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Hi, and welcome to my "Editor's Blog"! In this space I'll be attempting to keep our readers informed on fast-breaking news and issues affecting our islands. Visit often. There's a lot going on!

Enjoy the Island Free Press and, even more importantly, enjoy our wonderful barrier island!!!

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What's on the agenda for commissioners' June 1 meeting -- and what's not

Friday 29 May 2015 at 2:09 pm

Dare County's proposed budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which begins July 1, was presented at the May 18 meeting of the Dare County Board of Commissioners and will be the topic of a public hearing by the board on Monday, June 1.

Also on the agenda at Monday's meeting is a discussion of a bill in the N.C. Senate that would allow the commissioners to use up to $3 million a year of the occupancy taxes earmarked for beach nourishment to maintain the county's waterways.

In addition, the board appointments on the commissioners' agenda may be of interest to taxpayers in Hatteras village.

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Reflections on Memorial Day...WITH SLIDE SHOW

Friday 22 May 2015 at 2:22 pm

(Editor's Note: This week's blog is the speech that I gave in 2013 at the annual Memorial Day observance in Hatteras village, which is sponsored by the island's U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.)

Good morning. And thank you for this opportunity to speak on a day that we remember those who have given their lives in service to our county.

When I first came to Hatteras Island in the summer of 1975 with my two young children, I had no idea that one of the major naval battles of World War II was fought within sight of the seashore’s lovely and wild beaches.

I had no idea how many people died in what we now call The Battle of the Atlantic, which raged off the North Carolina coast from January, 1942, into the summer of that year.

Nor did I realize that my own father, then a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, had participated in that battle.

Indeed, back then, few people knew of the war waged within sight of our shores.

You knew if you grew up on Hatteras or Ocracoke because you either lived through that time or heard the stories of your parents or grandparents – stories of anxiety, fear, blackouts, explosions that shook windows, fires that raged just offshore and the plumes of black smoke that rose from them, the beaches being coated with oil, and the grisly discoveries of bodies washed up on the islands.

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Dare County government needs more transparency on inlet issues

Friday 15 May 2015 at 4:37 pm

Wrestling with the never-ending issue of shoaling in Dare County inlets has brought the need for more transparency in county government to the forefront in recent months.

 More transparency is what the new chairman, Bob Woodard, promised when he was sworn in at the Dec. 1 meeting of the board shortly after a sweep in the November general election gave the Republicans a majority on the board for the first time in decades.

However, that's not what has happened.

As the county and two of its advisory panels pushed for long-term solutions to the problem of keeping inlets, especially Oregon Inlet, open to boat traffic, two problems have become apparent.

Not only have the solutions been pursued largely out of public view, but now some are questioning who is really in charge of this pursuit at the county level -- the board or Oregon Inlet stakeholders who hold most of the seats on the advisory panels.

And, to make matters worse, the inlet discussion has reignited another issue that many thought was put to rest decades ago -- the issue of Hatteras Island's parity with the rest of the county.

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A new day for the park and the people?

Friday 08 May 2015 at 5:59 pm

A good-size crowd of residents and regular visitors came to the Cape Hatteras Secondary School auditorium on Tuesday evening, May 5, to hear about and comment on the National Park Service's plan to adjust wildlife protection buffers in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in response to legislation passed in December by the U.S. Congress.

And, for the first time in a long time, the meeting was cordial.  It was polite and respectful, and by the end, it bordered on downright friendly -- with some folks even cracking a joke or two and getting a few laughs.

According to the National Park Service, 86 people attended. Seashore Superintendent David Hallac opened the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation on the Environmental Assessment document that details the proposed new buffers for nesting birds and turtles.

Hallac noted that the meeting was scheduled from 6 until 8 p.m., but added that he and seashore staff members would "stick around as long as you want to talk."

He also had an informal "question-and-answer" period before members of the audience came to the microphone to make their formal comments, which also contributed to the more positive and relaxed tone of the evening.

When the meeting ended after almost two hours, some residents and regular visitors hung around to talk with seashore Superintendent Dave Hallac and members of his staff.  Some huddled around maps and had serious conversations about various access issues, and others just engaged in a little small talk and exchanged pleasantries.

The evening was certainly a far cry from other meetings in the past decade about off-road vehicle planning and public access to the seashore's beaches -- meetings at which the tone ranged from contentious to downright hostile.

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An update on the Bonner Bridge and other news bites

Friday 01 May 2015 at 5:17 pm

There was a lot of news on the islands in April -- news about public access to the seashore, our troubled inlets, and trial runs of a passenger ferry.

The public can have input on all three of those issues at meetings next week -- and more about that later.

First, let's talk about the issue that was absent from the news again in April. That would be the replacement of the decrepit Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet.

Coincidentally, several readers e-mailed me this week asking for an update on the bridge.

The update on the Bonner Bridge replacement is that there is no update.

It's been almost nine months -- 233 days -- since the N.C. Department of Transportation announced it was stopping work on the new, permanent bridge at Pea Island Inlet -- part of its long-term plan to replace the span over Oregon Inlet and deal with the "hotspots" on Highway 12.

Several days later, DOT and the Federal Highway Administration announced they were at the table with the Southern Environmental Law Center and its clients to try to negotiate an end to the long legal battle over the plan.

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