Monday, November 27, 2006

A nice tradition: Christmas tree shopping

More "good vibes" about Christmas tree shopping in North Carolina ...

"The experience is what's most treasured when shopping for a Christmas tree, buyers and sellers say," according to the Greenville Daily Reflector.

"The experience has given 8-year-old Marian Robbins the expertise to know a good tree when she sees one.

" 'This one has a straight top,' Robbins said as she helped her family Friday at the Boy Scouts tree sale adjacent to Colonial Mall on Charles Boulevard.

"It's important to look closely at the tree's top branch, 'so it won't be tilted when we put on the angel or star,' she explained. ..."

New law may have everyone buckled

According to Barry Smith of Freedom Press, the "days of adults legally riding in the back seat of a car without wearing a seatbelt are numbered — at least in North Carolina."

A new law taking effect Friday requires all passengers, no matter what age, to be securely buckled whether in the front seat or the back seat. Currently, backseat passengers who are 16 or older are not required to wear seatbelts.

The new law is all about saving lives, said state Sen. Bill Purcell, D-Scotland, the sponsor of the bill.

“In car crashes, persons unrestrained are 10 times more likely to have a severe injury and 20 times more likely to be killed than someone who is buckled,” Purcell said.

Purcell added that in some car crashes, an unbuckled backseat passenger can be thrown forward and become “like a flying missile.”

There is disagreement with the new law.

“There are just some things that the government ought to leave up to the individual,” said Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. “Adults in the back seats, it seems to me that individual ought to have the ability to make those kinds of decisions without the government making them for them.”

To me this seems like a no-brainer: it's one way to "make" people do things to save lives. I have no problem with it, just like I have no problem with the state's motorcycle helmet law. It's one of the few cases where Big Brother really does look out for us.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The holiday season, or, the time when North Carolina becomes the center of the universe

I've always found it somewhat fascinating that beginning with Thanskgiving, millions of Americans will indulge in goods that are dominated by the state of North Carolina.

The Winston-Salem Journal stated today that North Carolina is the second-largest turkey-producing state after Minnesota. (By the way, Sampson County led the way in N.C. with 11 million gobblers last year.)

And then there are the sweet potatoes.

"North Carolina is the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the United States," according to the Department of Agriculture. "Today more than 40% of the natinal [sic] supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina."

And, finally, the holiday season closes out with Christmas trees.

"The North Carolina Christmas Tree Industry is ranked second in the nation in number of trees harvested and first in the nation in terms of dollars made per tree," according to the N.C. Christmas Tree Association.

"The North Carolina Fraser fir has been judged the Nation's best through a contest sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association and chosen for the official White House Christmas tree nine times (more than any other species) 1971, 1973, 1982, 1984, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2005, and 2007."

Quick hits: Encyclopedia Powell and new coastal rules

N.C. from A-Z
William S. Powell's tome, Encyclopedia of North Carolina, has been getting a lot of press today.

"There's not much of yesterday in the 'Encyclopedia of North Carolina,' a 15-year project that has resulted in a comprehensive history of the Tar Heel State written in small essays on various topics. The $65 book goes on sale today and is the third major historical reference book written or edited by the professor emeritus of history at UNC Chapel Hill," wrote the Associated Press.

" 'Whereas most of us might go read the latest best-seller novel, he'd rather spend his time working in his study on some kind of North Carolina puzzle that he's trying to solve,' said Jeffrey Crow, deputy director of the N.C. Office of Archives and History. 'It's just part of him. He's devoted his whole life to it.'

"More than 550 researchers, including scholars and reporters, contributed to the project, and Powell edited each submission. He also wrote dozens of entries. ..."

Building farther from the sea
"A committee to the Coastal Resources Commission agreed to a basic principal to guide the rewriting of oceanfront setback rules for the state," according to the New Bern Sun-Journal.

"That is, the bigger the building the farther it should be built from the sea, regardless of whether it is a single-family home or a hotel.

" 'Coastal hazards do not discriminate,' said Jeff Warren, coastal hazards specialist with the Division of Coastal Management.

"Current CRC ocean setback rules require commercial beachfront structures greater than 5,000 square feet to be built a distance of 60 times the erosion rate landward of the first line of stable, natural vegetation. Since most North Carolina beaches have an annual erosion rate of two feet, the commercial setback is usually 120 feet. ..."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

N.C. could get toll-happy

According to the Associated Press, some six proposed toll roads could be in existence soon all across North Carolina.

