Friday, July 31, 2009

Quick Castillo trial update

The Alvaro Castillo trial is off today. Three days in, they appear to have 12 jurors, and were working on the alternates when they ended the day yesterday. It looks like Monday will be the start of "openings," so I'll have more in next week's paper.

In Session (formerly Court TV) has a five-person crew covering this trial, and they've been camped out most of the week. I'll be enjoying a day catching up on work in the office (boy do I know how to have fun) and running around Last Fridays for a bit.

Speaking of Last Fridays, as most people in the area with a calendar are aware, it will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. tonight all over downtown Hillsborough. Adjust your evening schedules accordingly. Here the rundown we published last week (this week, really, but our weeks begin Wednesday morning), courtesy of the Hillsborough Arts Council.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

odds and ends: 'joseph' and children's handmade parade

I went to the Orange Community Players' rehearsal of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat" on Monday. (For more information about when "Joseph" will be performed, see Josh's post below.) If the rehearsal is any indication, those who go this weekend will be in for a treat. Everyone sounds wonderful — including the orchestra, shown at left — and the costumes and sets are imaginative and lovely.

I'm also in the process of uploading photos from the Children's Handmade Parade to our gallery. It should be done in half an hour or so, and it will be available here when it's done.

'Technicolor' starts tonight

The Orange Community Players will bring Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s renowned “Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” to the stage at Orange High School, 500 Orange High School Road, with the July 30-Aug. 1 shows set for 8 p.m. and the Aug. 2 show set for 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors in advance, $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors at the door.

Tickets can be purchased at Triangle SportsPlex, Orange Recreation & Parks Department, Colonial Insurance, Central Orange Senior Center and from cast members. For more information, call 732-4476 or visit

CASTILLO UPDATE: Jury selection is still ongoing. The beginning of of opening statements by today seems quite unlikely. The trial is off tomorrow, so the best bet is a full start on Monday (maybe the afternoon). Either way, we'll have the latest as of next Tuesday in next week's edition.

WOODCROFT GAZETTE: fitness world run/walk map

For all the readers of the Woodcroft Gazette, here is a map of the route for the Fitness World 5K Run/Walk, which benefits the Ronald McDonald House of Durham.

For more information about the run/walk, visit

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Town will pursue new 'artist laureate'

Mike Troy's poetry could still grace local coffee shops and other venues around town, but his reign as the town's first Poet Laureate is coming to an end.

Among the odds and ends addressed at Monday's town board meeting, board member Eric Hallman said he was in touch with Hillsborough Arts Council members to work on finding the town's next "artist laureate." This ceremonial position would have a two-year term and doesn't appear to allow re-elections.

By making the position "artist laureate," it is open to any kind of artist in town. Officials details will likely follow.

So, add that to the competitive races for the fall. Maybe we can have an "American Idol"-style competition for the title.

Who would you nominate?

This week

A quick note before we launch into August. Not in the paper (but now online) is a brief mention of Cedar Ridge football practice, repeated below. My apologies that it did not appear in print:

Cedar Ridge football practice begins Aug. 1
Cedar Ridge football will kick off its first official practice on from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 1. Athletes will need to have a current physical and meet with Coach Lou Geary in the wrestling room. For more information, call Coach Geary 245-4000, ext. 21605.

OK, so I am going to be back and forth between the courthouse and the office for a good part of the next 1.5 weeks or longer. Thankfully, I have wireless access at the courthouse, meaning I can get around to some e-mails and some additional work. But, I will be following the Alvaro Castillo trial, which is expected to move past jury selection today/tomorrow and get into the thick of proceedings. I'll attempt to make daily updates.

You can reach me via e-mail pretty much all the time, and if you leave a message at the office, I will return calls at the end of the day once I'm back in here. Thanks.

Also, for this week, I will be working on:

• An update on the town's potential smoking ban in publicly-owned spaces. You'd be surprised by what towns can or can't actually ban under current state law.

• I'll have a quick follow-up on the 4-H Youth Voices program.

• I'll finally have some information about the Orange Literacy Council and "the need" in Orange County.

• I'll be taking some pictures at Last Fridays.

