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Archive for January, 2010

Proof Moynihan Will Never Move to Charlotte

Like 30 degrees in the Alps and the Boston guy is dressed like it is March in Myrtle. He’d burst in flames if subjected to one of the Queen City’s 90/40 weeks.

Not gonna happen, Eastover.

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Do CLT Workers Have Skills?

Recall we’ve been tip-toeing into this territory for some months now, asking the impolite question, do Charlotte’s laid off bankers have any actual skill sets?

Now comes a sobering account confirming that — at least in some cases — skilled workers are hard to find locally.

We are just going to have to watch the total jobs number very closely month-to-month to see if this changes. We know that the region lost 35,900 jobs in 2009. But when you drill down a little tighter to just Mecklenburg, Union, Gaston, and Cabarrus you can see how far we have to go to recover.

In December 2008 the total labor force stood at 720,498 with total employment of 657,723. That made for an unemployment rate of 8.72 percent. By December 2009 the labor force had grown to 730,224 while the total number of jobs fell to 645,556, making for an unemployment rate of 11.6 percent. (All this data comes straight from the NC Employment Security Commission.)

This means that to even get back to the relatively high unemployment rate of December 2008, we need 666,548 jobs in those four counties — assuming the labor force does not grow yet more. And adding 21,000 jobs in the next year would be a monumental reversal of recent monthly trends, which have seen job losses by the thousands followed by a gain of 100 or so.

It is probably far too simple a metric, but until the total employment number climbs above 650K for those counties I do not think anyone can begin to talk about economic recovery for Charlotte.

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Uptown Paper Edits Scribe’s Final Goodbye

jjEither that or longtime Observer sports reporter Stan Olson doubled back to edit himself on his final blog post yesterday afternoon.

The original version of Olson’s post, recovered via Bing cache:

Olson: I’ve been decommitted by the Big O

Good afternoon and goodbye.

Although my College Recruiting blog has consistently recorded some of the highest web hit totals at The Observer, the economy has made more cuts at the newspaper necessary, and the knife got me last week. It felt more like a two-by-four, and came as a total surprise after almost four decades at the paper.

This is a McClatchy-wide thing, as the company tries to pay down debt. My editors were all very supportive and disappointed at my departure, and we part as friends.

I won’t say I’m happy about it, obviously.

I was already working half-time, and loving all of this recruiting noise.

And I think I’ll miss the Tar Heels fans the most—while I criticized their class, in-state and out, they were right that Butch Davis would finish strong—he and his staff are killing it today, and I’d like to be available for my verbal whipping.

Anyway, take care, send all your tips to Ken Tysiac, who is a great guy and a talented writer, and I’ll be around.

And now the edited version, which omits any reference to McClatchy:

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Socialized Medicine Bonus: Unauthorized Pelvic Exams

From Canada — single-payer and all, eh — comes this tale of sedated women being subjected to unapproved and unauthorized pelvic exams by whatever med students happen to be in the building at the time.

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Sabates: Speak Truth, Apologize For It

This is pretty funny. Longtime local racing mogul/sportsman/businessman Felix Sabates lays out NASCAR’s over-building and over-exposure in an interview with the UPoR the other day and by today he is apologizing to the entire beatdown state of Michigan.

What he said:

“(In Charlotte), there’s always tickets for sale. And Bristol, if I was Bruton, I would cut the two top rows off. When you can only get 100,000 in there, man it’s like ‘My daddy died and I inherited the ticket.’ Now, who cares? You can go down and buy a ticket. Too many seats.”

There also are too many NASCAR television shows, Sabates said.

“We got like 27 of them now.”

And then there’s the thorny issue: There are too many races, he said. Six should go, bringing the Cup schedule to 30.

Sabates’ list of the expendable events (and the tracks at which the infield parking spot for his motor coach is likely to change):

Pocono. “Nice people,” Sabates said, “but we don’t need to go to Pocono twice.” At all, actually, he said. That’d be at least one down.

Michigan International Speedway. “I mean, there’s nobody left in Detroit other than the police and the unemployed. I’d cut Michigan off the schedule altogether. Michigan – I’m talking about the state – is never coming back to what it used to be, so why go there and throw good money after bad money?”

