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An interesting article in today's newspaper

“Barbaric”: Myles Garrett crossed a line, and the NFL has no choice but to come down on him. Hard. Page B1

North Carolina's redrawn congressional map already contested

RALEIGH — A replacement map for North Carolina’s congressional districts was finalized Friday, with its lines redrawn to address alleged extreme partisan bias and endangering reelection prospects for two Republicans next year.

The GOP-controlled General Assembly enacted boundaries for 2020 elections with a party-line vote in the state Senate.

The map, which had already cleared the state House on Thursday, was reconfigured because state judges last month blocked lines drawn in 2016 from being used next year. But the voters whose legal challenge led to the new map went to court immediately to fight the remedial plan.

The judges said evidence of partisan gerrymandering — Republicans carving up districts to maximize the number of winning districts favoring their party — made it likely that the 2016 map violated the state constitution. So any remap was expected to narrow the 10-3 seat margin Republicans hold in the state’s U.S. House delegation.

Republicans offered maps that would place GOP Reps. Mark Walker of Greensboro and George Holding of Raleigh in districts that clearly favor Democratic candidates. Both of their current Republican-leaning districts — a mix of urban, suburban and rural areas — would be consolidated into more Democratic urban counties.

The prospect of two seats flipping parties next year would help national Democrats seeking to keep control of the U.S. House after the November 2020 elections. But Democrats argue an 8-5 seat split favoring Republicans isn’t enough — and that the new map will keep races uncompetitive.

“There are circumstances under which it could be fair,” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue of Raleigh, but “you need competition in these districts.” Unlike other legislation, redistricting maps aren’t subject to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto stamp.

The lawsuit plaintiffs filed a brief late Friday with the state judges laying out their opposition.

“The congressional map passed by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature simply replaces one partisan gerrymander with a new one,” former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a release. Holder leads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, whose affiliate is bankrolling the lawsuit.

It’s unclear whether Holding would still run for his seat next year in the altered district. Walker — the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee — said late Friday in a release that while “there is little assurance the districts passed” will hold up in court, he suggested he could still win in the reconfigured district, as he did after the 2016 remap.

A legal challenge of the replacement map threatens to derail the state’s congressional election schedule. Candidate filing is supposed to begin Dec. 2. The judges had stopped short of ordering a new map, but suggested the legislature could act on its own quickly so that the planned March 3 primary could still occur.

Lawmakers agreed to redistricting criteria that were largely similar to what these same judges ordered in September, when they struck down dozens of legislative districts for extreme partisan bias. The legislators agreed to keep partisan data like voter registration and elections results and information about the racial makeup of voting blocs out of the mapmaking, which occurred in open committees streamed online.

But “I don’t think anybody can look at this map and believe that the results that we had (in 2018) will be the same results in the next election,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown said during debate. “And that’s just the eye test, nothing more.”

The 2016 congressional map was the subject of a federal lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the majority ruled in June that federal courts should stay out of partisan gerrymandering controversies. But Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that state courts could intervene. A state lawsuit was filed shortly after state judges threw out legislative districts in early September.

North Carolina’s legislative or congressional districts have been the subject of litigation for most of this decade. Republicans took over both chambers of the General Assembly in 2010 for the first time in 140 years, allowing them to control the mapmaking and advance at will their right-leaning agenda until Democratic seat gains in 2018. Whichever parts wins the majority in the 2020 legislative elections will have the upper hand in drawing congressional and General Assembly maps based on next year’s census data.

One Republican senator unhappy with criticisms of the new U.S. House districts said Democrats had passed partisan maps for decades that were deemed to be constitutional.

The process is “set up to be partisan. Do you think we’re going to draw Democrat maps?” GOP Sen. Jerry Tillman asked on the Senate floor. “This is a partisan process, folks.” A GOP colleague later tried to distance Tillman’s comments from the new map, saying Tillman was not involved in drawing it.

Julian Price house, once featured on 'Hoarders,' can become a B&B, judge rules

GREENSBORO — Part of the historic mansion previously featured on the television show “Hoarders” can become a bed-and-breakfast, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

The ruling by Judge Eric Morgan of Forsyth County reverses the city Zoning Commission’s decision to deny the special-use permit that property owners needed to operate in the single-family residential district of Fisher Park.

Owners Michael and Eric Fuko-Rizzo, who run E&V Properties, want to operate a bed-and-breakfast in the historic Julian Price house they rejuvenated at 301 Fisher Park Circle.

At the Zoning Commission’s May 20 meeting, some neighbors voiced concerns about parking and noise.

When the commission denied the permit in a 4-3 vote, the Fuko-Rizzos appealed to Superior Court. Morgan heard the case on Oct. 7.

The Fuko-Rizzos said Friday that they were “elated” to hear the ruling, “and cannot wait to share this Greensboro landmark with the community.”

In Thursday’s ruling, Morgan ordered that the matter be returned to the Zoning Commission “with the instruction that petitioner’s special use permit ... shall be issued forthwith by the Greensboro Zoning Commission.”

The people who opposed the permit, he wrote, “only provided speculative assertions, and general opinions, and there is no competent, material and substantial evidence” that the permit should not be granted.

