Elizabeth City State University receives more than $100K for library updates, digitizing historical documents

Elizabeth City State University has received more than $100,000 in grants for two library-related projects. The university will use the money to update the digital inventory and self-checkout systems at its G.R. Little Library as well as becoming a satellite office for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s work digitizing historical documents, photographs and newspapers.

Elizabeth City State University

The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded ECSU, the smallest of the UNC system’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), two grants as part of the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).  For the library update, the university received $172,898 and $53,156 to extend its work in assisting in digitizing historical documents.

“Libraries are at the heart of our community and the university,” said Dr. Juanita Spence, ECSU Director of Library Services, in a statement Thursday. “They provide free access to information whether that’s books, resources, the internet, computers and more. We are improving the user experience through increased convenience and privacy, while also making our operations more efficient.”

In April the school announced it would use a $50,000 grant from the UNC System to revamp how they appeal to and support older students finishing their degrees. The same month, the university announced it would provide a one-time $1,000 housing grant to each student living on campus in in the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters.

The university has been seeing a period of growth, with fall 2021 enrollment up 2.6% to 2,054, the largest enrollment the school has seen since 2013. That’s still far from its peak of about 3,000 students, but with the UNC System raising the cap on out of state students for HBCUs that growth is projected to continue.

 

 

 

Cunningham, Tillis to meet in UNC discussion on friendships across the political divide

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and former Demcoratic challenger Cal Cunningham will discuss building and maintaining friendships across the political divide.

Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and former N.C. State Senator Cal Cunningham, a Democrat, will meet in November as part of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Abbey Speaker series.

The event, to be held November 10 at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium of the FedEx Global Education Center and livestreamed on Zoom, will focus on building and maintaining friendships across the political divide.

Cunningham challenged Tillis for his U.S. Senate seat in 2020 but failed in the wake of a sex scandal in which text messages revealed he carried on an extramarital affair while campaigning for office. The contest was the most expensive in U.S. history, with campaigns and outside groups spending more than $280 million as the outcome helped decide control of the U.S. Senate.

Cunningham kept a low profile as the scandal erupted around him in October, which political observers said contributed to his loss. He has since remained relatively low-profile.

The discussion, co-sponsored by the  UNC Institute of Politics. will be moderated by Sarah Treul Roberts, professor of Political Science and faculty director of UNC’s Program for Public Discourse.

Register for the Tillis/Cunningham discussion here.

More information on upcoming events as part of the Abbey Speaker Series and Program for Public Discourse here.

N.C. A&T receives $23.7 million grant for clean energy training program

N.C. A&T has received a $23.7 million federal grant to create a clean energy workforce training program.

Gov. Roy Cooper was on campus in Greensboro Wednesday with U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo, Greensboro mayor Nancy Vaughan and others to announce the grant, from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.  The money, part of the American Rescue Plan good Jobs Challenge grant program, will go toward A&T’s new STEPs4GROWTH program, which will provide clean energy workforce training.

The university plans to have the program off the ground by 2026 and to place several thousand workers in the clean energy sector over five years.

Gov. Roy Cooper was on hand for the grant announcement at N.C. A&T Wednesday.

“You’ve heard a lot about the clean energy jobs coming to North Carolina by the thousands,” Cooper said Wednesday. “You know what keeps me up at night? Who’s going to fill those jobs.”

Cooper said the A&T program will be essential for the clean energy economy that is “important for our planet and our pocket books.”

“We are on the cutting edge of the clean energy economy,” Cooper said. “It is an intentional thing. And developing this talented, diverse workforce is going to be critical to the success.”

Cooper touted bipartisan state legislation requiring the power sector to reduce carbon emissions 70 percent by 2030 and to get to carbon zero by 2050. The state is pushing offshore wind power and attracting companies that make clean cars, planes and boats. That’s going to mean new skills are needed to build those things,

North Carolina’s universities and community colleges are the ideal place for these clean energy youth apprenticeship programs, Cooper, said – particularly the state’s thriving historically black college and universities (HBCUs).

“People are coming here because they know we value diversity,” Cooper said. “We also value education.”

