Sep 282012
 

By Wesley Brown

Friday, September 28, 2012

 

A strategic alliance formed between 10 Pitt County organizations plans to finalize an agreement today to hire a consulting firm to study the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of achieving sustained economic growth in Greenville.

Commonly referred to as “SWOT,” the analysis will cost $22,000, take four months to complete and produce a “powerful document” that will identify the city’s infrastructure gaps and measure its readiness and ability to attract jobs, local leaders said during a specially called roundtable discussion at City Hall this week.

While contract negotiations are pending city approval, nine Pitt County organizations have committed $20,000 to hire InSite, an economic development firm based in Greer, S.C., to lead the study.

The list includes East Carolina University, Greenville Utilities Commission, Greenville-Pitt Chamber of Commerce, Pitt Community College, Pitt County Development Commission, Suddenlink, Uptown Greenville and Vidant Health Systems.

“I’m not sure we are going to like what they are going to report,” Tony Cannon, general manager of GUC, said. “But this is a crucial first step that will determine what the future holds for Greenville.”

Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas anticipates a deal to be set with InSite as soon as the city’s lead economic development officer, Carl Rees, returns from a business tip in Atlanta.

Although the alliance has a loose affiliation, it is in the process of agreeing on a name (possibly the Pitt County Economic Development Alliance), designing a letterhead and making Rees its project manager.

“If we promote unity, we can blow this community away,” Susanne Sartelle, president of the chamber, said.

Unity has been the main inspiration for the alliance’s formation and its SWOT analysis.

Fresh off a trip to Greenville, S.C., the group hopes to draft a 30-year master plan similar to the one used by its sister city to spur downtown revitalization through the creation of public-private partnerships.

“There’s going to be some heavy lifting when we get this report back,” Cannon said. “The whole idea, though, is to keep everyone at the table and move forward together.”

Sartelle said the chamber received seven proposals and interviewed four economic development specialists before choosing InSite to conduct the SWOT analysis, because the firm was “head and shoulders above the rest.”

With more than 2,000 successful site assignments in North America, Europe and Africa, InSite has negotiated more than $2 billion in incentives for clients locating facilities around the world, its website stated.

Thomas found the company’s credentials to be encouraging, but said city and county leaders cannot rely on it alone to deliver growth.

“We have to fight for jobs,” Thomas said. “They don’t just fall out of the sky.”

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.

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Sep 282012
 

 

September 28, 2012

At one point during a Wednesday meeting with reporters and editors of The News & Observer, Holden Thorp reckoned the job of chancellor to be one that’s a lot more challenging these days. He said it in a resigned way, not complaining, but as one perspective on the four years plus that he’s occupied the job he’ll be leaving in June.

He’s right. And though athletics has always presented challenges, the high pressure to produce big-time teams has never been more intense. That proved to be perhaps the most daunting challenge for Thorp, a scientist, teacher and dean in Chapel Hill for virtually his entire career. He acknowledges he may have underestimated that challenge, and that he might have put too much trust in the people and the system around him.

And while he was not forced from the job, there’s no question that an athletics scandal that bled into the academic mission of the university made a return to the faculty mighty attractive to the 48-year-old Thorp, who now will be dealing with several investigations regarding athletics and academics, one headed by former Gov. Jim Martin.

So what has Thorp learned, and how will he apply that painfully acquired knowledge in the final months of his tenure?

Higher standards?

There will be higher admission standards for athletes in the future, partly because the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, has approved them for 2016. But Thorp indicated UNC-CH may raise standards before that. Good.

And he says there likely will be fewer admission “exceptions,” by which students with special talents (typically athletes) are admitted when they don’t meet normal standards. Clearly, under Butch Davis, the former football coach whom Thorp fired, this was abused. In five years, some 53 football players were admitted as exceptions. That needs to be extremely rare, not relatively common.

