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Raleigh mayor not the only one to make Billy Joel announcement

December 6, 2013 

Outgoing Mayor Mark Chilton strikes a comic pose Tuesday night in Carrboro Town Hall before passing his blue ball cap with the word Mayor written on it to successor Lydia Lavelle.

MARK SCHULTZ — mschultz@newsobserver.com

Raleigh’s Nancy McFarlane wasn’t the only mayor to announce a concert for singer Billy Joel on Thursday.

Social media in Raleigh was abuzz this week about a “major concert announcement,” later revealed to be Joel’s Feb. 9 show at PNC Arena. The same hype emerged in Tampa, Fla., where news releases also promised a “major concert announcement” – made by the city’s mayor, Bob Buckhorn.

Much like Raleigh, music fans speculated that their city could be getting one of the industry’s biggest acts: the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney or perhaps Bruce Springsteen.

And just like in Raleigh, the big reveal on Thursday of Billy Joel’s performance prompted some disappointment and criticism that the news didn’t merit a mayoral press conference.

“That's a ‘major concert announcement’ worthy of the mayor of a mid-sized American city?” Bradenton Herald columnist Marty Clear wrote on his blog. “That's what music fans all over west central Florida have been buzzing about for the past 24 hours? Billy Joel just played in St. Petersburg last year!”

McFarlane said she agreed to make the announcement at the request of Joel’s manager, who presumably reached out to other mayors on the tour.

But it seems not every mayor was willing to play along with the Piano Man. Elected officials were nowhere to be found at Joel press conferences in Detroit and Pittsburgh.

Carrboro’s lesbian mayor

Lydia Lavelle took office Tuesday night as the 23rd mayor in Carrboro and the first openly lesbian mayor in North Carolina.

Lavelle, an N.C. Central University law professor, was first elected to the Board of Aldermen in 2007. She ran for mayor unopposed after Mark Chilton announced he would not seek a fifth term leading the town of about 20,000 people.

Lavelle’s partner, Alicia Stemper, presented Lavelle with a purple T-shirt Tuesday that said Carrboro on the front and “Openly Carrboro” on the back.

Later, Lavelle spoke about being a lesbian mayor in North Carolina.

“It’s kind of neat, but it’s really not that unusual in Orange County to be an elected official who’s gay,” she said.

Former Carrboro Mayor Mike Nelson, also gay, served five terms, from 1995 to 2005. Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt is gay, and each of the neighboring towns has a gay board or council member.

“I also recognize that there are parts of North Carolina where it would be really hard for somebody like me to be elected,” Lavelle said. “Here it’s not a big deal.”

‘Kushner Seven’ skewered

Cash Michaels is skewering the “Kushner Seven,” charging that the seven Wake County school board members who removed Keith Sutton as chairman on Tuesday had “stabbed” him in the back.

In an analysis piece in the latest issue of The Carolinian, Michaels writes that “members of the African-American community sat in shock and silence, not believing that the Democratic school board they had once worked so hard to elect in 2011, had just stabbed one of their best, brightest, and arguably most effective young leaders in the back right in front of them.”

The replacement of Sutton in favor of Christine Kushner by a 7-2 vote that took place along racial lines could haunt the board for some time.

Michaels, the editor of the African-American newspaper, had cheered the election of the new Democratic majority in 2011. But Michaels, who first wrote about the rumors that Sutton would be replaced a few weeks ago, is not so kind now to those board members while praising Sutton’s one-year term as board chair.

Michaels writes that the Democratic board members had agreed to have Sutton as chair last year because it gave them a “chance to regroup.” He charges “that much wasn’t expected of him by many of his white board colleagues.”

“Problem though – Sutton was more than capable of handling the task of leader without them, and they soon came to realize that, and not like it,” Michaels writes.

Compiled by Colin Campbell, Beth Velliquette and T. Keung Hui.

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