Katie O'Reilly

The objective of the local “Celebrating the Dream” initiative that’s currently ongoing is to measure this region’s progress toward racial equality over the past fifty years—which is how long ago the Civil Rights Act was passed--and also to gauge the work that still needs to be done. But because state voting laws were recently changed, some argue that North Carolinians actually stand to regress over the course of the upcoming election. It’s why the state NAACP has organized a crew of Moral Freedom Summer fighters to run a statewide, nonpartisan voter empowerment campaign.

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After enduring exposure to toxic herbicides including Agent Orange, Vietnam War veterans face higher incidence of neurological malfunction, respiratory disease and some forms of cancer—and in many cases, their children and grandchildren do, too. This is why Wilmington’s chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America is hosting a town-hall-style meeting tomorrow. Their objective is to spark local support for federal legislation that will better protect such victims—long after their current caretakers, who are usually their parents, have passed on.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is more commonly known as the Fair Housing Act. It prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and gender when it comes to the sale, rental or financing of housing.  In 1988, it was amended to protect people with disabilities and families with children. But, the Fair Housing Act still allows for discrimination in cases of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The question of what to do with New Hanover County’s solid waste is still open. After hearing long-awaited presentations Monday from two private companies vying to haul local waste to neighboring counties, the commissioners were left dissatisfied with projected costs. While the outside companies have been invited to justify their numbers during next month’s commission board meeting, the county could simply continue to handle waste management operations on its own.

Ernie Ward

A second Brunswick County veterinarian is vying to represent the citizens of North Carolina’s Senate District Eight.  In fact, Democratic candidate Dr. Ernie Ward cites -- as a major impetus to run -- a January episode during which his district’s incumbent senator, fellow veterinarian Bill Rabon, rejected legislation to regulate commercial dog breeding. In addition to animal rights, this political newcomer—who is endorsed by the North Carolina Association of Educators and has served on Brunswick County’s Board of Health—champions accessible healthcare and middle-class job creation.

Business owners in Southeastern North Carolina are more optimistic than they’ve been since pre-recessionary times—and many plan on doing some hiring. This is according to PNC Bank’s annual spring outlook survey. Yesterday, their economist presented survey findings on the financial state of the nation, the state—and of Wilmington. And the Port City is considered an area of major growth—yet in terms of residents’ income, it still lags behind state and national averages.

Justin LaNasa is no stranger to regional ballots. Most recently, LaNasa lost a bid for Wilmington mayor, in 2011. After a brief stint as a Libertarian, the weapons designer, real estate agent, and owner of several businesses--including a Wilmington tattoo parlor--is back to his Republican roots, and running for Senate District 9. And LaNasa is dedicated to lowering taxes, exploring new revenue streams—and seeing more checks and balances in government.

Public input is the key factor shaping the City of Wilmington’s Comprehensive Plan. This is what city planners are launching in anticipation of massive population growth over the next twenty-five years. And they’re seeking input from everyone, especially those citizens most likely to still call Wilmington home in 2040—schoolchildren.

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It’s the thirty-second annual Business Week at UNCW’s Cameron School of Business--meaning dozens of prominent alumni and executives have descended upon the Port City, to share their knowledge of marketing, entrepreneurship and information technology. Each year, programming is tailored to reflect Cape Fear-specific business trends. And today’s trajectories point to “worthy cause marketing” and a rise in regional craft breweries and wine startups.

The National Flood Insurance Program is working its way out of bankruptcy following Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy--but its plan involves sharp premium increases for coastal property owners. This population includes more than 17,000 North Carolinians--many of whom stand to have their flood insurance rates triple this year. Coastal community leaders are busy voicing their concern to federal and state legislators. To strengthen their argument at the federal level, leaders from communities such as Topsail Beach plan to band together across North and South Carolina’s coast.

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The City of Wilmington is expected to gain 60,000 citizens by the year 2040. In anticipation, city planners have launched a comprehensive plan similar to that of New Hanover County. While the Wilmington plan also asks residents to describe their ideal community attributes, its public engagement process is less orthodox. In fact, city planners have been hitting the local bar scene to collect input.

Assistance League of Greater Wilmington

One area nonprofit is embarking on a brand-new funding stream this weekend. The Assistance League of Greater Wilmington—whose community volunteers provide school uniforms to children in need, prune hospital gardens, and moonlight as puppeteers bearing anti-bullying messages—is cutting the ribbon at its newest philanthropic venture, a thrift store. The operation is expected to pull in $100,000 to $200,000 annually.

Can Parks Drive Regional Economic Development?

Feb 27, 2014

As New Hanover County launches its comprehensive plan to accommodate the region’s projected growth, leaders are looking into the future of open spaces and parks. Tuesday night, the Cape Fear Economic Development Council, or CFEDC, assembled a panel of green space proponents from the county--as well as from the City of Wilmington--to discuss ideas for new and improved public spaces.

In gearing up to apply for a ninety-million-dollar grant to revitalize a huge swath of the city, the Wilmington Housing Authority made a loud plea for citizen involvement. And it’s now being answered. Nearly one hundred people—from public housing residents to local business leaders—are volunteering to serve on sub-committees dedicated to making Wilmington’s application as competitive as it can be.

Many Wilmington-area citizens are busy spreading awareness of the importance of the first 2,000 days—or five years—of a child’s brain development. This week, faith leaders addressed early childhood at a local summit; however, the statewide First 2,000 Days campaign—the first of its kind—has been in effect since 2011. And it’s not just geared toward parents and those who work with young children--communities at large benefit from the “spillover effect” of a quality first 2,000 Days.

