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Suppression Claim Takes Hit

John Locke Foundation head John Hood’s column this week looks at the Left’s claim that changes in voting procedures enacted by the Republican-controlled General Assembly amounted to voter suppression. The beginning of the article:

Liberals are desperate to prove that North Carolina’s new election law constitutes the second coming of Jim Crow-era voter suppression. Their desperation reflects three desires.

First, they want to win a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law, which included provisions that changed the early-voting calendar, ended the practice of registering and voting on the same day, required that voters cast their ballots in their own precincts, and (by 2016) instituted a photo ID requirement in order to vote.

The Left’s second desire is to challenge the policy decisions of the Republican-led General Assembly not in civil court but in the court of public opinion, by arguing that they are fruits of a poisoned tree (that is, voter suppression). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, many liberals want to pretend they are refighting the movement for civil rights. It makes them feel noble and powerful.

I suspect they’ll need to find another means of self-glorification, however, because the “voter suppression” bandwagon just lost another wheel. Even before the 2014 midterms, when most of the new rules took effect for the first time, there was ample reason to believe that North Carolina electoral participation wouldn’t be much affected by the changes. Statistical correlations between, say, the number of days of early voting and voter turnout are hard to come by.

Now that the state board of elections has released the latest turnout data, the Left’s weak argument has become a nonsensical one. In North Carolina, voter participation was higher in 2014 than it was in 2010, the last midterm election. More than 2.9 million voted this year, accounting for 44.3 percent of registered voters. In 2010, 43.3 percent of registered voters turned out.

You can read the rest of John’s column here.

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Charlotte gets a pair of high-profile soccer matches

On July 15th as a double-header. Mexico versus a TBD opponent with another match with the other two teams in the group to follow in the CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage. This is a return visit to Charlotte for the tournament; Bank of America Stadium also hosted a double header in 2011 (Mexico/Cuba and Costa Rica/El Salvador). Nearly 60,000 attended then.

Bonus thought: Check out the difference in size between some of the stadiums used in the competition. For example, Kansas City’s Sporting Park seats 18,467 while Wikipedia lists Bank of America Stadium as seating 74,455. Weird. And for an extra special bit of oddness, not included among the 13 cities named to host a game (or games) are Seattle, Portland, OR, or anywhere in Florida. Oh, and the U.S. national team plays two of its three games in stadiums seating 18,500 to 20,500. Who thinks this stuff up?

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Of cheese, pork, and beer

Yes, you read that right. Recent news articles from across the state have focused on local cheese, pork, and beer production:

The cheese: The Greensboro News & Record has an article out explaining how a “State tour may become the big cheese for makers of fromage.” A sample:

Cheese lovers rejoice.

Just like wine lovers, you now can travel a statewide trail to sample new and favorite varieties made in North Carolina.

There even is a map online to help you chart your course to farms making farmstead and artisan cheeses from cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk.

About 40 small farmers make and sell cheese across the state, including 11 that make up the N.C. Cheese Trail, which formed in April.

 

The pork: The Raleigh News & Observer offers up an informative four-part series on the pork industry. It begins:

The squealing piglets were born in late January at the Quinn Sow Farm, inside a row of white and silver barns at the end of a dirt and gravel lane about an hour southeast of Raleigh. The barns stand in an open field near the town of Faison in Duplin County, No. 2 in the nation for hogs.

Nearly eight months later, on a rainy night in September, a salesman walked into a restaurant and ordered a dish of sliced pork with steamed vegetables. Because he’s a regular, he knew the pork would be “sweet” and “delicious.”

His name was Yoshihiro Sugawara. The restaurant was part of a chain called Ootoya. The city? Tokyo.

Sugawara did not know all it took to deliver the thin slices of tender pork from a farm on this side of the planet all the way to his hashi – his chopsticks. It’s quite a story.

It starts with two brothers, Bob and Ted Ivey of Wayne County, whose breeding and feeding has built a special pig, one with premium cuts that have a bit more fat, a deeper color and a sweetness even machines can measure.

