Best of the Triangle 2017 – Local Color
Best Charitable Group
1820 James Street, Durham
Finalists: Planned Parenthood, Durham Rescue Mission, LGBT Center of Raleigh
Best-Kept Secret Funny Girl Farm
504 Erwin Road, Durham
Finalists: Cedar Creek Gallery, Emerald Doulas, LLC, Triangle Rowing Club
Best Local Activist Group
Finalists: Equality NC, N.C. NAACP, Women’s Theatre Festival
Best Local Columnist
Finalists: Andrea Weigl, Victoria Bouloubasis, Kirk Ross
Best Local Crank
Finalists: Ross Grady, Zack Medford, Andy Little
INDY › Guys, come on. Frank Stasio, a crank? For real? Are you high right now? Have you ever listened to the man? Stasio, the host of WUNC’s The State of Things since 2006, is many things—foremost, a keen, mild-mannered interviewer on a broad array of subjects, political and cultural and in between—but however you define “crank” (Merriam-Webster: “a bad-tempered person”), he ain’t it. [JCB]
Best Local Do-Gooder
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II
Finalists: Vimala Rajendran, Emerald Doulas, LLC, Ashley Popio
INDY › When the Reverend William Barber II led a protest down Nash Street in Wilson in 2008, the nighttime scene of disciplined marchers eerily echoed the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s. It was one of Barber’s many forays into activism on behalf of the poor and marginalized, but last week the Goldsboro-based pastor clearly recalled the case of James Johnson, accused of murder even though he turned in the real killer.
“What was strange about that case, he did what they tell them to do, what you were supposed to do,” Barber told me. In the near-decade since that march, Barber has served as the leading edge for North Carolina’s progressive movement, heading the state NAACP, fighting for fair treatment of minorities in schools, spearheading the Moral Monday marches against the GOP-led General Assembly, and gaining national attention with a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. What’s ahead for Barber, now that he’s stepped down from leadership of the state NAACP?
“I’m going to be devoting all of my time to a Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. [Martin Luther] King tried to start but didn’t get to finish,” Barber says. He also wants to deepen a national debate that he considers shallow, noting that the more than two dozen presidential debates in 2016 offered no approach to the problem of systemic poverty.
“In the one point nine million people that are poor in North Carolina, there are six hundred thousand children that are poor,” says Barber, a father of five. “But you don’t ever hear the word ‘poor’ there. We need a moral narrative shift.” [TG]
Best Local Facebook Page
SoDu Parents Posse
Finalists: New Raleigh, Cedar Creek Gallery, The Green Monkey
Best Local Instragram Account
Finalists: Raleigh Food Pics, The Durham Doll, The Green Monkey
Best Local-Interest Blog
Bites of Bull City
Finalists: eatRaleigh, ITB Insider, Putting Up with Erin
Best Local-Interest Website
Finalists: WRAL, Raleigh Public Record, Canes and Coffee
Best Local Nonprofit
1820 James Street, Durham
Finalists: Planned Parenthood, Carolina Tiger Rescue, Habitat for Humanity
Best Local Politician in Need of a Reality Check
Finalists: Pat McCrory, Richard Burr, Thom Tillis
INDY › Phil Berger is a deserving choice for this particular (dis)honor. But rather than recount the terribleness of the Senate leader, I’d like to reflect on the comeuppance visited upon last year’s winner, former governor Pat McCrory, who saw his political career snuffed out in a painful squeaker of a loss to Roy Cooper. To make matters worse for ol’ Pat, it wasn’t some Democratic wave that did him in; fellow Republicans Donald Trump, Richard Burr, and Dan Forest won North Carolina easily, and the GOP maintained its dominance of the General Assembly. No, this loss was about McCrory, or more specifically, his support of HB 2. The so-called bathroom bill, which was sort of “repealed” earlier this year, wasn’t McCrory’s idea—few things were—but he embraced it anyway, imagining that kicking transgender people in an election year would make for good politics.
Now McCrory’s playing golf, not getting a job in the Trump administration, working as a business consultant, and not getting part-time university positions because, as he told The News & Observer in March, academic leaders “have shown reluctance because of student protests. That’s not the way our American system should operate—having people purged due to political thought.”
Break out those tiny violins, everyone! [JCB]
Best Local Radio Personality
Eric Hodge, WUNC
Finalists: Frank Stasio, Mir.I.am, Ron Stutts
Best Local Radio Station
Finalists: WKNC, WQDR, WHUP
Best Local TV Newsperson
Finalists: Renee Chou, David Crabtree, Laura Leslie
Best Local TV Weatherperson
Finalists: Elizabeth Gardner, Don Schwenneker, Chris Hohmann
INDY › Greg Fishel has been a meteorological fixture at WRAL-TV since 1981, and in that time, he’s become a rightly cherished local figure, leading us through rain, snow, sleet, hail, hurricanes, and sunshine. He’s affable, warm, and unafraid to let his geek flag fly. And Fishel hasn’t seemed to let the acclaim get to his head—one winter, when he incorrectly predicted snow, he donned a tropical shirt, shorts, and a lei, and took a seat in WRAL’s chilly fountain. In recent years, Fishel has become a vocal proponent of recognizing the impacts humans have on global climates. Fishel has a tough job that’s made even tougher by armchair weather-guessers, but it’s clearly one he loves. [AH]
Best Local Twitter Feed
Finalists: @NewRaleigh, @mom_had, @ncsu_squirrels
Best Neighborhood to Live In (Chatham County)
Finalists: Fearrington Village, Colvard Farms
Best Neighborhood to Live In (Durham County)
Finalists: Watts-Hillandale, Old North Durham, Woodcroft
Best Neighborhood to Live In (Orange County)
Finalists: Hillsborough, Southern Village, Dogwood Acres
INDY › From thefreedictionary.com: neigh·bor·hood (nā.bər-hood’ ) n. 1. A district or area with distinctive characteristics: a neighborhood of fine homes; a working-class neighborhood. 2. The people who live near one another or in a particular district or area: The noise upset the entire neighborhood. 3. The surrounding area; vicinity: happened to be in the neighborhood. town (toun) n. 1. a. A population center that is larger than a village and smaller than a city. b. A territorial and political unit governed by a town meeting, especially in New England. 2. An area that is more densely populated or developed than the surrounding area: going into town to shop. [BH]
Best Neighborhood to Live In (Wake County)
Finalists: Oakwood, Brentwood, Boylan Heights
INDY › Of course we love dear old Oakwood and fashionable Five Points (although, OMG the prices!). And Boylan Heights, at one point downscale, has come up and up and up.
