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Archive for February, 2010

Jordan Pulls the Trigger on Bobcats

Color me surprised.

I really did not think Michael Jordan wanted to be the guy in an NBA franchise. Now he is — he really is Mr. Bobcat now.

I still want to see who helped Jordan come up with the money for this deal — and if Jordan has the good sense to change the name and the look of the team. A re-launch if you will.

The Charlotte Flight has a nice ring to it, marketing tie-in with Brand Jordan as well.

Update: Felix Sabates must be smoking dope to tell WBTV this:

Sabates said making Charlotte his home is key to making it work for Jordan. If he doesn’t, his streak of business success may end.

“If Michael doesn’t do that, he’s wasted a lot of money,” Sabates said. “But Michael is pretty smart and Michael’s got some pretty good advisers. He didn’t get to where he’s at by being dumb.

“This is the biggest investment of his life. He can have 19,000 people at every game. It’s up to him.”

Jordan absolutely will not turn himself into Jake LaMotta or Boog Powell. He will not stand out on the street corner and bark. That is not the MJ way. Nor is is obvious to me that this approach would actually work long-term.

The Uptown crowd is headed for a big letdown if they think MJ is gonna move to Charlotte and start showing up at Center City Partner meet and greets.

Update II: Rick Bonnell gets the absolute 100% correct response from a Bobcat player and declares he is joking! Official CLT is more out-of-touch than I thought:

“Unless he’s suiting up, it isn’t affecting us. Is he coming out of retirement?” Gerald Wallace joked.

“That’s the only way it would affect us – if he’s coming out of retirement. Other than that, he’s pretty much doing the same thing he’s been doing upstairs – making the decisions as head of basketball operations.”

Gerald Wallace is a wise man.

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A Homeless Math Puzzle

Says here that the Urban Ministry Center found 841 “chronically homeless” persons in Charlotte. But for years CMS — and Mayor Anthony Foxx again the other day — used a figure of 3000 homeless children in Charlotte.

Since we are not claiming 3000 orphans on the street, it must be the case that there are at least 6000 — and possibly 9000 — total homeless persons if there are indeed 3000 homeless children. Yet a headcount turns up 841 — with “only” 600 cryptically expected by the UMC, allowing it to declare the problem “worse” than they had expected.

The sharp-eyed will note this qualifying term “chronically” which is defined as “those who have been homeless for more than year or four times in three years.” It seems to me we have a definitional problem. Poverty activists have redefined “homeless” to mean anyone with a disrupted or in-flux living situation as homeless. Thus a student temporarily living in a motel or with relatives is “homeless.” But when it comes time to count actual homeless people, a new category has to be created, the “chronically” homeless.

I suggest a truce in the number-scare game and a first-priority focus on helping any and all kids in that 841 number to the best of our ability.

Update: OK, now this is just getting weird. From the UPoR:

It has long been estimated that Charlotte had about 500 such people among its estimated 6,500 homeless.

But the survey found 741, and the number will likely climb to 850, based on survey sheets yet to be calculated, said Kathy Izard of the Urban Ministry Center’s Homeless to Homes program.

Of the 741, nearly half are vulnerable to dying on the streets due to health problems ranging from Hepatitis C to emphysema. …

…There’s no way to judge the accuracy of the survey responses, but here are the findings:

The most vulnerable among the 741 had spent an average of 6.1 years living on the streets.

521 hospitalizations were reported among the respondents in the past year.

540 had no insurance.

252 reported being a victim of a violent attack since becoming homeless.

The results of the study were released Friday by Becky Kanis of Common Ground, a New York-based organization that has guided similar surveys in 21 other communities.

Huh? This is pure sophistry.

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CHA Not Done with Ballantyne Location

That is the surprising spin the Charlotte Housing Authority is giving Steve Harrison. CHA says it is looking to cut out the middlemen and buy the 7-acre parcel at 11109 Providence Road West itself and build low-income apartments there.

Couple things jump out:

  • The parcel would still have to be re-zoned. City council would still have to take a stand — or not.
  • It certainly appears CHA was using Republic Development Group et al as a front group to slide that rezoning past Ballantyne. Otherwise what was their value add?
  • Now CHA discovers that Republic “did not meet our qualifications process for us to do a joint venture with them, or to do a project on our behalf” says CHA spinmaster general Charles Woodyard? Like I said, front-group.
  • How does any of this square with what CHA told us the other day, namely that it was pulling out of the project due to problems with “its density (the total number of apartment units relative to the cost of the land) and funding.”

None of this makes sense unless the CHA thinks it can come back with plans for even more apartments on the site — along with a pledge that it has cleaned up any conflicts of interest among its staff. Like we told you Ballantyne, the city of Charlotte and the Uptown crowd is gunning for you.

