GTA Costs Spark Heated Debate at City Council Meeting

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Things became heated between representatives of Greensboro’s Transit Authority (GTA) and some members of City Council on Tuesday night over the cost of maintaining the service.

The discussion began during the public comment portion of the meeting.  Greensboro resident Lonnie Cunningham urged Council to consider a bond referendum to continue to subsidize the cost of bus fares at the current rate.

Cunningham suggested that one way to pay for the bus system would be to have a youth group collect all the campaign signs left around the City and send a bill to the candidates.

Cunningham also pointed out that buses in Chapel Hill are free.

“Chapel Hill has free buses because UNC subsidizes it,” Mayor Vaughan responded.  Council members chimed in to say that the City does take public transportation seriously and that they already heavily subsidize the cost of bus fares, which are currently $1.50 per trip for riders.

Bruce Adams, the Senior Operations Planner for the GTA, presented the program of projects for the GTA for the upcoming fiscal year. The program includes the addition of hybrid buses, which cost 40 to 50 percent more than regular buses. The recurrent maintenance is less costly with hybrid buses, but GTA representatives did concede that there is a high replacement cost for batteries that only last about five years.

Councilman Zack Matheny jumped on the discussion. Matheny, who has advocated for increasing the price of bus fares by twenty cents, pointed out that the GTA costs the City of Greensboro around $23 million each year, and at a rate of $35 per bus ride.

“If we raise the rates could we not do more to help GTA?” asked Matheny. “The cost of buses is going up.  The cost of fuel is going up. Do you see where I’m going with this?”

Councilwoman Sharon Hightower expressed her strong disagreement with Matheny on the issue, but eventually they decided to table the discussion for now and agree to disagree.

A twenty cent increase would add up for members of the community who rely on public transportation to get around everyday. A person making two or three round trips a day could end up paying an extra dollar a day.

Matheny demonstrated that this issue will most likely be a priority for him in the future. “You’re probably going to hear a lot more about this from me,” said Matheny.

 

 

Historic Westerwood Prepares for Visitors

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On Saturday morning the artist enclave neighborhood of Westerwood will open its doors to the public.  Westerwood was built as a planned community in the early 20th century and is tucked away between UNCG and downtown Greensboro.

The Vice President of the Westerwood Neighborhood Association Jack Jazorek described the area as, “kind of a well kept secret.”

Preservation Greensboro Inc. is hosting the tour, and at a press conference this morning Executive Director Benjamin Briggs announced that ticket sales were going strong.

Westerwood has been more prominent in the news lately due to ongoing tensions with Duke Energy over tree trimming in the neighborhood.  During the morning press conference Briggs briefly mentioned that Duke Energy had agreed to suspend all tree cutting until after the tour this weekend.

The tour begins at 11am and will include eight different homes in the neighborhood including a couple of craftsmen bungaloos, a mid-century modern home, a colonial revival and an English stone cottage.

“One of the really cool things about Westerwood is that no two houses are alike,” said Jazorek.

The neighborhood is known as a community for artists, musicians and college professors.  There will be a Village Fair in the park all day on Saturday with food, live music starting at 4 p.m., and wares made by Westerwood residents.

Jazorek said that residents have been using the event as motivation to tackle home improvement projects before visitors arrive.  “We’re getting ready for guests,” said Jazorek. “The neighborhood is sprucing up.”

Tickets for the tour are $20 in advance.

Settlement details emerge in blogger defamation suit

Word spread late Tuesday that four people associated with Conservatives for Guilford County that filed a defamation lawsuit against a local blogger had offered settlement terms to avoid a trial.

Most of the chatter stemmed from online posts by defendant Jeff Martin, who blogs under the name Fecund Stench. Martin posted on a new blog that he’s set up that the plaintiffs had agreed to a settlement and “paperwork is to follow.”

Martin followed that up Wednesday with a cryptic post stating “we’re close and working through it.”