It’s a lot easier to build a playpen than a penitentiary, area faith leaders say. And it’s why they’re teaming with Smart Start of New Hanover County to launch a grassroots movement to invest in early childhood care and education. On Monday, nearly two hundred community leaders, teachers and parents met at Wilmington’s First Baptist Activity Center to discuss ways to improve the first 2,000 days—or five years—of local children’s lives.

The New Hanover Regional Medical Center may be heightening security measures to more safely treat victims of violent gang activity. Over the weekend, Wilmington’s annual Trauma, Emergency and Acute Care Symposium touched down at the convention center. For the first time in the symposium’s 25-year history, North Carolina gang investigators were on hand to caution area medical professionals about treating gang members.

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Residents of Flemington, a small community located off of U.S. 421, will soon be connected to New Hanover County’s main water system. Officials from Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, or CFPUA, say they'll construct a new connective water pipeline this year. This is because groundwater containing coal ash slurry from Duke Progress Energy’s Sutton Plant has been slowly seeping toward Flemington’s current drinking wells. The CFPUA held a public meeting to discuss the pipeline Tuesday night, but fewer than five private citizens attended—and none made public comments.

Local Legislators Support Higher Teacher Pay

Feb 4, 2014

North Carolina’s public schoolteachers have a new advocate. The group Aim Higher N.C. formed last year around a single objective: Raising educators’ salaries to match the national average. On Monday, affiliated teachers and parents gathered for a rally at Wilmington’s downtown library. And the mission has already gained local legislative support.

Berger Pleads Guilty, Keeps County Commission Seat

Feb 3, 2014
New Hanover County

New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger will spend the next year under supervised probation—or, failing that, 120 days in prison. This morning, Berger pleaded guilty to December charges, including his second DWI, and a first for drug possession. While he will have to do community service and undergo formal drug and substance abuse evaluation, Berger can no longer legally be removed from his seat on the county commission.

Governor McCrory Tours Wilmington Port

Jan 28, 2014

Wilmington Ports Authority officials are working to boost storage capacity for niche products such as local produce, pork and wood pellets. Yesterday, Governor McCrory toured the port and announced he’ll work to make it competitive with neighboring port cities Savannah, Charleston and Norfolk. McCrory also announced plans to improve education.

Treefest 2014 Touches Down at Independence Mall

Jan 23, 2014

Tomorrow and Saturday, New Hanover County citizens can head to Wilmington’s Independence Mall to pick up seedlings to plant for spring. The event, TreeFest, began as a 1997 initiative to help reforest the area following Hurricanes Bertha and Fran. Today, it serves to help build upon the county’s leafy green canopy, and promote local biodiversity.  

Southport Woman Wins 2014 Walter Welsh Award on MLK Day

Jan 21, 2014

Southport’s annual two-day celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. can be credited to founder Walter Welsh. An Episcopal reverend and civil rights activist, Welsh in 1978 became the only white member of the Southport NAACP chapter, and launched a series of interracial study circles. Welsh died in 2006, but Southport’s MLK Celebration Committee carries his legacy forth via the Walter Welsh Award.  Yesterday, that torch was passed to Southport’s Musette Steck.

The New Hanover County planning department has a month to revise the most recent draft of the special use permit--or SUP--which is what new industrial companies need to operate. Last week’s presentation of the SUP to the planning board sparked controversy among local environmental advocates, pro-business groups and members of the public--many of whom claimed they didn’t have adequate time to consider the new draft.

Southport Remembers MLK Through Community Activism

Jan 17, 2014

Monday marks the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. And the city of Southport will be commemorating the same way it has for more than twenty years—with a two-day festival that aims to inspire community involvement. This year the MLK Committee will also be celebrating the success its other initiative, Project Do Something. A joint effort with Brunswick County Schools, it serves to encourage students to perform acts of kindness and justice year-round—in tribute to Dr. King.

The 2014 state legislative elections could be the last in which voters don’t have to comply with the Voter Information Verification Act of 2013—also known as VIVA. This controversial law, which requires ballot-casting North Carolinians to present photo ID, goes into effect just in time for the federal elections of 2016, and could render 200,000 citizens ineligible to vote. In order to identify at-risk voters in New Hanover County, the Board of Elections will be screening for IDs throughout this year.

NHC to Host Public Hearing on Special Use Permits

Jan 8, 2014

Tonight, New Hanover County’s planning department is holding a public hearing about some newly-proposed changes to the special use permit. 

At a November work session, the planning department offered a draft that would require applicants to address their long-range impact on the community and environment.  

The latest changes are meant to clarify requirements, but some are saying the new language also stands to modify them. 

The City of Wilmington is working with the police to tackle one ongoing problem: speeding in residential areas. City officials are launching a pilot program, based on data they’ve been gathering using hidden radar devices that track vehicular speed within select neighborhoods. WHQR’s Katie O’Reilly reports that by the end of this month, the city plans to mail these residents details on speeding patterns along their own streets.

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For the first time, all Brunswick County elementary students can enjoy a free, daily breakfast at school. Last semester, kids qualified for either free, reduced or paid meals, depending on their families’ economic situations. Thanks to some state and federal reimbursement, as well as a unanimous School Board decision, the most important meal of the day is now an equal-opportunity affair. While few students took advantage of breakfast when school resumed last Thursday, WHQR’s Katie O’Reilly reports that the school district expects participation to take off this week.

Wilmington may be among the first communities nationwide to pioneer a health care program integrating primary and behavioral care. New Hanover Regional Medical Center is working with Wilmington’s Coastal Horizons Center to develop a plan to divert those patients suffering mental health crises from the hospital ER to the nonprofit treatment center. Among other benefits, WHQR’s Katie O’Reilly reports that this partnership could cut down on overcrowded emergency room traffic.

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