Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lunch Break (9/30/15): Clodfelter and Roberts face off following lying allegations

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 11:50 AM

Democratic mayoral candidates Jennifer Roberts and Dan Clodfelter faced off in a debate this morning that was broadcast on WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. The two discussed topics such as the I-77 toll lanes, Food Truck Friday relocating following the proposed development at its current location, a mixed-use development coming to the historic Cherry neighborhoods which is opposed by long-time residents there and other topics. The campaign recently turned negative in the lead up to a run-off on October 6, with both camps claiming the other candidates have lied about their respective records. 

The longest North Carolina General Assembly session in over a decade came to an end after 4 o'clock this morning, and lawmakers will not return to session until April. Lawmakers did remove last-minute, controversial changes to Senate Bill 279 that would scale back municipalities' powers to pass ordinances regarding affordable housing mandates, changes to minimum wage or non-discriminatory business practices. 

A CMPD officer shot and killed a fox near a Steele Creek middle school after it reportedly bit multiple children throughout the day. Police said the fox bit an 11-year-old girl as she was watching football practice at Kennedy Middle School and when police responded, it tried to attack them as well. an officer shot and killed the fox and it was disposed of by animal control. Later, police said they also believe the fox bit three preschoolers earlier in the day. 

A tropical storm named Joaquin was upgraded to a hurricane this morning, and experts believe it could heavily impact the North Carolina coast this weekend. Early this morning, Joaquin's maximum sustained winds were reported at 75 miles per hour. The path of the hurricane is still uncertain, but an expected turn over the weekend could potentially bring it to a landfall location near the Outer Banks. 

Officials are reportedly investigating an officer-inolved shooting at Richland Mall near Columbia, South Carolina this morning. Two police officers reportedly responded to a suspicious person call at the mall at about 8 a.m. and shots were fired shortly after. Officials have not said who was shot, but did say one person was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. UPDATE: Forest Acres police officer Greg Alia was reportedly killed in this morning's shooting. Police said they have the suspect in custody. 

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North Carolina’s CYA move on coal ash

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 11:02 AM

Duke's Riverbend plant and coal ash ponds in 2009. - PHOTO BY RHIANNON FIONN
  • Photo by Rhiannon Fionn
  • Duke's Riverbend plant and coal ash ponds in 2009.
Back in March, the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources, now the Department of Environmental Quality, made news – and Duke Energy mad – when it fined the company $25.1 million dollars for groundwater contamination near its Sutton coal ash waste pits. Duke’s response was to sue, and now the two parties have settled for what Sam Perkins, the Catawba Riverkeeper, says is a “diluted” amount.

But in a case of dueling press releases, Duke says the settlement was only for $7 million and that the rest of the money the state mentions is for cleanup costs that haven’t actually been estimated yet.

“Lowering the fine – that’s an understatement,” says Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette, who watchdogs Duke’s Sutton plant. “They’ve taken Sutton Lake’s penalty from $25.1 million to basically $500k, so a 98 percent reduction in the fine,” he added.

Instead of $25.1 million, the NCDEQ claims it settled for $20 million. But here’s the rub: That amount is to cover “accelerated remediation” at 14 plants, not just the one. And the state can’t tell me what “accelerated remediation” means. Beyond that, since a judge approved the settlement there will be no opportunity for public input. Near the bottom of the state’s press release, the state wrote this:
Along with resolving the legal case, the estimated $20 million settlement prevents the state from incurring additional legal fees associated with protracted litigation.
That’s PR-ese for “nanenahnah boo boo, you can’t sue us now.”

Burdette says the settlement smacks of the paltry $99,111 settlement the state offered Duke when it took over environmentalists’ lawsuits a couple years ago, then rescinded after the company’s 2014 Dan River coal ash spill. “We’re right back to that same ‘ol tired ass settlement they proposed early on when they didn’t take any of this seriously. Well, they take it seriously now, but they seem to resent having to do their job,” he said.

Check out my full report for DeSmogBlog.com, where I detail the state’s attempt to keep our interview off the record – as if they were saying anything off-the-record worthy. Also included is Duke’s hedging on whether or not the settlement plant will lead to a rate hike for its customers. Here’s an excerpt:
“This is the single largest fine ever issued in North Carolina for environmental damages. We are the first administration against Duke Energy on coal ash. And this settlement allows us to hold Duke Energy accountable and to focus all of our efforts on the cleanup and closure process.”

But the state’s first coal ash regulations became law under a previous administration, and Feldman seemed unaware that Duke Energy’s groundwater assessment reports were conducted by third-party engineering firms. She was testy when asked why certain plants were left out of the settlement — including the site of the company’s Dan River coal ash spill in Feb. 2014, the third largest in U.S. history.

Feldman said the DEQ has received, but not reviewed, assessments for its Dan River and Riverbend sites. Riverbend is on the banks of the city of Charlotte’s main drinking water reservoir.
Below is a video from 2013 showing Riverbend's coal ash ponds and their proximity to Charlote's drinking water. 



