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Archive for July, 2012

The Rams and St. Louis

The city of St. Louis is trying to retain the Rams NFL franchise. Recall that St. Louis attracted the Rams from Los Angeles in 1995 by building them a stadium at public expense and then offering the team an extremely favorable lease on top of that, one that mandates the St. Louis’ stadium rank in the top 25 percent to NFL arenas according to a series of defined measures. So the Edward Jones Dome is now up for remodeling and the city is offering $124 million in improvements. The Rams want $700 million in upgrades or they may go back to Los Angeles.

Which brings us to another franchise that has a stadium of similar age as the one in St. Louis that’s also up for some remodeling. Yup, Charlotte. And there’s every reason to expect that if the studies now underway call for big dollar upgrades at Bank of America Stadium, then Jerry Richardson and friends will look to the city of Charlotte and/or Mecklenburg County to help foot the bill. This is business after all, Richardson is first-and-foremost a company (NFL) man, and making the taxpayers pick up the cost of football palaces, particularly in second-tier markets, is very much part of the NFL business model.

And if Charlotte/Mecklenburg County doesn’t pony up? There’s always LA — note that the NFL is talking about have two teams share a stadium in LA, just like the Jets and Giants do in New York City (OK, New Jersey).

So yes, be scared, this could hurt your wallet whether you’re interested in professional football or not.

Bonus observation: Curt Walton seems really in love with his $926 million city capital plan. Wonder whether he’s considered the possibility that Charlotte may have to find some money to throw at the Panthers in the next few years. And for that matter, won’t it make more sense to adopt a capital plan only after we have a good idea what’s up with the stadium improvements?

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Speaking of the New York Times…

They offer up an amusing “Unconventional Guide to Charlotte and Tampa.” Highlight:

Location Most Likely to Become A Protester Hangout:

[Sally] Brewster, [an owner of Park Road Books]: “The Common Market is the place to be if you’re in the 99 percent. A great deli (plenty of fare for vegans on up to carnivores), hundreds of kinds of beer and wine, the savviest employees. They could be their own reality show.” [Tin Thanh] Nguyen, [immigration lawyer]: “NoDa, for North Davidson Street, is a trendy bohemian neighborhood now. There are a lot of abandoned warehouses where you could set up encampment.”

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McClatchy adopts the New York Times model

That is to say, you get to read a limited number of stories per month and if you want to view more than that, you have to pay. Specifies for the Charlotte Observer are yet to be announced.

Surprised by McClatchy’s move? You shouldn’t be. The limited-free-then-you-pay model is all the rage for newspaper websites. Among the state’s big papers, the Fayetteville Observer, Winston-Salem Journal, and Asheville Citizen-Times have already adopted it. The Greensboro News & Record restricts most of its local content to subscribers only.

Whether what the New York Times and all these other papers are doing makes sense is a different question. The move will certainly reduce the number of people who look at their content. Whether the additional subscribers they get more than offsets the loss in advertising revenue from fewer page views remains to be seen.

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More morons aiming lasers at planes

This time in Myrtle Beach, with the aircraft being a Coast Guard helicopter trying to locate two men that had fallen off a catamaran. Luckily, the two men, Guiseppe Chillico and Keith Crook, were able to reach shore on they’re own, after a long swim.

At some point during that swim, Chillico said the light from the helicopter passed directly on them, but no one on the aircraft saw them in the water. Eventually, the light and the helicopter were completely gone.

“That was very depressing when we saw (the helicopter) leave,” he said, thinking it had gone to refuel.

Actually, the helicopter scouring the surf for the missing men had to abandon efforts when people on the beach began shining laser pointers at the aircraft, according to Petty Officer Christopher McDonald with the Coast Guard base in Charleston.

The search had to be suspended until the problem was taken care of because laser pointers can damage the eyes of the pilot, who is wearing night vision goggles, he said./blockquote>

Last year, the FAA reported 3,592 cases of lasers pointed ay planes, up from 2,836 in 2010. The agency will seek civil penalties of up $11,000 for those that get caught. Perhaps those penalties aren’t harsh enough, exactly because next time the Coast Guard might be looking for someone who isn’t quite as good a swimmer as Chillico and Crook.

