Best Local Activist Group: UNC Students Who Took Down Silent Sam

INDY: It’s more than a little embarrassing that a monument honoring white people who fought a treasonous war to subjugate black people and perpetuate chattel slavery—and if you don’t realize that’s exactly what happened, please crack open a history book; we’re tired of explaining it to you—was allowed to stand at the entrance of North Carolina’s flagship university for 105 years. It’s also more than a little embarrassing that its presence was defended by old white men who took a very intense interest in Preserving History™. But it’s pretty badass that, after more than a century—and after several years of increasingly hot-blooded protests and arrests and confrontations with neo-Confederates—a bunch of students and activists said the hell with it, we’ll take this thing down ourselves. And one night in August, that’s just what they did.

Finalists: Alerta Migratoria, NC Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, South Wake Park Project

Best Local Do-Gooder: Maggie Kane, A Place at the Table

INDY: During the packed lunch hour rush at downtown’s pay-what-you-can eatery, you can’t tell who spent $2 for a meal and who paid $12. That’s kind of the point, says owner Maggie Kane, who conceptualized the nonprofit after her work in soup kitchens revealed an unmet community need: a place for those struggling to eat with dignity. Kane spends her days doing every job imaginable (besides cooking), but she says the highlight is always the same: “I get to know so many people here with all different stories, ideas, dreams, hopes. It’s just really cool.”

Finalists: James Tripp, Jessica Hulick, Katelyn Belch, Shop Durham

Best Local Facebook Page: Fuquay-Varina Memes

Finalists: Best of the Bull, Networking Women of the Triangle, Today in the Quay

Best Local Instagram Account: Fuquay-Varina Memes

Finalists: Best of the Bull,@copper.and.lily, @KetsuAndNinja

Best Local Politician in Need of a Reality Check: Thom Tillis

INDY: Last week, Emerson College released a poll showing Senator Thom Tillis down seven points to his presumed Democratic rival, a little-known state senator named Erica Smith. It’s just one poll—some polling experts have taken issue with Emerson’s methodology (which has Joe Biden up twelve over Donald Trump, FWIW)—and, in any event, we’re a long way from the election. But this isn’t the only cloud on Tillis’s horizon. He’s facing a legitimate primary opponent—never a good sign—and he’s losing support from his base. Can you blame them? In his five years in the Senate, Tillis has proven himself a man without a spine. Just one recent example: He wrote a Washington Post op-ed on how terrible Donald Trump’s border-wall emergency declaration would be (look at me, I have GUTS!) then turned around and voted for it a few weeks later (never mind). None of this should be surprising. Tillis is a guy who in 2014 pretended that he’d be a pragmatist, even a moderate, and then promptly turned into a Trump lackey. November 2020 can’t come soon enough. 

Finalists: Richard Burr, Greg Ford, Jessica Holmes

Best Local Radio Station: WUNC 91.5 FM

INDY: WUNC-FM 91.5 offers the public radio standards—Morning Edition, Fresh Air, and the like—but it really shines in its local reporting. In April, the station won five regional Edward R. Murrow reporting awards for Breaking News and Continuing Coverage, among other categories. Frank Stasio lends a familiar voice to regional coverage with The State of Things, WUNC’s live daily syndicated program that highlights personalities and places across the state. Back Porch Music, WUNC’s longest-running program, brings acoustic-based folk and old-time music to the airwaves every weekend. On Sunday evenings, it’s our favorite thing to tune into.

Finalists: WKNC 88.1 FM HD-1, WRAL-FM / MIX 101.5, WXDU(88.7 FM)

Best Local TV Newsperson: Debra Morgan, WRAL

Finalists: David Crabtree, WRAL; Gerald Owens, WRAL; Tisha Powell, WTVD

Best Local TV Weatherperson: Elizabeth Gardner, WRAL

Finalists: Big Weather, WTVD; Cat Campbell, WRAL; Mike Maze, WRAL

Best Local Twitter Feed: @bitesofbullcity

Finalists: @alRiggsMusicOk,@joeovies, @MajortheBull

Best Local-Interest Blog: Today in the Quay

INDY: Technically, Today in the Quay isn’t a blog. It’s a Facebook page run by Jason Wunsch—and it lost out on Best Facebook Page (and Best Instagram Account) to Fuquay-Varina Memes, a somewhat more ribald and meme-ified (and popular, judging by likes) competitor, if you can call it that. TITQ, meanwhile, doesn’t offer much commentary. It posts stories that appear in the news about Fuquay-Varina (“Why Entrepreneurs Are Choosing Fuquay-Varina,” “After 32 years, Fuquay-Varina Town Hall Returns to Downtown”) and offers a forum for readers to discuss the burning issues of the day (“Where do you get your favorite sub in Fuquay-Varina?” Some answers: Jersey Mike’s, Johnny’s Pizza in Holly Springs, a Citgo gas station). Fuquay is a small town, sure, but like the rest of Wake County, it’s growing fast. TITQ gives natives and newcomers alike a hyperlocal forum to learn about their hometown’s youth and community events that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Finalists: Best of the Bull, Bites of Bull City, Palmetto Blog

