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Archive for March, 2012

Smoking ban snuffed

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Divided board rejects ban over enforcement, public space concerns

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Middle school debates bring out the big guns on the Battleship

Friday, March 9th, 2012

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Middle school debates drew a crowd at the Battleship Thursday night.

Trask and Holly Shelter Middle Schools have been squaring off in competition this year, checking their notes and making their best presentation. Organizers decided to bring out the big guns and hold the contests at various community locations. Thursday night started on deck at the Battleship until a little relocation was needed.

Donna Sloan was a coordinator of Thursday night’s event.

”This has been a series of eight nights of debates that we have been having at our schools and also at local historic sites. Tonight’s is at the Battleship we were out on the deck, unfortunately we were getting rained out so now we are inside the auditorium.”

Well there is no debating with the rain, so following a little team work and the debate teams were ready to go again.

Trask’s 7th grade won the 7th grade debate. Holly Shelter’s 8th grade won the 8th grade debate. Holly Shelter was the overall debate winner.

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Wrightsville Beach denies smoking ban despite community support

Friday, March 9th, 2012

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — For the second time in two years, Wrightville Beach denied a smoking ban.

“Wrightsville Beach took two steps backwards in terms of democracy goes,” said Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti. “When you receive emails from over 200 residents, have over 400 residents with the zip code supporting it, it was overwhelmingly for.”

In spite of numerous emails, signed petitions, samples from the beach, and a packed house Thursday night, the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen rejected a smoking ban at the ordinance. Cignotti says the board did not listen to the people of the town when making its decision.

“I think when you’re elected to office, that you put your personal opinions aside and you listen to your constituents,” said Cignotti. “This was overwhelmingly for, so I’m disappointed.”

Supporters of the smoking ban say denying the ban is a missed opportunity for the community.

“It’s a sad night for Wrightsville Beach,” said smoking ban supporter Tim Taylor. “We could have been one of the predominant beaches in North Carolina. We would have been the first beach to be smoke free but right now we’re just like every other beach.”

Opponents say the way the laws were written would put too much stress on an already stretched police department. Some also argued that a less confusing ordinance needed to be considered.

“The way the ordinance is written, it is only enforceable above the high tide line,” said opponent Colin Eagles. “At low tide, over half of the beach, the ordinance would not apply. That is absurd.”

Those working to keep the beach clean say they will not stop their efforts even though the ban was not put into place. They say the will continue to speak up for what they believe in until their voices are heard and respected, which they say may have to wait until election season.

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ONLY ON 3: Wilmington woman part of lawsuit on military sex assaults, harassment

Friday, March 9th, 2012

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Gang rape, harassment and sexual assault. Those are among the allegations from eight women in a lawsuit filed this week against the Department of Defense.

The suit filed Tuesday claims military officials, including the current and former secretaries of Defense, ignored the rampant problem of sexual assaults.

One of the women lives here in Wilmington.

“We all just wanted to serve our country and be good Marines and service members,” former Marine Lt. Elle Helmer said. “Ultimately we were failed.”

Helmer is one of eight current and former female service members who filed a lawsuit alleging rape, sexual assault and harassment while serving in the military.

Click here to read the entire lawsuit

“It’s very hard to come forward and admit what they would call weakness, but what I would call strength in the sense that people are coming forward and asking for help,” Helmer said.

She claims her assault occurred while stationed at the Marine Corps Barracks in Washington, DC, as a public affairs officer.

She says after being ordered to attend a Marine Corps-endorsed pub crawl and drink excessively, her boss, a major, ordered her back to his office and raped her.

“Ultimately I fell and hit my head on the corner of his desk and was knocked out,” she said. “During the time I was knocked out was when the rape occurred.”

Helmer says she was ultimately forced out of the Marine Corps, which she says is far too common with other victims.

“The Department of Defense is ultimately losing good personnel, and victims are becoming collateral damage,” Helmer said.

The lawsuit claims many of the men questioned were barely punished, if at all. It’s an issue Helmer says goes beyond the service women who report the assaults.

“My rapist was served collateral duties at the White House,” she said. “With that said, these people guard the president.”

Helmer says she hopes the lawsuit is a catalyst for change and the military realizes how big this problem really is.

“Take care of your people, and if you’re losing your people, it’s ultimately weakening a nation. It’s a homeland security issue,” she said.

A Defense Department spokeswoman told the Associated Press that she could not discuss pending litigation, but said the military has no tolerance for sexual assault.

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Woman collects more than 40,000 butts off beach; says ban is necessary

Friday, March 9th, 2012

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) — The warmer weather means it’s finally beach season, and that means thousands of people will make their way to Wrightsville Beach. As the town prepares for the 2012 tourist season, the Board of Aldermen are also considering a new smoking ban. Locals say they plan to speak out about this ban tonight at a public hearing.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s freezing cold in December or 90 degrees in July, it’s the same thing,” said smoking ban supporter Danielle Richardet. “It’s always cigarette butts. So I think it’s time we start fixing that.”

For more than a year, Richardet has been collecting cigarette butts off of Wrightsville Beach. So far, she has collected more than 40,000. She says a smoking ban is necessary for the beach and she hopes it will soon be passed. Richardet says cigarettes are different from other litter, because they trap toxins, causing a much more severe threat to the environment.

“Toxins such as nickel, cadmium, lead and arsenic, those are in the filters,” said Richardet. “So as soon as those filters hit water, they begin leeching into our environment. Essentially, it’s no longer litter, it’s toxic waste and we have that on our beach.”

Richardet says if the ban is not passed, the problem will only get worse.

“It’s never ending and if it doesn’t get passed, I guarantee I will have picked up 50,000,” said Richardet. “I will have picked up 100,000.”

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