There are plenty of other items floating around, and it is only Wednesday, so more is likely to come ...

omm case: statements from ocs, mcwhirters, autism society of nc

Here are the statements from various parties involved (or not, as the case may be) in the case OMM v. Orange County Schools.

Orange County Schools, via attorney Rachel B. Hitch with Schwartz & Shaw. Click on each page to get a larger view.

Here is the statement from the McWhirters:
On Friday, we had a very productive IEP meeting with representatives of the Orange County Public Schools. We unanimously agreed upon extended year service plan for Owen. I am disheartended and dissapointed at the County's release of a press statement. We were moving forward, appeal or not, communicating well, and focusing on what was important: Owen's education.
It is important to note that regardless of what the county wants the public to focus on, which is the much controversial issue of "appropriate" vs best" this case was about a whole lot more, including substantive deprivations of federal rights. Contrary to the County's claim that the proposed IEP was developed by the team, the County admitted in testimony and the Judge clearly found as fact that the IEP was delegated to non-team members outside of the room. On page 39 of her final decision, Judge
Lassiter writes, “In doing so here, Respondent violated that procedural requirement of the IDEA. The procedural violation was not a "technical failure" and it was neither trivial nor inconsequential. Because of Respondent's improper delegation of decision making authority over OMM's services and placement. NM and AM were deprived of their rightto participate meaningfully in the decision-making process with respect to OMM s IEP placement and services.” The county denied our son a free and appropriate public education, and the judge ruled that we are entitled to equitable remedies.
To prevail in its appeal the County will have to overturn five separate rulings made by Judge Lassiter in her decision. While the County has every right to appeal, we think that there are better ways to spend taxpayer money then this.

Here's an e-mail I received from Scott Badesch, CEO of the Autism Society of North Carolina, responding to the use of a quote from one of their staffers in the OCS release:
1. The Autism Society of North Carolina’s staff person quoted in the New and Observer article is a parent advocate who informed us that she was not responding to the case mentioned in the article, but rather about the legal responsibility of Public School Systems when it comes to providing education for people living with a developmental disability.
2. The Autism Society of North Carolina does know about the case mentioned in the article and fully supports the rights of a parent to advocate fully for assuring that his or her child is provided all rights that he or she is allowed under the law. In the case you mentioned, the issue has more to do, we are told, with due process of law than about defining appropriate.
3. Unfortunately, the Orange County School District chose to use a quote of an Autism Society of North Carolina staff member to appear to justify its position. We feel that might imply our approval of the actions that the School District is taking in this case. The Autism Society of North Carolina fully supports the rights of all parents to advocate for what their child is legally entitled to and to the right of due process in seeking an appropriate education for their child.
4. This case is more about the civil rights that a person living with autism is allowed under the law. Just as the right of appeal is allowed under law, so is the right to due process and the right for an appropriate education for a child living with autism.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Castillo trial

Alvaro Castillo's trial on murder and assault charges begins this week, with preliminary steps and jury selection expected to take much of the week.

District Attorney Jim Woodall last week said he expects the trial to last slightly more than two weeks. This means I'll probably be in the courtroom for a good part of the next two weeks.

Another case we plan to follow, the murder trial of Reshaun Cates, will not begin until November because many of the same personnel assigned to the Castillo case are involved in that case as well, we learned last week.

Happy Monday.

Friday, July 24, 2009

This weekend

• It appears to be TomatoFest at various farmers' markets in the area, including at the Eno River Farmers Market on Margaret Lane. That will take place Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. The festival will feature more than 57 varieties of heirloom tomatoes in every size, shape and color, all harvested fresh by the market’s local farmers. Each produce vendor will feature a favorite heirloom tomato variety and offer samples, as well as special information about its growing qualities and taste characteristics. The market will provide recipes, cooking, canning and storage tips for all kinds of tomatoes. For more information, visit

Personally, I think the gap between the taste of a fresh, local tomato and one coming in from far away is unrivaled. So naturally, I like to stock up during this time of year.

• The third Jason and Jessie Jam will take place Saturday as well, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Big Barn.