In addition to the proposed stretch of Interstate 540 near Raleigh, the other prospective toll roads that the N.C. Turnpike Authority could build are, according to the AP, "the Triangle Parkway, which would go through Research Triangle Park; the Cape Fear Skyway, a proposed bridge and road connecting Wilmington to Brunswick County; the Gaston East-West Connector, which would connect Interstate 85 west of Gastonia and I-485 in Mecklenburg County; the Monroe Connector between the U.S. 74 bypass in Union County and I-485; and a proposed bridge linking mainland Currituck County to the northern Outer Banks."

How those tolls will operate is still under discussion.

"James Eden, the Turnpike Authority's chief operating officer, recommended an automated charge system to help keep traffic moving," according to the AP. "That program reduces the cost of collection for the state, but it likely would increase the number of people who violate the toll system.

"A manual pay program would cut down on violations. However, it would slow traffic. ...

"Several toll roads are expected to open over the next several years. Those self-financing roadways are designed to fill a gap in the state's transportation financing -- a projected $65 billion shortfall over the next 25 years."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Welcome, y'all!

According to a poll conducted by the Charlotte Observer and WNCN News, the majority of newcomers to the Carolinas state what we already knew: People are friendly here.

The poll, according to the Observer, found that "1 in 5 of the Carolinians interviewed said they considered themselves newcomers."

"Among those newcomers, 57 percent gave their communities high marks for being welcoming," according to the article.

"Here, people definitely seem to have more manners. I'm finding it that way so far, anyway," said Heather Lazette, who moved to Rock Hill from Wilmington in June after living in New Jersey, Colorado, Texas and other states.

Unlike most of her previous homes, neighbors have been active about greeting her and making her feel welcome, she said. "Neighbors will drive by and wave. I just find that particularly friendly," she said.

Poll respondents said a better lifestyle was the most common reason for moving here, with 59 percent naming that as their motivation. The next-highestreason was a job or other economic factor. Being close to other family members came next, and a better climate was fourth.

Francois Brown, a newcomer to the Matthews area, lived in Charlotte for a few years following time in Fayetteville and his upbringing in New York. As he built his house on a private road in Matthews last year, neighbors stopped by during construction to ask how it was going.

"Considering I'm a black man moving into a lot of white neighborhoods, it's been pretty welcoming," he said.

Click here for the rest of the article.

Friday, November 10, 2006

ECU dental school approved

"A $90 million dental school at East Carolina University won unanimous support Friday from the University of North Carolina's Board of Governors, who will next ask the General Assembly for money.

"The project will include the dental school at ECU's campus in Greenville and up to 10 clinics in rural and underserved areas statewide. The clinics will be staffed by students in their fourth and final year of dental training.

"Supporters say the school is needed to ease a chronic shortage of dentists in North Carolina. The only other public dental school in the state is at UNC's main campus in Chapel Hill. ..."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Easley presents seven with North Carolina Awards

Gov. Mike Easley and first lady Mary Easley presented North Carolina Awards to seven people on Wednesday in Durham.

The annual awards, created by the General Assembly in 1961, are the highest civilian honor bestowed by the state and recognize individuals for their contributions to the arts, public service and science. The winners were selected from citizen nominations.

Former Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. was one of the recipients.

"Holshouser, who lives in Southern Pines, became the first Republican governor of North Carolina in the 20th century when he was elected in 1972," said the Fayetteville Observer. "During his tenure, the state university system was consolidated under the board of governors. After leaving office, Holshouser was elected to the board, where he still serves as member emeritus."

Another Fayetteville-related winner was Roy Parker Jr., who writes a military history column for the Observer.

"Parker, who writes the Military History column for the Observer’s weekly Military section, has been covering news in North Carolina for more than 50 years. He served as the Washington correspondent for The News & Observer of Raleigh from 1963 to 1972.

"Following that job, he returned to North Carolina as the press secretary for Hargrove 'Skipper' Bowles’ gubernatorial campaign. After that, Parker became the first editor of The Fayetteville Times in 1973," wrote the Observer.