Thorp believes the university will admit better students as athletes, and he said universities had to consider the role athletics plays, and the importance big-time sports commands, in campus life. But he did not say that trying to have major college sports coexist with top-flight academics was hopeless.

Many presidents and chancellors at big-time schools have pronounced the two missions compatible, only to be burned by scandal later. It is a question that demands ongoing discussion.

Those classes

The chancellor says he realizes that oversight of classes and departments has not been what it should be, and he has changed that. The cause of the scrutiny was the African and Afro-American Studies Department, which, as this newspaper discovered, apparently sponsored classes with no instruction that seemed to favor football players in terms of grading. Thorp said Martin and his auditors will be looking at all pertinent transcripts to determine where fraud may have existed. That’s as it should be.

The investigations are a good path, but the university’s next chancellor will need to bring a strong administrative hand to bear on athletics as well as academics. Many schools have learned that big-money boosters can quickly create a win-no-matter-what atmosphere that is the incubator of scandal.

For 50 years, UNC-Chapel Hill avoided such scandal and boasted of doing things right, the “Carolina Way.” In a matter of months, the university was under sanction from the NCAA and looking at shocking academic fraud. Chancellor Thorp seems to have learned from the experience. But can he teach others?

via Hard lessons – Editorials – NewsObserver.com.

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Sep 282012
 

 

 

Friday September 28, 2012

Authorities are expecting heavy traffic Saturday night for ECU’s second home game of the season.

The Pirates take on University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) at 7 p.m., and traffic is expected to be extremely heavy around Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, especially on Charles Boulevard, East 14th Street and Greenville Boulevard, police said.

ECU’s parking lots will open at 1 p.m. Saturday. At 4 p.m. 14th Street will be closed from the ECU Facility Services Building to Elm Street.

Parking on the north and south sides of 14th Street from Elm Street to Berkley Road will be permit-only and drivers must have visible parking passes to drive west on 14th Street from Elm Street to Berkley Road.

The following post-game restrictions will take effect from 9-9:30 p.m. Saturday:

No traffic will be allowed west on 14th Street from Elm Street.

All traffic exiting from C.M. Eppes Parking Lot will be diverted west onto 14th Street and must turn right onto College Hill Drive to 10th Street.

Traffic exiting from Berkley Road will be diverted east onto 14th Street; 14th street from Berkley Road to Elm Street will be eastbound only.

Traffic leaving the stadium on 14th Street not allowed to turn north on Elm Street.

Traffic traveling south on Elm Street must go to Greenville Boulevard.

Traffic traveling south on Elm Street at Greenville Boulevard will not be allowed to turn right to travel west onto Greenville Boulevard. Drivers must travel south on Elm Street or turn east onto Greenville Boulevard.

No traffic will be allowed east on 14th Street from West Rock Spring Road.

Charles Boulevard will be closed to southbound traffic at 14th Street.

All southbound traffic on Charles from 10th Street will be diverted west on 14th Street toward Evans Street.

At Greenville Boulevard and Charles Boulevard, no traffic will be allowed north on Charles Boulevard; traffic traveling north on Charles Boulevard from Red Banks Road will be diverted right onto Greenville Boulevard.

Traffic exiting the stadium onto Charles Boulevard from the east side (stadium side) will travel north until 14th Street.

Traffic exiting Charles Boulevard from the west side (Carol Belk Building/Stratford Road side) will travel south until Greenville Boulevard.

No U-turns will be allowed on Charles Boulevard from Greenville Boulevard north to 14th Street.

Pedestrians must stay on sidewalks on Berkley Road from Blackbeard’s Alley to railroad tracks near 14th Street and use marked crosswalks.

via The Daily Reflector.

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Sep 282012
 

 

Friday, September 28, 2012

While I really do not have a dog in the hunt on the “three-unrelated” rule, I do have a dog in the hunt on the inappropriate comments made by small-minded people in this town and reported and opined by The Daily Reflector on one councilman’s character.