You can read the series here.

 

The beer: From the Asheville Citizen-Times (from what other city in this state could this possible be from?) a longish article on craft-beer name selection. It begins:

What’s in a name? Plenty for area breweries and craft beers.

Breweries in North and South Carolina — and everywhere else — are constantly on the lookout for clever names for their products.

And it is getting more difficult, with 3,100 craft breweries across the country, more than three dozen in Western North Carolina and six in Upstate South Carolina.

Somewhat surprisingly, many of the region’s best known beer names are not trademarked because of cost and paperwork, though they must be registered at state and federal levels.

and goes on to explain:

A full trademark search can cost cost hundreds to several thousand dollars, depending on the work involved, Ward and Smith attorney Hayley Wells said.

But when breweries produce many beers each year, that task can be daunting. Highland Brewing turned out more than 75 beers this year, though most were small batch selections sold only at the brewery tasting room. Those names often come from the brewer, saidcompany vice president Leah Wong Ashburn said.

Asheville Brewing uses 40-60 beer names a year, Rangel said. “There are times we are all sitting around a table, throwing beer names up against a board,” he said. “Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s frustrating.”

Asheville Brewing has trademarks on some of its best known beers. But “the huge majority are not trademarked,” he said. “It’s a financial thing.”

Cheers!

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Delta Air Lines ends CLT-JFK service

As of January 5th. Which is obviously not helpful if you were planning on connecting on Delta at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for a flight to Europe. Delta has come and gone on this route; the airline most recently restarted CLT-JFK service in June 2008.

This move does simplify flights to the Big Apple from Charlotte, with US Airways (= American Airlines) competing against a different carrier to each of the three NYC airports.  Service come Jan. 5th is:

Newark: US Airways nine times a day on Airbus A321/A320s; United six times a day, mainly on 50-seat regional jets

JFK: US Airways six times a day on Airbuses; Jetblue twice a day on Embrear E190s

LaGuardia: US Airways 11 times a day, mainly on Airbuses;  Delta seven times a day on large regional jets (CRJ700s mainly, some CRJ900s)

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Is the Lance Stephenson era already coming to an end?

Marc Stein of ESPN is reporting that the Hornets are exploring trading Lance Stephenson after his playing only 23 games for the team. A highlight:

One factor that could ultimately lead to a deal, despite Stephenson’s ragged and discouraging start, is the fact that the three-year, $27 million deal he received over the summer from Charlotte owner Michael Jordan is only guaranteed through next season. The third year of the deal is not guaranteed, which theoretically enhances Charlotte’s chances of finding another team willing to gamble ‎on the mercurial swingman.

Sources say that the Hornets are not in a move-him-at-all-costs mode with Stephenson but made it clear that Charlotte is ready now to abandon the experiment if a palatable deal presents itself.

Stephenson has quickly proved to be a poor fit alongside the Hornets’ established core twosome of Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, shooting 38.9 percent from the floor overall and 8-for-48 percent on 3-pointers during Charlotte’s 6-17 start.

You can read the rest of Stein’s article here.

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The argument against the streetcar in just over 100 words

The end of a short Charlotte Observer story today on Uptown street closings related to laying the track for the streetcar line:

To carry a passenger a mile on the streetcar, the Charlotte Area Transit System projects it will cost $1.58 in 2019, when the second phase of the project is expected to open. For comparison, in 2012, it cost CATS 77 cents to move a bus passenger one mile. A Lynx Blue Line passenger’s 1-mile trip was 68 cents, according to a federal database, the Observer reported.

The streetcar’s construction and operating costs have come under scrutiny from some City Council members, in part because the city – not CATS – will pay the bill. The transit system has told the city it can’t afford to build or maintain the line.

