North Carolina ranks 34th in the nation for overall child well-being, according to the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book. However, Orange County may be just a little bit ahead of the state all together signs of better times approaching.
“Orange County historically has done a little better on a lot of the indicators than [the rest of] the state, partly because we have a lot more programs than some of the low-wealth counties,” says Nancy Coston, the director of Orange County Department of Social Services. “We also are lucky that we live in a community that is very committed to our families.”
The KIDS COUNT Data Book is a product of the Annie E. Casey Foundation that examines 16 measures of child well-being in four categories: economic well-being, education, health, family and community.
North Carolina was one of the worst ranked states for economic well-being at 38 and performed only slightly better for family and community at 36.
The Tar Heel State was ranked at 32 in the health category and received its highest marks for education at 28.
In terms of what needs improvement, Coston says that poverty’s impact on children is something that will always have a lasting affect.
“That’s one of the things that has been really hard to help families with,” Coston stated, “Especially since around 2008, when the recession affected so many. A lot of our families have not been able to rebound from that. One of the problems is, with lower income families, the economic situation can affect them—it’s much harsher than it is for other families in terms of the impact. And the children feel that—they know that they live in a situation where they cannot have the things that other children have.”
A positive aspect to come of these poverty statistics is that the Orange County government is listening, according to Coston.
“Orange County Commissioners recently have started wanting to have additional conversations about our families living in poverty, and we’ve also seen that in some of the towns where they’re trying to address the housing and other needs of low income families. We know that children need to feel secure in their housing; they need to have no food insecurities, which we know that many of our families experience. So finding ways to make sure that all of that can be mitigated is one of the most important things that we can do here in our community.”
With all of this in mind, is Orange County currently on the rise or the decline?
Coston says she believes that, in terms of economics, the former is happening.
“We are starting to see the availability of jobs picking up, so hopefully, that impact will affect some of our low-income families,” Coston stated.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on employment of the parents, making sure their skills are marketable so that those families can get back in the work force because that is an important step for them and for their children, because we do know that children with working parents tend to do better than children without families who are working. So as the economy improves, hopefully some of that will impact.”
Coston also says there’s another positive trend happening in the form of health indicators that have improved recently in the state with Orange County as one of the leaders.
“I think it will be interesting to see, in the towns and the county, what approaches we can come up with that emphasize ways to help our children who are living in less-than-perfect situations,” Coston stated.http://chapelboro.com/news/health/oc-ahead-state-overall-child-well/
More than 8,500 fewer people in North Carolina were employed in June compared to May, although the state’s jobless rate remained flat, according to the state Department of Commerce.
North Carolina’s 6.4 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June is now 0.3 percent higher than the national average and ranks the state tied for 32nd with Alaska. Bordering states South Carolina and Virginia are tied at 17th with 5.3 percent, Tennessee at 36th with 6.6 percent, and Georgia at 44th with 7.4 percent.
Unemployment claims in North Carolina fell by more than 2,100 people from May to June. Over the year, the number fell by more than 89,000 people, dropping the jobless rate from 8.3 percent in June 2013 to 6.4 percent this year.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate saw a small increase in May from its lowest point of 6.2 percent in April. That marked a low of more than five years, dating back to the start of the Great Recession.
County-by-county unemployment rates in North Carolina are scheduled to release July 30. To see the full breakdown of the state’s unemployment rate, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/june-fewer-employed-jobless-rate-flat/
Your days of waiting for videos to buffer or uploading attachments may be over soon as competition is growing for which data provider is going to offer internet speeds up to 100 times faster than your current provider.
“AT&T already has a large fiber footprint in the region—that’s one of the reasons it made it such an attractive partner,” says Marc Hoit, the Vice Chancellor for Information Technology at N.C. State and a spokesperson for the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN). “With that, they have the ability to jump start and do things faster. We’re hoping some of those connections start before the end of this year.”
The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro along with UNC agreed in January of last year to join four other municipalities and three other major universities to ratify NCNGN. According to its website, NCNGN is a “regional initiative focused on stimulating the deployment of next generation broadband networks in North Carolina.” It’s also comprised of Durham, Cary, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem; Duke and Wake Forest round out the group.
According to Gizmodo, a design and technology blog, the Triangle averages internet speeds between 10.9 and 14.6 megabits per second. The ultra-high-speed internet option of one-gigabit per second would be 70-100 times greater than those averages.
“If you think of how long it takes to download a movie or if you’re doing education content with the university and doing streaming, some of the things that you want to do with offsite stuff like Google Apps and Documents and Microsoft SkyDrive and download music and your save your music up in the cloud, if you have a one gig file and you’re up at a gig, it takes a second,” Hoit says.
Hoit says NCNGN sees ultra-high-speed internet changing the world of medicine.
