BREAKING: UNC student burglar, armed with knife, damages cheese

Have I mentioned lately that I love the Herald-Sun? Well, I do, and this kind of thing is why:

[the suspect], 23, of Legacy Terrace in Chapel Hill was arrested about 4:30 a.m. after police say he broke into a neighbor’s home, armed with a knife, and caused $300 damage to the front door and an estimated $5 in damage to some cheese in the residence.

This is one of those stories which just asks more questions than it answers. Was he seeking revenge on this cheese? Did he stab said cheese with the knife? Or was this “damage” done to the cheese of the “eat, digest, expel” variety?

Furthermore, he caused a suspiciously specific “estimated $5” in damage to the cheese – did these guys really go seek a cheese repair estimate, or are they just pulling numbers out of the air? Or are they writing off the whole wheel here?

Obviously, you’ve gotta stay tuned to the H-S as this story develops.

Liberty Warehouse marches towards its doom as “cool” new site plans are revealed

Having been allowed to decay for years under Greenfire’s watch, Liberty Warehouse (Durham’s last extant tobacco auction house) now has an execution date: Spring 2014.

The Warehouse’s trajectory was fixed when its roof collapsed in 2011, and Greenfire has been looking for a way out ever since. That way out (as mentioned previously) was in revoking the structure’s landmark status, then selling the property to a development firm named East West Partners.

East West Partners never gave any reason to hope that they would retain much of the structure, and there’s now official confirmation that the building will be almost completely destroyed (save re-use of some cosmetic elements) in the site plan (PDF) which was presented at a meeting organized by Preservation Durham. The non-profit had been one of the last holdouts in efforts to avoid demolition, but they gave up their fight last year as it became clear that there was no way to save the structure.

There’s something you should know, though: this new building is going to be cool. Here are some quotes from the developers care of

Retail space will be “really unique and cool,” he said.

“It’ll have a very warehouse-y look. It’ll have concrete floors, there’ll be exposed ceilings, a lot of the really unique, cool signage will be reused. … some really interesting spaces that we think are very characteristic of what is in Central Park.”

“We want to create really unique and cool public memorial to not only the building but to the tobacco auction business in Durham,” he said. “It’s something that’s missing.”

Well hell, are you telling me this thing is going to be… cool? I’m not going to tell you how to do your jobs, but here are some synonyms to try:

  • sweet
  • rad
  • killer
  • hip
  • bitchin’
  • bodacious
  • awesome
  • bootilicious
  • bangin’

There are some more details courtesy of The Indy Week:

The upscale Triangle developers behind the Woodcroft subdivision in South Durham and what they call the “urban village” of East 54 in Chapel Hill say the new Liberty will include 246 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, 24,000 square feet of retail space and a 391-space parking deck at its center. At its tallest, the building will stand five stories, with multiple courtyards.

My own feelings on this one are… complex.

It just plain sucks that the warehouse is being razed, but let’s face it, that ship sailed years ago when Greenfire let it fall apart. It’s great that the development is going to be mixed use, because the street level there really does beg for some retail to flesh out the corridor between downtown and Old North Durham, and there’s going to be more demand for apartments near downtown as the area continues to boom.


Guys, could you sound any more like corporate shills trying to piggyback off of a scene that developed organically? The small businesses that made Foster/Geer into what it is today braved some seriously sketchy times, and they turned a deserted ghetto into a seriously cool place to be, keeping all of those legit weird old buildings alive while doing so. And now you’re going to swoop in and put up some Tobacco Warehouse Wonderland theme park crap.

On paper it sounds like it has all the corporate lameness of the ATC, without any of the actual historic stuff that makes the ATC interesting and fun.

Well, c’est la vie. This is probably the best we could really hope for on such prime real estate, and an upscale mixed use development will beat a disintegrating historic warehouse.

I guess.

Durham’s education lottery: your chance to win a “good” school

No, I’m not talking about the “education” lottery run by the State; this is a far stranger animal: the DPS Magnet School lottery.

Before I talk about the lottery itself, a bit of background is in order.

As you may know, Durham has historically been… lacking…  in the whole “education” game. It’s not much of a secret that parents and would-be parents often land in Chapel Hill or Cary due to their superior schools, which post consistently better scores on end-of-grade testing.