H/t: CJ

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General Assembly session minipreview

The General Assembly will be back in session in about month. Here are a couple of recent news articles on some issues the legislature will be dealing with:

• The state budget. The AP reported yesterday that the state revenues are $190 million below projections through the first five months of the current fiscal year. Is that a big deal? We don’t know yet. As State Budget Director Lee Roberts put it: “We’re not saying that we’re not going to have a problem. We’re saying it’s too early to tell.”

• Medicaid reform. Tens of thousands of words have been about the possibility of Medicaid reform in North Carolina and tens of thousands of dollars have likely been spent lobbying on the issue. It may all not amount to much, as the state House and Senate each have strongly embraced very different visions of what Medicaid should look like. And neither side looks to be giving in. Carolina Journal’s Dan Way provides an update on the latest developments.

• And then there’s the issue of local government revenue. The privilege tax is going away and cities and counties want other revenue sources to make up for the lost revenue without raising property taxes. The League of Municipalities has endorsed giving city and towns the authority to levy a sales tax. Whether that idea has any traction remains to be seen but I kind of doubt it.

And at the county level, several state legislators are interested in fiddling with the way that sales tax revenues are distributed between counties. That’s code for saying that legislators from rural counties want a bigger share of the sales tax for their home district at the expense of places like Mecklenburg or Wake counties. The devil is in the detail in this one, but it’s a potentially dangerous move for the GOP leadership as it could hang Republican lawmakers from urban areas out to dry. There’s another danger: by definition this is a local issue throughout the state, so it will generate a ton of press attention and popular interest. Should the General Assembly not be able to come to an agreement on the issue, the session may be perceived at a minimum a disappointment regardless of whatever else gets accomplished.

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Charlotte Motor Speedway shrinks

To 93,000 seats in 2015, down from 134,000 this year and from 171,000 seats in 2001. So it seems that NASCAR ain’t what it use to be — and  isn’t even projected to get back to its pre-Great Recession levels of popularity ever again.

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Possible new routes from CLT

Based upon Small Community Air Service Development Program grant requests and news reports, the following cities seem interested in adding flights to Charlotte:

Springfield, MO (Airport code: SGF). Got a $450,000 SCASD grant in 2013 for a “revenue guarantee with marketing to establish new air service to Charlotte.” Haven’t heard more since then. Existing service is on Delta to Atlanta, Chicago and Denver on United, and Chicago and Dallas on American. CLT-SGF was a $4,082 market in 3Q2013 (13.2 passengers a day total at an average one-way fare of $310,26)

Analysis: Springfield is a second-tier Midwest destination. It’s relatively far (708 miles) and relatively small (about the 10th largest unserved market within 1,000 miles or so of Charlotte) to where whether the route begins and then survives is questionable.

Peoria, IL (PIA): Asking for but didn’t get $500,000 in federal money in 2014 to go with $600,000 in airport cash and $145,000 in airport in-kind contribution to help persuade the existing carriers at the airport to add a new route or routes. The airport mentions six hubs that Peoria currently lacks flights to that the airport is targeting: Charlotte and Philadelphia (American Airlines); Newark and Washington Dulles (United); and New York City’s La Guardia and John F. Kennedy (Delta). Existing service is Chicago and Dallas on American, Chicago and Denver on United, and Atlanta, Detroit, and Minneapolis on Delta. In 3Q2013, CLT-PIA was a $3,733 market ($252.55 average one-way fare with 14.8 passengers a day on average).

Analysis: Another typical second-tier Midwest destination. Peoria is between Bloomington and Moline, and also sees travelers drive to St. Louis and Chicago.  American does well there. The real question is which (if any) of Cedar Rapids, IA, Moline, Peoria, and Bloomington eventually get a flight to CLT, as it’s unlikely to be all of them, and the four markets are all arranged kind of in a line. Peoria probably isn’t the most likely of those markets to get a CLT flight, as Cedar Rapids and Moline are currently stronger markets to Charlotte though further away ($6,159 and $5,384 respectively in 3Q2013).