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Thoughts on the gubernatorial race

I’ll be honest: I just don’t get Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton’s strategy in running for governor against former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

Gov. Bev Perdue is deeply unpopular. Republicans/McCrory want to link Dalton to Perdue. Democrats/Dalton, meanwhile, want to link McCrory to the Republicans running the General Assembly. That’s all pretty basic stuff, but it’s also where things start to break down for Dalton. It’s just more difficult to tie McCrory to the General Assembly because he’s never served there.

That isn’t the big problem for Dalton though. The defining issue over the just-completed session was the battle over the budget between Perdue and the General Assembly. Perdue wanted to keep most of an expiring temporary 1 percent additional sales tax increase in place to fund education; the Republicans wanted to let the tax expire. The General Assembly overrode Perdue’s veto of a budget without the higher tax rate lat year and this year. In the Democratic primary, Dalton fell in behind Perdue’s budget plan, which makes it extremely easy to tie Perdue to Dalton.

Even more fundamentally though, Dalton takes it a step further and is running on the idea that North Carolina is currently on the right course expect except for the General Assembly’s refusal to tax enough for and spend enough on education. Which is to say that Dalton is embracing the legacy of Bev Perdue and Mike Easily.

That might make sense if Perdue were popular and the state were doing well — Dalton could argue that he’s the logical guy to carry on that success. But the state’s unemployment rate is currently 9.4 percent, Perdue is among the least popular governors in the country and Easily is now a convicted felon.

I just don’t see how Dalton can win the governorship with this strategy, especially since he’s behind in the latest polling (see previous post) and trails badly in fundraising. Now McCrory could do something stupid and hand the election to Dalton. Or maybe the hope is that North Carolina remains a battleground state in the presidential election, and a late huge surge for Barack Obama carries Dalton into office on Obama’s coattails like what happened to Perdue four years ago. But Dalton has no control over whether either of those things take place.

There’s still time for Dalton to craft a more appealing message. Whether he and his campaign do so remains to be seen.

Bonus observation: The second biggest recent state political issue issue? The amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage. Bringing that up won’t do much for Dalton.

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Latest gubernatorial poll

Civitas has Pat McCrory up 47% to 37% for Walter Dalton with Barbara Howe at 6%. Results are unchanged from two months ago. So still McCrory’s race to lose, especially given is fund raising advantage.

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Otah trade to Jets on hold

Seems he failed his physical. Imagine that. He has a week to do so or the trade is off. Would be nice if the UPoR actually considered this news but there’s no evidence of it on their site as I write this. Perhaps with all the McClatchy budget cuts no one tends the AP wire after normal business hours? (The story hit the AP wire at 9:38pm.)

Update: At 2:20pm — 17 hours later — the UPoR finally discovers that Otah failed his physical.

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Gordon Kirby on NASCAR

Veteran motorsports writer Gordon Kirby has a new piece out on NASCAR at midseason. The good:

NASCAR continues to define automobile racing to the American public and media. Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the great names of American racing. Anything and anyone else are small beans.

The bad:

Also, NASCAR’s fan base is a graying demographic with few young fans. In fact, the US Army specifically cited the lack of young fans as a key reason for terminating its NASCAR sponsorship while continuing in the NHRA.

The ugly:

Another issue is that there probably are too many races and too many long races in particular lasting three or four hours. But neither is likely to change. There are always new tracks looking to promote Cup races and none of the existing tracks are ready to give up or cut back their NASCAR weekends.

The first two points are undoubtedly correct. The question going forward is how proactive and imaginative NASCAR’s leadership will be in addressing its sagging popularity. Doing something about the number and length off races could be part of making NASCAR as popular as it can be. But do Brian France and friends dare doing something so bold? For that matter, do they even consider it a real possibility? Kirby things the answer is “no” and he may well be right.

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Ryan Kalil lays it down

With a page ad in the Charlotte Observer proclaiming the Panthers will win the Super Bowl this year. And so presumably anything less that a Super Bowl win for the Panthers amounts to abject failure. we’ll keep that in mind for say six months from now — it’s a pretty big prediction given the team has made the playoffs one out of the past six seasons and hasn’t won a playoff game since January 2006.

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Of Hezekiah Alexanderand the Charlotte Museum of History

John Hood’s column today is on Hezekiah Alexander and our local history museum, which is suffering through fundraising difficulties. Highlight:

North Carolina’s contributions to the American Revolution deserve to be more widely known and more enthusiastically celebrated. The Charlotte Museum of History and its Hezekiah Alexander Homesite should be refocused on this important mission. Do that, and support will follow.

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