hospital, wants to change its name. Jim Wise has the story at www.thedurhamnews.com

BELL'S BAIL BOND BILLS: Well, he doesn't have the proposed legislation just yet. But Durham Mayor Bill Bell's push for tougher bail rules for suspects in gun crimes is already running into some opposition. Find out what two local judges think in our story at www.thedurhamnews.com

BAD, BAD MAN: That suspect charged with robbing a Durham bank last month? Police have now charged him with robbing two. Find the link on our home page now at www.thedurhamnews.com or search under the News/Crime page.

Baker, entrepreneur and urban farmer Kifu Faruq has now added teacher to her resume. Find out whom she's educating in today's My View and how you can too. Rev. Barber and the Durham-based state NAACP is urging the General Assembly to resist extremism in the upcoming session (read about an unprecedented proposal to slash unemployment benefits on the front page of today's N&O).

And Glenn McDonald says a former American Idol finalist is coming to DPAC. ... All that and lots more in today's Durham News.

Thanks for reading,
Mark

Durham a finalist for $5M Bloomberg prize

Fresh off our story on the "Build a Better Block with Tootie" comes word that Durham is a finalist for the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. The competition inspires cities to generate innovative ideas that improve city life – and that ultimately can be shared with other cities across the nation.
 
Durham was selected based on its idea to create entrepreneurship hubs in three distressed neighborhoods "to positively impact job creation, family stability, workforce training, and overall economic growth in those areas," according to a news release. Submitted by the City’s Neighborhood Improvement Services Department’s Urban Innovation Center, the proposed project will now compete against 19 other cities across the country for a $5 million grand prize as well as one of four additional prizes of $1 million each.
 
The Innovation Center partners with residents to creatively meet community challenges, just like project manager Wanona Satcher is doing with the folks in East Durham on "Build a Better Block" (left). The program is sprucing up the corner of Angier Avenue and Drive Street -- painting trash cans, planting a garden and building a bus shelter -- and offering businesses a free month's rent in the hope that some of them will stay and attract others. 

“This project presents Durham with an exciting opportunity,” Mayor Bill Bell says of the Bloomberg competition. “To be selected as a finalist from more than 300 submissions across the country speaks volumes about the potential value of this project to Durham and to other cities.”
 
A team from Durham will attend the Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day gathering in New York City this month, to further refine its ideas. Coming out of the Camp, the Durham team will have access to additional technical support to prepare its ideas for final submission. Winners will be announced in spring 2013, with a total of $9 million going to five cities to jumpstart implementation of their ideas.
 
 

Bob Wilson: Keep Durham bonds where they are, Mr. Mayor

Here is an early look at Bob Wilson's column in this Sunday's Durham News. Agree or disagree? Tell us here (with your name for publication) or at editor@newsobserver.com.

By Bob Wilson

Mayor Bill Bell is on another hayride for sharply higher bail bonds that would, so he claims, discourage firing a gun in the city. That’s a noble aim (no pun intended), but raising the current bail from $75,000 to $300,000 would be toxic for the constitutional notion of excessive bail.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson isn’t buying Bell’s snake oil, and neither are the city’s trial lawyers. They say the city’s maximum bail for illegally discharging firearms is already higher than most other North Carolina jurisdictions.

Bell’s latest call for $300,000 bail came during his 2012 State of the City address. This is nothing new. It goes back to 2008, when Bell first raised the issue. It lay fallow until August 2011, when Bell blew smoke again upon learning that a homicide suspect free on bail was accused of bank robbery.

Admittedly, that sort of thing concentrates the mind into believing that Durham really does have a revolving-door criminal justice system (Hudson dismisses the perception as a media construct). Yet, as Hudson, the defense lawyers and the U.S. and state constitutions rightly point out, bail can’t be used to trump presumption of innocence.

The constitutions’ language is clear: “Excessive bail shall not be required” for suspects arrested in connection with criminal acts.

Today in The Durham News

Here's a look at today's local headlines:

But first, you'll want to read staff writer J. Andrew Curliss' latest on ousted DA Tracey Cline. Find the main story in today's N&O here and get links to Judge Hobgood's ruling and other materials HERE.

In The Durham News:

AND THEY'RE OFF: All five seats are up on the Board of County Commissioners. And a whopping 14 candidates, including four incumbents, want them. Staff writer Jim Wise hast the list.

CHARTER SCHOOL APPROVED: The state approved the new high school planned for Durham. DPS already has 10 percent of school-age kids enrolled in charter schools and fought this proposal, which it said would undermine the district's own efforts in science, technology, engineering andmath education. Read out story and tell us what yoiu think, and see the conversation this has generated on my Facebook page.

RENTAL REDUX: Love that word redux, which basically means repeat or again. The city's proposed rental inspection programcomes back to the City Council tomorrow night. The last time it covered 37 percent of Durham, but some said it was too broad. Read Jim's preview.

Bob Wilson (and NCCU, see left) takes on the let-it-all-hang-out crowd, Mayor Bell says why he's backing Obama again and you should too, and a Falconbridge reader asks ... what was Bob thinking with last week's crime column?

What's on your mind? Tell us at editor@newsobserver.com. And thanks for reading,

Mark

Page backs Durham mayor's call for higher bail in gun crimes

By Virginia Bridges

Durham County Commissioners Chairman Michael Page has endorsed Mayor Bill Bell's call for higher bails for people accused of gun crimes.

Page said today he didn't specifically cite the $300,000 bail amount in his state of the county speech this week because local officials are discussing it and figuring out next steps.

But he said does support Bell's proposal, which would increase bail for those accused of illegally firing a gun from the current $75,000 maximum amount.

"If it works, I support it," Page said.

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