• Shreveport, LA (SHV): Asked for but did not get for $500,000 in 2014 in federal money to go along with $200,000 in airport money and $50,000 in airport in-kind contributions to attract service to more destinations. Cities mentioned are Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C. SHV currently has service on United to Denver and Houston while American flies to Dallas and Delta flies to Atlanta from there. In 3Q2013, CLT-SHV was a $3,262 a day market ($267.93 average one-way fare with 12.2 passengers a day).

Analysis: CLT is among the more likely future destinations from Shreveport. You can read my analysis from 2010 of second-tier southeastern destinations, which found Shreveport by reference to Delta’s offers from Atlanta, too small. Things have gotten better for Shreveport since, with Delta offering 360 seats a day come March, up from 250 in 2010. That’s still a bit marginal for CLT-SHV to work, though with the merger, two flights a day is possible. The main drawback is still that it’s 764 miles from SHV to CLT.

Columbia, MO (Airport code: COU) Springfield isn’t the only city in Missouri in adding flights to Charlotte. From the Columbia Tribune of Nov. 23, 2014:

Within American’s network, which has expanded since last year following the air service provider’s merger with U.S. Airways, the consultants list Charlotte, N.C., and Philadelphia as the top two hub opportunities. Greg Cecil, chairman of the city’s Airport Advisory Board, called Charlotte the “most likely candidate.”

“That opens up a whole bunch of doors for us,” Cecil said.

Charlotte, the consultants said, would give Columbia easier access to connections with fellow Southeastern Conference cities and the Caribbean and “should be explored in more detail.” Philadelphia would provide better connections to Europe, but is a “fairly long trip” for a regional jet to make, the consultants said, and less overall revenue potential than Charlotte.

Analysis: COU has two flights a day each on American to Dallas and Chicago. By spring, they’ll be on 65-seat regional gets. That’s it. Unsurprisingly, Columbia has never hit the 5 passenger a day each way threshold to make the typical DOT data pull. So while the logic of Columbus recognizing Charlotte as their next logical destination, CLT is really a bridge too far for them.

Columbus, GA (CGS): Got $750,000 in federal money in 2014 to go along with $25,000 in airport cash and $175,000 in non-airport cash plus in-kind contributions to start service to Charlotte.

Analysis: The airline’s only existing air service is on Delta to Atlanta with three or flights a day depending upon the season on 50-seat regional jets. While the amount of money makes this route likely, whether it is sustainable is questionable.

Bonus thought: Notice the typical service patterns for Midwest cities and the lack of flights to the major Northeastern cities (New York, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia). Yes, that’s an issue to those communities. I could imagine more flight additions in the future like what happened with Ft. Wayne, IN, where US Airways recently started service with three flights to Philly and a Charlotte flight. Still, adding new domestic destinations from CLT is going to happen sporadically, and will at times be tied to federal grants. (That’s just the way things work circa 2014/2015 — not a reflection of the wisdom of SCASD program, which I think is absurd.)

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Jobs Lost At a Minimum

JLF head John Hood’s column today is on the minimum wage, and the empirical evidence that raising the minimum wage costs jobs. A highlight:

To suggest that artificially raising the price of something isn’t likely to reduce purchases of it is like suggesting that sticking a pin in a balloon isn’t likely to pop it. Sure, you can devise a gag balloon or magic trick that performs differently, that allows you to poke at it with reckless abandon and still keep the balloon intact. To cite such an exception in an attempt to disprove the basic laws of physics, however, would convince no one.

Similarly, the existence of a few studies suggesting little to no effect of minimum wages does not constitute proof that basic economic principles are absent from the labor market. Two of the nation’s most-respected labor economists, the University of California-Irvine’s David Newmark and the Federal Reserve’s William Wascher, have spent years pointing this out in a series of academic studies and reviews. They’ve demonstrated that the outlying studies on the minimum wage are often methodologically flawed or based on errant data. They’ve also demonstrated that the vast majority of rigorous studies find a negative effect of minimum wages on employment, particularly among the lowest-skilled workers.

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