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A sale for frugal fashionistas

If you love fashion but hate those department store prices, check out the upcoming Dress for Success sale at Durham's Northgate Mall.

Besides the great prices -- as much as 90 percent off -- you'll be helping Triangle women in need.

And because the sale is this Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3 and 4, in the midst of North Carolina's sales tax holiday, you'll save on the sales tax, too.

Transit series, Point Counterpoint columns continue in today's Chapel Hill News

Voting is under way on Orange County's half-cent sales tax for transit. Today's Chapel Hill News features Part 3 in staff writer Tammy Grubb's 5-part series on the transit plan, which includes a 17 mile rail line between Chapel Hill and Durham, bus rapid transit on MLK Boulevard, and an AMTRAK train station in Hillsborough. 

We also continue our point/counterpoint series that began Sunday. In today's edition Bonnie Hauser, president of Orange County Voice, and Thomas Campanella, a UNC planning professor, weigh in against and for the tax, respectively.  Here are excerpts.

Hauser: Triangle Transit's plan was originally developed for the Triangle region, but Wake County and RTP are not participating. Durham supports the plan – which provides light rail through their downtown and targeted development areas. Orange County’s plan completes Durham’s rail line but ignores changing demographics, accelerating growth in Chatham and Mebane, and emerging transit corridors along 15-501, Carolina North, and in the county. I’m voting against the tax because I believe we need a better plan – one that provides flexible and reliable transit system that fits the area’s changing density and commuter priorities, and motivates citizens to leave our cars at home. (Read Hauser's whole essay here.)

Campanella: his November we have an opportunity to build a new train station and get Orange County back on track. The half-cent sales tax public transit referendum, if passed, would provide funds to develop a new Amtrak depot in Hillsborough – a facility that would benefit all Orange residents, especially those in the northern part of the county. The new depot, located just off Churton Street a stone’s throw from downtown, would be a regional transit hub, served by the 420 bus from Chapel Hill. ... The railroad is a rich vein that runs through our county; we need only tap it. A vote in favor of public transit on November 6 is a vote to plug Orange County back into the nation’s rail grid. It’s about time. (Read Campanella's whole essay here.)

What do you think of the transit plan? Please send your letters (up to 300 words) to editor@newsobserver.com by 5 p.m. today to help get them all published by Election Day.  Thanks.

Read more here: http://blogs.newsobserver.com/orangechat/home#storylink=cpy

Transit "Point/Counterpoint" series begins in the Chapel Hill News

Voting has begun on Orange County's half-cent sales tax for a future light rail and expanded bus service. Sunday saw Part 2 in staff writer Tammy Grubb's 5-part series looking at the transit plan, which includes a 17 mile rail line between Chapel Hill and Durham, bus rapid transit on MLK Boulevard, and an AMTRAK train station in Hillsborough. 

We have also begun running letters and guest columns on the transit plan, including a point/counterpoint series that began Sunday. Orange County Commissioners Bernadette Pelissier and Earl McKee weighed in for and against the referendum. Here are excerpts.

Pelissier: "Some feel that the plan is not perfect. Some say we only need buses. We already have buses that are not on time because of traffic congestion. Some say we will still have congestion. The transit plan is not meant to solve all our congestion problems. Some feel that we do not need light rail between Orange County and Durham County. Yet, the majority of Orange County citizens who leave Orange County for work go to Durham County and vice-versa. Some feel that light rail costs too much. What about the cost of new roads? How can buses operate efficiently within congested roadways?" (Read full essay here.)

McKee: "The proposed light rail system is a regional system in name only. A Chapel Hill to Durham light rail connection provides limited service on one leg of the Triangle Region and no service to other Triangle communities or the RDU Airport without multiple bus transfers where bus service already exists. ... We need to invest our transit funds to build a truly regional bus system reaching most of our population centers and our outlying communities. For a fraction of the cost of light rail, we can increase bus hours, reduce wait times, add new routes and expand bus service into other communities with growing commuter populations. These actions taken together will increase ridership and create a truly regional transportation system without placing an undue burden on the taxpaying public." (Read full essay here.)

What do you think of the transit plan. Please send your letters (up to 300 words) to editor@newsobserver.com by 5 p.m. Wednesday to help get them all published by Election Day.  Thanks.

Fact check: Are N.C. tax rates the highest in Southeast? Depends on the map

Claim: “The best incentive for new jobs in North Carolina ... is not to have the highest sales tax, the highest corporate tax and the highest income tax in the Southeast, which is what we have right now.”

Speaker: Pat McCrory

Context: McCrory compares North Carolina’s tax rates to its peers as part of his pitch to make the state more competitive and business-friendly. We will look at just the tax rates here.

Fact check: McCrory critique of Dalton on sales tax is correct

Claim: “There is only one person up here who has proposed new taxes and that is the lieutenant governor along with Gov. Perdue, when just three, four months ago they were recommending a 15 percent sales tax increase.”

