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Archive for December, 2009

Arianna Wants You to Bail on BofA, Wells

The Huffington Post is kicking off a Move Your Money campaign, an effort to get consumers to abandon the big money center banks for smaller community institutions in 2010. You know what? As a customer of both BAC and WFC, I’m gonna think that one over.

The problem for anyone contemplating such a move is two fold. One, the massive transition costs of making the change in sheer time and effort. And two, finding a safe — or at least safer — place to land with the kind of services you want.

Many of the small community banks which are candidates for a switchover might have big exposures in the contracting commercial real estate sector, and few offer the range of online services, ATMs, cards, accounts, etc. that the zombie banks use to rake in service fees. Still, it seems a good time to take a look around and see if a change is in order.

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GMAC: Sweet Merciful Crap

Uncle Sucker — ie, you and me — is lobbing another $3.8b. on the bonfire that is Charlotte’s very own GMAC.

With that, the U.S. government is now the majority owner of the serial bailout grubber.

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Ol’ Parks is Skeered About His Booze

Well, well. Look who turns up on the op-ed pages of the UPoR to decry even the hint of privatizing liquor sales in North Carolina: Parks Helms.

Ol’ Parks runs through the usual strawmen tossed up whenever defenders of the status quo get rolling, the poor will be hurt, cheap liquor will flood the streets, etc. This is old and tiresome. What would change the most is that inside operators like Parks — and the serial flim-flam artists in New Hanover County and all points in between — would go poof. That is what they fear.

Tellingly, what Parks does not mention is the windfall government would receive from switching to private vendors, one that does not increase liquor sales at all.

First, there is the one-time revenue associated with selling off local board-owned stores. Mecklenburg County’s 24 ABC stores come in a range of vintages and values. Some are free-standing and owned by the county board, a few seem to be leases. In any event, millions of dollars worth of property could be sold off with the proceeds endowing any manner of good works — or simply help to pay the routine cost of government. In fact, I’d guess $10m. to $15m. might be raised from the sale.

And after that transfer, the parcels then become tax-paying as opposed to tax-eating. A rough guess would be maybe $150K to $200K in added city-county property tax revenue each year. And that would be on top of all the existing liquor excise tax and liquor sales profits currently generated. Parks does not like to talk about that, with good reason.

The bottom-line is states across the country have figured out ways to get out of the liquor hawking business without civilization falling apart. It is just the right thing to do. That Parks hates the thought just makes it all the sweeter.

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Tis the DWI Season

A highway patrolman improbably perched at the Plantation Rd.-Weddington Rd. intersection along with a look at the last 24 hours of arrests in Mecklenburg County reminds me that: 1) Drinkers are out there driving this week 2) LEOs are hot and heavy to find them.

Be careful out there on both counts.

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Why Does President Obama Hate White People?

That is the only possible explanation for parts of the overwhelmingly white mountain counties of North Carolina to still be without power almost five days after a Christmas snow storm, right? Afterall, the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina showed how much George Bush hated black people, right?

Or could there be some other plausible cause-and-effect at work?

Nope, gotta be racism. The Government is all-powerful and can always relieve and prevent suffering without regard to the laws of physics or the limits of the time space continuum.

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City vs. the Disco Chicken?

kkSays here that the city of Charlotte wants that spangled fowl on Tryon Street outside of the Bechtler Museum to be referred to as “the Firebird” not the more colorful and descriptive name Disco Chicken.

Too bad.

Headless Gumby was Headless Gumby, the Disco Chicken is the Disco Chicken. And for good reason.

Compared to previous display spaces for the 25-foot Grande Oiseau de Feu Sur L’Arche — like the park-like setting on the right — the spot on Tryon is cramped and closed, making it difficult to tell what it is you are are looking at. All you can really see is that it is mirrored and it has wings and a beak.

Hence, Disco Chicken.

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GOP Tried to Buy Mayor’s Office With Tax Dollars

Read Steve Harrison’s exhumation of the city of Charlotte’s insane dabbling with buying Eastland Mall and tell me I’m wrong. Republicans on city council manifestly thought they could buy John Lassiter the mayor’s chair by exploring a multi-million dollar taxpayer bailout of the distressed East Charlotte property.

At the end of September council GOPers voted in secret in pursue spending up to $24m. to buy Eastland. Only Demcorats Warren Turner and Michael Barnes voted against the scheme. City staff went to work — again in secret — to hammer out a $22m. deal to buy the mall and then spend an additional $8.37m. kicking out the tenants and knocking the building down. But after Anthony Foxx beat Lassiter, Republicans switched tracks and killed the deal. Lassiter’s low-ball motion to offer $7.4m. for the property was the coup de grace.

Lassiter tries to tell Harrison that market conditions had worsened so much in 35 days that his offer of one-third of the negotiated price made sense. In reality the only thing that had transpired was Election Day. Lassiter was out, Foxx was in and nobody on council aside from Nancy Carter had much interest in trying to continue to buy votes from East Charlotte with this dopey plan.

What will happen now is that mall owner LNR will begin to shut it down while Mayor Foxx tries to scramble around to find dollars to start construction of a $500m. streetcar, the initial phase of which will start in the Beatties Ford corridor, not Eastland. The city will loose the $400K it spent on options to buy parts of the mall and all those responsible for this mess will keep their jobs.

Ain’t democracy grand?

Bonus Observation: I should also note that former Republican city councilman turned six-figure city employee Pat Mumford was a point man in this farce.

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Cautionary Tale for UNCC Football

Ohio University is playing in the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl today and will lose money doing so. Oh, sure OU officials spout about the bowl game “marketing” the school for three hours, but that simply is not true of such a low-level bowl game. Only die-hard football junkies and Bobcat alums will watch the game. The idea that high school students will suddenly apply to the school thanks to this money-losing excursion is sheer fantasy.

But such is the stuff of college sports. And American life.

Bonus Observation: A run deep in the NCAA basketball tourney a la Davidson or, especially, George Mason — that is marketing gold. So many more eyeballs.

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Calling BS on Bowl Game Numbers

Let’s get this straight. The local “economic impact” of today’s Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte is supposed to be some $20m., down from last year’s $25m. number.

Last year’s game was a sell-out of 73,000-seat Bank of America Stadium but today only about 45,000 fans are expected. Moreover, Pitt only sold about 4000 tickets compared to the 40,000 that West Virginia brought to the game last year. So….

Out-of-town ticket sales are down at least 80 percent, overall attendance will be down at least 33 percent, and the magical “economic impact” number will only fall by 20 percent? How much more made-up can these figures be?

Moreover, they never, ever account for the local substitution effects of big events. Going to the ballgame means not going to the movies, not going shopping, not going bowling, etc. When you have so many local Tar Heel fans in the stands this impact is amplified. Then you have to factor in the extra costs of hosting and policing the event paid by the city of Charlotte and other tax-funded entities such as the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. Once you have subtracted out both of those factors, you might have some semblance of a reasonable number. But only if your “economic impact” multiplier is not completely nuts.

In any event, go Tar Heels. I’ll be watching the game down the street in HD.

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Pendergraph: “the Joe Arpaio of North Carolina”

So sayeth The Nation in an interesting piece on secret ICE detention facilities, that nonetheless does not make clear that Jim Pendergraph cycled out of ICE some time ago.

Still, it seems worth knowing if an ICE subfield office off of Tyvola Center Drive is functioning as a temporary detention facility. Certainly the suboffice itself is no secret.

The wacky stuff I’ve found is that ICE is operating out of $8m. office complex evidently owned by former NBA star Stephon Marbury.

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December 2009
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