It is clear that somebody has not done their homework on the issue of Councilman Max Joyner having one “excess” renter in his restored building on 14th Street, located in a commercial zone. My “fact check” included one click of the mouse which opened an official city web page prepared by the City Planning Department. Joyner’s property, zoned commercial, is not in one of the zoning districts which the city web page listed as subject to the “three-unrelated” renters rule. Makes sense; this is a residential issue, not a commercial area issue.

In addition, another click of the mouse denotes the city code that states that in addition to certain commercial uses in this zone, high density housing is “encouraged” to lessen the transition from residential to commercial. Makes sense and it is exactly what Joyner was doing.

Much to my surprise, the day after I put forward the aforementioned information to the city, the web page was significantly modified to agree with what the city attorney said to Joyner in a non-compliance letter, not what was described in the planning department website.

Clearly, we have a questionable city attorney opinion. Remember, under his legal watch, the airport fiasco on the manager’s salary occurred. To arbitrarily change a Web page, as was done by the city attorney, was wrong and unethical.

What we have is character assassination, aided by The Daily Reflector’s lack of adequate research. Pathetic.

Joyner is owed a public apology by the city and Reflector.

TERRY BOARDMAN

Greenville

Editor’s note:

The Daily Reflector discovered a questionable reference to the city’s “three-unrelated” rule on the city Community Development Web page on Sept. 6, the day an article appeared concerning City Councilman Max Joyner’s property on East 14th Street being rented to four occupants in apparent violation of that rule.

Concerned that we had made an error in need of immediate correction, we asked city attorney Holec that morning to clarify the discrepancy between his statement to us that the rule applied to all residential properties and a sentence on the Web page that indicated the rule applied only to properties in certain zoning districts. Joyner’s property was not in one of those districts. A chart listing those districts also was included on the Web page just above the sentence in question.

After checking the Web page and meeting with city planning department personnel who posted the information there, Holec determined the sentence was inaccurate and the planning department was instructed to delete it. He advised the Reflector of this action later that morning. However, the chart listing zoning categories where the rule applied apparently was left on the page at that time.

The letter writer above, Terry Boardman, noticed this chart and advised the city of its presence there in an email on Sept. 18. Holec then moved to have the planning department further review and correct the Web page by eliminating the chart. In a response to Boardman on Sept. 19, Holec said the page contained inaccurate information and had been corrected. He then repeated the statement he had made to the newspaper that the “three-unrelated” rule applied to all residential dwelling units within the corporate limits and the extraterritorial jurisdiction regardless of zoning classification.

via The Daily Reflector.

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Sep 282012
 

Property owner Jim Hannan, center, wife, Elaine, and daughter, Deana Lewis, talk with Telics representative Lance Laliberte during a town meeting on the 10th Street Connector project on Thursday evening.


Property owner Jim Hannan, center, wife, Elaine, and daughter, Deana Lewis, talk with Telics representative Lance Laliberte during a town meeting on the 10th Street Connector project on Thursday evening.

 

By Wesley Brown

Friday, September 28, 2012

 

Deana Lewis and her parents, Jim and Elaine Hannan, felt at ease on Thursday when they left a small group meeting at the Greenville Public Works Department held to bring the public up to speed on the 10th Street Connector.

Although the family will lose a Dickinson Avenue commercial warehouse for the construction of a four-lane highway between East Carolina University and Vidant Medical Center, they now know when it will happen and how much they will receive for the property.

Representatives from TELICS, the subcontractor helping the N.C. Department of Transportation negotiate right-of-way settlements for the highway project, met with close to 40 people like the Hannans.

Representatives marked the route of the road on maps, explained the acquisition process and exchanged contact information, gestures that simplified a state buyout that in recent months has caused some confusion among area residents.

“This was very informative and helpful,” said Lewis, whose parents lease business property at 1800 Dickinson Ave., the site of a former Harley Davidson dealership. “While it is a sad situation, I think they are going to work with us and make process easier.”

