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In today's Durham News

Here's a look at today's local headlines

BENTWOOD COMPLAINTS: It's four times as big as Lincoln Apartments, the other low-income apartment complex in the news lately. Find out why East Durham activist Melvin Whitley sat residents down with police and city officials last week in our story here.    

GEEKS CREATE CHARITY WEBSITE: It was just two self-described geeks at Bible study. Correspondent Jamie Kennedy Jones reports how the idea has become a way to foster good deed doing in Durham. Read her story about Benefacting here.

THE CHILDREN'S INITIATIVE: The East Durham Children's Initiative meets with its partner agencies this week to talk about how to measure their impact on the 120 blocks they're targeting. In case you missed our story, read it and meet folks like YE Smith Principal Latisha Judd (left) here.

 

And under Viewpoints on our website, My View columnist Pierce Freelon (left) savors Durham's small-town moments, Bob Wilson says no high-speed police chase is worth a human life, and builder Chad Collins is thankful for his hometown.

All that and more in The Durham News, reaching 68,000 homes every Sunday and Wednesday. What's on your mind? Tell us at editor@newsobserver.com

Thanks for reading,

Mark

Bob Wilson: Cooperation better than confrontation

Here is an early look at Bob Wilson's column in Sunday's Durham News. Tell us whether you agree or disagree with Bob at editor@newsobserver.com.

By Bob Wilson

Cheap alcohol and mini-marts are one and indivisible, as those who live in Durham’s troubled north-east central quadrant will attest. These quick-stop vendors of malt liquor are in effect legal shot houses, and they are perennial thorns in the side of city planners, the police and community reformers.

Yet mini-marts needn’t be such a fret. With modest effort and good will from owners and community activists alike, mini-marts can be part of the solution.

Now, no one reasonably expects these small stores to stop selling malt liquors and “alcopops,” amped-up concoctions such as wine coolers. Both are legal products, no matter the dismal social pathology fed by their easy availability.

Minister Paul Scott has waged a campaign against cheap brew in North East Central Durham for decadeds, arguing that big-name brewers skillfully exploit low-income blacks and Hispanics.

Scott’s right. You need only peruse advertising for, say, Colt 45 malt liquor to get a fix on its intended audience. Sometimes black celebrities – Billy Dee Williams and Snoop Dogg come to mind – hawk malt liquors, lending them an aura of glamor well removed from reality.

Today in The Durham News

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

FOOD TRUCKS RULE: Oh, wait a minute, that was supposed to be "Food Truck Rules." But Durham does love its meals on wheels. Read Jim Wise's preview of tomorrow night's public information meeting about the city's proposed new regs.

DANCE, DANCE, DANCE: The American Dance Festival opened its new $1.5 million studios on Broad Street this week. Katelyn Ferral reports the opening number was like a party in the streets.

NEW DSS DIRECTOR: The county has named a new director of the Department of Social Services. Michael Becketts of Baltimore replaces Geri Robinson (Gail Perry served in the interim), who is suing the county over her firing of a year ago.

CITY PLANS STRATEGY: Jim also reports today on how the City Council is not waiting for Southern Durham Development's, and its friends in the legislature's next move. The council closed the doors at a special meeting last week but hopes to have something drafted by September.

We've got more pics from Watts-Hillandale (still enjoying that neighborhood awesome-ness), Bob Wilson's take on the 751 South, er, water and sewer extension bill, and your letters. Tell us in 300 words or less what you think about food trucks, or anything else, at editor@newsobserver.com.

Stay cool, and thanks for reading,

Mark

Bob Wilson on 751 South

Here is an early look at this Sunday's commentary in The Durham News by Bob Wilson. Tell us what you think below (add your name if you want your comments published) or in a letter to editor@newsobserver.com.

By Bob Wilson

As legislative duplicities go, last week’s attempt by Southern Durham Development Corp., those wonderful folks who want to bring you 751 South, to make an end run around the Durham City Council was every bit as slick as the notorious state lottery vote in 2005.

The attempt finally fizzled Tuesday in the Senate, but not before going through enough incarnations there and in the House to make the Dalai Lama blush.

The City Council rightly opposes 751 South, a 167-acre, 1,300-dwelling subdivision hard by the Chatham County line. Perhaps the council was embarrassed by its decision last year to extend the city’s designated urban growth area, though wisely not the city limits, all the way down N.C. 751 to the county line.

Southern Durham Development desperately needs city water and sewer; the 751 project won’t perk without those services. When nothing worked to change the City Council’s stand on the issue, Southern Durham sought help from willing hands in the General Assembly.

What's so 'smart' about 751 South?

Here is an an early look at Bob Wilson's column coming Sunday in The Durham News. Tell us what you think below (with your name) or in a letter to the editor at editor@newsobserver.com

 

BY BOB WILSON

I hope you didn’t reflexively toss the mini-billboard that came in the mail a few days ago. You know, the one with the beaming faces of County Commissioners Chairman Michael Page, fellow incumbents Joe Bowser and Brenda Howerton, and incumbent wannabe Rickey Padgett.