But the interesting favorite here is Brentwood. Ah, 27604, where homes can still be bought for considerably less than $200,000, while various sources put the Raleigh-wide equivalent at more than $250,000. And it’s an eight-to-ten-minute trek to, say, the Capitol Building, depending on how close to Capital Boulevard you are.
On Brentwood Road, the main drag, it feels like Ridgewood in the day, with lots of smallish brick houses, as well as split-levels and the increasingly trendy split-foyers (OK, just on my street). And Raleigh has a plan to upgrade the park and community center.
In the big picture, neighborhoods like Brentwood, affordable and diverse, will continue to gain favor as everything near downtown and ITB gets harder to find and pricier. [TG]
Best Place to People Watch
Weaver Street Market
Finalists: Durham Bulls game, American Tobacco Campus, RDU
Best Place to Pick Up an INDY
Finalists: Elmo’s Diner, Weaver Street Market, Cup A Joe
Best Place to Take Visitors from Out of Town
Finalists: N.C. Museum of Art, Carolina Tiger Rescue, Cedar Creek Gallery
Best Politician in Chatham County
Finalists: Brian Bock, Diana Hales, Rick Johnson
Best Politician in Durham County
Finalists: Bill Bell, Mike Woodard, Steve Schewel
Best Politician in Orange County
Finalists: Graig Meyer, Verla Insko, Tom Stevens
Best Politician in Wake County
Finalists: Josh Stein, David Price, Nancy McFarlane
INDY › These are all fine—if obvious—choices for best politician. But I’d like to discuss someone who might not be on your radar.
On December 5, Jessica Holmes shocked the local political world when she abruptly announced her resignation from the Wake County Board of Commissioners at the end of a meeting. She’d just won an affordable housing vote and narrowly lost a bid to become the board’s vice chairwoman. Neither before nor during her announcement did Holmes give any indication as to what was eating at her, only saying that she “would be leaving the board in excellent hands.”
By one p.m. the next day, however, she’d changed her mind. “The immense response from the community has encouraged me to reconsider this decision,” she said.
This is good for Wake County. Not only is Holmes the board’s only woman of color, she’s also currently its only woman. And when she was elected in 2014, she was then the youngest person to ever serve on the county commission. An attorney for the N.C. Association of Educators, she’s young, smart, engaging, progressive, affable—in other words, she checks all the right boxes.
And if she wants it, she might well be a politician to keep your eye on over the next decade. [JCB]
Best Reason to Leave the Triangle
16 West Jones Street, Raleigh
Finalists: HB 2, vacation, traffic
INDY › Look, we get it. From HB 2 to gerrymandering to a deep disdain for poor people, the General Assembly can be, well, a shit show. We get why all that may make you want to hightail it out of the Tar Heel State, but hear us out. If the NCGA is your top reason to leave our beloved Triangle, don’t leave: get involved. You’re clearly an intelligent, compassionate person, and what’s more, you’re already a pro at this whole democracy thing—you voted on this very item! So take that anger and put it to use. Don’t know where to start? Check out groups like Indivisible, Emily’s List, and Swing Left, which are all working to lift up new candidates for office, unseat played-out incumbents, and flip districts. Sure, our legislators largely suck. So let’s get ourselves some new ones. [SW]
Best Reason to Love the Triangle
Arts and Diversity
Finalists: Downtown Durham, food, downtown Raleigh
Best Use of Public Money
Finalists: Greenways, bicycle infrastructure, Dorothea Dix Park
INDY › This reporter loves greenways—and has even walked on some. Bikes are great; I think we have some in the basement. And everyone is looking forward to the opening of Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park. If only the Dalai Lama could do his gig there.
But the best use of public money? Let’s vote along with the crowd here—it’s absolutely public education.
For one thing, of these worthy uses, only public education rates a mention in the state Constitution. “The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right,” it says, right there in Article 1, Section 15. And courtesy of Daniels Middle School graduate and Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, we have the Leandro decision, which found that all North Carolina children have the right to an “opportunity to receive a sound basic education.”
For generations of Tar Heels, public schools have performed as the great equalizer, a firm launching place for careers in show business (Andy Griffith, James Taylor, Amy Sedaris, Ben Folds); literature (Anne Tyler, Reynolds Price, David Sedaris, Armistead Maupin); sports (Michael Jordan, Pete Maravich, Shavlik Randolph, John Wall); fashion, (Alexander Julian, André Leon Talley, Justin LeBlanc); and government (Terry Sanford, Jesse Helms, etc.) North Carolina needs public schools, wants public schools, and should pay for them. Further affiant sayeth not. [TG]
Biggest Waste of Public Money
Finalists: Defending unconstitutional laws, Donald Trump, N.C. Legislature