Dinner will be served from 6 to 7:30 p.m., with live music throughout by Good Rockin’ Sam. Ticketscan be purchased at Kuttin’ Korner, 190B Orange Grove St., or McAdams Mufflers, 1001 Efland Cedar Grove Road in Efland, or by calling 563-1063. For more information, visit or see our recent article here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

what's next

I was at the Children's Handmade Parade this morning, which went from Central Elementary School to Hillsborough Elementary School and back, which was part of the Summer Enrichment Academy going on at Central. Of course, I'll have more pictures and information in the upcoming paper.

Here's some of the rest of what I've got coming up:
• I talked to a new business owner who's opening up shop in town.
• I'll have photos from the upcoming production of "Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat," which I saw, incidentally, in Toronto when I was a kid, with none other than Donnie Osmond as the title character.
• I'll be at the Jason and Jessie Jam III (Saturday at the Big Barn).

And there's a few other things I've got cooking. I wouldn't want to give away too much, though.

physicals for local high school athletes

I got some information on physicals for high school athletes today. The first is from UNC for free physicals. I'm checking with the media contact to find out if Orange High School students will be getting the same treatment. The second is from Orange County Schools about physicals in Hillsborough.
UNC Orthopaedics to provide free physical exams to local high school

WHO: An estimated 450 high school athletes from the following Orange County schools: Chapel Hill High School, East Chapel Hill High School,Carrboro High School, Cedar Ridge High School, Northwood High School.

WHAT: UNC Orthopaedics physicians will provide free pre-participation physical exams to high school athletes.

WHEN: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 29.

WHERE: The UNC Orthopaedics clinic in the Ambulatory Care Center at 101 Mason Farm Road on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

BACKGROUND INFO: UNC Orthopaedics anticipates doing nearly 450 pre-participation physicals that evening, and will have more than 15 attending and resident physicians on site doing the work. Without such an opportunity, these athletes would likely have to pay approximately $100 each for a physical exam.

In addition, UNC Orthopaedics provides these athletes with on-field physician coverage for home football games at each of these schools,access to the UNC Orthopaedics Prompt Care Clinic, and their trainers have 24-hour access their trainers have to UNC sports physicians.

From OCS:
SPORTS PHYSICAL’S Opportunities:
1.) The Hillsborough Family Medical Group on 101 East Corbin Street, Hillsborough, NC will be offering Sports Physicals on a regular basis. You can call their Medical Office @ #919-643-7603 & make an appointment for a Sports Physical. The everyday Cost of a Sports Physical is $35.00, (NO Insurance claims will be filed.)

2.) The Orange Family Medical Group on 210 S. Cameron Street, Hillsborough, NC will be conducting Sports Physicals: July 23rd, 28th & 30th - from 4:00–7:00 p.m. (at their clinic). Cost: $35.00 [No Appointments Necessary.]

**Please Bring your Physical Form for the Physician to complete on the back side. (Make sure to remind the Athlete & their Parents to complete & sign the front page of their physical form prior to the sports physical date.)

Long-needed update

Since we are having computer issues (or more accurately, I am), posts are probably going to be intermittent as I slide back and forth between computers.

Anyway, here's a look at some the things we plan to have next week:

• I'll hopefully have the story about Orange Literacy Council's obstacles to continue serving a growing need in northern Orange County.

• I'll have something about the town's wayfinding signage plan and what changes will come to a roadside near you.

• I am going to be sitting through the beginning of the Alvaro Castillo trial an hopefully will have an update on the Reshaun Cates case. Both cases involve first-degree murder charges: the former is a former Orange High student who allegedly killed his father before firing weapons on the Orange campus in August 2006, and the latter is charged in the shooting death of Eva Jacobs in an alleged Cedar Grove home invasion in November 2007.

• The town board discuss proposals on smoking in town parks, the development moratorium and other items before its members go on an annual one-month hiatus. Not to fear, moratorium discussion fans: the planning board will keep discussing options at its August meeting.

