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The libertarian moment that never was

Jerry Taylor of the Niskanen Center has a new column out for Fox News on Rand Paul’s disappearance in the Republican presidential race. Some key points:

The collapse of the Rand Paul campaign speaks volumes. In a 15-person field, Paul is the only candidate who looks even remotely libertarian (social tolerance, foreign policy restraint, and limited government). He started the campaign with decent name recognition, a seat in the United States Senate, lavish media attention, a serious will to win, and a battle-tested, national political operation inherited from his father, Ron.

If there were any significant support for Libertarian ideas in the GOP — any at all — Rand Paul would be near the top of an otherwise crowded, fragmented field that is fighting over every non-libertarian voter in the party.

Yet he’s polling at a mere 1 percent among Republican voters nationwide and has a higher unfavorability rating than anyone else in the GOP race.

According to an August survey by the independent polling firm Eschelon Insights, far and away the most popular candidate nationwide among libertarian-inclined Republicans is Donald Trump, the least libertarian candidate in the race.


The secret of Trump’s appeal to Paul’s base is that a large segment of the “Ron Paul Revolution” leavened its libertarianism with a pony keg of crazy. Birthers, 9/11 Truthers, a wide assortment of conspiracy theorists (many of whom believe the Federal Reserve to be a modern manifestation of the Illuminati), and naked racists rivaled the number of reasonably sober libertarian-ish voters among the faithful.

Trump won their hearts by throwing even more crazy into the mix and stirring up a white, working class populism last given political life by George Wallace.

Well, you get the idea. The whole thing is well worth a read.

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Jennifer Roberts gets no love from the UPoR

The Charlotte Observer has endorsed Dan Clodfelter over Jennifer Roberts in the Democratic mayoral runoff. The paper takes it a step further though, stating that:

His centrist approach probably makes Clodfelter a stronger candidate for Democrats against [Republican Edwin] Peacock in the fall. He appeals to both liberals and moderates, and even to a few conservatives; Peacock would have a difficult time differentiating himself enough to build a winning coalition. Roberts, being more liberal, gives Peacock a better chance to peel off moderates.

What??? To argue electability here is bizarre. The reality is that Charlotte leans Democratic these days. Roberts would be a favorite over Peacock just as Clodfelter would be a favorite over Peacock. It’s that simple.

That said, if you are going to argue electability, the UPoR’s analysis is well wide of the mark. Roberts was the top vote-getter three times at large for the Mecklenburg County Commission. She’s definitely a known quantity, and more Charlotte voters have previously cast ballots for her than for Clodfelter (Clodfelter’s old state Senate district only covered a portion of Charlotte). The main issue facing Roberts isn’t whether she’s more liberal than Clodfelter, or too liberal in general — which obviously hasn’t been a problem in the past — but rather whether the citizens of Charlotte might be a bit too familiar with her, that she wore out her welcome while leading the county commission for all those years.


Frontier Airlines adds Denver, drops Trenton and Philly

The latest from the airline whose scheduling practices most resembles an amoeba:

The good: Frontier is starting Charlotte – Denver on March 17 on an Airbus A319. American (US Airways) and United also fly nonstop between Charlotte – Denver.

The bad: Frontier is also ending its two existing routes from CLT — daily flights each to Philadelphia (PHL) and Trenton, NJ (TTN) — on January 4th. This means the airline won’t be flying to Charlotte at all for 10 weeks. Could Philadelphia or Trenton service return at some point down the road? With Frontier, anything is possible, but neither route is bookable from January 5th through early April, the current end of Frontier’s booking window, so this doesn’t appear to be just a seasonal reduction.

Update: Daily RDU – Trenton, daily RDU-Denver service and four-day-a-week Greensboro – Denver service also end on January 4th. Not sure if any of those routes will return later in the spring; they aren’t available at any point from Jan. 5 through the end of Frontier’s current booking window. As of now, it appears as if Frontier doesn’t fly to North Carolina at all from Jan. 5 until the CLT-DEN flight starts on March 17.

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Clodfelter out-raises Roberts in September

Per the UPoR:

Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter out-raised Jennifer Roberts nearly 3-1 during the first three weeks of September, according to new reports filed Monday.

Clodfelter raised $75,000 this month with help from prominent business leaders and from a personal $20,000 loan.

Roberts raised just over $27,000 this month.

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Running on autopilot out at the airport

Jerry Orr may no longer be running Charlotte Douglas International Airport, but Orrism — the irrational belief that the skies are always sunny over Charlotte and that air service can do nothing but grow from here — is alive and well. The latest sign is Charlotte City Council move towards building a new concourse out at the airport. The description of the project via via the UPoR:

The concourse will be located just north of the existing Concourse A, with nine new gates for jets to load and unload passengers. Charlotte Douglas International Airport currently has 96 gates, so the additional capacity will push it over 100.

After that comes:

Charlotte Douglas said airlines have been requesting more gates, driving the expansion plans. The new, 211,000-square-foot Concourse A North will be connected to Concourse A. In addition to the gates, the facilities will include concessions and office space.

The airport’s plans call for a second phase of Concourse A North, which would add an additional 16 gates. Construction on the $140 million first phase is scheduled to start in January and last for 18 months, funded by airport revenue bonds.

The second, 16-gate phase could start construction in 2020.

Problems? Where to begin. The existing 12-gate A Concourse serves pretty much everyone besides US Airways/American Airlines. Now that American has moved out, and JetBlue has moved over from D Concourse, it supports about 70 flights a day. That’s not all that heavy utilization. Might Delta or United benefit from having access to an extra gate or two? Sure. Do they need nine more gates? No. Could I come up with a scenario in which the non-American Airlines carriers expand so much that they need a total of 21 gates within the next five years? No.

