By News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 23--Downtown close-down

Center-city landlord and business owner Milton Kern was both incredulous and put out that First Friday won't be held as usual in downtown Greensboro on July 4 -- the first Friday of the month.

The Fun Fourth activities earlier that day will attract a big crowd and lots of potential customers. But instead of encouraging those crowds to stick around and shop and dine downtown, the nonprofit booster, Downtown Greensboro Inc., is encouraging them to go to a pops concert and fireworks show at the Greensboro Coliseum.

What gives? Kern bristles. "If we've got them here," Kern said in an email to DGI, "why would we need to get them to leave?"

One probable reason, so far unstated, is public safety. In June 2013, fights broke among crowds of youth downtown, prompting a teen curfew for the center city that was lifted in the fall. In 2012, crowds caused disturbances near Center City Park and beyond after July 4 festivities downtown.

This recent history has got to be in the back of some people's minds as this July 4 approaches.

Still, Kern has a point. It's sadly ironic to have to encourage people not to visit downtown. Or to leave once they're there.

Yes, it's better to be safe rather than sorry. But it's shame it's come to this.

Their dream, our dollars

We don't get it. Black Network Television's allegations that the city of Greensboro discriminated against it by "reneging" on a loan offer to help put on a sitcom seems both odd and baseless.

But they've hired a famous attorney, Willie Gary of Florida, to pursue the case. BNT owners Ramona and Michael Woods are seeking $50 million and change in damages.

Here's what the city did: It found out through a title search that the collateral for the $300,000 loan, the couple's $975,000 house, already had a second mortgage. That made this a questionable deal for taxpayers.

In other words, the city was being reasonable, fair and, most important, fiscally responsible. Let 'em sue.

Mug shot privacy

A state Senate bill that would change the public records statute to make mug shots private if a person is arrested on a misdemeanor charge is the wrong response to a public records issue. If the law is aimed at online websites that have monetized the public record by publishing mug shots and charging people to remove them, there are more direct ways of addressing the problem.

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Oregon and Georgia passed laws giving such sites 30 days to take down the image, free of charge, of anyone who can prove that he or she was exonerated or whose record has been expunged. Utah prohibits county sheriffs from giving out the photos to sites that charge to delete them.

But taking them out of the public record entirely is too broad a stroke, as it would also prohibit news organizations from publishing them. Mug shots have been a part of the public record for 100 years, and as Amanda Martin, attorney for the N.C. Press Association pointed out, people understand that arrest doesn't mean conviction.

This provision should be tossed from the 35-page Regulatory Reform Act, which has become a grab bag for everyone's pet peeve.

Risky business

The CDC's most recent study of Youth Risk Behavior had a lot of heartening news about North Carolina youth. Many of the behaviors that worry parents most had declined, including alcohol use, cigarette use, and sexual activity.

But some worrisome behaviors are going in the wrong direction. Marijuana use has increased. Nearly 41 percent of students said they'd used the drug. And a new question for high school students revealed that 34 percent had texted while driving.

Teen drivers already have the highest proportion of fatal crashes related to distracted driving. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts, texting while driving causes 11 teen fatalities every day.

That's chilling.

Also troubling were statistics on physical activity. Forty-three percent of middle school students and more than 53 percent of high school students said they were not physically active at least 60 minutes per day for five days a week.

Given the epidemic of obesity sweeping the country, this doesn't bode well for the future.


(c)2014 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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