(6.03.05) Labonte Prefers Daytona Location
RALEIGH — The father of NASCAR champions Terry and Bobby Labonte says he thinks the NASCAR Hall of Fame being pursued by North Carolina officials should be built in Daytona Beach, Fla., not in Charlotte, and that no public funds should be invested in the project, regardless of its location. NASCAR should pay for its own museum, said Bob Labonte, who lives in Trinity and is a city councilman there. “I don’t think taxpayer money should go to build hall of fames, or ballparks, or race tracks.” Earlier this week, Charlotte officials submitted their bid for the museum to NASCAR.
(5.17.05) Schools Consider Steroid Testing
RALEIGH — When former Major League Baseball star Jose Canseco alleged in his book, Juiced, that big-name sluggers used steroids to crush the ball and catapult their careers into the record books, Congress wasn’t the only group to take his charges seriously. Canseco’s allegations, combined with previous news of steroid use at the Olympic and college levels, have some North Carolina educators wondering if steroids have infiltrated high school athletics and if they should be included in random drug-testing programs already conducted by some districts. The state has no official policy on student drug testing.
(5.02.05) Age Was Focus Of Book Fight
CHARLOTTE — Kathy and Peter Braun have won what they believe is a partial victory for parents with young children in Charlotte’s public schools. Still, they shake their heads in astonishment at the hoops they were forced to jump through to convince officials of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that the book Maniac Magee isn’t appropriate for third-graders. For months, system administrators rejected the couple’s pleas for a meeting with the committees reviewing their official challenge to the use of the book, based on concerns about its language and themes.
(4.05.05) Indigent-Defense Costs Increase
RALEIGH -- Spend a few minutes talking to Pete Clary and it’s easy to picture this criminal defense attorney who calls the constitution “a pretty neat thing” using his legal knowledge, charm, and wit to persuade a jury to see a case from his client’s point of view. Clary is also a staunch advocate of his role in the justice system and of the 13 lawyers he supervises as head of the 2-year-old Forsyth County Public Defender Office. He’s convinced that legal representation by a public defender’s office, which he likens to a specialized law firm, results in high-quality service to indigent clients and that its lawyers are among the best.
(3.18.05) Home School Meets Family Need
RALEIGH — In 2000, as Aaron Johnson began his fourth frustrating year in the public school system, a school employee gave his mom a piece of advice she believes rescued her son from a disastrous future: consider home-schooling Aaron. Kathy Johnson had heard of home schooling but knew little of what was involved or required. She spent hours scouring the Internet in a desperate search for a way to avoid the consequences of the alarming conclusion she had reached: Her young son’s future was being jeopardized by an inflexible, one-size-fits-all public-school system. After the switch, Aaron made three years of progress in just one year.
(3.14.05) '63 Law Ups Scotland's Tax Bite
RALEIGH — Clint Willis isn’t bitter toward Scotland County voters, even though they didn’t re-elect him to the county Board of Commissioners in November. He regrets only that he couldn’t put the brakes on residents’ growing property-tax burden. His hard feelings are reserved for what he thinks helped get him booted from office: his opposition to the county’s 42-year-old “school floor” law. Willis told residents the 1963 state law, which applies only to Scotland County, places an undue financial burden on property owners by requiring them to fund local schools at a specific level.
(1.12.05) NC Localities Seek Federal Pork
RALEIGH — Cities and counties searching for ways to fund more public services are looking beyond local revenue sources such as property tax, sales tax, and fees. Many are turning to federal grants to supplement their budgets, a process that goes largely unnoticed by those outside the circle of politicians and bureaucrats involved in tapping the nation’s cookie jar. “It’s hard now to find a purely local function,” said Carl Stenberg of at UNC-Chapel Hill. “Many have some state or federal mix.” Nationally, there were 10,000 federal pork projects costing $23 billion in the ’04 budget, up from 2,000 projects in ’98.
(11.15.04) Board Picks Taxes Over Privatization
RALEIGH — Caving to pressure from environmental activists, the Alamance County Board of Commissioners has rescinded its initial approval and is prohibiting its county manager from investigating a public-private partnership that could create a multimillion-dollar revenue stream for the county by turning its solid-waste landfill into a regional operation. Only the retiring chairman supported the staff recommendation to pursue interest by four companies in operating the Austin Quarter Landfill near Saxapahaw. The 4-1 vote in September all but guaranteed Alamance County residents will be hit with multiple property tax rate increases over the next several years.
(10.21.04) Durham Gets Serious About Guns
RALEIGH — To some local officials, it is unthinkable to publicly acknowledge a city is plagued by gun and gang violence. But in Durham, that’s exactly what District Attorney Jim Hardin did when he applied for and received a U.S. Department of Justice grant to hire a prosecutor specializing in getting gun-toting criminals off Durham’s streets. “Durham hasn’t been shy about exposing this issue, as other communities have,” Hardin said. He hopes the three-year, $120,000 federal grant, coupled with $30,000 in matching funds from the city and Durham County, will reduce Durham’s gun-related crimes. Durham is one of only a few cities to receive the funding.
(8.23.04) Is North Carolina Really Protected?
RALEIGH — It’s been nearly 10 years since America’s most infamous domestic terrorist killed 168 people by blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City. But to Danny Turner, seed and fertilizer inspector supervisor for the NC Agriculture Department, Timothy McVeigh’s legacy looms large over the jobs of field specialists who work with retailers that sell ammonium nitrate to farmers and gardeners. As the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks nears, anti-terrorism funding for North Carolina has topped $200 million. Since 1999, more than $186 million in federal grants has been received or allocated to the state. The majority is used at the local level by first responders.