Vanessa also has plenty more.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Convenience center map

Here's how the county's recycling drop-off and convenience center landscape looks; this was a visual we did not have room to fit into the print product (graphic from Orange County):

Friday, July 17, 2009

Candidacy letters, Pt. 2

Bryant Warren's candidacy news release:

"Longtime Hillsborough resident Bryant Kelly Warren Jr. has announced that he will seek election to the Hillsborough Town Commissioner. “The members of the current board are doing a good job,” Warren says, “but many concerned citizens have urged me to run in belief that it’s time for new people with my type of experience to become commissioners and carefully oversee the growth of this town we all hold dear.”
Warren has been involved with Hillsborough town government since 1998. He is currently chairman of the Parks and Recreation Board. Among the projects the Board has implemented under his leadership are Gold Park, Hillsborough Heights Park, and Kings Highway Park, along with re-crafting of the Hillsborough Master Plan and Connectivity Plan. The Board has also led the way in planning and development of the Hillsborough River Walk, a major greenways project slated to open in 2012.
Warren also has several years of experience with the Hillsborough Planning Board, including chairing the body in past year. During his tenure the board has reviewed Hampton Pointe (WalMart and Home Depot), Kenion Grove, Waterstone, Oakdale Village, Corbinton Commons, and Weaver Street Market—all major projects contributing to the sensible development and growth of Hillsborough.
He was also a member of the Transportation Joint Task Force of Orange County and Hillsborough, and was recently appointed to the second phase of the Hillsborough Rail Station Small Area Plan Task Force.
The issue of imminent growth and how to responsibly handle it is central to Warren’s concerns. “Growth is coming to Hillsborough whether we like it or not, and it’s up to the town’s leadership to guide growth and development to preserve Hillsborough’s unique, irreplaceable qualities,” he says. “That’s ultimately why I’m running.”
Among the issues Warren anticipates will be high on the Commission’s agenda in the coming years are a possible north-south thoroughfare on the east side of town, annexation of new developments and town expectations, Growth in Employment opporturnities, new parks and trails for Hillsborough as the population continues to grow, and new recreational opportunities such as a movie theater or bowling alley. He believes that Commissioners should be more outgoing in the community and responsive to concerns from all members of the community. “We need to go out and have informational meetings in all parts of town, and let all of our citizens know that we care about their wants and needs,” says Warren. “I think one of our main jobs is to be effective listeners.”
The election will be held November 3.

Bryant Kelly Warren Jr.
Candidate, Hillsborough Town Board"

Candidacy letters

First, a correction: The top story on the front page has a silly mistake, courtesy of me. Mike Gering is the current mayor pro tem. Frances Dancy has previously served as mayor pro tem. Again, bad oversight by me.

I neglected to run Dancy's and Bryant Warren's statements of candidacy up here, so Dancy's is reprinted below, Warren's in the next post:

"I am running for re-election to the Hillsborough Town Board. I have served three terms on the board and have made many accomplishments with the current board members. I believe we make a great team and I would like to continue to be of service to the Town or Hillsborough.
Our town has come a long way since my initial election to the board. Our Town was in extremely poor financial condition and I lobbied for the adoption of a fund balance policy to help regain Hillsborough’s long-term fiscal stability. With this, I also supported the creation of a multi-year financial plan component in the town’s annual budget as a means of better planning and a way to help us elected officials make well-informed decisions.
I have lobbied for computerization of town services which resulted in vast improvements over the years in both the quality and quantity of information the staff has been able to produce while serving the public.
With the support of my fellow board members, we were able to construct the Fairview Community Policing Station which was a long-term collaborative effort between the Town of Hillsborough, Orange County, and the Fairview Community Watch Block Captains, and our Police Department.
Our board is developing a Strategic Growth Plan with the cooperation of the County which will help allow growth that is congruent with the desires of the citizens and will serve as a critical communications tool that will let developers know what type of growth Hillsborough will support.
Since my election, our Police Department has been accredited; we’ve completed the West Fork on the Eno River Reservoir project, and approved Waterstone Development which took approximately four years before final approval.
These are just a few accomplishments that the Town Board has made since my election. I continue to represent the Town Board on the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitor’s Bureau and the Triangle J Council of Governments where I hold the positions of Delegate, and Executive Committee. I am also on the FTZ Trade Zone Board of Directors, and have served as Chair of the Board of the TJCOG.
It is my desire to continue to be of service to the citizens of the Town of Hillsborough.