Want to bring American/US Airways into the equation? Feel free, but there are five problems:

1. The two carriers’ combined flights from CLT are down since the merger (summer 2013: 677 combined flights, compared to 660 this summer) was announced.
2. At the same time, those 660 flights a day still aren’t that far from the 700 flights a day mark that was touted as a possibility to help sell the merger here.
3. American and US Airways haven’t truly integrated their flight operations yet; legacy US Airways planes are pretty much still just flying routes from legacy US Airways hubs like Charlotte. There’s significant downsize risk when the combined American really starts moving all the pieces around.
4. 30 percent of American/US Airways flights from CLT are on aircraft that seat 50 or fewer passengers. The industry is now aggressively moving away from such planes and replacing them with aircraft seating 76 or more. No, this doesn’t mean a bunch of smaller markets are going to see a sudden 50 percent increase in capacity. Instead, imagine fewer flights a day on bigger planes, with some small markets possibly losing flights all together. We could easily lose 50 flights a day over time just.
5. The biggest unserved markets within a 1,000 miles are Wichita, KS and Madison, WI and it goes downhill from there. In other words, growth opportunities are limited.

Put this all together, and does it in any way justify increasing the number of gates by potentially a quarter in the next five years? Absolutely not. Yet here the city is talking about it. Jerry Orr laid out a plan for expanding for expanding the airport and hell if a placeholder like Brent Cagle will upset the apple cart, particularly given the uncertainty about airport control.

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And the Charlotte mayor’s race gets much more interesting

David Howard will endorse Dan Clodfelder on Monday.

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Meanwhile in Plaza Midwood

Per the UPoR, this happened Wednesday night:

That flood of growth is what drew more than 50 people to Snug Harbor in Plaza Midwood on Wednesday night to talk about options for protecting the character and flavor of their neighborhood. The meeting was organized by Plaza Midwood Shows Up, which formed after a developer announced plans to tear down local dive bar Tommy’s Pub and build apartments on the lot.

The theme of the night: “Can Plaza Midwood survive?”

The speaker of the moment? Mary Newsom, currently the associate director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.

And yes, this whole topic is super ridiculous. It is, as the UPoR put it, about “how to balance growth and preserve cherished buildings and local businesses.” So select businesses are now suppose to enjoy an entitlement to continue existing? Really? And the building that houses Tommy’s Bar is cherished? Well, yes, probably by the impressively large water bugs that live there, but objectively it’s kind of a dump with hazardous waste remediation issues from a gas station that once was there. And let’s be honest, a lot of the commercial buildings in that area qualify as the sort of strip mall construction that planners like Newsom hate.

The proposed solutions, including establishing a historical district and having buildings declared historic landmarks, are just laughable.

Bonus thought: It would be nice if the Charlotte Observer mentioned who Newsom’s previous employer was.


About all those new apartments

Mentioned a story from the AP recently about millennials’ home buying preferences (want to buy, can’t afford it), which leads to:

Some of the cost burden stems from a shift toward people who envision themselves renting for several years and therefore seeking the kinds of amenities more commonly associated with home ownership. Based on searches for rentals on RadPad in June and July, for example, apartments with stainless steel appliances and swimming pools were disproportionately popular in cities with lower homeownership rates such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.

Which is exactly what we are now seeing in Charlotte. From the Charlotte Observer in an article by Ely Portillo, in an article titled “In new Charlotte apartments, luxury is the rule”:

The high end of Charlotte’s apartment market is pushing even higher with a new crop of luxury apartments hitting the market this year.

Forget the days of white appliances, laminate countertops and vinyl or carpeted floors.

Instead, picture this: yoga rooms and cycling stations in full fitness studios, with virtual workout leaders you can select from an iPad mounted on the wall. Saltwater pools, outdoor grills and fire pits. Billiard tables, poker tables, lounges with free coffee, demonstration kitchens, social hours for residents and, of course, proximity to light rail, breweries and restaurants. Granite or quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances were, of course, included as well, along with hardwoods or tile flooring.

Those amenities were standard at five new apartment properties featured this year in the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association’s annual tour of new projects. Apartment builders feel they have to include those touches to keep up with each other. Some developers on the tour said it’s getting harder to one-up the competition, as even newer features such as virtual gaming rooms and bike workshops rapidly become standard.

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And then there were 15

Scott Walker has ended his bid to be president, leaving a mere 15 hopefuls for the Republican nomination. Bryon York of the Washington Examiner offers up an analysis of why Walker’s bid came up well short, arguing that he just wasn’t ready for prime time, that while a master of the issues Wisconsin faced, he just wasn’t up on national and international issues:

Many Republicans will view [Scott] Walker’s departure with real regret. It is hard to overstate how much conservatives respected him for his fight against the public employee unions in Wisconsin. He stood up to everything the Democratic-Big Labor-Liberal Establishment had to throw at him, and came out the winner. That took enormous strength and resolve. If anything qualified a Republican for a shot at the White House, that was it.

But for all this strengths at the state level, Walker just wasn’t ready for a national run. And in the end, the presidential campaign did what presidential campaigns do: it ruthlessly exposed the weakness of the man at the top.


RIP Tremont Music Hall

Closing December 19th. Spent many a night seeing amazing and not so amazing bands there. Haven’t been there in maybe 10 years.

Am I surprised the Tremont is closing? Not at all. Land values just got too high in the area and clubs typically need cheap rents to survive.

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October 2015
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