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Archive for June, 2011

McCrory: Light Rail Built NoDa

Former mayor Pat McCrory took time off from running for governor to head south and talk up light rail. You tell me if this comports with reality:

Two speakers during Wednesday morning’s Metro Atlanta Northern Crescent Transit Summit — one a light rail system CEO and another a former mayor and current political hopeful — said economic development will happen if plans for a light-rail system through Cobb and Gwinnett counties becomes a reality. …

…Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte, N.C., mayor and a candidate to be the next governor of that state, said a once blighted and crime-ridden area of Charlotte has now become a highly frequented arts district nicknamed “Noda” with increased housing prices. …

…McCrory said the rail system has specifically increased spending by Charlotte residents in their 20s and 30s, as the downtown area became an entertainment center with the development of the transit system.

“You go there at one or two in the morning, Wednesday through Saturday night, and it’s packed. The streets are more crowded than New Orleans, and a lot of those people are getting on the bus line,” McCrory said.

Charlotte’s transit system, called Charlotte Area Transit System, includes a bus network that McCrory said he and other officials made sure was just as clean, safe and evenly marketed as the light-rail system, LYNX, which became operational in late 2007.

And he believes a transit system in metro Atlanta would work.

“If you do it right,” McCrory said. “You can learn lessons from yours and other people’s mistakes and also from what was done right. It’s a process of many steps, just as building roads is a process. Many roads are built correctly and many are built incorrectly. But if you get roads and transit working together, it’s a good investment.”

McCrory would not say whether the availability of a transit system was the “nail in the coffin” for many businesses to locate to or stay in Charlotte, but he did say it became a major recruitment tool.

“We could use it to show that we were doing something in anticipation of growth,” McCrory said. “If you wait to react to growth when it happens, you’ve waited too long. But I never apply one thing to jobs and companies coming or going. Transit was just a part of the package, but a very important part. When we competed against cities such as Jacksonville, Houston, L.A. for industry, I would bring out our transit plan. Even for companies that weren’t looking to locate near the transit line, I would still show them the plan, and they would say: ‘We like this a lot even though we wouldn’t be on the transit line because we see you’re planning for the future.’ It helps as a recruitment tool, I can guarantee you that.”

McCrory likened the battle to get public support for a light rail system to a business trying to sell a product, and said that if Atlanta does nothing, competitors such as Charlotte and Phoenix will begin to win jobs and companies.

When asked what he felt Charlotte would look like today had the transit system not been built, McCrory said: “We’d have some corridors that would be much more blighted, and we wouldn’t have a choice but to do something.”

Think that pretty much speaks for itself. If North Carolina Republicans nominate this guy again they’ll deserve everything they get.

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What Killed MySpace

OK, brought it down from the $580 million entity that News Corporation bought six years to the $35 million it sold for yesterday. I think it can be summed up in two words: Porn spam. That is to a say a user environment in which people were being flooded with constant friend requests and messages pushing adult material so that using the site became not worth the trouble.

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So Long, Detroit-on-the-Catawba. And Good Luck

Quite unbelievably — but also very willingly — July will be my last month at the helm of Meck Deck.

A month short of six years is a pretty good run, and the eight years since moving back to Charlotte have flown past. But a sober cost-benefit analysis demands a relo to Cobb County, outside Atlanta.

Near term landing spot will be here — but aside from that who knows? Had exactly the same elaborate plan when we decamped to DC in 1990. Wound up a Washington Correspondent for Investor’s Business Daily.

Still have some havoc planned for the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

Bonus Request: Do click on one or two of the ads at the future blog — gotta see if if my scripting-fu is still strong. Thanks.

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All Hail Chief Monroe!

His crime fighting skills are so amazing that they extend across the entire state of North Carolina. Amazing!

A 33-year low in crime, a 21 percent drop since 2001 alone — clearly Rodney Monroe’s magic — the same mojo which has worked so well in Charlotte — knows no bounds. In time or space.

Or reality.

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Bobcats = Thrashers?

Or as Atlanta goes, so goes Charlotte?

Last week, the NHL approved the sale and relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg. This was Atlanta’s second chance at the NHL, which ended after 13 years (12 seasons). Attendance was awful, which wasn’t all that that surprising, as nothing helps draw a crowd like winning, which is exactly what the Thrashers weren’t doing much of. In their run in Hotlanta, the Thrashers made the playoffs but once and even then failed to win a game.

Fast forward a few years, and let’s plug in “Charlotte Bobcats” for “Atlanta Thrashers” and “NBA” for “NHL” in the above and change the number of years a bit. Sound like a plausible outcome for the NBA in the CLT, especially if one or both of Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker don’t pan out? Could well be…

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Meanwhile, On Planet Foxx

Maybe we are being too hard on Mayor Anthony Foxx. Running off to White House events and rah-rahing the DNC is pretty much a full-time job. Still, the mayor seems woefully out-of-touch with economic reality in Charlotte. Even city staff manufactured stories like this spin out of control on him:

Today, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx says those programs are working, to a degree.