Starting at Memorial Drive, with improvements ending at 10th and Evans streets, the new 1.4-mile stretch of highway will widen Farmville Boulevard before crossing a residential neighborhood and rising into a bridge over the railroad tracks at Dickinson Avenue, DOT maps show.

An estimated $27 million will go toward the state buyout for part or all of 190 properties, with another $22 million set aside for construction in December 2014, when bulldozers begin to pave from Evans Street to Memorial Drive.

But public utility easements added to the project in the last nine months have caused some unrest among people with property in the connector’s path.

Close to 50 landowners have sought the advice of an eminent domain lawyer.

Ed Lewis, of the DOT’s Project Development and Environmental Analysis Branch, on Thursday cautioned the public about seeking legal advice, saying such action could add 12 to 24 months to the land-acquisition process.

“I would not immediately go out and hire an attorney because the DOT and its contractors are really good about explaining the right-of-way acquisition and relocation process,” said Lewis, adding that less than 1 percent of all settlements handled by the DOT are contested in court.

Lewis said the DOT’s fair-market-value appraisals are being checked against federal standards and state guidelines for accuracy and consistency.

In the next year, the DOT is expected present offers, negotiate settlements and close on estates.

Taylor Keith, the project manager for TELICS, was impressed by Thursday’s turnout and felt confident everyone left well informed about the project’s right-of-way acquisition.

“Everybody we talked to seemed to have a good grasp on the project,” Keith said. “We are always ready and willing to help.”

Oscar Holloman said he still had some questions about the utility easements surrounding property he owns on 14th Street and Farmville Boulevard.

“It’s all comes down to dollars and cents,” Holloman. “All government projects are slow. They don’t speed up on anything except when they want your taxes.”

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog

via The Daily Reflector.

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Sep 272012
 
 

Actress Tina Fey, left, mimics 2008 U.S. Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and Amy Poehler plays Hillary Clinton in a 2008 episode of Saturday Night Live. Photograph by: Dana Edelson, Reuters, NBC, The Canadian Press

By Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press

September 27, 2012

The 2012 presidential campaign is offering no short-age of gifts to late-night comedians – from Clint Eastwood’s ravings to Mitt Romney’s wealth and Jill Biden’s unwitting sexual innuendo about her vice-presidential husband.

But those gifts pale in comparison to the veritable comedy orgy that was 2008, some observers say.

Four years ago, Tina Fey’s bang-on Saturday Night Live impression of Sarah Palin became a global phenomenon. Fey’s most memorable punchline – “I can see Russia from my house” – was, and likely still is, often mistakenly attributed to Palin herself.

This year, aside from Romney’s recently revealed assertions that 47 per cent of Americans are freeloaders, there’s less fodder for the likes of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and David Letterman, says an academic who has studied the influence of The Daily Show on U.S. politics.

“Late-night comedy is not as much of a big deal this year as it was in 2008 – there’s less raw material to work with in terms of the targets of the jokes, and there just seems to be less buzz about it,” said Jody Baumgartner, an associate politics professor at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.

Romney’s gaffes, meantime, aren’t easy to pithily ridicule – although Colbert did his best last week, donning a top hat, tails and a wealthy man’s posh, clipped speaking manner as he ridiculed the Republican’s secretly videotaped remarks.

Saturday Night Live, meanwhile, all but left the remarks alone, offering up only a parody of Fox and Friends that featured the talk show’s hosts making excuses for Romney’s comments.

Bill Horner, a political-science professor at the University of Missouri who’s working on a book about SNL’s impact on presidential politics, said he was surprised by how feeble the jokes were on last weekend’s episode.

But late-night comedy isn’t must-see TV any more, Horner said, in an era of mass media fragmentation. Many Americans now mine their social media accounts or email the next day to catch the best parts.