Frances Dancy
Hillsborough Town Board"

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Coming up

I sat down with Alice Denson and Katharine Walton of the Orange Literacy Council yesterday, and Denson threw out a startling number: one in seven Orange County adults can be classified as "functionally illiterate," with an even greater percentage of the population falling into that category in the northern end of the county.

The reason we were talking is that, while the need is great, the council no longer has an office in Hillsborough; their lease on their Churton Street property (across from the Gulf Rim) ended June 30. Next week, I'll have more about why they say they need a northern OC location through which to serve the public (they are currently in Carrboro but want to re-open a second "hub").

Also for this week:

• The town board approved a coordinated sign project that was three years in the making. More details to come on what they will be and where they will be. The board also approved some changes to park fees and discussed the smoking policy at publicly-owned parks.

• I sat in on a Hillsborough/Orange County Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday to hear what developers and other local businesspeople had to say about the proposed 18-month development moratorium set for discussion tonight (7 p.m., Town Barn). They aren't fans of the idea. This would not be a "blanket" moratorium — town officials point to almost 400 homes and several commercial developments that could continue to seek approval and be built over the next 18 months. Developers have said the moratorium, during which town staff would rewrite the town's zoning ordinances in full for the first time in 23 years, would be the equivalent of hanging a "closed for business" sign at the town entrances.

So, needless to say, more on the discussion (but likely not decision) from tonight's meeting in next week's paper.

• At the same meeting (a quarterly town and planning board public hearing), officials will also get their first extended look at the details of the UNC Hospitals project in Waterstone. Town board members have already said the tax-exempt status of the 83-acre property will warrant further discussion of how the town is supposed to benefit financially from the project.

We'll have an election filing wrap-up (currently three candidates for two town board seats and no challenger for mayor) and some other items that will probably filter down in the next few days.

Event planners still looking for volunteers

This is an announcement we should have had in the paper; I know we are planning an article on summer enrichment programs and this one in particular, but they are still open to volunteers:

"The Hillsborough Arts Council is sponsoring a three day theater and parade workshop at Central Elementary School in conjunction with the Orange County Summer Enrichment program. Volunteer Artists from the Hillsborough Art Council's Handmade Parade will work with children to develop artistic, theatrical and music skills culminating in the Children's Handmade Parade on July 23rd. The parade will begin at 10:30 at Central Elementary and parade to Hillsborough Elementary then back to Central. There are no fees for the workshops.
Students registered in the Summer Enrichment Program will create projects and a performance to stimulate creativity and develop the interrelationship between nature, the arts and humanity. Taking inspiration from the Annual Handmade Parade theme 'The waters of the Eno and her creatures,' the Eno River will serve as a link to the natural environment and science. It will also increase awareness of social responsibility and stewardship of our natural resources.
The collaborative partnership of the Orange County Schools and the Hillsborough Arts Council will give students the opportunity to study and create with professional artists."

They are still seeking volunteers and/or additional artists to help with the event. Call Mark Donley at 602-2550 for additional information.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

statement from district's lawyers

UPDATE (1:17 p.m.):
I just got off the phone with Rachel Hitch, of Schwartz & Shaw in Raleigh, the district's law firm. That firm, she said, does exclusively education law, and Ms. Hitch deals mostly with special education law. She was out of the office all day yesterday, and said she wanted to make sure she was responsive to my questions.
She explained to me a little bit more how the appeals process would work in this state, since it's completely different than the state I spent most of my time in (New Jersey), which, like most of the Northeast, sees many more special education cases tried each year.
I asked her what the grounds for the appeal are, and she said since no appeals brief has yet been filed, she would rather not discuss that at this point.
She said the appeals process works something like this:
"The process in North Carolina is a two-tiered process," she said. "What happens is the first step is a parent files with the Office of Administrative Hearing. ... And that's the decision that we have."
If either party disagrees with the decision, it can be appealed within 30 days to a state review officer. It's what she called a "paper appeal," meaning there wouldn't be anymore hearings at this stage. The state review officer then decides when any additional materials need to be filed.
"The next step from there would be to make its way to the traditional court system, if anyone's interested to take it any further," she said.

Well, that's that. I'll post it as I get anything further.