“We’re hoping to see things like medical diagnostics live, hi-resolution video used for medical services or for other types of services that you can do diagnostics and use that high-speed stream,” Hoit says.
Another positive aspect of fiber-optic internet is downloading and uploading speeds are the same. With Google fiber or AT&T U-verse with GigaPower, you could receive or send files big and small in almost no time. For example, you could download a full-length, high-definition movie in about 30 seconds.
“The symmetric version is really important from our standpoint, because as you want to work with all these new services that people are doing and putting your music in the cloud; if somebody’s in a studio and creating music and then wants to put it up and to be served somewhere else, you need that upload speed just as much,” Hoit says.
Google offered its first fiber-optic internet service in Kansas City, Missouri in 2012. It later expanded to Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas. In mid-February, the internet giant announced it was considering Triangle cities as places to expand the ultra-high-speed option.
Time Warner Cable said last year that it plans to extend the next level of service sometime in the near future.
Of course, the prices for these ultra-high speed options could be higher. Google fiber in Kansas City is selling its product at $70 per month for internet alone. It is, however, currently waiving its $300 construction fee to customers who sign up.
“Our expectation is to be priced similar to what you’re seeing in Kansas City and in Austin,” Hoit says. “The price depends on the costs and other things, but it should be very close to that same price.”
The next step for the municipalities and universities within NCNGN is to review the terms and agreements of the plan to continue the process.
Carrboro elected officials will likely vote in mid-May on the plan; Chapel Hill leaders have not decided on a date when they will vote on the plan. However, Hoit says the next step should be fairly seamless.
“It’s been a two, two-and-a-half year process of which the municipalities and the universities have been working together through this whole time,” Hoit says. “It will hopefully not come as a surprise. The municipal lawyers have all been involved, so there’s been a lot of collaboration that we’re hoping everything goes smoothly.”http://chapelboro.com/news/development/fiber-internet-2014/
North Carolina’s unemployment rate marked its lowest point in nearly six years this January, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
In the first month of the new year, the jobless rate fell 0.2 percent compared to the month prior and 2.1 percent from the year before.
The numbers reflect true improvement from between December and January with more than 17,000 people claiming new jobs while more than 11,000 people no longer claimed to be without employment.
North Carolina’s unemployment numbers are just about even with the national level of 6.6 percent.
The state’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent marks the lowest point since November 2008, which was in the middle of a five-percent increase in about a year and a half.
The county-by-county unemployment rates are scheduled to be released this Friday.
Click here to see the unemployment rate release.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/state-unemployment-rate-hits-five-year-low-january/
Each year on the second Saturday in February, the North Carolina NAACP holds a march called “Historic Thousands on Jones Street”—“HK on J” for short.
Usually it draws a few thousand people. But this year, tens of thousands converged on Raleigh—hundreds from Orange County alone—for what became the largest civil rights rally in recent U.S. history. All to carry on a movement that’s still less than a year old—and showing no signs of slowing down.
Listen to the full report (in two parts), from WCHL’s Aaron Keck with comments from 13 Orange County residents and elected officials.
They came by the hundreds from Orange County, by the thousands and the tens of thousands from across the state and across the South—and they all came with a purpose that was both widely varied and steadfastly united.
“I marched for social justice,” said Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier.
“I marched because I believe in a moral politics,” said newly appointed State Representative Graig Meyer.
“I marched because I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” said Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle.
“I loved what Rev. Barber said about ‘everybody wants a moral universe,’” said Alicia Stemper, “and I marched to make my statement that I too want to live in a moral North Carolina.”
“I marched because I’m a strong proponent of social and environmental justice, education–I’m an educator–and for universal health care coverage and access to health care,” said Carrboro Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell.
“I marched for the values that OC holds dear: education, (the) environment, equity, women’s rights, voting rights, (and) the rights of people to be represented by their state government in a real way,” said Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs.
And County Commissioner Penny Rich said she marched for a lot of things. “I marched mainly for women,” she said, “(and) I also marched for education…I marched because I believe in equal rights for equal love…I marched because I think it’s important that municipalities and counties maintain their own rights to govern…
“(And) I marched because, as a parent of two boys in North Carolina, it’s my job to make sure that their home is always someplace they want to come home to, and not move away from.”
They called it the “Moral March,” a continuation of the weekly “Moral Monday” demonstrations that galvanized progressives against the GOP-led General Assembly last year. Organizers expected about 10,000 to show—but as more and more busloads kept coming in, it became quickly apparent the final tally would be much higher.
Ashley Melzer was on hand to take pictures for Planned Parenthood. “When I first got up to the parking deck, there was no one there,” she said. “(But) when it got to be 10:30 or 11:00, all of a sudden there were people on every level, looking out (and) waving flags, everywhere.”
