Indie Register founders rack up awards

Independent Register c0-founders Corey Friedman and William R. Toler brought home a combined 10 awards from statewide journalism contestsawards in Chapel Hill Thursday night.

The two, who currently work for the Richmond County Daily Journal in Rockingham, N.C., won seven from the North Carolina Press Association’s 2015 Editorial Contest and picked up three honorable-mention certificates in the N.C. Associated Press’ 2016 News Excellence Contest.

From the Daily Journal article:

Reporter William R. Toler received the North Carolina Bar Association’s 2015 Media and the Law Award of Excellence for a daily newspaper article, which recognizes “insightful coverage of law-related topics that foster greater public understanding of the legal system and the role of lawyers in today’s society.”

Toler’s award-winning story chronicled murder convict Derrick McRae’s appeal for a new trial in the 1995 killing of Jerry Rankin. Attorneys with Duke University’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic volunteered to represent McRae, arguing there was no physical evidence to link him to the crime and that the defendant had an alibi.

Superior Court Judge W. David Lee denied McRae’s motion for appropriate relief in the case last February, ruling there wasn’t enough evidence to throw out the 1998 conviction. Duke attorneys said they would continue to push for a retrial in the case.

Attorneys on the N.C. Bar Association’s communications committee judged the open-division contest. Toler competed against all daily newspapers in the state for the single-story award.
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Thoughts on the Second Amendment and gun control

By Eric Voliva

I grew up as a child with two other brothers and a sister with multiple firearms in our home, and had a healthy respect for their destructive power by gunzthe age of 2 when my father took me outside and had me sit beside him while sighting in his .308.

He took time to properly show me how to safely handle, clean, load, and fire different firearms throughout my childhood. By the time I was nine, I was out hunting with him.

By the age of twelve, I had my own rifle. By the time I was fifteen, I was shooting the heads off moccasins and cottonmouths while they were swimming around the dock.

I understood the dangerous nature of firearms before most kids lost their first baby tooth. I knew never to point the gun at anyone, and I only had to be told once. I saw its raw, destructive power on the animals we hunted. I knew it wasn’t a toy. I knew to respect it. My father knew to respect it. His father knew to respect it.

The firearm was a part of our household, just like the oven, microwave, television and car. It was a tool that we learned to respect. I’m very fortunate to have never had to use it in self-defense, but I know that if I ever had/have to, I feel confident in my ability to defend myself, friends and family, and anyone who is in a life-threatening situation.
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Profanity law’s repeal a good step toward reform

By Corey Friedman

Those coarse words that escape many a driver’s lips in a traffic jam can no longer land you behind bars in North Carolina.DSC_0532

The Regulatory Reform Act of 2015, a housecleaning bill designed to streamline the state’s rulebooks, includes the repeal of a 1913 profanity law that banned the use of colorful language on North Carolina’s public highways.

It’s a move that was long overdue. The statute couldn’t pass constitutional muster the day it was enacted. It sat stubbornly in the lawbooks for 102 years, thumbing its nose at the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech for American citizens in public spaces.

In 2011, Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour granted a motion to dismiss the profanity charge against Samantha Elabanjo, who was accused of telling Chapel Hill police officers to clean their “damn dirty car” and calling them a vulgar name.

Baddour found the law to be vague and overbroad, writing in a Jan. 5, 2011 order that it “prohibits and criminalizes constitutionally protected speech.”

The 1913 statute “defines neither ‘indecent’ nor ‘profane,’ and thus leaves to the imagination, or to an officer’s discretion, what those terms mean and which words used in what context would be prohibited,” Baddour wrote.

“There is no longer any consensus, if there ever was, on what words in the modern American lexicon are ‘indecent’ or ‘profane,’” the judge concluded. “A reasonable person cannot be certain before she acts that her language is not violative of this law, and it is therefore unconstitutionally vague.”
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Our resolution: To write more

We have had a less than productive year in 2015, with only three posts (four if you count the New Year’s entry) gracing the site — one of which wasIR_beach recycled.

IndieRegister founders Corey Friedman and William R. Toler have been busy at their paying gigs as editor and reporter, respectively, at the Richmond County Daily Journal in Rockingham, N.C.