Best Local-Interest Website: Duke Lemur Center

Finalists: Best of the Bull, NC Tripping, Offline

Best Place to Hike: Eno River State Park

Finalists: Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area, Raven Rock State Park, William B. Umstead State Park

Best Place to People Watch: NC State Fair

Finalists: American Tobacco Campus, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Weaver Street Market

Best Place to Pick Up an INDY: Elmo’s Diner

Finalists: Caffe Driade, Weaver Street Market, Whole Foods Market

Best Place to Run: American Tobacco Trail

INDY: You’ve likely seen the American Tobacco Trail, even if you didn’t know it: The route begins in downtown Durham at the corner of Morehead and Blackwell, and stretches southward for more than twenty miles, crossing major roads like MLK and Roxboro before making its way through rural stretches of Cary and into Wake County. The rails-to-trail route receives you with the gentleness you need: It’s completely flat and the first stretch is paved, it’s mostly shaded, and it’s dotted with bridges and creeks and all the variant scenery you need to keep a run interesting. Stretches can be isolated—part of its appeal; for sure, but it might be wise to run with a buddy if it’s dark out. Protected stretches of green are a special thing, and it’s hard to imagine a better place in the Triangle to get those miles in.

Finalists: Al Buehler Trail, Lake Johnson, Umstead Park—Reedy Creek

Best Place to Take Visitors From Out of Town: Sarah P. Duke Gardens

INDY: When your guests have already cycled through brunch spots and breweries, it doesn’t take very long for hosting panic to set in. Fear not. Sarah P. Duke Gardens—named one of the top-ten public gardens in America by TripAdvisor—is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. The garden, fifty-five acres in total and comprising four gardens, has a sprawling, you-can-get-lost-here feel to it, although it’s immaculately curated. To get your fix of botanicals, make sure to stop by the Peonies, Iris Bridge, Azalea Court, and the “Carnivorous Plant Bog.” And if it’s commemorative pictures that you seek, the Red Bridge has got you covered. Best of all: Admission is free. And if you come before 10:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m., you can bring your dogs. They’ll love to stare at the koi pond. Or try to eat duck poop.

Finalists: American Tobacco Campus, Duke Lemur Center, North Carolina Museum of Art

Best Politician in Durham County: Steve Schewel

Finalists: Vernetta Alston, Jillian Johnson, Charlie Reece

Best Politician in Orange County: David Price

Finalists: Verla Insko, Graig Meyer, Damon Seils

Best Politician in Wake County: Roy Cooper

Finalists: Matt Calabria, Jay Chaudhuri, Sig Hutchinson, David Price

Best Reason to Leave the Triangle: N.C. General Assembly

INDY: The General Assembly is slightly less of a horror show than it was a year ago, but that’s not because the Republicans who run it have gotten any less cynical. They just got their asses kicked in November. Their gerrymandered districts still gave them decent majorities—despite earning fewer votes statewide than Democrats—but they no longer have supermajorities, which means they no longer have the ability the override Governor Cooper’s vetoes at will. That doesn’t mean much good is coming out of Jones Street these days—the state still hasn’t expanded Medicaid or funded education like it should or reversed efforts to curtail voting rights—but it does mean less bad is happening. For now, we’ll take it.

Finalists: Traffic, housing prices, the heat

Best Reason to Love the Triangle: Diversity

Finalists: Food, craft beer, Duke Lemur Center

Best Use of Public Money: Public education

Finalists: Greenways and parks, affordable housing

Best-Kept Secret: Duke Lemur Center

INDY: We totally get how this eighty-five-acre lemur sanctuary is the best. We do not get how it is a secret (especially considering the Lemur Center also won Best Local Interest Website). Just look at that face!

Finalists: Kenny’s Tree Removal, Edde Burgess Photography, The Greenway Club at Falls River

Biggest Waste of Public Money: ICE

INDY: In November, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents convinced Samuel Oliver-Bruno, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who’d been living in sanctuary in a Durham church for nearly a year, that he needed to come to Cary to receive a biometric screening so that he could proceed with his asylum claim. He knew there were risks, but he went anyway. And, of course, as soon as he arrived, ICE agents tackled him, arrested him, and quickly deported him, bravely saving us from a menace who had [checks notes] lived in the U.S. for almost twenty years before returning to Mexico to visit sick relatives, then illegally re-entered the U.S. to care for his wife, who has a serious heart condition, and their son. This is a microcosm of what ICE has become. At least six children have died in its custody since 2018. It’s stacked thousands of immigrants into overstuffed holding pens. It’s taken kids from their parents. It’s snatched people who’ve been living in the U.S. for decades and shipped them off to for-profit detention facilities or faraway countries they barely know. All of this, in furtherance of the president’s racist migration policy. Your tax dollars at work. 

Finalists: Private school vouchers, N.C. General Assembly, Chapel Hill taxes

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