Read more

Report: federal investigation slowing Catawba Two Kings Casino development

The construction and opening of the Catawba Two Kings Casino in Cleveland County could be slowed by a federal investigation into how it was approved, according to a Sunday report from The Wall Street Journal. 

The report centers on Kings Mountain Equipment Supply LLC, a company which the Journal found gave shares to relatives of powerful politicians in North and South Carolina as the South Carolina tribe sought an unusual permission to build their casino across the border in North Carolina. Among those receiving shares were the brother of U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, and Democratic political operative Patti Sollis Doyle. The husband of former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Haley’s attorney Butch Bowers also received shares, the Journal reported.

The future site of the Catawba Two Kings Casino Resort off Dixon School Road in Cleveland County. (Photo by Joe Killian)

The National Indian Gaming Commission is investigating.

Policy Watch readers will remember our series of stories on the troubled casino project from 2020, which included an examination of how local and state figures connected to the project profited and the questionable connections and history of the casino’s backers.

As the Policy Watch investigative series illuminated there have for years been questions about conflicts of interest and potential political corruption in the development.

Policy Watch’s investigation found the family of Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler owned land valued at $4.2 million in the area, including a 783 acre parcel within a mile of the new casino. Neisler, who confirmed those figures with Policy Watch, did not make the claim that mineral rights would prevent development and denied his family company’s large holdings amounted to a conflict of interests.

“My house even in town is going to go up in price, so that’s a conflict of interest,” Neisler told Policy Watch. “But that’s kind of looking in futuristic terms and saying, ‘Hey, something two miles down the road is going to be worth a whole lot because this is coming in.’ Well, it could and it couldn’t. I don’t know.”

The Catawba and Cherokee tribes have been in conflict over the casino development for years.

At issue: a proposed $273 million, 17-acre project in Cleveland County. The Catawba Indian Nation has been working for seven years to make the resort a reality. It plans gaming tables, 1,300 electronic game machines as well as restaurants, which it says will economically benefit the tribe and the area.

Although the Catawba’s headquarters are just across the border in Rock Hill, SC, the tribe claims the 17 acres in North Carolina as its ancestral land. The US Department of the Interior initially rejected the tribe’s request to acquire the land, citing a land settlement act approved by Congress in 1993. Under that act, the Catawba tribe is prohibited by South Carolina law from pursuing more lucrative gaming, having to restrict itself to high-stakes bingo. But the federal government reversed that decision in March, allowing the tribe to cross state lines and break ground on the resort in July.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians opposes the resort. That tribe, which operates two casinos in western North Carolina, also claims the land in question as its ancestral territory and is suing in federal court. Tribal leaders say the federal government allowing the Catawba to move across state lines for the purposes of more lucrative gaming interests sets a bad precedent.

Clyburn, whose brother received shares in Kings Mountain Equipment LLC, filed the bill preventing the Cherokee tribe from being able to sue the federal government over the development.

Wake County to hold public meeting on plans for $35 million opioid settlement funds

Last year, nearly 200 people in Wake County died as a result of drug overdoses. More than 1,000 found themselves in hospital emergency rooms. Though COVID-19 and political chaos may have taken the spotlight in the last few years, the national opioid epidemic hasn’t gone anywhere.

Next week, Wake County is holding its first community meeting on how it will spend its share of a historic $26 billion National Opioid Settlement– more than $35 million over the next 18 years.“
“The opioid epidemic hits close to home for so many families, and even if your family hasn’t faced addiction problems, I’m sure you know a family that has,” said Sig Hutchinson, chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, in a statement this week. “For all these reasons and more, it’s important for residents to be able to weigh in on the best use of these funds to help the individuals and families in our community.”

On Tuesday, August 2, county leaders will join with healthcare workers and those experiencing addiction to discuss the best way to use the money, plan and prioritize. The meeting, to be held from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Wake County Commons Building, 4011 Carya Drive, Raleigh, is open to the public with a virtual option also available. Those interested in attending can register at wakegov.com/opioidsettlement.

After Tuesday’s public brainstorming session, county staff will conduct an online public survey to determine priorities from among the strategies discussed. They will take recommendations to the Wake County Board of Commissioners’ Human Services Committee for consideration at the board’s August meeting.

The board is expected to make final decisions on the settlement funding in September.