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It's a man's world—maybe



Could a progressive woman replace an old white guy in Congress? Stranger things have happened. Like a youngish African-American man replacing an old white guy in the White House.

U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, a Republican whose gerrymandered 6th District runs from Greensboro and through the northern part of Durham County to north of Raleigh along the Virginia border, is retiring from Congress at age 82.

The Washington Post floated names of Republicans who are considering a run for the seat: Phil Berger Jr., the son of the original Phil Berger, also the State Senate Pro Tempore; Michael Steel of Durham, who is lead spokesman and hankie holder for Speaker John Boehner; and NASCAR driver Terry LaBonte, who likely hopes he'll fare better 26th-place, his average finish over five races in 2013.

So what Democrat will go where others have feared to tread? Laura Fjeld, who lives in northern Orange County, served for the past five years as vice president and general counsel of the UNC system. She supports women's reproductive rights and curbing corporate tax loopholes. She's already set up her website at

Speaking of old white guys, Bob Luddy, a conservative politico responsible for nearly eliminating the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, resigned from the organization's board last week, according to an email obtained by the INDY.

Luddy served with Art Pope on the board of the ultraconservative Civitas Institute, until Pope resigned when Gov. McCrory appointed him as state deputy budget director. The institute is funded by the Pope Foundation. Earlier this year, Luddy embarked on an "investigation" that resulted in the dismantlement of the center. Billy Ray Hall, president of the Rural Center, resigned, and Gov. Pat McCrory, via Pope, froze the organization's assets. A transition team is in place to move most of the center's operations—helping economically distressed rural communities—under the Commerce Department.

Rural Center supporters have speculated that Luddy's probe into the organization was politically motivated—it had long been derided by conservatives— and that his findings, and that of the state auditor, did not indicate malice or corruption by the center's leadership. Among those findings were a lack of grant monitoring and Hall's executive pay—$250,000 after 25 years of service. That sounds like a lot until you consider some entry-level positions in the McCrory administration start at $85,000.

Towing the line: An 18-month battle between a tow truck driver and the Town of Chapel Hill is going before the N.C. Supreme Court.

The conflict centers on two controversial Chapel Hill ordinances—towing and mobile phones—that George King of George's Towing contends exceed the town's authority.

Meanwhile, a temporary stay and court injunction prevents the town from enforcing either ordinance.

The towing ordinance, which was to take effect in May 2012, requires that private tow zones be adequately marked with signs, that tow operators inform police when removing vehicles from private property and that they may not be towed farther than 15 miles outside the town limits. The ordinance also capped charges for towing from private lots at $100. That seems reasonable, unless you're King, who has challenged the ordinance. He has said the provisions are overly burdensome and hurt his business and that the town does not have legislative authority to regulate towing as laid out in the ordinance.

The mobile phone ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect in June 2012, states drivers cannot use a cellphone—hands-free or handheld—while on any public street, highway or public area inside the town limits. However, police cannot stop a vehicle solely because the driver is violating the ordinance. The citation carries a $25 fine.

King is also challenging the mobile phone ordinance.

Both sides will now file legal briefs in the case and then it will be scheduled for a hearing.

Speaking of hearings, at press time a Wake County judge was expected to rule on whether to grant a temporary injunction blocking the sale of N.C. State's Hofmann Forest.

As the INDY reported last week, a coalition of professors, scientists and conservationists are suing the N.C. State University's Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund and the N.C. State Natural Resources Foundation, Inc. over the sale of the 79,000-acre research forest in the eastern part of the state. Jerry Walker, an agribusinessman from Illinois, is contracted to buy the property.

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