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Of baseball and hogies

Or heroes. OK, this is a bit old, but the New York Times reports there’s a close association between what National League East baseball team you root for and whether you call a long sandwich a “hoagie” or a “sub” or “hero.” Hoagie is a Philadelphia term, and as you head towards New York, sub or hero becomes most common pretty much exactly where the Mets become the preferred NL baseball team team. Weird.

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Meanwhile in Greensboro…

This is one of the odder things I’ve come across in 25 years doing public policy work: The General Assembly felt the need to change the composition of Greensboro City Council and the powers of Greensboro’s mayor. This was an extremely controversial move, especially as all this was suppose to happen without giving the city’s citizens a chance to vote on whether they actually wanted this new governmental structure. After the law passed, the city sued the Guilford County election board to block the changes. Last week federal District Court Judge Catherine Eagle heard arguments as to whether she should block enforcement of the law and allow the 2015 elections to go forward under the old rules… and no one spoke on the new law’s behalf. Not the elections board, which proclaimed its neutrality. And not the Attorney General’s office or lawyers hired by the General Assembly, as is allowed by state law. Weird.

Eagle’s ruled in the city’s favor. A trial on the issue is tentatively scheduled for the fall. It will be interesting to see whether either the AG or the legislature step up between now and then to defend the changes or whether the General Assembly changes the law in response to Eagle’s ruling.

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Asheville’s economy

Asheville is generally regarded as a hip city, with an active local music scene and lots of local breweries. It’s the sort of place that if you believe in the Creative Class construct, would seem should have an extremely vibrant economy, beyond being just a tourist mecca. That really isn’t the case though. From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Businesses in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties do not produce items worth a significant enough amount more than the raw materials used to generate them.

It is that formula that most determines what wages employees make in an area.

Total GDP for the Asheville metro area was about $14.8 billion in 2013, according to the most recent data available, which is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Per worker, that figure equaled $59,822.

Comparatively, the national GDP that year was about $15.7 trillion and GDP per worker across the country was $86,189.

And:

The Asheville metro’s median household income in 2013 was $43,916, which is the most recent data available and is from the U.S. Census Bureau.

North Carolina’s 2013 median household income, however, was almost $2,000 higher at $45,906. And the 2013 U.S. median household income was higher still, at $52,250.

“If you’re producing lower than average, then you can’t expect to be paid higher than average,” said James F. Smith, chief economist for Asheville-based Parsec Financial Inc., a wealth management advising company.

“That’s what should happen,” continued Smith, who also has served as a senior economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and as a consultant to the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers. “You should get paid in accordance with what you produce.”

Tourism as an economic driver? Not really, as GDP per worker in the accommodations and food services sector in greater Asheville is only $30,279.

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Are e-cig sales plateauing?

A Wells-Fargo analyst thinks so. From the Winston-Salem Journal:

A leading tobacco analyst said Monday there is increasing evidence that adult consumers may be tapering off their initial enthusiasm for electronic cigarettes, which could limit their potential for benefiting public health.

Bonnie Herzog, with Wells Fargo Securities, said her second-quarter retailer survey found “moderating vapor category growth, with several consumers being disillusioned by e-cigs, switching back to combustible cigs.”

More here.

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Charlotte Fire Department gets upgraded

From the CFD’s press release:

The Charlotte Fire Department has received a Class 1 Public Protection Classification (PPC) rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). The Class 1 rating means business owners, residents and visitors to Charlotte can count on superior fire protection. It is also one of the factors used to determine fire insurance premiums for homeowners and businesses.

“This is an incredible achievement for the Charlotte Fire Department and for everyone living and working in Charlotte,” said Chief Jon Hannan, announcing the news at the July 27 City Council meeting. “Out of 48,574 fire protection areas rated in the country, just 132 received the Class 1 rating. This means the Charlotte Fire Department ranks in the top two-tenths of one percent of all fire departments in the United States.”

