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Local mayors appear in video to boost gun control effort

A national mayors group is trying to keep the pressure on Congress to take action on gun laws following the Newtown school shootings with a new public service announcement.

The 1:26 minute video features Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Durham Mayor Bill Bell. The two get small cameos in the spot. "No more makeshift memorials," Kleinschmidt says in the quick-cut piece. "Demand action," Bell adds later in the spot.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the producer of the spot, said it represents a shift in the group's campaign for tougher gun laws as it asks Congress to take action to pass legislation requiring background checks in all gun sales, limit high-capacity ammunition magazines and toughen penalties for gun trafficking.

Jesse Jackson coming to NC to encourage voting

The Rev. Jesse Jackson will visit the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Friday to discuss the importance of voting in the upcoming election.

Jackson will meet with students, faculty and community members in the Genome Science Building on campus. Joining him will be members of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus.

E. Edwards to sell furniture

Elizabeth edwardsElizabeth Edwards will open a furniture store in Chapel Hill with an anticipated October opening, according to the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Center.

Dwight Bassett, economic development officer for Chapel Hill, says Edwards has leased space in Rosemary Village at 400 W. Rosemary St. downtown, near the Greenbrudge condo towers, Mark Schultz reports.

The store, called Red Window, will feature a mix of styles and prices patterned after a charity store called The Red Door that her mother managed when she lived in Japan, the visitors center says.

While on her book tour for "Resilience," Edwards told reporters that she had bought a large selection of furniture in High Point and taken a business license from the town of Chapel Hill.

The Rosemary Village building is on the corner of Rosemary Street and Mitchell Lane in downtown Chapel Hill. The mixed use building features commercial retail and office space facing Rosemary Street, with 30 feet of window frontage and 40 condominiums.

Quick Hits

* N.C. Republican Party chair candidate Chad Adams to have a meet-in-greet Wednesday in Raleigh at the home of Pat McCrory's sister.

* House Speaker Joe Hackney tells legislators they're going to have to stick around on Friday to get work done before crossover.

* Sex ed bill briefly delayed by Chapel Hill/Carrboro schools, which have a more progressive policy that they want grandfathered in.

* Gov. Beverly Perdue lobbies Democratic Party chair to bring the 2012 national convention to Charlotte; first state to express interest.

Atkinson: Don't force school mergers

June AktinsonJune Atkinson says the state shouldn't force school systems to merge.

The state schools superintendent objected today to a Senate budget provision — and a related bill — that would limit state spending to one school system per county.

That would affect a handful of school systems in the state, including Orange County and Chapel Hill schools.

"I do not agree with that," Atkinson told Dome. "I understand that these are difficult economic times, but I think that decision has to be made at the local level."

The bill is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand.

Related: Sen. Martin Nesbitt, a Buncombe County Democrat, also objects to the proposal. 

Coop: Will decide by spring

Roy CooperIs the 2010 Senate race on yet? 

Attorney General Roy Cooper said he hopes to make a decision on whether to challenge Republican Sen. Richard Burr some time this spring, Rob Christensen reports.

"I want to continue with public service to the people of North Carolina," Cooper said Tuesday morning after attending a meeting of the Council of State. "I'm going to determine the best way to do that. I'm going to decide that very soon."

He said many people have been talking about him about the race. He said he has heard from the Democratic Senate leadership, which is trying to recruit him.  He declined to say who specifically has talked to him about it.

The national Democrats see Cooper, a three-term attorney general, as their strongest candidate against Burr.

Burr is using the Senate recess this week to make numerous public appearances in the Triangle and in Eastern North Carolina.

Among other events, Burr will speak at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce in Chapel Hill this evening, will attend a Veterans Administration Appeals Moot Court event at N.C. Central University in Durham Wednesday morning and will speak to the North Raleigh Rotary Club at lunch tommorow.

Then he is off to Oxford, Henderson, Tarboro, Rocky Mount and Wilson.

Former Chapel Hiller at speech

An East Chapel Hill High School graduate will be among two dozen guests sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama at tonight's speech before a joint session of Congress.

Marine Sgt. John E. Rice, who was born in Bethesda, Md., and lived part of his childhood in Chapel Hill, graduated from high school there in 2003, Barb Barrett reports.

He went on to attend the University of Maryland and join the Marines, training at both Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He deployed to Iraq in April 2008 and was injured last July when a landmine exploded while he was on foot patrol.

Rice now resides in Bethesda, where he is being treated for his injuries.

Young hits seven cities on state tour

David YoungDavid Young is going on a listening tour.

The former Buncombe County commissioner, currently the odds-on favorite for Democratic Party state chair, will head to seven cities to meet with local organizers and volunteers.

After a stop in Fayetteville Tuesday, Young will be in at the state Democratic Party headquarters in Raleigh at noon around the opening of the legislative session. 

He'll be at Foster's Market in Durham at 8 a.m., then at the Chapel Hill Library at noon tomorrow, followed by stops in Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte. (A full schedule is here.) 

Young has the backing of outgoing chair Jerry Meek and Gov. Beverly Perdue, among others. Since he announced last week that he was running, two other candidates have dropped out. 

Joe Hackney, cover boy

Hackney CoverSpeaker Joe Hackney is an unusual pick for cover boy.

The Chapel Hill Democrat, a mustachioed cattle farmer and divorce lawyer, is not as good-looking as Brad Pitt, as charismatic as Will Smith or as omnipresent as Barack Obama.

But Governing magazine is not GQ, Entertainment Weekly or, um, every magazine currently in publication.

It's cover story, "Legislatures in 2009" (see what we mean?), highlights Hackney as a "squeaky clean" reformer who came to power as disgraced former Speaker Jim Black fell from grace.

Still, it says he was not the "consensus choice."

He attributes that to his cleaner-than-thou image. "When you're running for speaker," he says, "that's a help with some people and a hindrance with others." But most members recognized the chance Hackney's reputation offered them to begin rebuilding public trust. He was elected speaker after four caucus ballots.

The article notes that Hackney has grown more business-friendly as his district has shifted away from Chapel Hill and into rural Chatham County, though he remains "perhaps the leading environmentalist" in the House.

It also says he's opened up the legislative process, allowing more time for debate and study and avoiding running roughshod over the Republican minority.

N.C. mayors release stimulus wishlist

The urban mayors have their wishlist ready.

The N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition released a list today with $2.8 billion in infrastructure projects they said could be started immediately.

The list includes new buses for the city of Raleigh, fire stations in Greensboro and Cary, light rail enhancements in Charlotte, a public library renovation in Chapel Hill, and repairs to sidewalks, water and sewer lines and parks around the state.

The group said it hopes to persuade the state and federal government to direct some of a planned economic stimulus package to local government.

"Our goal in releasing this list is not to advocate for individual projects, but to show cities' ability to deploy the stimulus money quickly on important local infrastructure projects," said Rocky Mount Mayor David Combs, co-chair of the coalition's economic development committee.

The nonpartisan coalition was founded in 2001 and represents the state's 26 largest cities.

Update: The list does not include a request for $20 million in Community Development Block Grants for a "minor league baseball museum" in Durham that was included in a wishlist from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

That project and others have been criticized as pork by some critics.

Correction: The group recently changed its name from the N.C. Metropolitan Coalition. 

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