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Once homeless, man gets a new start on life

Harry "Pony" Cook, who spent 20 years on the street, gets a news start in life thanks to the love and support of a good woman.

First Night Raleigh celebration

First night Raleigh celebration welcomes 2009.

Rickshaw confessionals not exactly risque

Earlier this month my colleague Josh Shaffer wrote about Raleigh Rickshaw joining with NBC-17 to capture video of riders who agree to be taped. Some of the first video footage has now been released and you can view it here.

A warning to those who fall asleep easily. The footage, which is supposedly the best of the bunch, is incredibly boring. This probably shouldn't be all that surprising. Raleigh may be a lot of things, but it's not generally known as wild and crazy place late at night. Then again, maybe all the people doing crazy things in rickshaws just refuse to be recorded.


What's quirkier than an acorn?

It seems fitting that the city of Raleigh should end the year on yet another “Best Of” list.
This month the travel Web site TripAdvisor named Raleigh’s New Year’s Eve acorn drop No. 10 on its list of America’s quirkiest New Year’s Eve events.

Raleigh has already been named to more than 20 “Best Of” lists this year, including the Best American City for Singles by Every Day with Rachael Ray, and the Healthiest City for Men by Men’s Health magazine. TripAdvisor’s list was compiled using the sort of subjective judgments behind most “Best Of” lists. The list is based on different New Year’s Eve events’ popularity among TripAdvisor users and the Web site editors.

The news that there are nine other New Year’s Eve events in America more quirky than the acorn drop is likely to shock and disappoint many. Look up “quirky” in the dictionary, and you should see a picture of an acorn dropping.

Many of the events deemed more quirky involved the dropping of other strange objects: a glowing pickle in Mount Olive, a giant piece of cheese in Plymouth, Wis., a giant sausage in Elmore, Ohio, and a giant edible bologna in Lebanon, Pa.

At this point, Raleigh’s only real option is to start a campaign to drop something next year that is so quirky it will dumbfound the connoisseurs of quirk. TriPol is now accepting suggestions.

CAT to Amtrak: Raleigh's missing link

One subject was skipped over in Sunday's story about big Amtrak business at an overcrowded little station in Raleigh ("Rediscovering rail"), reader L. Beauchamp says:

I enjoyed reading your article on Amtrak very much but wonder why you did not mention the lamentable fact that the city of Raleigh has no bus service to the Amtrak station. It is unbelievable that the buses all originate at Moore Square Station not too far from Amtrak and surely could make a detour so riders would be able to leave their cars home to get the trains and return from their trips?

That's a good point.  Jeff Mann of Amtrak did mention that Amtrak passengers frequently are looking for a bus when they step off the train: "I can't tell you how many folks we have who will arrive on a train and say, 'Which bus do I take to get to Crabtree Valley or North Hills?'"

Raleigh hopes to build what it calls a multi-modal center downtown, where buses and trains will be under one roof, or at least connected by a covered walkway.

Freedom after 11 years

Tags: News | photos | prison | Raleigh

See a photo gallery of Steve Berryman's first days of freedom after 11 years in prison. Staff photos by Ted Richardson.

Drivers gripe about Cary's fleeting yellow light

Red-light camera: Kildaire Farm @ Maynard OK, maybe the Road Worrier's crude method of counting time won't hold up in traffic court ("Yellow is fleeting on Cary traffic light").

If the Road Worrier wants to do a more credible job of counting traffic signal times, reader Paul Ferguson points out that even cheap digital watches have timer options. Agreed.

But you get the idea: When you only get a brief yellow-light warning that you'll have to stop soon, it's easy to get caught running a red light.

How brief is the yellow light warning at some intersections in Cary's red-light camera program?

Cary says 3 or 4 seconds. I'm skeptical. And some readers are skeptical, too.

I really believe that the yellow traffic light at Kildaire Farm and Maynard goes off within 1 or 2 seconds - Trupti Desai . . .

The news obit

We are again receiving complaints about the contents of an obituary published in our news pages. At least one reader has demanded an "apology" for the contents of the recent obituary of Marguerite Lightner, the widow of Raleigh's first and only black mayor. The obituary noted that Mrs. Lightner was tried and acquitted in 1975 of knowingly accepting stolen goods. The complaints from Mrs. Lightner's friends and families are similar to questions we invariably receive when the subject of a news obit has a life history that includes elements that are not entirely positive.

A fair question raised by readers is why bring up something that happened so long ago? Not everything in a person's past has to be examined, but some things do not lose their significance with the passage of time.

When we set out to write an obituary of a person in the public eye, we are not insensitive to the feelings of family and friends of the deceased. But an obituary that appears in the news pages is not a tribute, such as the notices published in the News & Observer under the auspices of the classified advertising department, which collects payments for obituaries written by family members or their representatives.

A person chosen for a news obit may have been selected because of a meritorious life of public service. Most often, the subject is simpy someone who holds a public position or is well-known within a community we cover.

The news obit when done well connects the individual's life story to the cultural and social context of the community and the community's history.

Because of her involvement in civic endeavors, Marguerite Lightner may have been chosen even if she had not been Clarence Lightner's widow. But she was and her 1974 arrest was not an insignificant factor in ending the political career of a man who surprised the nation in 1973 by winning a popular election for mayor of a Southern city where blacks were just 16 percent of the registered voters.  This was less than a decade after passage of the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the region was still significantly segregated in jobs, schools and housing.

To this day many in Raleigh believe that the mayor's wife was set up by his political enemies. Such a conspiracy was never proven. Nor did the state prove that Mrs. Lightner committed a crime, according to a Wake County jury.

Despite the not guilty verdict that ended a trial receiving national attention, Clarence Lightner lost his bid for reelection after serving just one term.

 I was here during that period and contributed to the news coverage. It is understandable that many people do not want to be reminded of such an unsettling event. But it is a part of Mrs. Lightner's life story.

Linda Williams

Senior Editor/News 


Update: House Creek Greenway

Bids will go out after first of the year, construction should begin next summer on vital link in Raleigh's greenway system.

NCSU bell goes back to the city of Raleigh

A bell dating back to 1870 and considered the oldest surviving artifact from the Raleigh Fire Department will be returned to the city this morning. It has been in N.C. State's possession since the late 1940s.

Care to check it out? the bell will officially be returned at 10 a.m. at the Central Fire Department on South Dawson Street. Chancellor James Oblinger will give the bell  to Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and sign a document officially transferring ownership.

A little history -  The bell toned originally in the Metropolitan Hall city market building on Fayetteville Street. In 1914 it was moved to the West Morgan Street fire station tower, where it remained until 1938. 

The university acquired the bell in the late 1940s and placed it atop Withers Hall in 1948. In 2007, graduate student Matt Robbins, in researching the bell's history, connected the dots and realized it was the same bell that had occupied space in the two fire facilities.

Last month, the fire department used members of its urban search and rescue team to remove it so it could be formally returned to the city.

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