Durham’s “neighborhood schools” (code for “the school you go to by default based on where you live”) really have been underperforming for decades. There are perfectly good reasons for this; specifically, Durham is a more diverse area than the more solidly middle class Chapel Hill and Cary. Durham has large populations of economically disadvantaged and non-native English speakers, so it’s no surprise that the overall statistics reflect more on the challenges of the student bodies rather than any inherent defect in the system itself.

In short: Durham’s public schools are bad because more of the students are starting from bad positions. If you examine the data (specifically with an eye for economic-ish factors) when looking at e.g. Great Schools dot org you can observe a pretty consistent pattern: the kids who aren’t on free / reduced lunch and aren’t English as a second language fare almost as well as their suburban neighbors. Still, the poorly performing schools do fare somewhat worse even for economically advantaged students, and (probably more troublingly) tend to have more violence and criminal activity surrounding them.

A large part of this is the legacy of Durham’s “white flight,” when affluent people (and their tax moneys) moved to the suburbs and abandoned the inner city schools. In response to the problem, the county and city school systems merged back in the ’90s, aiming for (in part / theoretically) a more even distribution of funds from suburban taxpayers to the failing inner city schools.

The magnet system was one of the early initiatives of the newly combined school system; probably its most visible success story is the Durham School of the Arts, which was founded (along with eight other magnets) in 1996 [Source: “Durham County: A History of Durham County, NC by Jean Bradley Anderson, pp 415].

Now I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how they were originally pitched, but from what I can tell the basic notion behind magnet schools was:

  • Take a failing inner city “neighborhood school” with no clear path to success, and shut it down.
  • Change the districting of the surrounding area, so you send those kids to other, less bad schools, freeing up the failing school to be repurposed.
  • Re-open the failing school with a “theme,” then allow students from all over the school system come there to receive a more specialized education there, and by so doing increase diversity.

By killing the failing schools and sending the students to “less bad” schools, you (hopefully) give them a better education. At the same time, the new magnet schools attract students from all over, which should make them more diverse than the (often very segregated) schools they replace. Furthermore, the neighborhood schools should “lose” students who opt for the magnet school, thus offsetting the addition of newly zoned students and hopefully limiting overcrowding.

Win win. Right?

Well… maybe.

There’s a weird thing that has happened with the DPS magnet schools: they’ve become some of the better performing schools in the district. So now, if you’re zoned for a poorly performing “neighborhood school,” magnet schools represent not just targeted programs that appeal to your child’s specific interests, but instead they’re your best chance to get into a better performing, safer school even if you live in a crappy area.

Here’s the trick to all of this: DPS magnet schools can only be entered if a parent makes a specific effort to get his or her kid into the magnet school. There are two basic ways to get into a magnet, both of which require that an online application to be filled out:

  • If you live in the “walk zone” (a .5 mile radius around a magnet school) you can get in due to proximity. Not all magnets allow this (e.g. DSA does not) but most do.
  • You enter… the lottery.

Your chances of winning the lottery vary, depending on which school you’re trying to enter, how much competition there is, and… other things. There is a byzantine set of rules which governs your odds, and what happens to you once you’re in. I don’t even really understand how all this works, and I’m having trouble finding out, but I’ll try to break down the factors here:

  • Once a student “wins” the lottery, they can stay in a magnet school until they outgrow it or leave (and few people decide to leave). This means your chances of winning are higher if you’re trying to get in at grade “breaks” (especially at K or Pre-K levels)
  • Oh, there’s an exception to that; if you got into a magnet due to a “walk zone,” and subsequently move out of the walk zone, you’re gonna have to win the lottery to stay.
  • In addition to the magic automatic “walk zone” of .5 miles, there’s also a “priority zone” for some schools which, while not automatic, will increase your odds of winning the lottery based on your current school and/or residence location.
  • In many cases, once you’re in at one magnet, you also have a preferential path to the next magnet up of the same type; so e.g. you have better odds if you try to go from a Montessori elementary school to a Montessori middle school.
  • If you want, you can apply for “sibling priority” which increases your odds of getting a sibling into a magnet school when a sibling is already in that magnet school.
  • If you work for a DPS magnet school, congratulations! You can take your kid with you.

