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Time Warner Cable going all digital

From the Raleigh News & Observer:

Time Warner Cable is notifying customers that they are going “all digital” and that special digital equipment will soon be required to view any channels – and with the new equipment will eventually come new charges.

Customers who have the “Starter TV” package (an inexpensive plan that provides network channels like ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS, plus a handful of cable channels, like CSPAN and TBS) or any customers plugging a cable directly into a TV, VCR or DVD recorder (Preferred customers with “extra” or “secondary” TVs receiving cable directly) will be affected.

There may be other effects as well if you have an unusual television viewing setup. The move to all digital happens May 5 in Raleigh with customers just getting a letter about the change this week. Expect the switch to happen sooner rather than later here in Charlotte as well.
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Panthers sign Jonathan Martin

Dave Gettleman’s latest bargain-bin signing is another offensive tackle with a recognizable name. And, as Gary Davenport writes for Bleacher Report, another OT that was mediocre at best last year:

Yes, the circumstances surrounding the first two years of Martin’s career were hardly ideal, and that can’t make it easy for a young player to acclimate to the NFL.

However, Martin wasn’t in Miami last year. He was among arguably the most veteran, professional O-line in the NFL, playing under the coach for whom Martin had the best years of his playing career.

And he was still a turnstile.

Maybe it’s time that turnstile just stopped spinning. And maybe it’s time we just came to grips with a rather depressing realization.

For all his collegiate accolades, and all his promise, when it comes to protecting an NFL quarterback—Jonathan Martin just isn’t very good.

Maybe Martin figures things out this year. Maybe not. It’s a reasonable enough signing by Gettlemen but at the same time, this doesn’t make me feel much better about the Panthers’ prospects for 2015.

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Charlotte and the property tax rereassessment

From the Charlotte Observer, explaining why the city is suddenly surprised that property tax base is taking a significant hit:

Mecklenburg County Tax Assessor Ken Joyner told a Charlotte City Council committee that Pearson [Appraisal Services] had first examined property that appeared least problematic. Because the early properties examined didn’t change much in value, Pearson had estimated the total drop in taxable value would be about 1/2 percent.

When the revaluation was finished, there was a 2.2 percent drop in taxable value – a dip that has played havoc with the city’s budget.

The reason, Joyner said, is that Pearson waited until the end of the project to review commercial property that was expected to have large swings in value.

“The most difficult (properties) were still to come,” Joyner said.

 Cute. Not so sure Joyner isn’t playing the pass the blame game here. As county tax assessor, he should have had a very good idea of what Pearson was doing, and certainly what properties had been reviewed. That there was risk with the commercial properties at the end should have been obvious to him, and something that he should have communicated much earlier to the city and county.
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Meanwhile up at Exit 28 in Corntown

Essentially this:

spinal-tap-stonehenge-black-sabbath-music-fnord-ian-gillan-humor_500x274

You can read the Charlotte Observer’s story here about the disappointment associated with the mast and cable public art display over Interstate 77 that were suppose brand Cornelius as the gateway to Lake Norman.

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Davidson and the NCAA tournament

The NCAA mens  basketball tournament starts in earnest today. A quick word of advice for Davidson College, and other mid-major teams: Up your game. By that I mean, it’s pretty clear that the selection committee rewards teams that play a tough out-of-conference schedule. Teams that don’t — and that certainly includes Davidson, whose best out-of-coference win came against Montana (RPI rank: 133)  — get punished by either not making the tournament (Colorado State, Temple) or lower seatings than their statistical rankings suggest is warranted (Davidson, Dayton, Wichita State, Northern Iowa, etc.). So yes Davidson, your chances of making the tournament in future years would be enhance it you played more decent teams in November and December.

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Court: Exclusionary Rule Not Applicable To Driver

My latest court story for Carolina Journal:

RALEIGH — Charges against Mount Airy resident Myra Combs of driving while impaired were dismissed after a judge ruled that the traffic stop in which she was arrested violated her constitutional rights. Even so, the Division of Motor Vehicles suspended her driver’s license, an action that in February was ruled as proper by the state’s second highest court.

