Politics & Government

Webb will have up-close seat at inauguration

Harold Webb, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners and a former Tuskegee Airman, will have a prime seat at the presidential inauguration Tuesday.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies invited the surviving members of the famed segregated unit from World War II.

After being drafted out of N.C. A&T State University as a freshman, Webb served two years as a mechanic and gunner in the U.S. Army Air Corps before gaining acceptance at Tuskegee.

He was training to be a bomber pilot when Japan surrendered and the war ended.

The distinguished record of the all-black Tuskegee Airmen helped persuade President Harry Truman to desegregate the U.S. military in 1948.

Webb, 83, had planned to go to Barack Obama's inauguration anyway. He attended the inaugurations of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

But as a former Tuskegee Airman, he will be an honored guest sitting with former members of Congress in the terrace below the podium where Obama will be sworn in.

AIRPORT TRANSPARENCY: UNC system President Erskine Bowles says he has "absolutely nothing to hide" and will let a group that organized against an airport in Orange County know if he meets with a pilots association.

Last week, UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp announced he was asking the UNC Board of Governors to drop plans for an airport authority that was to seek a replacement for the university's Horace Williams Airport. The Aircraft Pilots and Owners Association said it planned to meet with Bowles to discuss its continuing desire to see an airport in Orange County.

That got the attention of the grass-roots group Airport Action. Spokesman Mark Marcoplos wrote Bowles asking that he let them know when "something is afoot with AOPA or other big players."

"History gives you the right to worry about transparency," Bowles wrote back. "I am copying my assistant on this and asking her to please remind me to notify you if they ever request a meeting. ... But I have absolutely nothing to hide and no reason not to be transparent."

BULLET BILL DELAY: The so-called "Bullet Ownership Bill" came up when the Durham City Council's legislative committee met Thursday, but the bill's advocate, Durham activist Melvin Whitley, did not.

With Whitley absent, the council members put off deciding whether to put it on the wish list the council will present to Durham's legislative delegation in a few weeks.

"We need to be aware there are people who have other perspectives," Mayor Bill Bell said.

The bill would require a permit to purchase firearm ammunition and forbid the sale of ammunition to felons, mental patients and several other classes of people.

Whitley has been trying for two years to have it introduced at the General Assembly.

"This is an easy thing to get on the bandwagon with," Durham Councilman Eugene Brown said, "but ... we have to step back and evaluate this carefully."

POLITICAL TRAIL

* The Wake County Democratic Party African American Caucus and the Wake County Young Democrats will gather Thursday to celebrate Harold Webb and Lindy Brown being chosen chairman and co-chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. The event is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at 18 Seaboard Restaurant, 18 Seaboard Ave., Raleigh. RSVP by Wednesday via e-mail to cmayo001@nc.rr.com.

POLITICALLY SPEAKING

"The whole thing is a charade anyway."

-- Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy

Dismissing the need for the Town Council to review a 17-cent increase in Time Warner's basic monthly cable rate, since most cable customers opt for unregulated premium digital cable service where rates will climb $4.

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