This is not over yet.

Bonus Observation: Tax credits, tax credits, tax credits. The hidden story all along in this mess is which private developer — if any — would wind up with valuable tax credits doled out by CHA. Doing it all in-house would remove that angle — perhaps.

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Will MJ Help MJ Buy Out BJ?

Interesting. Magic Johnson nixes his dalliance with buying Ebony and Jet magazines just as Bob Johnson’s sale of the Bobcats comes down to the wire and doubts arise about Michael Jordan’s ability — or even willingness — to step up to buy the Bobcats.

Unlike Jordan, Magic does have a track record of outside investments doing well, as opposed to simple endorsement deals. And at the same time you know that David Stern would love to have Magic’s starpower hitched directly to the league — even more so when paired with Michael.

So I don’t know. I still think it comes down to Michael not wanting to be the guy in the organization. But the timing of Magic’s pullout gave me pause.

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Time to Put a Bullet in the Red Line

Let’s cut to the chase: CATS will have to cut bus service and raise bus/rail fares in order to close a $3.6m. budget hole, with some of the shortfall stemming from keeping the Red Line heavy rail line to Lake Norman alive.

No one — not even the damn Urban Land Institute — can come up with $400m. to build a train line that will do almost nothing to relieve congestion on I-77. Hell, the Northern town lobbyists are now opening saying that actual transportation is not remotely the goal — rescuing pie-in-the-sky development plans via public subsidy is Job One.

More broadly — 100,000 jobs. Remember Ron Tober declaring that 100K jobs would be needed in Uptown to justify running five corridors of rail transit in and out of Uptown? I sometimes wonder if I am the only one in town who does.

Tober said this in 2006 when the 2030 plan was adopted. This was Tober’s way of explaining that yes, $9 billion for a transit plan — just then hiked from a $6 billion plan and now totaling $9.5b. — was an awful lot of money, but Charlotte’s future growth justified it.

Not anymore. Not if it ever did.

There is simply not enough economic activity — not enough money — to tax it away from the private sector, slap actual current transit riders around with service cuts, and keep wasting it on a vanity train project. But waste it we will. The MTC is set up that way. Unless there is actual leadership from the Northern towns to kill “their” train it will lurch on, zombie-style.

Let’s be clear, any “update” of the 2030 Plan should begin with nixing the worst cost-benefit aspects of the current plan. And any honest look at that would a) Kill the Red Line b) Forget about going to UNCC anytime soon. And it would absolutely, positively not ask for an additional half-cent for transit.

Bonus Huh: How is the UPoR has a front-page story today filed from Haiti but nothing on the MTC meeting?

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Grand Jury Probes ABC Contracts. Finally.

Anyone who has been paying attention to the real estate development contracts the Mecklenburg County ABC Board has handed out in recent years has to have marveled at the delightfully interconnected nature of the business. And we’ll just leave it at that while the federal grand jury does its work.

We will, however, point out one more time that taking ABC stores off of the tax rolls and permitting government flunkies to make decisions about where they are built and who builds them are issues created by the government monopoly on liquor sales.

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Boarded Up Window Fallacy

This one is a classic clip-n-save for our local city government brainiacs.

Back in January 2008, faced with negative media coverage, some even — gasp! — national, of Charlotte’s boarded up, foreclosed homes, the Charlotte city council and its ever-brilliant city staff hit upon a solution: ban boards. Or more specifically, showing the great depth of thought that went into this policy, fine property owners if the boards stayed up longer than city staff thought prudent.

Fast-forward two years. Now the city’s foreclosed homes have a broken window problem. City council pledges to fix that too. By tweaking the board-ban.

The initial lunacy is the notion that property owners want to board up their properties — or are just being lazy and cheap in doing so. In ride local government busy-bodies to save them from themselves.

With predictable results.

Bonus Nut: Boarded up homes have to register with the city of Charlotte. Genius.

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Fun With the MTC

The 2030 Corridor plan update tonight should be a hoot, ditto the Red Line plans.

But me, I am most interested by CATS continuing to insist that it will not pay to operate any streetcar the city of Charlotte decides to build. Is this position intended to spur the Northern towns to go along with whatever 2030/Red Line plans CATS might have in store?

Stay tuned.

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How Many CHA Rules Did Ballantyne Project Violate?

With news that at least one Charlotte Housing Authority employee was in business with the would-be developers of a public housing project in Ballantyne, Charlotte city council and the mayor — which appoint CHA board members — must now find out which CHA guidelines were violated by how many employees and what steps CHA CEO Charles Woodyard has taken — if any — to make sure this sort of thing does not happen again.