The day-to-day operation of the small-staffed newspaper in the Sandhills has occupied so much of their time and mental energy, that they haven’t devoted much to this blog. Friedman was also editor of the weekly Cheraw Chronicle in neighboring South Carolina, which folded on the final day of the year, and was also handed the helm of the nearby Anson Record.

Co-founder Eric Voliva has spent his days stocking and selling shellfish at Beacon Seafood, the family business in Grandy, N.C.

So, for all the founders, writing took a back seat to relaxing after work.
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Constitution can’t restrain all overreach

By William R. Toler

As we make our way through Constitution Week, we will undoubtedly hear the parchment’s praises, how it is the document that gives us in the U.S.Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather Quill of A. our freedom.

First off, the Constitution doesn’t give people any rights, but is supposed to guarantee them.

I used to consider myself a constitutionalist, being especially fond of the First, Second and Fourth amendments.

But over time, through lots of reading, I’ve begun to see how it’s been used to stifle liberty rather than secure it.

Nineteenth-century lawyer and abolitionist Lysander Spooner once wrote: “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain — that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”

Those were the closing words of his 1869 essay “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority.”

Although the American people are ultimately to blame for not standing up to the creeping incrementalism of tyranny, Spooner is correct in observing that words on paper have been powerless to prevent it.
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The Bee Gees, government and the myth of property ownership

By William R. Toler

70s disco icons The Bee Gees aren’t usually considered to be a source of libertarian thought. brunswickcounty_Seal

But a line in the band’s 1977 hit ballad “How Deep is Your Love” recently struck a chord with me: “…we’re just living in a world of fools, breaking us down, when they all should let us be.”

Unfortunately, a lot of those fools wind up in government and think just because some words on paper give them “authority,” they can steal from and force their neighbors to do things they wouldn’t otherwise have any right to do.

Ingrid Larsen is dealing with people like that now.

She was recently handed an eviction notice from a Brunswick County code enforcer for living in a tent in her own yard, as reported by WECT-TV.

10 years ago, Larsen’s Southport home was destroyed when a county pipe burst and filled it with more than 10,000 gallons of raw sewage.

Since then, Larsen settled with the county sanitation district for more than $100,000.

Larsen would like to rebuild but isn’t keen on rejoining the municipal system. She would rather hook up to the existing septic tank on her land.

After filing an exemption to do so, those neighbors in government turned her down.
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A journey to the Capitol

By William R. Toler

[Note: The following is a metaphorical retelling of my trip to Raleigh to cover the General Assembly.]

In my trade as a scribe, I was selected to travel to the dark city to document the ceremony of the gathering of the great priests.temple

Each year, the priests gather in the Great Temple several days per week for months on end to engage in battles regarding the wording of spells to subjugate the people of the land.

They call these spells “laws.”

The priests are divided into two Chamber Halls and two sects.

I awoke earlier than usual Wednesday morning to make the journey.

To begin my day, I participated in a ritual cleansing.

Since the priests have decreed that I have to be robed in garb similar to theirs, I sifted through my wardrobe to find the “appropriate” garments.

To protect myself from their evil, I attached the sigil of the sage Mises to my coat.

After loading my wagon with my equipment, I set off on the road to the Capitol. Continue reading

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Another year down as another dawns

We’ll readily admit that it’s been a slow year for content, especially the second half of the year.

Photo by Heather K. Millis

Photo by Heather K. Millis

Not to make excuses, but it’s partly because Corey Friedman and William R. Toler have been keeping busy working at the Richmond County Daily Journal in Rockingham, N.C., and it’s hard to come home and write when that’s what you do all day.

Nevertheless, stories on issues we find important have been posted, albeit, sporadically. As a result, readership has dropped.

Despite that, this sparsely read blog has seen several posts over the past year reach more than 1,000 hits, which to us is quite an achievement.

The most read story from this year was about now-former Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown and how several blunders in his department could cost him his tin star. We can’t say if the things we wrote about had anything to do with it, but the long-term lawman was defeated several months later in the primary.
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Ordinance: No single beers, dancing without permit

By William R. Toler

I, myself, am often amused by life’s little quirks.

