UberX hits Durham

and several other NC towns too. Uber started service in Raleigh several weeks ago, and at the time they mentioned they’d be coming to Durham soon. Well, now is soon:

Today at noon, uberX is hitting the streets in Durham and Chapel Hill along with four additional NC cities: Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville and Wilmington.

I’m not an Uber shill or anything, but I’m all for some disruption in transportation around here. It’s great to have some additional options while we wait (probably decades) for light rail to come to the area.

Take your guns to town, son

Quick bit of news for firearm owners out there in Durham county: you no longer need to register your handguns with the sheriff’s office. The measure passed both the House and Senate (and was backed by most everybody). The original law, as described by WRAL, was such that:

Durham County residents have 10 days from the purchase of a pistol, handgun or certain other types of weapons to register it with the clerk of Superior Court. The clerk does not digitize those records or make them available in any other format than paper files kept in filing cabinets.

Up until the repeal, persons who possessed unregistered guns could be charged with misdemeanors.

I’m having trouble finding confirmation from sources online, but the current conversation holds that the 1935 law was originally passed to restrict gun ownership among blacks. The idea was that there would be little awareness of the legislation, so a vast majority of gun owners would be unknowingly violating it; then, your local racist sheriff or deputy could go and apply the law selectively against people of color to prevent them from owning weapons.

The bill to repeal the law was sponsored by our own former councilman and present state Senator Mike Woodard during the 2013 session. Although it passed the Senate way back then, it got lost in the end of session shuffle, and the House never got around to it until now. The House’s action last week during the short session has sealed the deal, and the change doesn’t require McCrory’s signature, so it took effect immediately.

So, good riddance to this odd historical baggage, I reckon.

FOOD NEWS: Pizzeria Toro slated for July re-opening, Dashi gets location, Fullsteam on TV

A couple of downtown restaurant odds and ends for ya:

First up, following many months idle and with little fanfare, Pizzeria Toro has announced its return:

You can make that two wood-fired pizza options come late July, when the outstanding Pizzeria Toro, closed by a fire in November, is slated to reopen.

Toro’s been closed for months following a kitchen fire, and its return is definitely welcome.

By the way, I’m also pretty well impressed with Pompieri (from the BCBB crew) which opened during Toro’s absence. More better pizza options are good for everybody – now one of you guys needs to start delivering!

Next, Dashi – the upcoming noodle bar which is a joint venture of Toast’s Billy and Kelli Cotter and the Cookery’s Nick and Rochelle Johnson – has a final location. The restaurant will be near Rue Cler on W. Chapel Hill St, near the intersection with N. Mangum.

And finally, Fullsteam is going to be featured in this week’s episode of “Brew Dogs,” which airs tonight (Wednesday) at 9:00 p.m. on the “Esquire” cable network (or, alternately, whenever you feel like it on the Internet).

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/06/19/3945439/2014-durham-restaurant-guide.html#storylink=cpy

DPD releases details on Huerta case, CCB plaza suicide by cop, and shooting of knife-wielding suspect

The DPD this week is bringing back a few of blasts from the past, wrapping up some old cases.

First up is the Huerta case, which you guys should all have heard about by now, wherein a DPD officer brought in a teenager who subsequently shot himself while in the back of a DPD cruiser. The department found that the officer failed to search Huerta properly, and additionally he failed to properly activate the cruiser’s video system. The penalty? A week’s unpaid leave. This is, for what it’s worth, following many (how many? unclear to me – but more than a few) weeks of paid leave, so the penalty for screwing up seems to be a really long paid vacation followed by a shorter unpaid one. From the Indy Week:

Duncan apparently failed to discover Huerta’s gun during a standard pat-down during the teen’s arrest.

Duncan, who been with the police force for 16 months, also failed to re-activate the cruiser’s in-car video system after he detained Huerta. He was suspended without pay for 40 hours and given remedial training in transporting and handling prisoners

The DPD took a lot of heat for how all of this went down, and they’ve slightly modified their policies in response. The in-car cameras should now automatically re-activate (so presumably under the new policy we would have had footage of the incident) and the DPD will provide reports to the city manager within five days following officer-involved shootings or deaths.

Next is the 2013 case of Derek Walker, who wielded a “gun” downtown and goaded police into shooting him. The big news on this one is that the “gun” in question was not, in fact, an actual gun – just a pellet gun – and that Walker had actually talked about suicide by cop to a friend earlier. This is the first I’ve seen those two facts reported (though who knows, maybe I missed them earlier…)

This really removes any doubt that Walker was looking to end his own life when he engaged the DPD, and it’s a real tragedy that it couldn’t be avoided. The officer involved in the shooting was determined to have acted appropriately.

Also in the same H-S article is the followup report regarding the shooting of Jose Ocampo, who was “lunging” at a DPD officer while wielding a knife. The debate centered on whether Ocampo was trying to surrender the weapon when he was shot, as some witnesses claimed, but the DPD ultimately found that Ocampo was an apparent threat and the officer was justified in the fatal shooting.

My feeling is that, of the three, the Huerta case still stands out as being problematic, and one week’s suspension of the officer doesn’t really send a strong message to me that the DPD sees it as a big deal.