Rhiannon Fionn is a long-time contributor to Creative Loafing and an award-winning independent journalist who has covered the coal ash issue since 2009. She is currently working on a documentary film, “Coal Ash Chronicles,” and a cover story for CL that will appear in print and online in mid-October. 



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Today's Top 5: Wednesday

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 10:26 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Sept. 30, 2015 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Maz Jobrani at The Comedy Zone
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Trivia at Ed's Tavern

Lunch at Piccadilly at Booth Playhouse

• Yarbs, Banda Suki, Patois Counselors, Birthkontrolle at Snug Harbor

• America on Paper: Highlights from Mint Museum's Collection exhibit at Mint Museum Uptown

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lunch Break (9/29/15): City council approves large Cherry project in re-vote

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 11:31 AM

Charlotte City Council approved a large mixed-use project on S. Kings Drive in the historic Cherry neighborhood at its meeting last night, one week after voting it down. The developers decreased the building height of an office and retail building associated with the project from 106 feet to 100 feet, which was enough to change the vote of four council members who voted against the project last Monday. Council member Patsy Kinsey was the sole remaining "Nay" vote. Neighbors have opposed the project because of its size and density. 

The driver of a Ford F-150 that caused a wreck in Uptown yesterday afternoon that injured 17 people was pronounced dead later at the hospital, according to officials. Investigators believe the truck may have experienced a brake failure, which would explain why the driver went around stopped traffic at a red light while exiting I-277 and entered the intersection at 3rd and McDowell streets, where it was hit in the driver side by a CATS bus. Thirteen of the 19 passengers aboard the bus were taken to CMC for treatment, while the driver was treated at Presbyterian. 

CMPD says it is investigating allegations that students at Butler High School were involved in sexually exploiting a 15-year-old fellow student. The rumors began when multiple members of the Butler football team didn't play in a recent game didn't play and word got around that the players were suspended after allegedly filming a sexual act with the 15-year-old and distributing it. 

Duke Energy has agreed to pay $7 million to settle what was originally a $21.5-million fine from regulators for groundwater contamination around its now-defunct Sutton plant near Wilmington. The state said that remediation work required at four plants including Sutton put the settlement total closer to $20 million. 

A report released yesterday has revealed a large gap between those who need affordable housing vouchers and those who can realistically receive them. There is reportedly a waiting list of about 32,000 people in Mecklenburg County who have applied for the vouchers, while only about 200 receive them per year. A co-author of the report said about 86 percent of the applicants are female, and about 93 percent are African-American. 

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Today's Top 5: Tuesday

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 11:29 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Sept. 29, 2015 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Dust & Ashes w/ Eagle Rock Gospel Singers at Snug Harbor
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Beauty & the Beast at Belk Theater

Alt-J at Uptown Amphitheater

Trivia at Angry Ale's

Girl Power w/ Rebecca Henderson, Kim Harrison, Cabell Wilkinson, Spencer Taylor and Nicci Hoo at The Comedy Zone


Monday, September 28, 2015

Today's Top 5: Monday

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 4:52 PM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Sept. 28, 2015 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Art You Can Eat at The Asbury
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Find Your Muse Open Mic at The Evening Muse

• A Supreme Celebration of History at Bistro La Bon

Karaoke at Vida Vida

Knocturnal at Snug Harbor

Lunch Break (9/28/15): Howard endorses Clodfelter in run-off

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 11:30 AM

Former mayoral candidate David Howard, who finished third in this month's primary, announced his endorsement of second-place finisher and current Mayor Dan Clodfelter at a press conference this morning. Clodfelter is running against Jennifer Roberts in the October 6 run-off for the right to face Republican candidate Edwin Peacock. Early voting continues today and will run through Saturday for the run-off. 

Following yesterday's win against the New Orleans Saints, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told reporters that referee Ed Hochuli told him he didn't get a late-hit call his way in the fourth quarter because he's "not old enough," a statement Hochuli denies making. Hochuli has stated he told Newton he didn't get the call because he was running outside of the pocket when the hit was made, and therefore isn't afforded the same protection as a quarterback standing in the pocket. 

One week after denying developers the chance to build a large mixed-use development in the Cherry neighborhood in Uptown, city council will reconsider its decision at tonight's meeting following proposed changes to building heights by the developer. Neighbors have fought against the project, which will potentially be built on the corner of Baxter Street and South Kings Drive. and their protest petition is the reason why the development was not approved despite getting a majority of votes from city council. 

Police are investigating the murder of 41-year-old David Reginald Griffin on Sunday night. Griffin was found shot dead in a home between Graham Street and Statesville Road just north of Uptown. They responded to the home on Vanderbilt Road at about 7 p.m., according to reports. 