Photo by Carlos Miller

Photo by Carlos Miller

Earlier this evening, Carlos Miller of Photography is Not a Crime posted a picture to his Facebook wall regarding the sale of beer.

Miller, staying in Hazelwood, Missouri to cover ongoing protests in the area, ventured over to the 7-11 next to his hotel.

While in the store, he took a picture of a sign reading:


Some convenience store.

But it’s not their fault. If you want to blame someone, blame the local government.

If you just want one beer to take the edge off, and only have enough for one, you’re out of luck.

While searching online for the town’s ordinance, I stumbled upon a St. Louis ordinance that, among other things, regulates the sell of alcohol.

It’s pretty lengthy, so I’ll just hit a few highlights.
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Court: No barber pole without license

By William R. Toler

A recent decision by the N.C. Court of Appeals shows no signs of letting up on the protectionism levied by occupational licensing and the ridiculous waste barberpoleof resources enforcement entails.

In Kindsgrab v. State of North Carolina Barber Examiners, the appellate court ruled that the board was right in issuing Hans Kindsgrab a $1,000 fine for displaying a barber pole outside two of this three establishments in the Triangle and charging extra fees incurred by the board.

You see, the Cary and Raleigh locations of The Barbershop – A Hair Salon for Men only held a Cosmetic Arts License issued by the N.C. State Board of Cosmetic Art Examiners, an entirely separate bureaucratic agency from the barber board.

Since there was no barber permit for the business or no licensed barber on-site, Kindsgrab could not permissibly display a barber pole or advertise barber services.

Following an investigation and hearing in 2012, the board fined Kindsgrab $1000, $500 for each location, and ordered him to pay the board an additional $1,650 for attorney and staff fees.

Kindsgrab filed a petition for judicial review in Wake County Superior Court, which upheld the board’s decisions that Kindsgrab could not display a pole or advertise barber services without the proper permits. Continue reading

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9 years down the ‘Shabby Road’

It seems a bit ironic that the first issue of the Independent Register rolled of the presses the day following the 36th anniversary of The Beatles’ classic album

Photo by Deanna Barbour

Photo by Deanna Barbour

“Abbey Road.”

It wasn’t planned.

In fact, it was only just realized, 9 years later.

The three co-publishers often jokingly referred to themselves as a boy band, although Eric and William are barely marginal guitarists and Corey couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it.

The trio also saw their similarities to the Fab Four: Corey and Will an equal mixture of John and Paul (with a few George attributes for Toler) and Eric was likened to George. As for Ringo…eh.

It, then, seems only fitting that the iconic cover photo was mimicked not once…but twice. During a photo shoot by Heather K. Millis and Deanna Barbour earlier this year, they recreated  Shabby Road (originally taken in 2009 by “the fifth Beatle” Evan Brinkley) and attempted the cover of Rubber Soul. Both sans Ringo.

They never had a Ringo.

The first issue of the short-live, fledgling newspaper was the result of a grueling weekend of coverage, photos, writing and page designing.

Photo by Heather K. Millis

Photo by Heather K. Millis

From flooding to football to “Motorcylces and Money.”

There was very little sleep to be had in the small brick home referred to as Fort Insanity.

Despite having a few embedding problems at the Carteret News-Times press, they were pleased with the result. It was a dream come true.
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N.C. law gives student groups more leeway in leadership selection

By William R. Toler

[Note: the following was written as an article for the Richmond County Daily Journal.]

HAMLET — Student groups at Richmond Community College and public colleges throughout the state now have more autonomy to select their unlearning libertyleadership.

A bill signed by Gov. Pat McCrory June 25 gives student organizations—particularly those that are faith-based— the ability to “determine that only persons professing the faith or mission or the group…are qualified to serve as leaders of that organization.”

Groups are also authorized to take care of their own internal affairs and settle their own disputes, according to the law.

The law prohibits public colleges and universities from denying any groups access to funding, facilities or other privileges granted to other recognized clubs on the basis of the selective exclusion.

Sen. Gene McLaurin, D-Richmond, and Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, both voted for the bill as it passed through their respective houses.

However, Rep. Garland Pierce, D-Scotland, voted against the bill as it passed the state House 78-37.

“Many of us disagreed,” he said. “(The bill) took the power away from the schools to regulate these groups.”