Here's the statement from one of Orange County Schools' lawyers, Rachel Hitch, on the case OMM, by parent or guardian N.M. and A.M. v. Orange County Board of Education in full (minus the "FOR PUBLIC RELEASE" header):

A recent ruling by an Administrative Law Judge in the Office of Administrative Hearings has received attention from some members of the Orange County community. Most importantly, school officials want to emphasize that that the student who was the subject of the decision remains a part of the Orange County community. The well-being of students is the primary concern of the Orange County Schools and school officials hope that all concerned persons keep this student’s interests in mind.
The school system disagrees with some of the statements being made about the decision and the events leading up to its issuance. The Board of Education has voted to appeal the decision. In any event, Federal and State laws protect the confidentiality of student information and school employee personnel files. Those laws limit how much information can be publicly disclosed by the school system. In addition, the student’s parents were adamant about the confidentiality of the student’s information during the course of this case. Of course, the student’s parents have no restrictions on their statements about the situation as they see it. As always, there are two sides to every story. School officials are not permitted to discuss their account or impressions of this case.
In order to preserve confidentiality of student records and school personnel files as required by law, the Superintendent of Schools, Patrick Rhodes, has designated attorney Rachel Hitch to respond to any inquiries beyond this statement.

In case you haven't read the July 8 story, here it is. Here's a primer on some of the acronyms and education speak used in the article, as well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

mayor tom's darfur proclamation

As promised, here's a copy of Hillsborough Mayor Tom Steven's proclamation supporting locals' efforts to aid in humanitarian work in south Sudan.

(Click on the .pdf to make it bigger.)

Look for the story in Wednesday's paper.

Friday, July 10, 2009

National Night Out planning meeting

Want to be involved in planning this year's local National Night Out event? It will be centralized this year, using the town's Gold Park. A notice from the town sent out today includes a meeting taking place after we go to press, so here's a heads-up:
"If you’d like to help plan the event or donate food or entertainment, join Cpl. Tereasa King, the Hillsborough Police Department’s community policing coordinator, for a planning meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 14 at the police substation. All community watch groups are invited to the
National Night Out, an annual event to heighten crime and drug prevention, will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 4 at the town’s newest park, located at 415 Dimmocks Mill Road."

This weekend

Well, we've cleared 2,500 unique visitors in the 46 hours since the paper was posted online, which is high for the middle of the summer. A large portion of those numbers can probably be attributed to the audience for Vanessa's necessarily lengthy analysis of the OMM v. BOE case (the case materials were in excess of 300 pages).

And that's it for me tooting our horn. This weekend is the second Family Fun Day of the summer. I'm told the event was a regular feature a few years ago and is being revived. If you live in Orange County and don't want to go far for cheap or free family entertainment this summer, your choices are pretty good: Family Fun Day on the second Saturday of the month, back porch music at the Cedar Grove Crossroads on the third Friday and Last Fridays on, well, that's obvious.

This Family Fun Day includes:
• A scavenger hunt around town coordinated by the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough.
• Two walking tours of downtown, one at 10 a.m. and one at 2 p.m.; there's a nominal cost.
• "Native American Day" at the Orange County Historical Museum.
• "Digging Into the Past" at the Burwell School.
• Wine tasting at Hillsborough Wine Company.
• "Pick a Pop" at Matthew's Chocolates.

For the full rundown, click here.

All quiet on the northern front
Week one of election filing season is almost gone, and while our neighbors to the south seem pretty active, we have one candidate for mayor and one candidate for two town board spots (both incumbents). You could look at this and say residents are pretty pleased with how things are going, but I'm going to give it a little more time before we conclude that.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

so much for the summer slump

Well, I've got a few things coming up this week, including some that may or may not materialize, depending on how people respond.

Here are some of them:

• Two elementary schools used federal stimulus funds to rehire two teachers that would have been lost to budget cuts.

• Communities in Schools is hosting a banquet Friday. I'll be there covering that event.

• Central's PTSA will be out Saturday working on what their Lowe's grant money purchased.

• There may be a follow to the OMM v. BOE case.

• The student-created drawing for the upcoming OHS Project House has been chosen.