From the the CHA employee handbook, several clauses suggest possible violations if outside business interests were involved:

……..USE OF EQUIPMENT AND PROPERTY

The use of HACC equipment and property for any purpose other than official business is prohibited. Under no circumstances may equipment, materials, or facilities be used for personal business.

1. The careless, negligent, or improper use of company property or equipment may result in corrective or disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

……. SOLICITATION AND DISTRIBUTION

To protect the HACC and its employees from unnecessary and non-business related distractions, solicitations and other similar activities among employees, and the distribution of literature of any kind, are prohibited on HACC premises without prior approval from the president’s office.
1. Solicitation and/or distribution of literature by non-employees on HACC property is prohibited.
2. Solicitation by employees on company property during working time is prohibited.
3. Distribution of literature by employees on company property during working time is prohibited.
4. Distribution of literature by employees on company property in working areas is prohibited. ….

………..CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION & FALSIFICATION

Unless written permission is received from HACC, no HACC employee shall reveal confidential data (or falsify the same) to any individual other than an employee of HACC authorized to receive such confidential data.

A. All employees will be informed of the employer’s confidentiality policy and restrictions. As a condition of employment, all new-hires must sign a nondisclosure agreement in which they promise to maintain the confidentiality of the all HACC proprietary information and to use such confidential information only in the course of employment.
B. Employees who violate the HACC’s policy will be subject to immediate termination for serious violations. The HACC reserves the right to seek legal redress and remedies for breaches of its confidentiality and falsification of information by former employees. …….

There you have it. Will city officials duck their oversight responsibilities on this one too?

Bonus Observation: What ever happened to 11109 Providence West LLC/Ballantyne Holdings LLC the entity that wanted the rezoning? All I ever heard about was Stuart Proffitt and Republic Development Group.

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David Jones Spews Crap

Ta-da!

The UPoR tsk-tsker is none other than Charlotte Housing Authority board member and serial guilt-tripper David Jones. Check out this load:

America is a funny sort of country. From the beginning we were a mix of tongues, religions, cultures and races. We never had nobility and revolted to get rid of royalty. Our national story does not center on some mythic founding of a noble race. America’s story is not of the ancient hero, but of the poor immigrant who comes here with nothing and sacrifices for his children so that they can have a better life. Most of us are descended from that poor immigrant. Most of us had ancestors who made sacrifices so that their descendants could have a better life. The day we close the door on today’s poor is the day we stop being America, the land of opportunity.

It is un-American to question CHA, David Jones, and rent-seeking developers! And only a smug apparachik like Jones could possibly mangle American history to such a tortured extent.

Indeed, America was founded by a noble race of men united by a common vision which no doubt appears mythic to those who have lost it or never shared it. These men stood up and pledged their honor, fortunes, and very lives to a radical proposition of equality before the law and government by, of, and for the people.

They did not scurry around trying to cut little backroom deals out of sight of their fellow citizens — CHA’s mode of operation. In fact, the revelation that CHA employees were in business with the would-be developers of the Ballantyne project explodes Jones’ empty moralizing and moves us into full-on scandal terrority:

The principals of Republic, John Schwaller and [Stuart] Proffitt, are vice presidents of SPQR Real Estate Co., according to the N.C. Secretary of State’s office. The president of SPQR is Ben Collins, who was a senior development officer with the authority.

Collins helped the authority and Republic create a partnership for the Ballantyne apartments, known as Ballancroft, the sources said.

The CHA agreed to pay Republic $20,000 for its work to rezone the seven acres for the apartments and $50,000 if the effort is successful.

Collins and his boss, Kathleen Foster, vice president for real estate, left the authority on Feb. 11, said CHA spokeswoman Jennifer Gallman. Their departure came after the authority conducted an investigation about how the business relationship between Republic and Collins was handled, according to sources.

Joel Ford is the chairman of the volunteer board of commissioners that oversees the authority.

“If (Collins) had a previous business working relationship, that doesn’t look healthy,” Ford said.

Healthy? How about full-on crony capitalism? Why didn’t Ford, Jones, and the CHA disclose this relationship two weeks ago? Because they were hoping Ballantyne would not turn out to oppose their project. Either that, or they did not know — in which case CHA CEO Charles Woodyard should be fired. We are back at the old accountability thing again here in Charlotte. Now there’s a surprise.

Bonus Idiot: Anyone in Ballantyne who still subscribes to the Uptown Paper of Record after factually-challenged cartoonist Kevin Siers called them racists today. I would also accept dropping off the next month’s worth of papers in Ann Caulkins’ driveway, particularly that South Park glossy abortion no one ever cracks open.

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