Now the grovel:

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Unemployment Up Again in Meck, Region

Becoming a broken record, folks. The December jobless rate for Mecklenburg County edged up to 11.2 percent from 11 percent in November. The overall Charlotte metro area rate jumped to 12.1 percent from 11.9 percent. Overall the region lost 2800 jobs during the month, according to state figures. For the year the region lost 35,900 jobs.

And yet we still have a $9.5b. transit plan which requires 100,000 workers Uptown to make sense.

Mecklenburg also has the distinction of being the only county in the state to pay out over $500m. in unemployment benefits for the year, $511m. to be exact. Next highest is Wake County with $377m. Put another way, over 10 percent of all the $4.8b. in unemployment benefits paid out by the state went to Mecklenburg.

Don’t expect Raleigh to forget that anytime soon.

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Nancy Pelosi’s Parks Helms Problem

Judicial Watch uncovers the Speaker’s travel delegation’s taste for fine liquor — along with Air Force jets.

Thank heaven that Parks never made it to federal office.

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Wells Still Digesting Thompson’s Golden West Happy Meal

No other way to take the details of Wells Fargo Q4 numbers. But in addition to the Pick-A-Payment residential hangover, add in the coming commercial real estate implosion.

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The Doug Bean Challenge

I see that CMUD boss Doug Bean today avails himself of the same UPoR op-ed spot that Parks Helms used to try to make his case for doing such a great job for the public at-large. The nut of Bean’s spin:

We have tested our water meters and are verifying our results through independent testing. We are replacing any equipment we find to be faulty. We are assigning more people to review bills before they go out and most importantly go into the field to verify all equipment is working properly. We will enhance communication tools and processes as we work with customers to help figure out why a bill may be high.

High bills happen – typically during the summer and fall. With more lawn watering, bills increase. To protect our water supply, conservation rates charge more for irrigation water than for essential water uses like drinking, bathing and cleaning. The second common reason for high bills is from leaks inside homes and in irrigation systems. A typical toilet leak can waste 100 gallons per day or more!

Sometimes we make a mistake. The 250,000 bills sent out each month are more than 99 percent accurate, but errors can occur due to human error or a problem with the electronic device that reads the meter. When any mistake happens, we find the problem, we fix it and the customer’s bill is corrected. We try to review every bill before it goes out, and even visit customers to review a high bill before it goes out. Nearly all of the time, errors are found and fixed before a bill is even sent. Advancements in meter reading technology allow us to read 250,000 meters using two meter readers and two trucks, instead of 50 meter readers and 50 trucks under the traditional process. Our billing accuracy has increased and our operating costs are far lower now – a savings that benefits the rate-payers who support this utility.

OK, fair enough. Now show us your CMUD bills, Doug. If they show anywhere from a 60 to 150 percent increase in recent years (for the same household size and home, if that is indeed the case) then we’ll know that such increases are indeed CMUD normal and it is what Charlotte city council intended when they hiked rates a few years ago to help CMUD close a $30m. revenue hole which imperiled its debt rating. Then we can have an intelligent discussion about the wisdom of this policy.

But if CMUD’s director has not seen those kinds of increases, doesn’t that put us back to square one?

Bonus Observation: I would also accept Pat McCrory’s CMUD bills over the years. I know he has lived in the same house with the same number of people.

Update: Here is WBTV detailing CMUD’s claim that a family of three could suddenly have a $200+ water bill. CMUD shut their water off.

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The New Definition of Having a Bad Day

From Portland, Ore. — official planning model of the city of Charlotte — comes this tale of woe. The Oregonian reports:

A Portland police officer accidentally used pepper spray instead of a fire extinguisher on a man who lit himself on fire downtown near a fur store Wednesday. … When the officer went to get a fire extinguisher out of the trunk of her patrol car, she accidentally grabbed a large can of pepper spray used in riot control. … The officer, who has been on the job for fewer than 10 years, did not know she had used pepper spray until she got back to central precinct, [police] said. Another officer found the empty can later at the scene.

Yikes! I mean yikes. The man later died a local hospital.

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