On the street, Town Council member Sally Greene arrived on one of two buses sent by the Community Church of Chapel Hill. “There were Unitarians from all over the country there,” she said. “We got over to Raleigh and emerged from the buses, and all of these banners that the Unitarians were carrying were orange banners with their slogan of ‘Standing on the Side of Love.’”
Randee Haven-O’Donnell was lucky enough to find a spot near the front. “There were hordes of people, crowds and crowds of people behind us,” she said. “There was a real sense of togetherness.”
Further back, Allison DeMarco was a veteran of several “HK on J” rallies—but never anything like this. “There were lots of people around us, young and old, and from all over–I saw buses from Goldsboro, there was a guy behind me who was coming down from Hertford–so it was really neat to see all these people gathering together,” she said.
For Annette Stone of Carrboro, the rally was a family experience. “My daughter was with me,” she said. “When I said what I was doing, she said ‘I want to be there too.’”
And Graig Meyer had meetings in Orange County that morning—but made it to Raleigh just in time.
“When I got to Fayetteville Street and saw the marchers coming the other way, and how many of them there were–it was a big blast of excitement in my face,” he said. “It was pretty amazing.”
I spoke with more than a dozen Orange County residents this weekend, regular folks and elected officials and everyone in between. They’d all been to Raleigh. They’d all come back energized. They all had their own unique experiences and their own unique reasons for marching—but in keeping with the intended spirit of the “Moral Monday” movement, they said those differences only made the whole experience stronger.
That’s a sentiment Ashley Melzer shared with County Commissioner Penny Rich and Town Council member Lee Storrow.
“(I was impressed by) all these different organizations working together, and all these different people: there were babies, there were old people, seeing a rabbi speak, and then an imam, and then hearing the reverend, people of different faiths,” said Melzer. Rich noted the wide variety of interest groups on hand: “I saw Carolina Jews for Justice, the NAACP, the teachers, (and) the women’s groups,” she said.
Storrow agreed, adding that the feeling of “collectively working together was, I thought, really empowering and really energizing.”
That in fact is the idea–at least according to the leader of the movement, NAACP state chapter president Rev. William Barber, whose speech on Saturday focused on the connections between all the disparate issues that have moved progressives to take to the streets.
“Reverend Barber speaks so eloquently of all the issues, in a way that encourages everybody from all walks of life to participate,” said County Commissioner Pelissier.
Carrboro Mayor Lavelle agreed. “(Rev. Barber’s speech) practically made your heart stop,” she said. “He spoke quite a bit about how this wasn’t necessarily a Democratic or a Republican issue, this wasn’t necessarily a conservative-versus-liberal issue, this wasn’t an us-versus-them issue, this was a North Carolina issue.”
Lavelle was only one of many Orange County elected officials on hand Saturday. Orange County’s elected officials have been vocal in support of the “Moral Monday” movement from the beginning, and Saturday was no exception: the crowd at “HK on J” included several Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board members, Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens, a majority of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, nearly half the Chapel Hill Town Council, and nearly all of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
County Commissioner Barry Jacobs and Carrboro Alderman Michelle Johnson both said they felt duty-bound as elected officials to be there.
“We all know that we’re under assault from a state legislature and a governor who have very little respect for many of the values we hold dear in Orange County,” Jacobs said, “and it was good to see people actually go to the streets in Raleigh, as part of a larger group, to say that we stood with our fellows.”
Johnson concurred. “The way that things are being run–this isn’t the way that I want to represent the folks that elected me,” she said. “And I feel like it’s imperative for me to be connected to a movement that’s bringing light to what’s really happening.”
Those elected officials joined hundreds of other Orange County residents, amidst a crowd that numbered in the tens of thousands. How large was the crowd? It’s always difficult to say. A press release from the NAACP estimated the crowd at 80,000-100,000, but that number’s likely inflated; Melzer says she estimated the crowd to be about 25,000-30,000, and Meyer said he guessed about 40,000.
One thing is certain: it was a larger crowd than anyone expected, and far more than any previous “HK on J” march had ever drawn. An article in The Nation magazine called it the largest civil rights march the South had seen since the 1960s. And maybe even that’s an understatement. To put the estimates into perspective: the famous Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 peaked at 25,000.
“I think for every person there, each person probably represented two or three other people who had a work commitment or a kid’s soccer game or wanted to be there and couldn’t,” observes Alicia Stemper, who was also in attendance Saturday (with her partner Lavelle). “So just the sheer numbers (were) impressive.”
Regardless of the actual attendance figures, Saturday’s event was truly historic—and Orange County residents played a major role. Whether the movement will have an effect on actual policy in North Carolina remains to be seen, of course—but everyone I spoke to said they’re hopeful that a change is going to come.
“We sent a message to the State House, and we also sent a message to one another,” said Greene. “It was like no other experience to be in a crowd of that size.”