Pierce said many colleges were opposed to the bill.

“This law is giving students the right to do anything they want without any accountability,” he said.

Pierce also added that “no individual rights were protected,” only the rights of the group.

“The groups would be discriminating against their own members,” he said adding that he believes the law may be unconstitutional.

Colleges and legislators weren’t the only ones to find fault with the new law.
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Code enforcement needs due process

By William R. Toler and Corey Friedman

[Note: The following was written as an editorial for The Richmond County Daily Journal July 10. A section that was excised from the original draft has been included in this version and appears below in bold italics.]

It’s said that “good fences make good neighbors,” so we understand if Davie Dawkins is a little short-tempered these days. The city of Rockingham took dawkinspic2away his fence, so to speak.

City officials hired a private contractor who seized several rolls of Dawkins’ fencing in April while cleaning up his yard under Rockingham’s nuisance abatement rules. Dawkins has since asked for the fencing rolls’ return to no avail. They were presumably sold for scrap.

Rockingham officials accused Dawkins of being in violation of a local ordinance for having a messy yard that created a public nuisance. City planner John Massey also said the clutter could be a breeding ground for pests and the jagged edges on the fencing were a public safety hazard.

That’s a puzzling claim that gives us pause. How can an inanimate object in someone’s partially fenced-in backyard really put residents’ safety in jepoardy?

On the odd chance that children — or anyone else, for that matter — would be endangered by the fence rolls’ jagged edges, as Massey suggested, they would more than likely be trespassing, which is a crime.

But the “crime” of having a messy yard doesn’t have to go through the courts, as is usual due process before the government can take an individual’s property. Just a few letters and conversations saying, “Hey, clean up your yard,” with an unsatisfactory response will suffice.

No warrant. No court order. No judge. No jury. Just city employees exercising their discretion under Rockingham’s rulebook.

State law and city ordinances gave them the go-ahead. Be that as it may, what’s lawful and what’s right aren’t always the same thing.
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Homeowner questions city cleanup

By William R. Toler

[Note: the following was written as an article for the Richmond County Daily Journal.]

ROCKINGHAM — A man says the city sent people into his yard to take his property, then stuck him with the tab.dawkinspic

Davie Dawkins said contractors took three rolls of wire fencing that he said was valued around $1,500 when they came to clean up his property in April, as ordered by the city of Rockingham.

Records show R&W Lawn & Maintenance billed the city $250 to “remove trash” from Dawkins’ property. The city, in turn, billed Dawkins $256.59, adding the cost of postage and certified mail. Officials removed the fencing under Rockingham’s nuisance abatement rules.

“I don’t see where I’m a nuisance,” Dawkins said.

But city officials disagree.

In a letter dated March 10, Inspection Superintendent Timothy Combs gave Dawkins notice of being in violation of six sections of the city code.

The code violations of which Dawkins is accused include conditions that could constitute breeding grounds for pests, a concentration of combustible materials, dilapidated furniture, building materials or metal products with jagged edges.
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William Toler: Profile of a news activist

By Hugh D. Fegely

[Note: The following was written as an academic paper by Fegely, a former co-worker of Toler's at WCTI-TV, for a news reporting and writing class at Ashford University in March. Some reformatting and editing was done to the original and links were added.]

Activism can take many forms, from the traffic-stopping marches to the simple letter to the editor. More activism is done in a grass-roots style – through pinacgearletters, personal displays – than through grand displays and marches, but the message is still seen and heard by many. One of the key elements of activism is presenting an alternative viewpoint contrary to mainstream opinion. With the explosion of connectivity through the internet, activism can be produced by anyone with a blog, and viewed by anyone who takes the time to search. This virtual grass-roots effort is the thinking man’s activism, where people can take a local issue and give it international exposure.

One such independent thinker is William Toler, a young eastern North Carolina native who has continued to look for the alternative viewpoint even while working within mainstream media. A founder of the short-lived print edition of the Independent Register, Toler continues to provide that different opinion while working for a news affiliate in New Bern, NC. As chief video editor, he stays informed on mainstream events, and also keeps a close eye on activities which should be reported on, but don’t always get covered. His original project went online, and is one of the ways Toler can report what he feels should be covered more.
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