“Things do get clipped and for-warded around; they still get seen, so late-night comedy still does have an influence,” Horner said.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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Sep 272012
 

 

ECU vs. ASU held at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012.   (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

ECU vs. ASU held at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

By Nathan Summers

East Carolina lost a veteran starter and a vital cog earlier this season when senior interior defensive lineman Michael Brooks injured his knee against Appalachian State.

When he returned last weekend, however, he did so as a first-time starter at defensive end, and never played a snap at nose guard. That’s how fast the Pirate defense is growing.

As much as ECU needed Brooks back in the lineup, the performance at his usual position by sophomore Terry Williams and redshirt freshman Terrell Stanley allowed the Pirates to start Brooks at one end with junior Lee Pegues at the other in the Pirates’ 3-4 scheme. Brooks expects to be in the same place on Saturday night against visiting UTEP.

“It’s a little different technique-wise, but I adapt to it well I think,” said the senior from Roxboro, who has five tackles in little more than a game, including three in his return last week against North Carolina. “It took me a while in the Carolina game (to adjust to playing end) but by the second or third quarter I started to get into my rhythm.”

UNC’s strong offensive line was just one in a string of tough assignments early this season for the Pirates’ defensive front.

With such rapid progress, however, head coach Ruffin McNeill likes the idea of the trimmed-down Brooks — he’s listed at 276 pounds this week as opposed to 313 in the ECU media guide ­ — on one outside edge and the 290-pound Pegues on the other.

“We’ve played tough lines all year from South Carolina’s offensive line, and Southern Miss had a really feisty offensive line and then last week five (potential NFL) draft choices, and those guys have held their own,” ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill said of his defensive front. “Michael has the athletic ability to play nose and the strength to play nose, but he also has the mobile side of it where he can play defensive end too.”

Pegues might be the perfect personification of ECU’s rapid defensive growth.

After a pair of starts last season, the Wallace, S.C., native has already made starts at end and nose this year, and he’s compiled 12 tackles in four games.

“Over the summer (McNeill) said, ‘I want you guys to be able to play the whole D-line because at any given point somebody can go down,’” Pegues said. “He made us versatile. The technique is mostly the same, you just have to be a little more physical to play inside.”

Depth is thick behind at all three starting line positions with the likes of junior veteran starter Matt Milner, sophomore Chrishon Rose (two starts this season), senior John Lattimore (two starts) and redshirt Jonathon White all in reserve roles.

Expanding playbook?

McNeill’s rallying cry following the UNC loss has been don’t hesitate.

He wants his players, namely sophomore quarterback Shane Carden, to play full throttle and be decisive without turning the ball over, but also without the fear of making mistakes. Of the seven sacks by the Tar Heels, some were the fault of the offensive line and some were on Carden for not getting rid of the ball sooner.

“Because Shane has been around us for three years —freshman, redshirt freshman and now sophomore — he’s been exposed to it,” McNeill said of Carden’s grasp of the offense. “So it’s not that part. It’s just that this was his second start and it still moves fast for him. Trust me, he’ll slow down and you’ll see what he can do.”

McNeill said it would be only natural for teams ­— including the hard-hitting Miners — to try to put as much heat as possible on Carden in the form of blitzes.

“That’s the normal rule of thumb — you blitz the young guy and defend the veteran,” McNeill said. “Shane’s been in it three years but he’s young in starting though. We’ll prepare him this week to see that.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com or 252-329-9595.

via The Daily Reflector.

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Sep 272012
 

 

TRAVIS LONG – tlong@newsobserver.com
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp talks with reporters and and editors Wednesday, September 26, 2012, at The News & Observer.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp said Wednesday the university is planning to strike a new – and possibly ground-breaking – balance between athletics and academics at one of the nation’s leading public universities.

Among the coming changes: tougher admissions requirements for athletes. Thorp also said in an interview with News & Observer reporters and editors that faculty members will have more oversight of classes that athletes take once they are on campus.

The chancellor said the changes coming to Chapel Hill will be “national news” when they are captured in a report expected to be released in the spring.

