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Energy bill repeal rebuffed

State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird writes to her constituents weekly. Here is an excerpt from her latest message.

A far-reaching environmental measure was passed several years ago. It was called the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) and required energy companies to purchase 7 to 14 percent of their energy from alternative sources by 2020. It has proved successful, providing a boost to our solar energy industry as well as preventing the need to build more coal or nuclear power plants.

This session, a bill was introduced that would have repealed this alternative energy requirements. In a victory in this grim legislative session, a House committee voted down the chair’s own bill to repeal the renewable energy requirement. Even Republicans joined to vote the bill down.

Interestingly, Duke and Progress Energy that have participated in the alternate energy production goals, and neither asked to have the requirement repealed. The bill was purely ideologically based on the idea that government shouldn’t force industry to meet such requirements. Solar is one of the fastest-growing industries in the state. And while there are complaints that the solar industry is subsidized, the oil and gas industry is much more heavily subsidized.

Tell us about your mom and win a free book

What did you learn from your mom?

Or what did you learn from watching someone else be a mom?

The Chapel Hill News and The Durham News are seeking short reader essays about motherhood in time for Mother's Day. All the people who send us an essay will be entered in a random drawing for a free copy of Maya Angelou's new memoir "Mom & Me & Mom" or Richard Russo's "Elsewhere." (So you don't have to write the "best" essay, just send us one to be in the running.)

Try to keep your essay in the 200 to 400 word range. All entries must be received by 5 p.m. Monday, May 6, one week from today. Send them to editor@newsobserver.com with your photo and a photo of your mom if you like.

We'll pick two winners, and all the essays may get published in the newspaper.

Good luck, and Happy Mother's Day.

Maple View recalls 3 ice cream flavors

Maple View Farm is voluntarily recalling pint containers of Cookies & Cream, Carolina Crunch and Cookie Dough ice cream because the products contain allergens that were not declared on package labels.

Some or all of the products contain wheat, soy, almonds and peanuts, which can cause serious allergic reactions in people who have an allergy or sensitivity to these ingredients, according to a news release.

The recall affects 2,650 pints of ice cream distributed between Sept. 5, 2012, and April 24, 2013. The products were distributed to a limited number of grocery stores and specialty shops in Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Hillsborough, Mebane, Morehead City, Morrisville, Pittsboro, Snow Camp and Wilmington, the release said.

Hillsborough-based Maple View Farm initiated the recall after a label review during a routine inspection by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services determined the presence of allergens. The product was distributed in packaging that did not declare the presence of those allergens.

No complaints of allergic reactions to this product have been reported to date, according to the release.

Consumers who have allergies to these ingredients should return the product to the place of purchase or throw it away.

Maple View Farm is cooperating fully with the department and taking all steps necessary to ensure an effective recall, the release said.

Have Orange County/Chapel Hill driven out black residents?

Two articles in today's Chapel Hill News highlight Chapel Hill's shrinking African American population.

In our lead story today, staff writer Tammy Grub reports on work of a new group trying to preserve the character of the historically black Northside community. In 1980, 1,159 black residents called the area home; by 2010, there were just 690.

We have long reported the trend and those who attribute it to student encroachment, gentrification and other causes. To be fair, many of the older residents have died and passed on property to multiple heirs who have chosen to sell. At the same time, some community leaders say black middle class homebuyers moving to the region have chosen to live in other areas, such as Durham, where there is a large, thriving black community and cultural scene.

But an essay by UNC business professor Michael Jacobs on today's editorial page points to another reason for black flight.

Of the 25 largest counties in North Carolina, only two saw declines in their black population in the past decade -- and Orange County saw the biggest drop. The professor, a former U.S. Treasury official, says high taxes, overreliance on property taxes, and high government expenditures have made Orange County unaffordable to people of moderate and less means.

The professor did not mention the rural buffer, the ring around the urban southern part of the county past which water and sewer lines may not go. Critics say the buffer, which has preserved Orange County's rural character, has also artificially constrained housing supply, further driving up costs.

And last night, Carrboro aldermen grappled with their own affordability dilemma as the renovations and new owners of Collins Crossing challenge one of that town's affordable rental communities. The aldermen have formed a task force to look for answers, though the mayor says it is too late to affect what happens at Collins Crossing, the former Abbey Court condominiums.

Orange County's cost of living is the story right now, and for years to come. Work is under way to course correct: infrastructure is coming to the county's economic development districts to lure industry. Chapel Hill and Carrboro are embracing mixed use to help shift the tax base. But it will take more to hold on to and grow Orange County's shrinking racial diversity. The question is whether our leaders and the public that elects them are willing to take it on.

Tell us what you think at editor@newsobserver.com. Let's keep the conversation going.

Chapel Hill council back UNC voting rights petition

Chapel Hill’s Town Council joined UNC students Monday in support of early voting and student voting rights.

An N.C. House bill would shorten early voting periods, end same-day voter registration and require students to vote in their home county or by absentee ballot. A second, Senate bill would keep parents from claiming students as dependents on their taxes if they register to vote in another county or register their vehicles at a different address.