Oh, and best of all? There are magnet preschools. If you win one of those, you get free pre-K education as well.

I don’t have hard numbers, but I’ve heard that your chance of getting in at an entry point is about 10-20%. Getting into a non-transitional grade is less common.

So in a very literal sense, Durham has an education lottery, in which the prize is a superior education, even including free child care for your kid who is too young for regular school (which, I know from experience, is worth nearly 5 figures).

Why do I bring this up now? Oh, just because the magnet deadline for the 2014-2015 school year is like… tomorrow. So if, you know, you’re hoping to win the lottery, you should probably get on that. will be operating on a two hour delay

Due to snowmageddon, all staff are advised to stay off the roads. Instead, please enjoy those delicious milk sandwiches that everybody seems to crave when Greg Fishel whispers the s word.

In less made up news, all schools are closed tomorrow, and even Duke is shutting down its bus service at 11 p.m. tonight. Classes are off until at least 10 a.m. tomorrow.

Here’s a picture of snow. Enjoy!


Request: can you help me understand the DPS magnet lottery?

This is a slightly unusual post in that it’s a question to you, the reader.

So: can somebody who actually fully understands the DPS magnet lottery system answer a few questions for me? The deadline for entry is this Friday, which reminded me that I should write a bit about the whole weird thing, but in reviewing what I actually know I realized there were some gaps in my understanding. I found that the DPS web site was… somewhat lacking.

Hit me up in the comments, or @durhamdotio on Twitter, if you can lend a hand.

Also! I haven’t talked much about state politics much lately, because Durham’s been interesting enough, but if you’re curious it appears that things are getting kind of weird in Raleigh. Like… seriously.

Some brief thoughts about the protests

One quick piece of news: DPD Chief Lopez showed up at the vigil last night in street clothes (confirmed by media outlets) to show his respects. Today I heard a rumor that the family had hoped that he would not attend. Big honking disclaimer: this is Internet hearsay, and could be totally inaccurate.

Regardless, the vigil itself was by all accounts peaceful and respectful. If I hear more I’ll update this post.

Now, some personal observations / thoughts on the protest. This is opinion. Feel free to disagree.

  • I think the DPD nailed this one. They were really pro. Stayed out of the way when they weren’t needed, made their presence felt when they were, and they weren’t trigger happy. Well done guys.
  • Weird thing – when I was tooling around on my bike, I had unmarked DPD cruisers hanging out with me. Guess they thought I was up to no good despite staying well away from the march. I waved at a few of them, but they didn’t stop to talk, so who really knows. If any of you plainclothes dudes are reading this, shoot me a tweet or something.
  • The Herald-Sun may think I was somehow aiding the protesters by riding around. Seriously.
  • This is a weird group of people. There were some harmless crunchy / peaceful / earnest folks in there, hoping to express legitimate concerns about police misconduct. There were some god-fucking-legit-scary “anarchists,” wearing masks, shouting “fuck the police,” and looking to break shit. There were some incredibly young kids just looking for a chance to screw around. There were tourists, like myself, just trying to make sense of it and taking pictures. There were undercover cops.

As for you earnest people;  you want to protest city or DPD policy? There are real things to protest, this is good. This is a goddamn democracy. Make your voice heard. Here are some pro tips on how to protest, though:

  • Try doing it in the daylight.
  • Do it with a permit.
  • Invite the police to attend. Uniforms are a plus.
  • Invite the church dudes to attend. Robes and staves and funny hats and stuff are a plus.
  • Ask the council to attend. You elected them, right? Make them work for you.
  • Do not attend a non-permitted event, unless the event plans only actions which do not require a permit. For example: if you want to march in the middle of the road and block traffic, you can do that legally with a permit, but just showing up and doing it without a permit is illegal. Why would you want to break the law on something like this when it can be so easily avoided?
  • If dudes at your event are wearing masks and wielding telescoping clubs? Maybe that’s not where you want to be, OK?
  • Most importantly: do not let the kids looking to break shit use your earnestness as a shield for their petty crime. It undermines your cause and robs you of your legitimacy.

No major confrontation at tonight’s march

I’ll post more tomorrow, but the long and short of it is that (as far as I observed) there was some damage of DPD cruisers and a massive police presence downtown, but it seemed like the cops kept to the sidelines, the protesters didn’t do anything to incite them beyond the vandalism, and there was no direct confrontation.