Word of the suit spread Monday after Yes! Weekly broke the story. Martin deleted his blog on Friday after being served with the suit by a sheriff’s deputy. The plaintiffs objected to Martin’s acerbic satirical style, in which he lampooned their conservative politics by placing members of C4GC, and their spouses, in absurd fictional settings. The narratives often took place in strip clubs.

Douglas Adkins, the lead plaintiff, owns strip clubs in Greensboro, in addition to a vast network of ATM machines that net him profit per transaction. Adkins was an early financial supporter of C4GC. His wife, Isabella Adkins, was a prominent spokesperson for the group, appearing at numerous political rallies and local government meetings to speak on behalf of conservative policy.

According to information obtained by Yes! Weekly, Douglas Adkins objected vehemently to Martin’s writings and is demanding that Martin strictly adhere to any terms of a potential settlement.

As part of the settlement terms, Martin would have to agree not to speak publicly about Douglas or Isabella Adkins, or C4GC co-founder, Jodi Riddleberger. The terms state that Martin would limit his speech or writings about Brett Riddleberger to factual statements. Brett Riddleberger was convicted in 1995 of indecent liberties with a minor.

Martin often made salacious references to Brett Riddleberger on his blog.

The settlement also takes into account social media and internet storage concerns. Both Jodi Riddleberger and Isabella Adkins have public Facebook profiles and post frequent photos of themselves, often dressed up in costumes or in formal attire. Martin once posted a photo that appeared to be taken from Riddleberger’s Facebook wall and showed Riddleberger and Isabella Adkins, along with other women. Martin made reference to strip clubs when posting the picture on his blog.

The settlement terms require that Martin not publish photographs that might be considered private. It also would require Martin to delete posts that include the plaintiff’s names, or references to them that could lead to identification of the plaintiffs. A stipulation is included that Martin ensure the material is deleted from cache or cloud storage and that no hard copies exist.

Coble endorses Berger Jr. in Sixth District

In what is sure to be a major step in his quest to secure the GOP nomination in the Sixth Congressional district, Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger Jr. today received the endorsement of incumbent Rep. Howard Coble.

Coble kept his preferences under wraps prior to the May 6 primary, opting instead to appear with several candidates to promote general voter turnout. Berger Jr. took the top spot on election day, but failed to clear the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff with second place finisher, Mark Walker.

Coble made his endorsement known this morning at Berger Jr.’s campaign headquarters on Battleground Avenue in Greensboro.

“It’s clear to me that Phil Berger is the right conservative for the job. He has the experience, knowledge and determination to hit the ground running in Washington,” said Coble, in a release prior to the public endorsement. “He’s a solid, proven conservative with the kind of values and energy we need to keep North Carolina on the right track. I’m pleased and proud to offer my endorsement to Phil Berger.”

Coble’s endorsement should provide solid momentum to the well organized and monied Berger Jr. campaign. Coble’s brother and other family members have endorsed Walker, causing confusion among some and pushback from long-time observers who felt Walker was attempting to associate himself with the congressman.

Several of Berger Jr.’s vanquished primary opponents are considering a Walker endorsement, but Coble’s stamp of approval likely carries more weight.

“It’s an enormous honor to receive the endorsement of Congressman Coble,” said Berger. “His legacy of service to this district is outstanding. The state of North Carolina and the Republican party have benefitted greatly from his leadership, honor and integrity. Howard Coble is a true public servant who has dedicated his life to this state and his constituents. I will strive to continue Howard’s legacy of service as we work for a prosperous North Carolina.”

The runoff is set for July 15.

Walker released a statement via social media that addressed the Coble endorsement. He said the campaign was made aware of Coble’s preference two weeks ago but felt he “might refrain from being a factor in the race.”

Beyond that, Walker alluded to some opposition research Berger Jr.’s campaign is conducting.

“There is no doubt that we are in the crosshairs of a very powerful, well-funded and influential political machine,” Walker said. “Over the last few weeks, the opposition has been pressuring many elected officials and other Washington representatives for endorsements. Private investigators continue to call people and places we’ve served in looking through every aspect of our lives.”