Speaker: Republican candidate Pat McCrory, gubernatorial debate Oct. 3

Context: McCrory hit his Democratic rival early in the debate for supporting a sales-tax hike pitched earlier this year by Gov. Bev Perdue.

Fact check: RGA ad hitting Dalton on sales tax is false

Claim: "Now, Walter Dalton is pushing Perdue's 15 percent tax increase -- that will kill 8,000 jobs."

Speaker: Republican Governors Association TV advertisement

Context: The RGA debuted a new TV commercial Sept. 28 that attacked Democratic candidate Walter Dalton for supporting a sales tax increase.

Coble and Matthews pose questions about Wake transit plan

David King, the Triangle Transit general manager, is working up the answers to two lists of probing questions about the Wake County transit plan – one from a business group that likes the proposal for new trains and more buses, and one from county commissioners who don’t like it.

Durham County voters have approved a half-cent sales tax to pay for more buses, commuter trains and light rail trains.  Orange County voters are expected to vote likewise in November for buses and light rail.  But the Wake commissioners have not said when or whether they will approve Wake’s transit plan and schedule a referendum on the proposed sales tax that would help pay for it.  

“We believe that a half-cent sales tax increase and associated fee increase during high unemployment and poor economic conditions must be approached with extreme caution,” Paul Coble and Phil Matthews, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Wake commissioners, said in an Aug. 6 letter (see PDF attached to this blog post, below) to King.  ... [MORE]

Commentary: 'A clear and urgent need'

Here is an early look at the full version of a guest column running in Sunday's Chapel Hill News.  Please tell us if you support the half-cent sales tax for mass transit at editor@newsobserver.com or below (with your name if you'd like your comments published in the newspaper.). Thanks.

By Bejamin Haven and James Carnahan

Orange County has a clear and urgent need for the additional transit services that would be funded by the half-cent sales tax now under consideration by the County Commissioners for a fall referendum.
Whether you live in town or a rural area, we all have an obligation to create a sustainable legacy for those who will come after us – to curtail our carbon footprint, establish a resilient economy and make Orange County affordable to a diverse population.  Public transit is an indispensible tool for achieving these goals.

The Piedmont is still growing at an extraordinary pace; the Triangle Region alone is expected to add more than one million people over the next 20 years [U.S. Census].  By 2030, an additional 40,000 people are projected to make their home in Orange County [NC Office of State Budget, Planning, and Management].  This growth will tax our transportation infrastructure, contributing to longer traffic delays and more carbon emissions.  Already, the Triangle wastes 12.7 million gallons of fuel annually due to congestion [Texas Transportation Institute].   We can’t continue to rely on fossil fuels and sprawl-oriented development patterns, and our current transportation system is inadequate for the population boom that we face.  It’s time to invest in a real transit plan to meet our current and future needs.  

The added half-cent sales tax would specifically fund public transportation.  The Federal Government will not kick in matching funds to get transit projects off the ground unless Orange County can prove that it is capable of raising capital to finance part of these ventures.  In other words, we will not see transit improvements, including bus service expansion, a light rail line from UNC Hospitals to Downtown Durham, or a Hillsborough Intercity rail station, unless we get this  tax referendum on the ballot and passed by a simple voting majority.

Durham is already on board, putting a similar referendum on the ballot and voting to fund transit last year.  However, they can’t do it alone, and a potential light rail line connecting Orange County to Durham depends on us sharing in the cost.  It’s time for Orange County, too, to invest in transit to support the future health of our community.

For Joe Bryan, the transit tax vote is a question of 'when,' not 'if'

As the Wake County commissioners move toward a vote in May or June on whether to put a transit tax on the November ballot, Knightdale Republican Joe Bryan could turn out to be the swing vote.

Bryan says Wake voters have the right to decide whether to levy a half-cent local sales tax to pay for transit investments, but he hasn’t figured out whether 2012 should be the year for them to vote on it.

By all appearances, he is agonizing over his decision. ... [MORE]

Rush-hour commuter train plan chugging toward a Wake County vote

Transit planners are nailing down details, including the locations of four Raleigh train stops, for a $655 million plan to run rush-hour commuter trains between Duke in West Durham and Garner. (See today's Road Worrier with reader comments).

You can read tons of details on the buses-commuter trains-light rail plans for Wake, Durham and Orange counties at the ourtransitfuture.com website.  It took some searching but I finally found the July 2011 Alternatives Analysis reports on this page.  (Note: When you see mention of the "Durham-Wake" corridor, that's the commuter trains.  There are separate light-rail studies for the "Durham-Orange" and "Wake" lines.)

The Wake County commissioners face a big vote in May (probably after the primary election) on whether to approve an ambitious plan for more buses, new commuter trains and new light rail trains in that chronological order. And whether to let voters decide in November ... [MORE].

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