The court’s decision rested on its interpretation that the “exclusionary rule” — which disallows evidence presented in a criminal case if police obtain it illegally — may not apply in civil actions such as revoking a driver’s license.

On Jan. 6, 2013, the Mount Airy Police Department received a call from a motorist describing a blue Ford Explorer that was weaving across the lanes of U.S. Highway 52 North. Officer David Grubbs went to intercept the vehicle. Spotting a matching Explorer, Grubbs and another officer followed the vehicle for some distance. They did not observe the driver of the Explorer being reckless. At most, the vehicle may have made a “slight cross of the center” line of a side street that had no painted center line. Grubbs continued to follow the vehicle until it pulled into a driveway. Only then did Grubbs initiate a traffic stop.

The driver was Combs. Her eyes were bloodshot, she smelled of alcohol, and she failed several field sobriety tests. Grubbs asked Combs to take a breath test on the spot but she refused. Grubbs then arrested her and took her to the police department building, where she again refused to take a breath test. Combs was charged with driving while impaired.

At trial, a district court judge determined that Grubbs lacked probable cause to pull Combs over, violating her Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. He ordered all evidence obtained from the stop excluded. The state then dismissed the DWI case.

Administrative action

That did not end the matter. DMV notified Combs it was revoking her driving license based on her failure to submit to a breath test. Combs requested a hearing, arguing that the department couldn’t pull her license as the result of actions taking place during an unconstitutional traffic stop. A DMV hearing officer did not accept this line of reasoning, and on appeal a Superior Court judge ordered DMV to reinstate Combs’ license, citing the exclusionary rule. DMV then brought the matter before the N.C. Court of Appeals.

“DMV argues that the trial court erred in reversing the final agency decision because the agency record plainly contains sufficient evidence to support the findings of fact,” wrote Judge Dietz for the appeals court. “We agree.” The court upheld the one-year suspension of Combs’ license.

In an administrative action such as this, a Superior Court judge acts like an appellate court, determining whether there is sufficient evidence to support the factual determinations made by the agency and whether the conclusions of law reached are supported by those facts. In this case, Superior Court Judge Todd Burke simply held that there was “insufficient evidence in the record to support the Findings of Fact.”

The appeals court construed this to mean that because all evidence had been excluded from the traffic stop, Grubbs thus lacked cause to believe that Combs had refused a breath test.

“This argument is precluded by our case law,” wrote Dietz in reinstating Combs’ driving ban.

“This court has held that whether an officer had ‘reasonable and articulable suspicion for the initial stop is not an issue to be reviewed’ in a license revocation hearing.

“Thus, the exclusionary rule, which the district court applied in Combs’ criminal case, is inapplicable here. Indeed, this court repeatedly has rejected attempts to invoke the exclusionary rule in a license revocation proceeding.”

The Court of Appeals first held in the 1997 case of Quick v. N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles that “[w]hen determining whether revocation of petitioner’s license was proper, we are not concerned with the admissibility or suppression of evidence. The question of the legality of his arrest [is] simply not relevant to any issue presented in the hearing to determine whether [the respondent’s] license was properly revoked.”

Dietz noted that the issue has divided courts in other states. The highest courts in Connecticut, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania have held that the exclusionary rule should not apply in such circumstances while the top courts in Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont reached the opposite conclusion.

“Our Supreme Court has not yet addressed this issue but, as explained above, this court has. Because one panel of this court cannot overturn another, if the application of the exclusionary rule to these civil proceedings warrants further consideration, it must be done in our Supreme Court,” he wrote.

The case is Combs v Robertson (14-709).

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Lottery’s progress, profits

Patrick Gannon has an informative column out on the N.C. Education Lottery. The key point:

The recent performance audit by Delehanty Consulting LLC compared the lottery with those in five nearby states — Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Virginia. Of the states, North Carolina, in its ninth year, operates the newest lottery.

