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

Moral Monday

Finalists: Equality NC, N.C. NAACP, Women’s Theatre Festival

Best Local Columnist

Barry Saunders

Finalists: Andrea Weigl, Victoria Bouloubasis, Kirk Ross

Best Local Crank

Frank Stasio

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

New Raleigh

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

Phil Berger

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,, Ron Stutts

Best Local Radio Station


Finalists: WKNC, WQDR, WHUP

Best Local TV Newsperson

Debra Morgan

Finalists: Renee Chou, David Crabtree, Laura Leslie

Best Local TV Weatherperson

Greg Fishel

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)

Briar Chapel

Finalists: Fearrington Village, Colvard Farms

Best Neighborhood to Live In (Durham County)

Trinity Park

Finalists: Watts-Hillandale, Old North Durham, Woodcroft

Best Neighborhood to Live In (Orange County)


Finalists: Hillsborough, Southern Village, Dogwood Acres

INDY › From 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)

Five Points

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

Whole Foods

Finalists: Elmo’s Diner, Weaver Street Market, Cup A Joe

Best Place to Take Visitors from Out of Town

Duke Gardens

Finalists: N.C. Museum of Art, Carolina Tiger Rescue, Cedar Creek Gallery

Best Politician in Chatham County

Karen Howard

Finalists: Brian Bock, Diana Hales, Rick Johnson

Best Politician in Durham County

Jillian Johnson

Finalists: Bill Bell, Mike Woodard, Steve Schewel

Best Politician in Orange County

David Price

Finalists: Graig Meyer, Verla Insko, Tom Stevens

Best Politician in Wake County

Roy Cooper

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

General Assembly

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

Public Education

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

HB 2

Finalists: Defending unconstitutional laws, Donald Trump, N.C. Legislature