Walker said that he remains committed to a different style of politics, one beyond the traditional Republican method of shredding your opponent with smear tactics.

“Though it has been tempting at times, we have maintained our goal of running a clean campaign that would make North Carolinians proud.”

 

The Corner Market Now Accepting SNAP Cards

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Folks under NC Support Needs Assessment Profile (SNAP) may now use their EBT cards to purchase fresh, local produce at the Corner Market on Walker and Elam street in Greensboro.

The Corner Market thanked Guilford County Health Department and Polly Evans at Faucette Farms for their efforts in enabling families receiving SNAP benefits to be able to shop at the market.

The Corner Market is an open air sidewalk market with vendors that sell everything from fresh garden herb kits to free range chicken, eggs and vegetables, and even gluten free and vegan freshly baked goods.

The Corner Market opened on April 5th 2013 as a community market serving a demographically diverse area. Evans described the market as being on, “the edge of a food desert,” and said, “We’ve got all walks of life coming here: college professors, unemployed people, college students.”

In order to qualify for the NC Food Stamp Program, a typical household of three would need to have a combined income of under $39,580 a year.

SNAP/EBT card holders can use their cards to purchase wooden Market Dollars at the Elam Gardens stall.  These Market Dollars can then by used to purchase goods from vendors at the market.

By accepting SNAP/EBT cards the Corner Market is allowing low-income families to gain access to quality groceries that might not otherwise be available to them.

“We want to make produces and local goods available to everybody,” said Evans.

Krispy Kreme Names New CEO

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Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc., based out of Winston-Salem, will have a new president and CEO.
Anthony N. Thompson will begin his new role as the company’s CEO beginning on June 1. Thompson is replacing James H. Morgan, but Morgan will still stay with the company as executive chairman.
Morgan, 66, was appointed Krispy Kreme’s CEO in 2008.
Anthony “Tony” Thompson, 47, was most recently the president and chief operating officer of Papa John’s International Inc.
Thompson, a native of Baltimore, received his Bachelor’s degree in economics from Louisiana State University in 1995. After receiving his degree, he began climbing ladders in the business world.

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Thompson began working for Papa John’s International Inc. in 2006. Before he became the company’s chief operating officer, Thompson held various positions for the company, each one increasing his responsibility.
Thompson was also president of PJ’s Food Service Inc., and he has had leadership roles at other well-known companies such as Coca-Cola and Scott’s Miracle-Gro.
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts’ revenue has been on the rise as of late thanks, in part, to the addition of their beverage menu. According to a recent report, their fiscal fourth quarter profit more than tripled.

Winston-Salem Water and Sewer Bills Will Increase

According to a recent press release by the Winston-Salem Utility Commission, an increase in water and sewer rates, utility service base charges and disposal rates at yard waste facilities have been approved.

The increase will be effective as of October 1.

Water rates will be increased by 4.5 percent and sewer rates will be increased by 6.7 percent. The monthly base charges for water and sewer service will increase by $1.24.

The average household in Winston-Salem uses 4,500 gallons of water per month, which equals a bill of roughly $36.48. The increase in water and sewer rates will equal a monthly bill of about $39.44-a $2.96 increase per household.

Even with the increase, residents in Winston-Salem will still be paying less for their water and sewer bill than residents of other larger cities.

The average rate for a household in Greensboro that uses 4,500 gallons of water per month is currently $56.90. The average in Durham is $51.44, and the average in Charlotte is $49.66.

According to Winston-Salem Utilities Director, Ron Hargrove, the increase is necessary to cover the cost of improvements in maintaining the utilities system.

“This rate increase is driven by our need to generate sufficient revenues to fund all operating expenses and debt service coverage. Increasing rates to our customers is never an easy decision; yet, it is a decision that is required to provide a long-term, safe, reliable and environmentally sound water and sewer system,” Hargrove said via press release.