“Overall, yes, in the sense that we are at a lower level of unemployment this year than we were two years ago for sure,” Foxx says.

Hmm. Let’s look at the state employment numbers for the city:

Month Workers Jobs Jobless Jobless Rate
May 2009 351,762 317,870 33,892 …9.6
May 2010 352,927 318,278 34,649 …9.8
May 2011 348,940 317,573 31,367 …9.0

The mayor is clearly pumping up the lower unemployment rate, which is fine — provided he is willing to accept how that number was generated.

The unemployment rate did not go down because of an increase in employment. Indeed, Charlotte — just like the county at large — now has fewer total jobs than it did in 2009. At the same time the workforce has shrunk even more. Presto, a drop in the jobless rate.

Now, you can look at the workforce numbers and say one of two things (and this is also something we’ve been pointing out for years now.) Either:

  • A) Discouraged workers are still out there, just no longer looking for work, in which case you need to add X thousands of them back into your workforce total and re-calculate for a higher jobless rate.
  • B) Assume X thousands of them moved away and really are gone for good.

From a political point of view, Option B seems non-starter. Vote Foxx: Shrink the City More! doesn’t quite have a snippy snap to it. By default then you are left with admitting that the unemployment rate is at best meaningless given the overall lack of employment growth.

Mayor Foxx still has time to do that before his star falls into eclipse.

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Did Moynihan Save or Doom BAC?

Initial stock price reax says “save,” but such hyper short-term thinking got us in this mess, didn’t it?

And the CEO’s superlawyer rep seems to have come in handy negotiating a settlement for what amounts to nickels on the dollar. Although you have to believe that as soon as the Fed said it was ready to settle with its TBTF creation, everyone else with billions in claims quickly fell into step. Don’t want to end up like Lehman Bros. now do you?

However.

BAC has accepted responsibility for the dreck it sold. And the bank is still not making any money. Put those things together and the future is not quite so rosy.

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Jim Black: Amazing Luck

CJ has the details on the just gosh-darn amazing luck of Jim Black.

The unbuildable scrub land in Matthews off of Rice Rd. which prosecutors and a judge — to their everlasting shame — accepted as worth $500K (in order to settle Black’s $1m. criminal fine for being a rat-bastard who got caught) is now worth all of $143K according to Mecklenburg’s 2011 reval. That’s down 3.4 percent from 2003. Or in the opposite direction of a mystery appraisal the court accepted at $600K.

Meanwhile, Black’s commerical parcels in Downtown Matthews are looking newly spiffed up. What a lucky guy!

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CRVA Crapstorm

Or. Gloria Pace Newman.

Like the United Way diva did, the CRVA honcho is taking the fall for a board rife with cronyism and insider dealing. Yes, Tim Newman is grossly overpaid, but he has only done exactly what the Uptown crowd has wanted him to do. Now that the stupendously bad ideas of, oh, building a NASCAR Hall of Fame with public dollars and handing out gifts and kickbacks to current and former elected officials (for a start) have rebounded back to the Charlotte city council, council is trying to manage the unmanagable.

First pass, the old Charlotte tried-and-true dodge of appearing to make a change. Hence, interposing the city manager into the CRVA funding matrix. Recall this is more or less exactly the same approach city council undertook when CATS’ financials went wildly out of control during the latter stages of the South Blvd. build-out. Some members of city council may actually want to remove Newman, it is hard to tell. No doubt there is sentiment that $300K is awful lot to pay someone not directly related to them. But that still falls under the superficial change rubric. A Newman successor would still be a carbon-copy of Newman.

This is why there was been no sign of actual change at the CRVA, namely a resolution from city council asking for the resignations of all current members of the CRVA board. This is what would happen in a normal city with actual arms-length relationships between government officials and powerful lobbies.

As such, it cannot happen in Charlotte.

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UPoR Spins CMS Cynicism

You can always tells when something smells so bad that the Uptown crowd notices their own stink. Out rides the UPoR with rosewater prose to declare anyone troubled by the stench “skeptics” and “critics” “suspicious” of a “difficult process.”

Bullcrap. Pete Gorman took middle school kids hostage and released them when he got what he wanted — money just like every other kidnapper. Further, private groups who took CMS at its lying, deceitful word went very far down the path to finding ways to use the Union County booster-club model. In fact, a certain big-name (and big wallet) auto dealer was lined up to help transition middle-school sports from CMS to local non-profits with substantial, six-figure support. Outside activists all but begged CMS admin to get together to crunch numbers, to no avail.

But evidently spin proof even for the UPoR, no mention of the curious demographics of not finding money for softball, baseball, soccer, and golf — then mentioning the gender-bean counting of Title IX as a reason. Really? Not some other sort of bean-counting? In CMS?

One thing for sure, the middle-school sports caper was Gorman’s walk-off home run.

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