• A local group seeks to raise money for the people of Darfur, something that's been swept aside lately in mainstream media coverage in the frenzy over Michael Jackson's funeral and, to a lesser extent, coverage of the G8 summit in Italy and continuing turmoil in Iran. (Sorry for the tangent.)

• A few other stories are in the works, depending on my ability to get in touch with people.

As always, if you know of anything going on, feel free to comment here or shoot me an e-mail at v (dot) shortley (at) newsoforange (dot) com.

What's coming

UPDATE: The discussion regarding the moratorium will actually be at the joint town board/planning board meeting on Thursday, July 16 (7 p.m., Town Barn).

As I mentioned a week or so back on this blog, there's no shortage of things to keep us busy. Here's an abbreviated list of what I expect to have for next week's paper:

• Orange football coach Dickie Schock's departure from the high school leaves them without a football coach, just as schedules are coming out. We'll try to have more about who will fill the position.

• I'll have a feature story on what is going on down at the West End business district, which is yet another chapter in the potential rise of West Hillsborough as a future "Downtown West." No, that's not the name of a new development.

• The Hillsborough Police Department has shifted some of its community-based resources back into patrol. We'll have some insight as to what this means for residents.

• The Jason and Jessie Jam III, an event honoring the late Jason and Jessica Evans, takes place in a few weeks. Learn more about how their parents are working year-round to raise funds for the community.

• We'll have a brief artist feature or two at local galleries.

• Monday's town board meeting agenda isn't up yet, but the word is the potential development moratorium could cause some friction with the local business community. Read the second section of this story for a little more information.

• I'll be taking pictures at 3-4 events on Saturday.

• Someone else might file for office. If so, we'll have more on that. Otherwise, there will be an empty town board seat.

Oh, and Vanessa has 5-6 things, too.

Side note: Please vote in our poll on the left side of the main page at I'm really curious how people feel about solving the budget gap. Right now, votes are pretty much split down the middle.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cutting Room Floor: Bikers in Hillsborough

Since I tend to be the audience of one for many of Hillsborough's town board meetings, I try to make an effort to write prodigiously about town government happenings to share what likely very few people will hear otherwise. Sometimes, the board will discuss things that are interesting but short and non-binding, meaning they talk but no action is taken. I wanted to post some of my notes about their recent work session because their next meeting is coming up, likely meaning decision items will push this stuff back or out of the paper.

I also wrote up some notes on another subject, the U.S. 70/Cornelius Street incubator, but it will probably blossom into an article in the next few weeks as I learn more. Anyways, here's my notes on bikers, which won't see the light of print unless they formally propose a policy:

Board debates drawbacks, benefits of bikers in town

The revving sounds residents can hear on weekends down Churton Street could prompt Hillsborough town board members to reconsider its stance on bikers.

At a work session June 22, board members discussed what, if anything, the town could do to reduce the impact of motorcycles on restaurant customers downtown, particularly on weekends.

Board member Eric Hallman said he had been receiving complaints recently about customers at restaurants along Churton Street who said their outdoor dining was disrupted by the sound of revving motorcycles. He told other board members they should entertain solutions that benefit everybody involved.

“We don’t want to deter our motorcycle friends,” he said. “They spend money, too.”

The complaints stem from the presence of motorcycles parking on the west side of Churton Street on weekends.

Board members said they would want business owners’ perspective on the issue before they entertained any further steps, such as limiting the hours parking can take place on certain curbside spots or creating car- and truck-only parking spaces.

Commissioner Brian Lowen said the town could need to address this with more motorcycles than just the few that populate downtown on weekends. He said he had received notice a motorcycle club will be holding monthly meetings in the southern part of town, bringing an obvious boost to local businesses but also possibly raising concerns.

“It’s a different kind of traffic,” he said.

Hillsborough Police Chief Clarence Birkhead, a motorcycle owner, had a different view on the subject.

The town has already seen three meetings of motorcycle clubs this year, he said, and he is not aware of any towns that forbid motorcycle parking.

“Being a biker, you want to go out, buy a spirit or two and talk about the bikes out front with other bikers,” he said.