The billboard – er, campaign post card – appeared to be from the candidates themselves, all fervent supporters of 751 South, the proposed 167-acre, mixed-use project hard by the Chatham County line.

And hard by the eutrophic upper reaches of Jordan Lake, which needs another patch of urban sprawl about as much as James Harden needs another elbow punch from the Lakers’ Metta World Peace.

The post card actually came from the Durham Partnership for Progress, a political action committee formed by Southern Durham Development Inc., the local outfit behind 751 South. The PAC exists for one purpose: Elect its four anointed candidates to ensure that 751 South has a future.

Don’t be dazzled by Southern Durham President Alex Mitchell’s declaration that the PAC has high-minded ambitions to “foster a political environment … that encourages equal opportunity, job creation, smart growth.”

Smart growth?

What’s so smart about planting 1,300 homes and townhouses and 600,000 square feet of office-retail on 167 acres of environmentally sensitive land whose runoff by Southern Durham’s own assessment will put 600 pounds of nitrogen a year into Jordan Lake?

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

What's in today's Chapel Hill News

Monday night's Town Council meeting went too late to get the whole Yates Motor discussion in. Please read staff writer Katelyn Ferral's story in today's N&O here. The issue moves to the citizens police advisory council at 7 p.m. tonight at the Hargraves Center. Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro  plans to pitch tents there to show support for the call for an independent review of the Nov. 13 police raid.

'LIFE PARTNERS': In other news, correspondent Flo Johnston has a story on the wedding of Chapel Hill pastor Jenny Shultz and her partner, Shannon Thomas, this past weekend at United Church of Chapel Hill. Shane Snider took our photographs. Read the story and tell us what you think here, on my Facebook page or at editor@nando.com

(Speaking of Facebook, we got a lot of comments on a posting yesterday about the police raid. We will try to run some of them this Sunday. I've learned some readers really do prefer to have their conversations on social media; we will try to bring that conversation to print readers whenever possible.)

A PLAN IN THE WORKS: Still wondering what Chapel Hill 2020 is all about? We have two stories today: a short overview by Katelyn and more from co chairs Rosemary Waldorf, the former mayor, and George Cianciolo, the former planning board chair, and others in today's issue. Have you participated in 2020? We'd like to hear from you.  

We give the Rev. J.R. Manley roses as he steps down from the pulpit at First Baptist. Bob Wilson says don't blame just the system for the Section 8 housing squeeze (I expect that will get some letters). PlayMakers brings an award-winning look at "No Child Left Behind" to the UNC campus this week. And sports editor Elliott Warnock reports Special Olympians are flocking to Chapel Hill. 

And did I mention Mary Sonis has a really cool photo of a bat on our front page? Mary's amazing. She goes into the woods and creeks with a camera and comes back with magic.

It's a packed issue. Thanks for reading,

Mark 

Bob Wilson on Section 8 and the vanishing traditional family

BY BOB WILSON

No one not in the shoes of the 26-year-old Durham mother of four whose struggle to keep family and soul together in these desperate times can fully understand her anxiety. In search of an increasingly rare Section 8 housing subsidy, she and her children could be on the streets by late spring.

Reporter Katelyn Ferral's Dec. 25 story in The Durham News on the demand for Section 8 housing in the Triangle focused on  of one family, but the story of that family can be multiplied to the nth degree in contemporary America. It is a story famously foretold almost 50 years ago by the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

In 1965, Moynihan, then a Harvard scholar (and later a U.S. senator) published a seminal report on the coming destruction of the black family by good intentions gone bad. His policy conclusions now apply just as forcefully to whites and Hispanics.

Before you accuse me of a hate crime by using the Durham mother as an example of how government has such a sorry record of making things worse for the black underclass, consider the choices she and others have made.

Bob Wilson on 751 South: Good idea, lousy location

Here's an early look at this week's Durham News column by veteran journalist Bob Wilson.

Like a bad habit, the unwanted guest is back again. No, not 2011. Southern Durham Development’s ill-conceived 751 South project, the one that bids to transform the Durham-Chatham County line from rural to urban.

Earlier this month, Southern Durham submitted a revised site plan and rezoning request for the 167-acre site in the low country close to the upper reaches of Jordan Lake. To use the words of perennial opponent Steve Bocckino, “The rezoning is worse than the first one … and I wouldn’t have thought that possible.”

Oh, but the revision is indeed worse. Among other changes, the new plan raises the impervious-surface limit on most of the site from 55 percent to 70 percent, the maximum allowed by law. That’s playing awfully dicey with the troubled waters of Jordan Lake.

Upping the impervious-surface percentage to 70 percent is presumably tied into Southern Durham’s decision to scrap the detailed street plan in the first version, thus giving project developers more elbow room.

To add a bit of Cool-Whip to the dessert, Southern Durham also says it won’t insist on city annexation as a condition for donating land for schools to Durham Public Schools. That’s nice, but no cigar.

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