Lavelle too says the march has her feeling optimistic, in spite of everything. “Even though there’s so much despair in North Carolina about what’s been happening…surely there are people in the General Assembly who see some of the very valid points that we’re making,” she said. “And I felt like it was a demonstration that had to happen–that it was one of those days that was just really, really important.”http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/moral-march-draws-tens-thousands/
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is renewing his focus on the income gap between rich and poor.
He’ll deliver an address later today to argue his case that income inequality and wage stagnation are threatening upward mobility and retirement security.
White House says Obama will reiterate his call for an increase in the minimum wage and promote possible economic benefits of the troubled health care law.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/obama-speech-focus-income-disparities/
CHAPEL HILL – Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina will hold its Fall For Children Fundraiser this Sunday at the Chapel Hill Country Club from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Jeremy Salemson, of Corporate Investors Mortgage Group, says Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina is the only state-wide organization that spreads awareness about child abuse and help set up support programs in all 100 counties.
“A very important event this Sunday, this is our third annual event for Fall for Children, this is an event that helps raise money and helps raise awareness for a cause and an organization that does great work throughout the state of North Carolina” Salemson says.
VP of External Relations for PCANC, Maureen McKeon, says that child abuse can be very dangerous and scarring for children.
“The stress of living in an abusive environment and not having the safe, stable, nurturing, supportive relations that they need causes toxic chemicals to be released in their brains and their bodies that physical damage them and result in long term health conditions” McKeon says.
Providing resources and support programs for families can help reduce child abuse. McKeon says she thinks child abuse can be completely avoided.
“Absolutely, when communities have factors in place, components in place, they’re called protective factors, they’ve been proven through research to prevent abuse and neglect from ever occurring at all. These are things like making sure that parents have the support they need, the resources they need, access to quality children, access to parenting resources, access to knowledge that helps them acquire the skills they need” McKeon states.
The money raised during the fundraiser on Sunday will go towards helping families prevent child abuse.
For more information on Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/non-profit-news/prevent-child-abuse-north-carolina-comes-to-chapel-hill/
RALEIGH – North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate decreased to 8.8 percent from April’s revised rate of 8.9 percent. The rate in April had been North Carolina’s lowest point in more than four years.
From April to May this year, the national unemployment rate increased to 7.6 percent from 7.5 percent.
North Carolina’s May 2013 rate was 0.7 of a percentage point lower than a year ago.
The number of people employed in North Carolina increased by 1,018 during the month and by 37,331 during the year. The jobless rate declined by 2,451 during the month and 29,767 during the year. This brings the total number of employed North Carolinians to 4,303,514 and the unemployed to 416,565.
However, North Carolina Budget and Tax Center public policy analyst, Allen Freyer previously told WCHL that the month-to-month comparison of the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the whole story of North Carolina’s current economic condition.
The total labor force, as calculated by the Department of Commerce, is the pool of prime age workers who have a job or want one. So a decrease in unemployed people does not always mean an increase in those employed.
It’s also important to note that industry employment estimates are subject to large seasonal patterns. For example, of the major industries for which pay roll data are seasonally adjusted, Leisure & Hospitality Services had the largest over-the-month gain in jobs between April and May, while many other industries had an overall higher number of jobs despite a seasonal decrease.
The county unemployment rates for May 2013 are scheduled to be updated on Tuesday, July 2, 2013.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/state-unemployment-rate-sees-slight-drop-since-april/
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina gas tax is increasing from 37.5 cents per gallon to 37.6 cents per gallon.
The Department of Revenue says the new rate for the motor fuels tax on gasoline, diesel and alternative fuels starts July 1 and lasts through 2013. The tax is computed using a flat rate of 17.5 cents per gallon and a variable of the average wholesale price of motor fuel during the last six months.
The average wholesale price is a weighted average of the wholesale prices of gasoline and No. 2 diesel fuel. The average price for the last period was $2.8743 cents per gallon.
A new rate will go into effect in January 2014.
Consumers at retail locations pay the tax. The money then goes to the department.http://chapelboro.com/news/traffic/nc-gas-tax-to-remain-mostly-flat-for-next-6-months/
UCLA (46-17) moved within one victory of next week’s best-of-three finals. The Wolfpack (50-15) will play an elimination game against North Carolina on Thursday.
UCLA used two walks, two singles and a wild pitch to scratch out a couple runs and go up 2-1 in the fifth. Two innings before, Vander Tuig tagged out a runner at the plate to keep the Wolfpack from adding to a 1-0 lead.
Vander Tuig (13-4) retired 13 of 14 batters heading into the eighth inning. David Berg came on after Vander Tuig gave up a leadoff single to Bryan Adametz. Berg worked out of trouble in the eighth and earned his NCAA record-tying 23rd save.
NC State starter Logan Jernigan (1-1) took the loss.http://chapelboro.com/sports/state/ucla-defeats-wolfpack-2-1-at-college-world-series/