The permit, Morgan ruled, will include three added conditions that the Fuko-Rizzos and a subcommittee of the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association agreed to earlier:

  • Maintain guest records and make them available to a zoning administrator.
  • Locate the required parking on-site.
  • Prohibit bands, DJs, amplified speakers or instruments from being used outside at any time. Inside, the cutoff time is 10 p.m.

The Zoning Commission will comply with the judge’s order, Deputy City Attorney Terri Jones said in a news release Friday, and approve the special-use permit at its Monday meeting.

Cheryl Pratt, who heads the Fisher Park neighborhood’s Hillside committee, said she was not surprised by Morgan’s ruling.

“I do feel that the house will make a lovely bed-and-breakfast,” Pratt said. “And that’s what the entire board is hoping — that they will run it as a bed-and-breakfast” as opposed to an event center.

There is still some neighborhood concern about that, Pratt said, because a couple of large events took place at the house while the appeal was pending.

The property can host events, provided that owners aren’t charging rent, city zoning officials said.

“I just hope they will prove to be good neighbors,” Pratt said.

The Fuko-Rizzos bought the property in September 2016 and have since have cleaned up and rejuvenated the mansion and its 1.6 acres.

They moved into part of the 31-room, 90-year-old house with their 4-year-old twin daughters in June.

They want to rent out five remaining bedrooms to guests.

The house has quite a history.

Known as Hillside, the brick and half-timbered mansion was built in 1929 for Julian Price, the president of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co.

It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and Guilford County’s list of historically significant properties.

For years, its beauty was hidden under overgrown foliage and clutter, accumulated by then-owner Sandra Cowart. Cowart lost the house to foreclosure, and the Fuko-Rizzos purchased it.

In January 2017, the A&E TV reality show “Hoarders” aired an episode filmed there. More than 1.2 million households watched the drama unfold as crews emptied the house of Cowart’s possessions. The episode has aired several times since, and an update aired in April.

The Fuko-Rizzos have since restored its former glory.

City staff members and the city’s Historic Preservation Commission had recommended the special-use permit. The latter said that a bed-and-breakfast would be compatible with the goal of the long-term preservation of the house.

At the May zoning hearing, the Fisher Park Neighborhood Association board spoke in favor of the permit, with conditions.

But about eight residents spoke against it, concerned about parking and noise.

The owners agreed it would not be an event center, a fear expressed by neighbors after a November 2018 wedding and a holiday event.

A special-event center, with people paying to use it, would require the zoning to be changed to commercial.

In his conclusions, Morgan wrote that the property owners had shown they were entitled to a special-use permit.

The Zoning Commission’s denial, he wrote, “did not find facts in opposition to the issuance that were based on competent, material and substantial evidence.”

'I still can't believe it": Family that died in fiery crash on U.S. 421 is remembered

GREENSBORO — A lone bouquet of artificial roses marked the scorched spot on U.S. 421 — the place where a mother and her two daughters lost their lives in a fiery crash Wednesday morning.

Miranda Curtis, 37, and her daughters, 8-year-old Ariyana and 14-year-old Zyilyan, were on their way to school when the accident happened. Ariyana was a student at Vandalia Elementary and Zyilyan attended Southeast Guilford High School.

On Friday afternoon at Hagan-Stone Park, a hundred or so family, friends and classmates gathered in the breezy afternoon chill to remember them. They released hundreds of blue and purple balloons into an overcast sky, which reinforced the somberness of the event.

T. Dianne Bellamy-Small, a member of the Guilford County Board of Education, sang “Amazing Grace.”

A circle formed.

Little was said.

And then it was over.

As people started to leave, Jada Smith was still reeling from the loss. She remembered the call she got from Curtis’ brother telling her about the accident.

“When Jeremy called, I was ... I still can’t believe it,” said Smith, choking up. “We never know what God’s plan is.”

The accident occurred about 7:50 a.m. Wednesday. The family’s 1992 Jeep was having mechanical problems as it crept north along U.S. 421 just past the N.C. 62 exit near Julian.

Suddenly, a 2013 Toyota passenger car driven by 22-year-old Courtney Nicole Chrisco slammed into them from behind. It’s unclear why Chrisco didn’t see the Jeep.

According to the Highway Patrol, the impact caused both vehicles to burst into flames. The Jeep was forced into the median.

Marie Michalicova Beazlie, 39, of Colfax was driving her 2005 Honda SUV when she tried to avoid the crash. But she couldn’t. Beazlie ran off the road and collided with the Jeep, setting her vehicle on fire.

Beazlie was seriously injured and taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

Chrisco was taken to Moses Cone Hospital for injuries that aren’t considered life-threatening.

Curtis and her two daughters, however, had their lives cut short.

As the crowd dispersed, Smith recalled how Curtis and her siblings had all been raised in the same church.

“Her momma, Sharon, and me and my sisters and all of our kids grew up together at St. Stephens AME Church,” Smith recalled. “We had that model that it took a village and it took all of us to raise these girls and we were blessed ‘cause none of them ever got into trouble ... so God is good.”

Back at the crash site, the grass was charred black in places and blemished by tire tracks as cars and trucks whizzed by, their drivers probably oblivious to the significance of this patch of earth.

A tragedy happened here. The lone bouquet of artificial roses marked the spot.