There’s new leadership in Raleigh and a high priority is changing how the state allocates its scare transportation dollars. The proposed changes are going to severely limit how much money is available for transit projects. As the Durham Herald-Sun explains:
Budget writers in the N.C. Senate are tinkering with Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed shakeup of state transportation spending to make it even harder for local governments to obtain state aid for transit projects.
The draft Senate budget includes language that says transit projects of any sort – including “intercity rail, commuter rail [and] light rail” – can qualify only for the lowest-level allocations the governor has proposed.
That’s the 30 percent of the money, statewide, that’s destined for allocation on an equal-share basis to each of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s 14 operating divisions.
The divisions as a group would receive $450 million a year, meaning each division will receive $32 million annually.
N.C. House members earlier this month passed a standalone bill that would allow transit projects to tap a second pot of money for multi-division regions that backers think will contain another $450 million a year.
ACCC Commissioner John Swofford did offer up not exactly a ringing endorsement for keeping the ACC men’s basketball tournament in North Carolina earlier this week. As reported by the Greensboro News & Record:
“There is interest in [New York City] being part of the rotation,” Swofford said Monday. “But until we really have a clear picture of availability of venues, then we won’t make any decisions in terms of New York.
“We don’t have a gun to our head in terms of having to make a decision tomorrow,” Swofford said. “We’re obviously committed to Greensboro the next two years. We’re in the middle of an ongoing process.
“We’re looking into blending the history and tradition of the tournament with the future well-being of the tournament and ACC basketball.”
As to why ACC schools besides new entrants like Pittsburgh and Syracuse might prefer New York City, check out the data generated on fan preferences by county for this year’s NCAA tournament based upon Facebook like data. From Deadspin:
The Northeast is generally a college sports wasteland, and this year it’s missing its two best hoops programs in UConn and Boston College. There are 72 counties in New England and New York City, and 62 of them (86 percent) are going for UNC or Duke. LIU-Brooklyn and Harvard, the only two teams to come out of this area, won zero support.
So reports the Charlotte Observer. Currently still on the fence are David Howard, Dan Clodfelter, and Becky Carney. Interesting to see if Cannon’s announcement — and make no mistake, Cannon is the instant frontrunner — is enough to discourage any of them from getting into the race.
The Charlotte Observer, among other news outlets, is reporting that the Charlotte Bobcats will be renamed the Charlotte Hornets. The date for the change is uncertain, but almost certainly not before the 2014-2015 season at the earliest. Also undecided (or at least unannounced) are what the new Hornets colors will be.
As positive as a move as this is for the team, it will mean little unless the on court product improves.
A quick update on the route award actions before the U.S. Department of Transportation that effect US Airways and Charlotte:
• DCA route award. A set of slots at Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA) that US Airways was hoping to obtain were instead awarded to Southwest Airlines for Houston Hobby service. Us Airways said that if granted the slots, it would have used them for an Oklahoma City (OKC) flight. In addition, it would have started twice-daily Charlotte-Oklahoma City flights. Adding both flights to both CLT and DCA like this is also exactly how US Airways started service to the East from Des Moines and Omaha last year.
The airline remains free, of course, to use one of its 240+ slots at DCA to begin OKC service — with CLT servive thrown in. It will be interesting to see it chooses to do so. Don’t expect an announcement if it comes until after the US Airways/American Airlines merger closes. The combined airline’s slot holdings at DCA is a major concern for federal regulators and the new American may have to give up some slots to obtain anti-trust approval. It’s hard to know if Oklahoma City would be a good use for a slot until you know how many slots you actually have.
• Brazil route awards for fall 2013 and fall 2014. Which is to say Sao Paulo rights for those two years, as all restrictions on the number of flights to Brazil end in fall 2015. US Airways starts daily Charlotte-Sao Paulo service next month. It does not, however, own the rights it will be using for those flights. Rather it is leasing them from United and the lease apparently now only runs through Sept. 30, 2014. Thus the need to obtain some of the frequencies that become available in 2014. Oddly, US Airways has the rights covered from spring 2015 on though, as a provision of the Delta/US Airways slot swap at New York City’s LaGuardia and Reagan National airports then gives US Airways the seven weekly rights that Delta is currently using for its Detroit-Sao Paulo service.
The Delta and US Airways applications are about as snarky as you’d imagine. US Airways could also win the battle and lose the war, gaining 2014 route authorities only to have to give them up as part of an anti-trust agreement to get its merger with American Airlines approved. (American is the dominate carrier to South America — having a hub in Miami will do that.) American could, in theory, also shift some of the weekly Sao Paulo flights it’s allowed to fly to CLT to compensate for either not winning 2014 rights or winning and then having to give them up for anti-trust grounds. So yes, Sao Paulo, definitely soon, but then maybe.
This will do absolutely nothing to dispel the usual stereotypes about NASCAR: “NASCAR driver arrested, charged with stealing competitor’s hauler”
My latest column for Carolina Journal is on Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed overhaul of state transportation policy:
RALEIGH — In April, the McCrory administration outlined a new state transportation policy. While as always, the devil is in the details, this plan is a welcome step forward for transportation policy in North Carolina.
The last time the state seriously rethought its road policy was in 1989 with the creation of the Highway Trust Fund. The idea was that for a limited period the state would increase the gasoline tax to fund certain road projects. These fell into three categories: building urban loops around the major cities in the state, making major improvement on specified “intrastate highways,” and paving dirt roads.
If this sounds like a massive political compromise ensuring that virtually every community across the state got a piece of the action, it is. The funding formula is another massive compromise distributing money around the state for intrastate highway projects.
