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City & statebriefs

City cleans up to cut crime

The Department of Housing and Community Development is working to encourage residents in underserved neighborhoods to fix up their communities. City Housing Director Mike Barros said Friday that spiffing up residential areas could lead to a decrease in crime in the Bull City.

The city is focusing most of its efforts on areas near new, publicly funded housing developments like the Gattis Street project in the West End neighborhood and the rehabilitation of Barnes Avenue in northeast central Durham. Barros also noted that community relations staff members have been going door-to-door asking residents about the positive aspects of their communities and the challenges they face.

Durham gives city manager more power

The city council voted 7-0 Sept. 6 to restore City Manager Patrick Baker's power to authorize contracts under $30,000 without first asking the permission of the council.

This privilege, which was previously revoked from former City Manager Marcia Conner, means that Baker can use his own judgment to sign off on contracts for a wide range of initiatives, such as land surveying.

Along with this new ability, Baker received a raise of $13,200, bringing his total salary to $153,200. Baker's salary increase coincided with raises for two other city employees as part of an annual performance review.

Courts extend Peterson appeal deadline

The longest criminal trial in Durham history looks to last a little bit longer.

In 2003 novelist Michael Peterson, Trinity '65 and a former editor of The Chronicle, was convicted of first-degree murder after a five month trial that was unprecedented in its length.

Paperwork for Peterson's appeal was due last Monday, but the courts allowed a month extension to Oct. 10. Since his conviction Peterson has fought to overturn his sentence of life in prison, and his appeal process might set another length record.

Peterson was convicted in October 2003 for the murder of his wife Kathleen Peterson, a Nortel Networks executive. Defense lawyers are drawing into question evidence connecting Peterson with his friend's mysterious death 20 years prior to the 2001 slaying, as well as reports of Michael Peterson's infidelity with men during the couple's marriage.

School board selects new leaders

Last year the Durham school board announced a new committee system with the proposed effect of simplifying the board's business matters.

This week, Board of Education Chair Gail Heath selected Steve Schewel to head the administrative services committee and Minnie Forte to head the support services committee.

Regina George-Bowden will return to her position as head of the instructional services committee.

The committee chairs will each direct his or her group's monthly meeting. After discussing proposals, the staff will decide whether or not items should be brought to the attention of the full school board.


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