Monday, March 28, 2011

Billboard bill not popular in sponsor's hometown

N.C. Sen. Harry Brown of Jacksonville is the main sponsor of a bill sought by the outdoor advertising industry that would ease restrictions on billboards and make state law trump any local ordinances that govern them. That's not a very popular idea with at least one official in his hometown. "I don't like any proposal that removes from local government the right to regulate land use standards within their jurisdiction," says Jacksonville City Manager Richard Woodruff. The N.C. League of Municipalities, Association of County Commissioners and many other local officials oppose Brown's bill, in large part because it would override local regulations such as Jacksonville's sign ordinance, Durham's billboard ban and Charlotte's tree ordinance.

Jacksonville's ordinance, for example, says "because of their sheer size, proximity to buildings and potential to storm damage, these signs can be aesthetically undesirable, create traffic hazards and present dangers to adjoining properties."

The bill, now in the Senate Transportation Committee, also would allow advertisers to replace existing signs with digital ones and increase the area from which trees and other shrubs could be cleared around the signs.

Woodruff, a former planner, says the measure also "would create a system of regulatory ripples that could substantially affect the look and feel of your community."

Monday, March 14, 2011

Republicans pounce on Duke's convention loan guarantee

Republicans have jumped all over our report Saturday about Duke Energy Corp.'s decision to guarantee a $10 million line of credit to organizers of Charlotte's Democratic National Convention.

The GOP and other critics call it a form of corporate contribution that flies in the face of the Democrats' plan for a "people's convention." New rules for the first time ban corporate cash contributions and limit the size of individual donations.

"The DNC Reneges on its Convention Funding Promises Barely a Month after Announcing Them," a GOP press release said.

A blog on the conservative Weekly Standard was headlined: "DNC Strikes a $10 Million Deal with Cap and Trade Lobbyist." Duke supported so-called cap-and-trade legislation.

And Politico ran its version of the story, echoing a Republican spokeswoman saying the Democratic ban on corporate money was "nothing more than a PR move."

Politico quoted Democratic spokesman Brad Woodhouse. "If they think our ban on corporate contributions and our cap on individual contributions is so feckless," he said, "then they should be able to abide by the same restrictions."

Thursday, March 03, 2011

National Enquirer's Edwards' tipster outs herself

As John Edwards' legal saga builds to an apparent climax at a Raleigh courthouse, the woman who tipped the National Enquirer to his affair has spilled the details in a story for the Huffington Post.

Pigeon O'Brien, who has been living in Asheville, describes how she'd been a friend of the woman then named Lisa Druck since the 1980s. After Druck changed her name to Rielle Hunter, and got involved with a man named John from North Carolina, O'Brien found herself keeping an increasingly uncomfortable secret.

Leaks spouted from various sources. Her phone rang with queries. That's when she says she decided to spill what she knew.

"I made one phone call simply to take the pressure off myself because I couldn't live with it anymore," O'Brien told me this morning.

The Enquirer contracted O'Brien to silence -- she said she doesn't recall how much she was paid -- and went on to expose the affair in 2007. The next year it disclosed that he had fathered Hunter's daughter.

A grand jury in Raleigh is reportedly near the end of a two-year investigation into whether Edwards violated campaign finance laws in covering up the affair. This week the former U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate added former White House counsel Greg Craig to his legal team.

Hunter has been living in Charlotte with her daughter. Edwards is holed up at home in Chapel Hill. O'Brien is watching the story unfold from the sidelines.

"I just think it's important to realize the truth comes out in a million different ways," she said.