North Carolina ranks last among the states in lottery profits per capita, as well as advertising and marketing investment per capita and sales per lottery retailer, the audit showed.

And most importantly to those who buy tickets, it also ranked last — at 60.62 percent — in prize payouts as a percentage of sales during the 2013 fiscal year. The highest was Georgia — at 64.66 percent.

The study’s author, Herb Delehanty, noted that North Carolina could increase its prizes and not harm its profitability because more prizes generally equal more sales. “There may be a point at which increases in prize payouts may not result in overall increases in profitability; however, the (lottery) has not reached that point,” he wrote in the report.

And:

The audit also found that the lottery’s profit per capita in the 2013 fiscal year was $48.59, lowest among the six states. Operating profits per capita equals dollars raised for the beneficiary — education in North Carolina’s case — divided by the state population. Georgia’s was the highest at $92.80, but that state has a lucrative keno game, with drawings every four minutes. The other four states had profits per capita ranging from $51 to $64.

So yeah, expect more silly lottery ads — if the General Assembly allows it.

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UNCC and Alan Major part ways

No surprise there, given Major’s inability to get the school into the NCAA tournament — one NIT appearance in five years just doesn’t cut it, especially given the university’s rich basketball tradition. That said, announcing Major’s firing on Selection Sunday was just tacky.

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Cherry gentrification

Ely Portillo of The Charlotte Observer had an very interesting story out over the weekend on the gentrification of the Cherry neighborhood, which features an interesting dynamic:

Opposing residents have squared off at the council’s last two rezoning meetings, with longtime residents speaking in support of new affordable housing, which they say will help them stay in Cherry. Groups of mostly newer residents have come out against the proposed apartments and rentals, which they worry would wreck Cherry’s single-family neighborhood character.

And:

Council member David Howard said an unhealthy dynamic has taken root in Cherry.

“The dynamic is just disturbing,” Howard said during last month’s zoning meeting. “I wish both sides would talk more.”

Council member Al Austin told me that the situation in Cherry – with groups of residents opposed to each other, instead of opposing a developer – is unusual for a gentrifying area.

“It’s a very weird situation,” Austin said. “I have seen this community just evolve to something it never was before.”

Austin said he expects such discussions and disagreements to continue as close-in neighborhoods such as Wesley Heights, Wilmore and NoDa see more growth.

“This will continue in other communities,” he said. “These communities that are really close to downtown are viable and trendy. How do you manage that?”

 Simplest and best solution: Let the market decide, without the city attempting to force affordable housing into certain areas and without other pricey mandates.
Bonus thought: A mile or two away, the plan to tear the building housing Tommy’s Pub on Central down and build apartments on the site is also generating some backlash.
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Will the General Assembly redistrict Mecklenburg County?

John Wayne of Carolina Strategic Analysis address the possibility over at Politics North Carolina. A highlight:

After redistricting legislation affecting North Carolina’s third and second largest counties, could similar bills be in store for Mecklenburg? Already, Republican Commissioner Bill James has floated the notion of changing the makeup of the Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners, shrinking the size of the board from nine to seven and reducing the number of at-large commission seats from three to one. James says it would have the effect of making elections for chair less chaotic.

James’ idea in itself wouldn’t be too controversial. The last election for chair was a messy affair and resulted in Democrat Trevor Fuller being named for the position, despite the lead vote-getter being Democrat Pat Cotham. Under James’ proposal, the one at-large member would automatically become chair, which would certainly do a lot to make elections for chairpersons less contentious. And because Mecklenburg is so Democratic, the at-large vote would be decisive and ensure Democratic control of the Board, no matter how the lines in the other districts are drawn.

The General Assembly might do him one better, though, creating redistricting legislation very similar to the kind they intend to carry out in Wake County, reducing the number of at-large districts from three to two, and having these members elected from “super districts” – one for metro Charlotte, and the other consisting of the suburban areas of the county.

You can read the rest of Wayne’s blog post here.

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