Sources say Tony Stewart will announce his retirement from NASCAR some time this week during a press conference with team owner Gene Haas. Stewart is expected to announce that 2016 will be his final season on the race track. He will turn 45 during that season and hasn't won a race in two years. In recent years, Stewart has dealt with injuries – most notably a broken leg in 2013 – and controversy surrounding an incident in which he struck and killed a fellow racer in a 2014 sprint car race. 

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Today's Top 5: Sunday

Posted By on Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 7:00 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Sept. 27, 2015 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Becky G at The Fillmore
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Festival in the Park at Freedom Park

Halestorm at Ovens Auditorium

• Carolina Panthers vs. New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium

Kitty Cabaret at Petra's Piano Bar

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Today's Top 5: Saturday

Posted By on Sat, Sep 26, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, Sept. 26, 2015 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

• Skyline Artists In Residence September Showcase at former Goodyear Service Center in Uptown
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• Stephane Wrembel at Evening Muse

National Beer Mile at N.C. Music Factory

Lebanese Festival at St. Matthew Catholic Church

• A Sordid Affair w/ Del Shores, Leslie Jordan and Carolina Rhea at McGlohon Theater

Friday, September 25, 2015

Theater review: Three Tall Women

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 4:45 PM


It’s a pity that Edward Albee’s Three Tall Women is presented so rarely in the Queen City, for we’ve gotten very lucky both times. When Charlotte Rep premiered the play at Booth Playhouse in 1995, less than a year after I’d seen the original off-Broadway production of the Pulitzer Prize winner, director Steve Umberger plucked the star I had seen up in New York – Lucille Patton, who spelled Myra Carter for Wednesday matinees – and drew a better performance from her. The local actresses who surrounded Patton as women B and C, Mary Lucy Bivins and Paige Johnston, were at least as satisfying as their Big Apple counterparts.
Now at UpStage in NoDa, Innate Productions is overachieving with the same script, as Paula Baldwin stars as 92-year-old A, ably backed by Shawna Pledger as 52-year-old B and Rachel Bammel as 26-year-old C. Directed by Debora Stanton, the work sometimes feels cerebral and brittle – as it often did in New York – but the performances of Baldwin and Pledger quicken the pace and the pulse, adding a numinous layer of urgency. Farrell Paules is bolder in her costume and makeup designs than the piously drab New York production, and Sean Kimbro makes sure Albee’s gravity is maintained in his lighting design.
It would be fascinating to look over the playwright’s shoulder to watch how this work developed, for Acts 1 and 2 almost seem to be separate stabs at the same subject – A, Albee’s estranged foster mother, who was unsympathetic to his homosexuality. With a few minor adjustments, the order of the two acts could be flipped. Act 1 shows us the externals of the 92-year-old’s character as she interacts with an indulgent, empathetic caretaker (B) and an officious legal aide (C) who is nearly as irritated by the inaccuracies and inconsistencies of A’s anecdotes as she is by A’s string of ethnic and racial slurs.
As a lifelike bust of A slips discreetly under the bedcovers – sleeping, comatose, or dead – the same three women materialize after intermission. But now they are all the same tall woman at different stages of her life, and Albee explores how C evolved into A. There’s always a wicked edge to Albee, and it manifests itself here in the need for B to mediate between the idealistic C and the fully evolved, totally disgusted, and absolutely uninhibited A.
In the opening act, A is no more able to control her bodily functions than the hateful words that spew from her, so there’s a physical dimension that buttresses B’s pleas for indulgence and compassion. Here we find Pledger noticeably stressed and straining to be cheery, knowing deep down that there is no excuse for A’s intolerance and paranoia. Inside A’s skin in Act 2, a good deal of ethical and idealistic decay has already happened, so Pledger is a different kind of mediator as B: experienced, wised-up, cynical, and – joining with A against C – contemptuous of the 26-year-old’s innocence.
Pledger’s concept of B is the most satisfying that I’ve seen, and Baldwin’s work here ranks with the best we’ve had from her, placing meticulous emphasis on A’s age as she rules the stage. Albee didn’t have to be kind to a parent he hated and fled, didn’t have to concede that she was once likable, so the naïve and judgmental C is as irritating as anyone else we encounter. Bammel makes her stiffer and taller than the others, as inflexible in her ideals as C is in her settled fears and prejudices, horrified by her elders’ infallible sketches of her devolution. There isn’t as much dimension to her, but that’s part of the point, right?
Seeing Three Tall Women on Sunday night, less than 24 hours after Clyde Edgerton’s Lunch at the Piccadilly at Booth Playhouse, made for an often grim old folks’ weekend. Albee is no doubt the more sardonic of the two writers, but his view of aging becomes most horrific when perceived as a new vista opened up to young adults still radiant in their optimism. From this standpoint, C is a stand-in for us, and Bammel subtly convinces us that her generation is Albee’s target audience – or younger, purer versions of ourselves that we’ve conveniently buried.

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