The other winners of North Carolina Awards were:
-Thomas K. Hearn Jr., of Winston-Salem, who served as president of Wake Forest University for 22 years.
-Charles Sanders, a retired Glaxo chief executive, recently finished a one-year term as the first chairman of the North Carolina Education Lottery Commission.
-Artist William Williams of New York, a Fayetteville native who has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and two awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, was honored along with writer Emily Herring Wilson of Winston-Salem, whose poetry, nonfiction writings and university teachings have examined the importance of women.
-Writer Michael Parker, an English professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, also was honored. Parker has written novels such as “Hello Down There” and “Virginia Lovers” and more than 20 short stories, according to the Observer.

Quick hits: Shuler finally wins, and more on the dental school in the east

Shuler going back to D.C. a winner (a News & Observer Q&A)
"Former Washington Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler is returning to the nation's capital as a congressman representing Western North Carolina. Shuler, a conservative Democrat from Waynesville, defeated veteran Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, a banker and timber producer from Brevard. ..."

UNC board to discuss ECU dental school (Greenville Daily Reflector)
"In four appearances before University of North Carolina system agencies, East Carolina University officials have yet to hear a 'no' vote on their latest proposal to start a dental school.

"The most crucial UNC votes occur this week, and an ECU alumnus on the UNC Board of Governors cautiously expects the positive trend to continue.

" 'I really don't want to jinx this because our battles are hard-fought sometimes to gain things like that, but my belief right now is everybody is feeling pretty good about it,' said Greenville attorney Phil Dixon, a member of the UNC Board of Governors.

" 'I would be surprised if we didn't have approval,' Dixon said.

"Dixon serves on the Board's educational planning committee, which will vote today on ECU's request to begin offering dentistry degrees. The committee meets at 1 p.m. at the UNC General Administration in Chapel Hill. ..."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ski season opens early in Carolina

The first ski trails in North Carolina opened this past weekend, beginning with the Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley. The earlier-than-normal cold weather meant that Cataloochee could begin making snow for the slopes.

"I come from Tennessee every week (of the season). It's that good up here," Kendall Clark, a youth ski coach from Newport, Tenn., told the Associated Press.

"People are definitely excited. We've only been closed for seven months," since April 1, general manager Chris Bates told the AP. "We hope to ski until the end of April."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Quick hits: EI pier update and the Hispanic influence

Bogue Inlet Pier deal falls through
"Bogue Inlet Pier and its surrounding property is back on the market, and Emerald Isle is back at work on its efforts to buy one of the last public fishing piers on the island," according to the Jacksonville Daily News.

"The town announced Tuesday that its previous agreement with Mid-Atlantic Real Estate and Development of Raleigh to acquire the pier and 3.8 acres of land around it has fallen through.

" 'It’s frustrating; but we tried as hard as we possibly could to make it work, and we’ll keep trying,' said Town Manager Frank Rush.

"Mid-Atlantic held a contract to purchase a total of 15 acres, and the town had developed plans to buy the pier and improve water quality in the vicinity by removing three stormwater outfalls that drain into the ocean.

"The deal was contingent upon the town receiving a $3 million N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund grant and Mid-Atlantic finalizing its purchase from the Stanley family of Emerald Isle.

"Rush said the contract between the Stanley family and Mid-Atlantic has been terminated, thus also terminating the town’s agreement."

Hispanics have role in state economy
"The influx of Hispanics, both authorized and unauthorized, has created a complex economic give and take within North Carolina, members of the business community and others discussed Tuesday at a seminar in Greenville," according to the Greenville Daily Reflector.

"The seminar, Exploring the Economic Impact of North Carolina's Hispanic Population, was the sixth to be held across the state. It was sponsored by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in conjunction with North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry and the North Carolina Bankers Association.

"The luncheon session revolved around a study by the University of North Carolina's Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise. ...

"Ultimately, the study concluded the fiscal impact to the state of Hispanics through education, health services and corrections totaled about $817 million in 2004. Direct and indirect tax contributions by Hispanics for the same year added to $756 million, resulting in a net cost for the state budget of $61 million or approximately $102 per Hispanic resident.

" 'People say Aha, they're costing us, but before you Aha, think how much you cost us,' the study's co-author, James Johnson Jr., told seminar attendees Tuesday."