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Archive for July 31st, 2009

City Reviews City TV Profiles of City Councilmembers

So says the City Attorney.

Charlotte attorney Tom Ashcraft wrote Mac McCarley and City Manager Curt Walton yesterday citing recent City Source broadcasts on the city’s cable access channel as de facto campaign contributions to incumbent councilmembers now running for re-election or other offices. Ashcraft cited state law which bans the use of “city funds, supplies, or equipment for partisan purposes.”

The profiles are uniformly positive and do not in any way resemble a news broadcast. “The elaborately produced program was full of favorable editorial comments and puffery regarding these incumbents, to the point of being obsequious and even sycophantic at times,” Ashcraft writes.

In fact, the profiles treat the elected officials as city employees doing wonderful things for the city. This type of propaganda is hard enough to stomach when in involves actual hard-working, but still merely human and well-compensated, employees of CDOT or CMUD. When such hagiography is deployed — at taxpayer expense — to the benefit of incumbent lawmakers our system is seriously broken.

Ashcraft goes on to ask for details of the cost of the broadcast and if the city will “be filing campaign finance reports as individuals, political action committees, or other relevant entities under the North Carolina laws on campaign finance?”

Republican candidate for mayor Martin Davis has already filed a complaint with the county board of elections against councilmen and mayoral candidates John Lassiter and Anthony Foxx, citing the TV profiles as an illegal in-kind campaign contribution.

City Attorney McCarley told Ashcraft that the city expects to complete its review of the programs next week.

Update: That was quick. One phone call from Uptown reporter Jim Morrill and Mac McCarley has already rendered judgment. Oh, pray tell, what might it be?

“I categorically deny that those are campaign-related. These videos are sitting elected officials communicating with their constituents. That is a lawful activity for the council members and for the city,” the City Attorney tells Morrill.

So, we can assume that McCarley went back and reviewed a several hours worth of City Source programming between receiving attorney Tom Ashcraft’s complaint on Thursday and speaking for the record on Friday?

That’s how these self-reviews work, folks.

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Beason on Vick and Wofford

Hmmm, wonder if there will be any of that infamous Panthers management blow-back as result of these blog comments from Jon Beason?

Beason complains about the Wofford training camp site, even if ultimately agreeing it helps focus on football. “If the whole league did what we do, no one would complain,” he says.

Then we get Beason’s views on Michael Vick, who has been a hot topic around many of the NFL teams this summer. “Unfortunately, even if a guy has paid his dues and gone through the justice system, society still holds their mistake over their head. They never really get away from it. I think Mike is like any guy who gets out of jail and no one wants to hire him even though he’s paid his debt to society. Hopefully someone will go out on a limb and pick him up,” Beason said.

Sounds like Beason, like several other players around the League, is really not a fan of the NFL’s proposed four-game suspension of Vick should he ink with a team this year.

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City Council Money Watch: Barnes

District 4 councilman Michael Barnes has almost $42K in the bank, a warchest that might be put to work up and down the city ballot before Election Day.

Barnes only took in $3600 during the most recent period, including $100 from the director of city tax-funded University City Partners, Mary Hopper and $150 from developer and city tax-funded Center City Partners board member Bobby Drakeford.

Drakeford, recall, was sold seven acres of prime Uptown land at an almost $500,000 discount by the city. The city wanted “affordable housing” on the site. Didn’t work out.

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Open Letter to Meck GOP State Lawmakers

Hey guys, what’s up?

Something about a state budget hole or tax hikes, or something. That’s what I keep hearing, that the dirty bad Democrats want to raise our taxes and all that stands between them and the wallets of the citizenry are brave, brave Republicans. About that, the funny thing is that you just went along with a scheme that will suck revenue out of local General Funds statewide, likely resulting in tax hikes to make up the difference.

As Becki Gray details here, the latest bid to expand the range and scope of tax increment financing has brought us to the Wild West, TIF anything that moves status that backers of Amendment One swore up and down would never happen. And by Wild West, I mean Wild West — Texas once TIFed a sporting goods store, claimed it would be a bigger tourist attraction than the Alamo.

Speaking of lost causes, Uptown baseball. The interesting thing about this latest expansion of TIFable projects is that it includes, “Park and recreational facilities including stadiums, arenas, golf courses, swimming pools, wading pools or marinas.” As global warming will take a while to give us much call for a marina and Charlotte is already quite lousy with golf courses, guess which one of those caught my eye? That’s right, Don Quixote Beaver’s quest for $60m. baseball stadium Uptown.

Has anyone approached you about the possibility of TIFing a baseball stadium for the Charlotte Knights? Would you support or oppose such a project? You might say that is a local matter, but a letter to the Local Government Commission from state lawmakers would surely carry much weight when the commission sat down to approve actual TIF bonds.

Oh, well enough of this. I’m sure you have to get back to the fight, although what you are fighting for sort of escapes me at the moment.

Sincerely,
Jeff A. Taylor
Charlotte, NC

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City Council Money Watch: Belk

The mid-year campaign reports are coming in, what do they show?

Charlotte city council at-large candidate Georgia Belk has already spent $15K, and still has $7K in the bank.

Notable donors to the Republican include Michael Kahn, owner of the Charlotte Checkers ($1000), uber developers John Crosland, Daniel Levine, and Afshin Ghazi ($500 each), and former county commissioner George Higgins ($100). Oh, and a ton of Belks. Coke bottling’s PAC also kicked in $500. Major expenses include $8000 to Victoria Smith, long-time manager for Pat McCrory’s campaigns, $1800 to Majority Strategies for campaign material, $1100 for a mailing, and $600 for Web site design.

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