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Downtown 'Ambassadors' hit the streets

Major, the bronze bull of CCB Plaza, was keeping an eye on downtown Ambassador Larry Brown this morning, as the 10-member Clean & Safe Ambassador team got a ceremonial introduction before heading off to keep the city center tidy, friendly and secure.

The Ambassadors are an element of the downtown Business Improvement District, a program for promoting the area and making sure visitors and potential investors have a good experience of downtown. The City Council levied a surtax of 7 cents per $100 valuation on property owners within the BID to pay for it.

Some of those property owners objected, organizing an unsuccessful "Stop the BID" campaign. Downtown Durham Inc.

"My hope is we will do a good enough job that over time they will become supporters of it," said Downtown Durham Inc. President Bill Kalkhof. "I'm convinced that it will make a difference ... but we've got to prove it."

Kalkhof puts off run for office

Downtown Durham Inc. President Bill Kalkhof has been often mentioned as a possible candidate for city council some day, but this week Kalkhof announced, "That day is not today."

In a letter to "friends and supporters," Kalkhof (right) acknowledged that he does plan to run for public office, but now he enjoys his job and feels he has work still to do at DDI. Also that he would need to retire from DDI if he ran, and whenever he does retire he plans "to take some time for myself."

Kalkhof has led DDI since its creation in the early 1990s.

With filing opening at noon Monday, Durham has four announced candidates for three at-large city council seats: incumbents Eugene Brown and Diane Catotti, and challengers Steve Schewel and Victoria Peterson. Filing for the fall elections closes Aug. 12.

Peterson, Allison question DDI contract

The Durham County commisisoners approved a $54,000 contract with Downtown Durham Inc. tonight, but not without questions and comments from two dependably outspoken citizens.

Lavonia Allision, long-time head of the Durham Committe on the Affairs of Black People, said the amount was reasonable for the stated purpose -- "to perform the functions of economic development in the downtown area" -- but pointed out that other organizations are trying to do the same thing in other parts of town without the county's money.

Peterson had much the same point to make.

"Why do we have two systems here?"  Peterson said. "This organization and the Chamber of Commerce are allowed to get direct contracts, economic development contract [with the county]. ... We have other organizations in durham that are trying to train and put people to work. ... in Northeast Central Durham and other parts of Durham."

Peterson, a frequent candidate for public office who speaks at almost every meeting of the county commissioners and City Council, has been raising this issue at every opportunity for months. She wants a similar contract for a program she runs that offers occupational training in fiber-optic technology.

"I'm asking somebody, please investigate," she said.

DDI: no stand on 'blinking billboards'

Downtown Durham Inc. is taking no position on the digital billboard issue.

'Cool' it

The new Performing Arts Center has been debuted, reviewed, lit up — but there's still something about the view.

No, not the view of the county jail right across Mangum Street. The view uptown, across the railroad tracks and the parking lot where the Durham Hosiery Mill used to be and, before that, Julian Shakespeare Carr's fabulous Carrolina Hotel.

It's your name

Renaissance Downtown Durham, a nonprofit branch of Downtown Durham Inc., is selling name recognition to raise money for the Durham Athletic Park's new seats.

For $100 per seat, or $2,000 and $5,000 per box, you get a tax deduction, one free pass per seat to the World Beer Festival, your name on the seat or box you pay for and your name on a plaque at the gate. Details here.

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