Gering's candidacy statement

This is a little late getting posted, what with the holiday and all. Anyways, below is Mike Gering's official statement of candidacy:
"Today I’m announcing my candidacy for re-election to the Hillsborough Town Board of Commissioners. When I ran for election in 2001, and again in 2005, I wanted to help shape Hillsborough’s future in order to preserve its unique qualities, improve its financial health, and enhance the quality of life of all its citizens. I’m proud that the town has made progress towards these goals, and I would like to continue guiding Hillsborough’s future in constructive ways.
Here are a few of the things I’ve done over the past eight years:
• I initiated the town’s purchase of 20 acres of the Collins property, currently the site of the HYAA baseball fields. This exciting purchase has made possible a future train station and other municipal services. I am the chairman of the newly-formed committee that will start the planning process for this area.
• I chaired the task force that responded to the county’s plans to locate a waste transfer station in our economic development district.
• I am the chairman of the Way-Finding Signage Committee, which has created a recommendation to the Town Board for replacing many of the signs cluttering our streets with an attractive and coordinated system of signs to guide tourists and others into and around Hillsborough.
• For the last six years I have been the Town Board’s representative on the Hillsborough Tourism Board, and I am currently its chairman. We are in the process of implementing a Tourism Ambassador program and an updated internet presence.
• I co-chaired the US 70/Cornelius Street Task Force, a joint effort with the county that created a plan to improve and redevelop the Cornelius Street portion of US 70.
• I led the Town Board in opposing an asphalt plant and in changing our ordinances to prevent similar proposals in the future.
• I chaired the Town Clock Restoration Committee. We guided the renovation of the old county courthouse clock in time for Hillsborough’s 250th anniversary celebration in 2004.
• I co-chaired a task force that helped educate the Town Board on senior housing options and how best to address them in Hillsborough.
• I initiated the work that led to the creation of the water rate assistance program, which helps people who need temporary assistance in paying their water bills.
• I worked on many other efforts to improve our town, including: the Churton Street Corridor Task Force, the Library Services Task Force, the Orange Grove Road Task Force, and school capacity planning.
Although we face many challenges, these are exciting times for Hillsborough. In recent years, our downtown has seen a new vitality, the town has opened new parks, and we have improved our economic base through new developments that include senior housing and a community college. Through it all, Hillsborough continues to preserve and celebrate our natural and historic heritage. There is still work to be done, and I have the experience needed to lead the town forward. I love this town and would be honored to continue guiding its efforts to be a vibrant, safe and prosperous community."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gering to run for third term

Well, casually mention and ye shall receive.

Hillsborough Town Board member Mike Gering has announced he will seek re-election this fall. It would be his third term if elected. His letter begins,
"Today I’m announcing my candidacy for re-election to the Hillsborough Town Board of Commissioners. When I ran for election in 2001, and again in 2005, I wanted to help shape Hillsborough’s future in order to preserve its unique qualities, improve its financial health, and enhance the quality of life of all its citizens. I’m proud that the town has made progress towards these goals, and I would like to continue guiding Hillsborough’s future in constructive ways."
Look for more in our next issue.

Reader's Choice

The issue after July 4 is comparable to the issue after Christmas for us and, I assume, most other weekly publications. Hopefully, you start making contacts for stories a week or so before the holiday and begin shelving some items to have material for the week after. About 3-4 days before these two holidays, everybody is out of town, so it's a good idea to lay groundwork early, if possible.

We should be relatively set for next week, even though we're off Friday (and I'm off tomorrow to drive 10 hours west). Election filing begins at noon Monday, July 6, so that's a story in waiting. As I mentioned earlier, I have not heard much in the way of announcements except for Mayor Tom Stevens' not-too-surprising announcement he'll seek re-election.

Also, expect some changes to come from the state's budget — perhaps new local tax options and changes in available school money. Once again, with the budget it's wait-and-see.

But, back to the reason I wrote this post: Please vote in our Reader's Choice poll. We've been running the ballots in the print edition for the last few weeks, and the deadline to submit your votes is Friday, July 10. You can clip out a ballot from any paper in the last three weeks (including this week's issue) or come fill one out at our office, 109 E. King St. There is a category for almost any type of business you can imagine (except field-grown tomatoes).

Have a safe holiday, and please return with all your appendages. I've heard/seen some amazing things that happen over the Fourth.