I’ll count that as a positive outcome. Good work from the DPD in not being provoked by the petty crime, but in being prepared to act if really needed.

I tweeted a bit during the event, but I kept my distance and didn’t see everything. Accuracy of my comments tonight is definitely not guaranteed.

I did encounter one dude with a hammer at the church. He asked where the cops were – so he could “keep an eye on them.” I told him they were at DPDHQ.


WRAL is reporting that some of the cruiser-vandalizers were arrested.

Below are some pictures I took. The crowd actually grew as it went; I saw some tweens on skateboards rushing to join in as they marched along Main (“fuck yeah, there they are” are the exact words they used, I believe).

The chant I heard from the crowd went something like: “no justice, no peace, fuck the police.”

I tooled around on my bike. I honestly think people thought I was a cop for a good bit of the time, since they were dressed exactly as I was, so I kept way far away for the most part. I didn’t see the damage to cruisers personally. Most of my pictures were blurry since my hands were shaking – I was honestly a bit scared of this thing, despite being on my sweet fixie and ready to scram at a moment’s notice.

P1020859 P1020863 P1020869 P1020871

March on the DPDHQ is planned for Jan 19 after all

Despite initial signs to the contrary, according to this facebook post (added yesterday) it looks like another march on DPDHQ is being planned for this Sunday (prior to the church sanctioned event at Immaculate Conception):

Join us January 19th for a peaceful march that will mark 2 months since the death of our beloved brother, son, and friend: Jesús “Chuy” Huerta.

Chuy’s death has become a nationwide issue because of the demonstrations that have taken place. Please come and join those who have been in the streets from the beginning and let’s make this call for justice even stronger.

The march is scheduled to begin at 17:30, and the intent is to march from DPDHQ to Immaculate Conception for the vigil afterward.

Thanks to a commenter for bringing this to my attention.


The H-S now has an article up. Unsurprisingly the vigil’s organizers aren’t too keen on the whole march thing.


The Facebook post has been updated. The protest will begin at the Catholic church, march on DPDHQ, then return to the church.

The march will start at the Immaculata Conception Catholic Church. We will all meet in the parking lot and leave from there and then return for the vigil. Please make sure to park on the side streets close to the church because there won’t be a lot of parking at the church.


Another great article in the HS; this one looks a bit into the march organizer (Rafael Estrada), notes that the Church is distancing itself from the march, and perhaps most interestingly notes that the family itself appears to be split on whether to attend the march.

PIZZA NEWS: Cookery to host more “Toro Dreams of” events, Pompieri opens

First up, Pizzeria Toro!

Here’s the bad news: they’re still out of commission while work on the kitchen continues. The owners originally hoped to be open “by the new year,” but that obviously didn’t happen; there’s no official estimate as of now, and they’re planning to do more Cookery charity events over the next few weeks, so I imagine we’re at least a month away.

Now the good news: “Toro Dreams of Pho” is next in Toro’s “Dreams of” series of pop-up restaurants, and it’s presently scheduled for February 3. I managed to hit up the most recent event, “Toro Dreams of Billy,” and it was a ton of fun. The Cookery is one hell of a venue, and I really recommend you swing by one of these while you can. This week featured BBQ by Billy Cotter (who, along with his wife Kelli, owns Toast), and it was pretty killer. Aside: the Cotter power couple is teaming up with Cookery owners Nick and Rochelle Hawthorne-Johnson on the Dashi ramen house, which appears to be coming in 2014.

In other PIZZA NEWS: did you hear about Pompieri?

Pompieri Pizza is the new venture by Bull City Burger and Brewery‘s Seth Gross, located in the historic Fire Station No. 1 building near Dos Perros. I haven’t managed to check it out yet, but Carpe Durham is (as usual) first on the scene, and it sounds promising. I already dig BCBB, so I’m excited to try its pie-slinging sibling, and more downtown pizza options are always welcome (especially while Toro is out of commission).

One sadness: it looks like no delivery, and no call-ahead takeout. Lilly’s and Pop’s are great and all, but I wouldn’t mind more options for when I’m too lazy to leave the house.