There are 1,723 fire-protection areas rated in North Carolina; of those, just 13 received the Class 1 rating, which puts the Charlotte Fire Department in the top one-percent in the state. This is a first for the fire department; ISO’s last assessment was in 1972, when CFD received a Class 3.

The ISO’s grading scale is from Class 1 (best) to Class 10 (worst, doesn’t meet minimum standards). Well done.

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The Catabwas and Bert Hesse plan a movie studio

I suppose something like this was always possible, combining those desperate to attract people to their land with someone offering plans that are just kind of desperate. In any case, this seems to be about what you’d expect, an even bigger version of Hesse’s vision for Eastland, a movie studio as tourist attraction. Is this at all realistic? No. Will the Catawbas and local and state government figure that out before it’s too late? Time will tell.

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The Panthers’ offseason moves get a grade

From USA Today and it would be a D-. Nate Davis sums up the team’s offseason this way:

Panthers: The draft was thin on numbers (just five selections) and maybe talent with Shaq Thompson a seeming reach in the first round, while second rounder Devin Funchess could be too slow to play receiver and too small to be a tight end. Locking up a bona fide tight end, Greg Olsen, made sense. But after saying he’d be a player in free agency, GM Dave Gettleman settled for spare parts and declining veterans. O-line will be under major scrutiny.

H/t: JAT

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A streetcar runs amok

Well Charlotte’s new streetcar certainly made an impression over the weekend. Unfortunately, it was to the rear of a SUV that it rammed. Less than a week after service started, as the UPoR headline put it, a “Streetcar driver ‘could not control the trolley’” as it plowed into the back of the vehicle, slightly injuring the driver, and then keep on going until it came to rest at the bottom of a hill. The newspaper’s coverage suggest that things could have been much worse, as apparently the 48,000-pound streetcar was out of control for at least half a mile and ran the light at Charlottetown Avenue.

What went wrong? So far, neither the city nor CATS have said. The incident though is deeply disturbing, as the trolley car in question was lightly-used, and the city/CATS had plenty of time to make sure that it was in top condition and that the driver was well trained. Things like this just should happen, especially now. Hopefully the city and CATS will now come clean as to what happened and why and what they are going to do about instead of trying to play hide-the-ball.

Update: And we now know what went wrong. Per the Charlotte Observer:

CATS interim chief executive John Muth said the driver didn’t switch the controls of the streetcar from the front of the car to the back. The driver also didn’t apply the emergency brake as the streetcar rolled down the hill.

I know that everyone can have a bad day, but those are very basic mistakes with call into question CATS’ training program.

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NASCAR’s increasingly collaborative ways

Veteran motorsports columnist Gordon Kirby’s latest column is “NASCAR’s increasingly collaborative ways” and looks at how the series is working to come up with aero packages that are specific to each of the 23 tracks the series races at. Kirby’s article begins:

You have to give NASCAR credit. Without doubt, the organization is way ahead of Formula 1 and IndyCar in how it works with its teams and manufacturers in adjusting and refining its aerodynamic and technical packages to suit different tracks. It’s a truly collaborative effort between the sanctioning body and its teams.

This year NASCAR is experimenting with some changes in the middle of the season trying new aero packages at Kentucky the weekend before last and at Indianapolis next weekend and Michigan next month. Sixty employees, including series directors, engineers and post-race inspection people, work at NASCAR’s R&D center in Charlotte. Many of them are focused on the business of aero packages.

“It’s a big task,” remarks NASCAR’s vice president of competition Robin Pemberton. “We have a lot of people at the R&D center who are studying it and working hard on it trying to capitalize on the right opportunities to do the right things for everybody.

You can read the rest of it here.

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Cuba played in Charlotte yesterday…

As part of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. And you know what that means. Yup, a Cuban player defected. Kind of par for the course given current U.S. policy towards Cuba that grants a Green Card after a year to Cubans who defect while in the country legally.

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