“Academics are going to have to come first,” Thorp said. “And it’s clear that they haven’t to the extent that they should.”

Thorp said bringing about change that ensures “academics first” will be so difficult that it was a factor in his decision, announced last week, to resign as chancellor in June and return to the faculty.

A major auditing firm is conducting a review of possible academic problems involving athletes following revelations of no-show classes in the African and Afro-American Studies Department. The audit is designed to determine whether there are problems deeper than a previous university probe revealed.

Beyond that, the football team is under NCAA sanctions, and Thorp last year fired football coach Butch Davis to try to help the university move forward.

Thorp said the auditing work involves an analysis of transcripts for all athletes. He said a separate effort in the spring will produce solutions.

Ahead of the NCAA?

Among the biggest changes would be tougher admission standards, including limits on instances where athletes are granted exceptions to normal UNC-Chapel Hill standards in order to be admitted.

In the past five years, 53 football players have been admitted to UNC-Chapel Hill under that process, according to university records.

The university could not immediately say Wednesday how many basketball players were also admissions exceptions, citing rules that prevent revealing a player’s identity. Admissions officials said providing the number of basketball exceptions could reveal player identities because each year’s class size of basketball recruits is relatively small.

Thorp said exceptions will go down as a result of the reform efforts.

“I do expect that to evolve and obviously evolve in a way that allows us to recruit people who can succeed in the classroom and on the field as well,” Thorp said. “We will be enrolling a greater percentage of students that are above whatever lines we’ve had in the past.”

In 2016, NCAA rules will toughen the acceptable high school grade-point average for incoming athletes from the current 2.0 to a minimum of 2.3 for those to be eligible to play in their first year of college. Thorp said UNC may accelerate that requirement.

“I suspect that we’ll end up raising our standards ahead of that time,” Thorp said. “We’ll be ahead of the curve.”

Thorp said great universities should try to change the way athletics fit into other parts of campus life.

“We’re saying we’re going to,” he said.

Trusting too much

Thorp also acknowledged that he had not been diligent on athletics issues as chancellor, describing a culture of “trust” in others who had betrayed him.

“I’ve made my share of mistakes as chancellor,” he said. “Looking back, I can say there are things I wish I had done differently. I felt at the time, and I feel now, that the big decisions I made were the right decisions. But I wish I had been more questioning. I wish I’d asked for information sooner, and that I’d looked at things more deeply and critically. The next nine months, I will do these things.”

On other subjects, Thorp said:

• He had no idea why former UNC star Julius Peppers’ academic transcript was left on a university server for the public to access. The N&O had provided a version of the transcript without Peppers’ name on it to university officials well in advance of reporting on it in August, and sought to confirm whether it was the transcript of an actual student or a mock version. A version of the transcript with Peppers’ name on it was later spotted in an online portal by N.C. State fans.

Before then, the university would not confirm that it was a real student transcript, saying it was a test used as part of a system for students and advisers to know what courses a student needed to graduate. A spokeswoman, Nancy Davis, said at the time in an email, “That is an eleven-year-old test file.” She also said “test students were created” to evaluate the system.

Thorp said Wednesday he was involved in that message, but could not recall or explain why the transcript was characterized as something other than a real student’s.

“We should have done a better job with that whole thing,” Thorp said.

• He started to seriously consider resigning in the past few weeks, and the decision crystallized after a meeting with Board of Governors members on Sept. 14. He was questioned behind closed doors following disclosures of what Thorp has called “personally driven” travel by chief fundraiser Matt Kupec and disclosures that Kupec had helped create and fund a job for his girlfriend, Tami Hansbrough, who is the mother of former basketball star Tyler Hansbrough.

Thorp said he talked over the resignation with his wife that weekend and made the decision. Thorp said he has not wavered despite several rallies on campus asking him to reconsider.

• He looks forward to being part of the faculty again. But he would not specifically rule out returning to an administrative post.

Curliss: 919-829-4840
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