Council approves 2014-2015 budget

After much discussion, the budget is a done deal. Highlights:

  • Property taxes are going up by 2.37 cents / $100 assessed value to 59.12 cents / $100; that’s an increase of about 4.17%
  • The median price of a home in Durham county (as of February) was $172,000; the tax hike would equate to an extra $41 in city taxes for such a home.
  • The tax hike will cover, among other things:
    • salaries of some police officers and firefighters whose positions lost Federal funding
    • 6 parks and rec employees who will help maintain parks and greenways
    • capital needs of the garbage collection fleet (formerly paid for with a $1.80/month fee rather than a tax)
  • The total budget is $389.9M, up 3.4% from last year
  • Yard waste (brown bin) fees will go up by $1/month
  • Water and sewer rates will go up by 3%, stormwater rates will go up by 7.5%
  • Budgeted in the Capital Improvement Plan are:
    • $44M for a new police HQ
    • $7M for fire equipment
    • $4.2M for park upgrades
    • $20.5M for water and sewer infrastructure
    • $815,250 for sidewalks, “web 2.0” (really guys?), and to cover the funding gap caused by the legislature’s ban on business license fees.
  • Pay raises are in store for city employees, up 3% for those classed “general pay plan” and 3.5% for police and fire.
  • $500K for deferred maintenance
  • $1M for street repaving
  • $6M for fleet vehicles
  • $1.7M for “arts and culture”

The preliminary budget is available on the city web site. The final budget doesn’t seem to be online yet.

Not really a lot of surprises here, at least at first blush. If you see anything especially interesting or concerning, let me know in the comments.

DCM changes name… to DCM

I noticed that DCM has  gone through a bit of rebranding to reflect their non-central-park-adjacent location:

As many of you know, this co-op market was originally named with a location in the Durham Central Park district in mind. As we move into our actual location, on West Chapel Hill Street, conveniently located near to downtown, both Duke campuses, and many residential neighborhoods, we have changed the name of the market to avoid confusion, and to emphasize our cooperative structure. From now on, Durham Central Market will be known as Durham Co-op Market.

So, yeah, from now on you can just call it… DCM. I see what you did there, guys.

In addition to a new name, they’ve got a new (very slow at the time of this writing) web site at durham.coop. The grocer is currently planning to open “just after the new year” and looks to hire 20-30 employees prior to opening.

It’s crime season again on the ATT!

As always, during the warmer months, trail usage picks up, and with it so does the crime.WRAL reports that there are three victims of attacks over the past week; this is following an apparent homicide on one of the ATT spur trails last month.

Maybe the most disturbing part of the latest trend is that these thugs aren’t just looking for money, they’re out for lolz, beating the crap out of unsuspecting citizens just because they think it’s funny:

On Thursday, a man told police he was riding his bike south on the trail from Otis Street about 12:30 p.m. when a teen punched him in the face and knocked him off his bicycle. The teen said nothing and didn’t try to rob him.

This sounds like what’s known as “the knockout game” (which is also, as wikipedia helpfully informs me, called “polar-bear hunting” when referring to white victims). The game is played by finding an unsuspecting citizen and then beating them up, which doesn’t sound so much like “playing a game” as it sounds like “being a sociopath.”

In its continued ineptitude with respect to managing safety on the trail, the city hasn’t done anything of note to address such crime problems since I first wrote about the issue last summer.

I’ve got a few pieces of advice for anybody looking to use the ATT:

  1. Avoid the trail between Elmira Park and Otis Street. Almost every instance of assault or homicide is within a mile of this very specific area. I’ve never even seen a cop on this stretch (maybe they’re scared, too?), and from my perspective you’re better off fighting traffic than thugs.
  2. If you really feel like taking your life in your own hands and decide to ride through that area, for the love of god take a gopro with you (well concealed) so you can catch your attackers on camera.
  3. Citizens can’t legally take firearms on the trail without a concealed carry license, but there’s nothing that says you can’t take a bicycle lock, and I reckon the right lock might come in handy in a pinch. I swap out my U-lock for one of these guys whenever I have to head that way:
  4. Write to the city council and tell them to actually do something tangible about this shameful state of affairs.

DPS selects Bert L’Homme as new superintendent

WRAL has the scoop:

L’Homme is a former Durham schools assistant superintendent and Franklin County Schools superintendent. He has also worked for the Children’s Defense Fund as interim chief operating officer, director of education policy and coordinator of their cradle to prison pipeline campaign.

This comes after the school board reluctantly allowed the newly elected, incoming school board members to sit in on the process. Board member Frederick Davis, who subsequently threw a tantrum and vowed not to participate in the selection process, apparently had a change of heart this week and decided to show up and do his job for the final decision.

With an absentee rate like that, though, I’ll still give Davis an “F” for his work (or lack thereof) on the superintendent search. See me after class, OK?

I don’t have much else to add, but let’s just hope that things work out better for L’Homme than the last guy.

There are three “bike to the ballpark” events remaining this summer

This summer GoTriangle, Great Outdoor Provision Company, and the Bulls are presenting a monthly “bike to the ballpark” promotion designed to appeal to cyclists.

I went to one bike to the park game last year (and we went to the first one this year on May 18) and I feel like it’s a pretty neat promotion for people who like to get around by bike. The “deal” is that the first 200 people to show up on bikes get free bike valet parking and a “goodie bag” with some trinkets (lights, coupons, water bottles etc) in addition to the option to buy $10 tickets to the game. The tickets are the “cheap seats” out behind right field, which can get a lot of sun – so bring your sunscreen if you decide to take advantage of them.

All of this year’s events are for Sunday 5:05 p.m. games. The next one is this Sunday:

Sunday, June 8th; Game starts at 5:05pm

Sunday, July 6th; Game starts at 5:05pm

Sunday, August 17th; Game starts at 5:05pm

Past experience tells me attendance can vary; we went to the August game last year and the valet parking was slammed with a long wait time. For the May game this year we just walked up to the gate and had no wait at all. You might want to show up just a bit early to be on the safe side.