The Highway Trust Fund quickly proved to be a disappointment. Revenues were overestimated while the cost of building all the projects on the list wound up being much higher than originally thought. A number of the specified projects were unbuildable. And the intrastate system, based on allocating funds by state highway districts, created bizarre funding tradeoffs.
Some 15 years after the Highway Trust Fund was created, North Carolina warmed to the notion of toll roads due in part to the failings of the 1989 highway law. State lawmakers suddenly had not started spending their available free time reading Reason Foundation transportation policy papers. Rather, establishing toll roads let them get around some of the limits of the existing system, which had allowed powerful legislators pushing pricey projects of questionable worth to cut into the funding line.
The problems with the system became apparent a few years ago when the state was trying to figure out how to widen Interstate 85 over the Yadkin River. I-85 is the state’s most critical highway, connecting the Triangle and Triad to Charlotte. And the old, narrow bridge over the Yadkin was a major bottleneck.
Bridge projects are notoriously expensive, and replacing that bridge was projected to cost $200 million, more than was available for the local highway district. The state had no real answer on how to address its No. 1 transportation priority. The N.C. Department of Transportation floated the idea of using tolls to help finance the project, but that amounted to desperation more than anything else.
Ultimately, a small statewide discretionary mobility fund was created as a Band-Aid to get the I-85 Yadkin River bridge funded.
Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal builds on that concept in a very big way. Under his plan, 40 percent of capital construction would be allocated on a statewide basis, 40 percent regionally, and highway divisions would allocate the remaining 20 percent of construction money for smaller-scale local projects.
And unlike the 1989 law, McCrory proposes to use statistical data to put the state’s scarce transportation dollars to their best possible use. State-level projects would be purely data-driven, with regional projects giving 70 percent weight to statistical measures and 30 percent weight to local project preferences. District-level projects would give equal weight to data-driven measures and local rankings of projects.
McCrory’s proposal doesn’t increase the total amount of money available for transportation projects. And at some point, that will become an issue. As cars have become more fuel efficient, the amount of money the gas tax generates has been going down over time. But you can’t ask residents to pay more, whether through higher gas tax rates, tolls, or higher fees, until the state first makes the best use of the dollars it now has at its disposal.
The ACC is “thoroughly investigating” playing its men’s basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
One source was adamant that the ACC tournament eventually would be held in the World’s Most Famous Arena, which would take it out of traditional ACC country for the first time.
“We’ll be playing there,” a source said. “It’s just a matter of getting all the legal ramifications worked out.”
That’s because in March, the new Big East Conference and Madison Square Garden announced a 12-year deal through 2026. However, MSG executive vice president Joel Fisher was noncommittal about the ACC playing there.
“I don’t want to speculate about (the ACC),” Fisher said in March.
Sources said MSG can get out of its deal before 2026 if the new Big East doesn’t reach certain benchmarks. That would open the door for the ACC, which is holding its spring meetings in Amelia Island.
More here. And this obviously reduces the odds that Charlotte will host the ACC’s men’s basketball tournament ever again.
Wrote an article back in August on the despite between Cedar Greene Apartments and O’Leary Group Waste Systems and the city of Charlotte. The issue:
The city of Charlotte contracts with Republic Services Inc. for garbage collection at apartment complexes, condominiums, and trailer parks in the city. Each multifamily complex qualifies for a set number of collections per week based on the ratio of residential units to dumpsters. If a complex wants collections beyond the number allowed by the city’s formula, it must contract with a private waste hauler for additional pickups.
The Cedar Greene Apartments wanted to provide its tenants with additional pickups, and pursued a contract with O’Leary Group Waste Systems for this service; O’Leary offered the apartment complex a lower rate than Republic for extra collections.
O’Leary’s bid, however, contained an important condition: It was contingent on receiving the same treatment as Republic at the city’s garbage dump. Charlotte imposes a $27 per apartment unit fee for garbage disposal, which covers both primary and any supplemental collections. Per its agreement with the city, Republic is reimbursed at the city dump for all collections from apartments and condos within the city, including additional collections arranged with outside contractors.
The city refused to reimburse O’Leary for any additional collections it might perform at apartments in the city.
The N.C. Court of Appeals in August held that Charlotte’s policy didn’t discriminate against Cedar Greene Apartments and that O’Leary didn’t have legal standing to challenge the city’s policy. Last month, the N.C. Supreme Court overturn the appeals court’s decision, adopting Judge Ann Marie Calabria’s reasoning in a dissent from the Court of Appeals’ majority opinion. So yes, the city’s policies were unfair.
The decision is important, for if the city had prevailed, it could have limited the incentive for business owners to seek bids from service providers that compete with those approved by municipal governments.
AKA dysfunction in action. Mecklenburg County government certainly was dysfunctional when Harry Jones was county manager and his firing was certainly justified. But don’t think that he was let go the Mecklenburg County Commission because of the county’s past managerial mistakes. That really has very little to do with it.
City and county managers come and go largely based upon their relationship with the elected boards they ultimately serve. So it really comes down to interpersonal relationships — does a manager click with a board. And that means today’s board. And that would be what ultimately did Jones in.
Unfortunately, what this incident has helped bring out is exactly how dysfunctional the current county commission is. From the Charlotte Observer’s coverage of last night commission meeting:
In one exchange, commissioner Vilma Leake, who is African-American, told commissioner Dumont Clarke, who is white, “You go back to the old time when white men sat in rooms and made decisions for poor people.”
“You called me a racist,” Clarke said.
Leake responded: “I sure did.”
The spectacle did not stop when commissioners abruptly ended the more than two-hour meeting. Commissioner George Dunlap, a Jones supporter, angrily spoke to board members afterward, telling one “that’s not how you do business.”