Shelby Hudspeth, director of state and external affairs for UNC’s Student Body, said the proposed legislation would negatively affect student voting rights and create a tax burden on parents. Similar resolutions have been sent to more than a hundred House and Senate members, news outlets and others, she said.

“UNC students consider the town of Chapel Hill their home. Many of us are active in the community, whether it’s through volunteering, having a job on Franklin Street or spending time on Franklin Street, so we feel that we should be able to participate actively through voting in elections here,” she said.

Before the council voted, Council member Matt Czajkowski pointed out that the town's support probably wouldn’t carry any authority with the state.

“Do you think that the town of Chapel Hill endorsing this will strengthen or weaken your position with (House) Speaker (Thom) Tillis and (Senate) President (Pro Tem Phil) Berger? If it were up to me, for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t start here,” he said.

Chapel Hillians win state award for community service

Two Chapel Hill 2020 leaders will be honored Wednesday at the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh for their service to the community.

George Cianciolo and Rosemary Waldorf, who served as Chapel Hill 2020 co-chairs, are among five winners of this year’s Governor’s Medallion Award. They also won the Key Volunteer Award (group/team category) and the Governor’s Service Award (group/team category) at an April 15 ceremony hosted by the Volunteer Center of Durham. The volunteer center manages the program in Durham and Orange counties.

According to a news release, town officials nominated them “for their extraordinary commitment to making Chapel Hill 2020 a plan that unifies the community and reflects our collective needs.”

They led more than 10,000 people in a yearlong discussion of Chapel Hill’s future in dozens of community meetings, events and in newspaper articles.

“George and Rosemary are truly deserving of these awards,” Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said. “Their commitment and leadership played a major role in Chapel Hill 2020’s success, and it is wonderful to see their service recognized.”

Waldorf is project manager for Bryan Properties and former mayor of Chapel Hill. Cianciolo is a Duke University associate professor of pathology and former chairman of the town Planning Board.

Chapel Hill focus group wants to hear from residents

Residents can comment Thursday on the goals for the Central West (Estes-MLK) planning process in a drop-by session at the Chapel Hill Public Library.

The event will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Meeting Room B. The Central West Focus Area Steering Committee has defined several important goals, including connectivity, pedestrian and bicycle safety, identity and sense of place, mixed uses, diversity, and environmental sustainability.

Steering Committee members and town staff will be at the event to answer questions and listen to concerns. The committee is drafting a small-area plan to guide development and potential rezonings.

For more information about the Central West Focus Area process, go online to www.townofchapelhill.org/centralwest.

Livability.com: Chapel Hill a top-shelf foodie town

When you're musing over the menu at your favorite spot this weekend, take a moment to reflect on the luxury of living in a “foodie” city.

Livability.com named Chapel Hill seventh among the nation’s Top 10 Foodie Cities and third in the South. You can read more about it at: http://bit.ly/153qlBl.

“Chapel Hill's culinary scene combines the staples of great Southern cuisine, the intricacy of Asian fusion and the simplicity of a sandwich,” Livability.com’s writers said.
“Residents strongly support local restaurants in Chapel Hill, where foodies don't just have favorite chefs but favorite farmers. A bounty of local farms – more than 100 within a 50-mile radius of Chapel Hill – supply restaurants with fresh ingredients from pork shanks and short ribs to lamb and cheese,” they said.

The rankings, released Thursday, were based on a high ratio of top-rated restaurants and chefs to the number of residents in cities with populations under 250,000. The rankings also looked at “signature indigenous foods that help define the culinary scene and the availability of fresh, quality ingredients.”

The top three cities: Decatur, Ga., Hoboken, N.J., and Bloomington, Ind.

Councilman's good work wins award

The American Heart Association named Chapel Hill Town Council member Lee Storrow the “Volunteer Advocate of the Year” this week.

The award was announced Tuesday during the association’s annual congressional Lobby Day – You’re the Cure on the Hill – in Washington, D.C.

“I’m honored to receive this award from the American Heart Association,” Storrow said. “After losing multiple family members to heart disease, I know how important good health policies are to make our state a healthier place.”

It is given each year to someone who makes a generous commitment of time, energy and talent in advocating for the association to key lawmakers, recruiting new advocates and serving as a grassroots organizer on American Heart Association issues.

Storrow is the managing director for the N.C. Alliance For Health Coalition. His work for the American Heart Association has helped to advance tobacco and obesity prevention goals. He also works on social media, lobbying and other education efforts.

Carrboro adds more library sites to the mix

By Sarah Mansur

The Board of Aldermen added four new sites Tuesday night to the list of potential locations for Carrboro’s future library.

The Orange County commissioners will consider the former Butler Garage behind Cat’s Cradle, the 300 East Main Street project, the recently purchased public parking lot at 203 S. Greensboro St. across from the Open Eye Café, and the 201 N. Greensboro St. site targeted by CVS developers.

The board ended up not discussing eminent domain last night. The issue won't reach the board's agenda until April 23.

The four new sites are in addition to the three locations that the board recommended to county commissioners last November: 401 Fidelity St., 1128 Hillsborough St. and Carrboro Town Hall at 301 W. Main St.

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