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Archive for July, 2013

Dollars and the race for city office

The UPoR reports on fundraising to date in the race for Charlotte mayor and city council. Republican mayoral candidate leads the way so far, having collected $126,874 to date, followed closely by Democrat Patrick Cannon at $120,650.

Cannon’s strongest opponent in the Democratic primary is expected to be James Mitchell, who has raised $34,456 to date and has less than $10,000 cash in hand. (By comparison, Cannon has nearly $110,000 in the bank.) I’m still fascinated by Mitchell’s decision to run for mayor. Mitchell’s at a natural disadvantage to Cannon, who serves on council at large, and has a lot less money on top of that. So why exactly does Mitchell think he can win? Is he counting on voters thinking highly of him based upon the job he did leading the negotiations with the Panthers on a new stadium deal?

In the city council at large race, incumbent Beth Pickering is only seventh so far in contributions ($3,123), behind even Republicans Ken Harris ($10,116) and Mark Frietch ($4,410). That’s just hard to do.

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Of television and sports

Just came across a must read piece by Patrick Hruby of sportsonearth.com on the economics of sports and television. (The two are actually pretty much one and the same.) Yes, sports is the reason your cable or satellite bill keeps going up. The only question is when somebody develops a business model that disrupts the status quo:

Whatever the case, sports fans finally will have to pay market rates. The Sports Cable Bubble will pop. It has to. Just do the math. Fifty-seven million cable and satellite subscribers who don’t care about Dwight Howard’s decision or Yasiel Puig as the baseball reincarnation of Bo Jackson currently pay at least $100 per person into television sports kitty, each and every year. Someday they won’t have to. According to Dave Warner, the creator of the What You Pay for Sports website, losing just 10 million subscribers would cost ESPN $732 million in found-money affiliate fees. Now quadruple that number. Who makes up the difference? In a pay-only-for-what-you-actually-watch world, is Kentucky’s basketball coach John Calipari worth $5.2 million annually when his entire sport’s signature postseason tournament averages fewer viewers than CBS’s “Under the Dome?” Does the Big Ten Network even exist?

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Jon Beason takes a pay cut

For this year only. So reports ESPN’s Pat Yasinskas. Beason’s base pay goes from $5.25 million to $1 million but he can earn some of that back if he stays healthy. The issue is that this doesn’t effect Beason’s contract for next year, when he’ll carry a huge salary cap number again.

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The NASCAR HOF and the WSJ

Speaking of the Wall Street Journal, here’s a free article on how museums often miss the mark on their attendance estimates. Earning a mention is Charlotte’s very own NASCAR Hall of Fame.

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US Airways, American Airlines, and the DOJ

The Wall Street Journal reports that US Airways and American Airlines have entered into talks with the Department of Justice about their proposed merger, which was one participant described as “the end game” to the newspaper. Provably the big issue is how many slots the combined carriers will have to divest themselves of at Reagan National Airport.

The two carriers also have offered to divest themselves of a slot at London Heathrow Airport to win approval of the merger from European regulators.

Here’s a link to the story but a WSJ subscription is required.

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Bruton Smith not moving CMS race

To Las Vegas. In 2014. Despite Smith having said in May that there was a 70 percent or 100 percent given that transfer would go down.

No real surprise there. What it seems Smith really wants is to get paid by Concord, Cabarrus County, or the state. Or, most likely, all three to upgrade CMS and offset the ever increasing property taxes his company pays on the track. Are all of the races staying at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the future, or for that matter, is the very existence of CMS a given in the future? That depends on attendance, the cost of improvements (i.e. how much will it cost in upgrades to help draw people to the track), and, perhaps most importantly of all, land values.

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N.C. House trends

Basically, it’s very likely that the GOP will hold the N.C. House through the remainder of this decade. As Carolina Strategy observes:

When Republicans drew the current districts, they packed Democrats into as few districts as possible, making the other districts more competitive for Republicans. In doing so, they also shifted the battleground for control of the state legislature. Under non-partisan maps, this battle would be fought in suburban districts in the state’s larger counties. Instead, to gain control Democrats will have to encroach on some unfriendly territory – Republican-leaning districts in exurban areas with few swing voters. It would be helpful if these were the districts showing signs of a Democratic trend. Instead, the districts that are trending Democratic are mostly those where Democrats are already guaranteed of victory.

Of course, in statewide elections this doesn’t matter. A vote is a vote, no matter where one lives. But under a district system, location is everything. Even though North Carolina as a whole is gradually moving toward the Democrats, under the new maps this trend is confined mostly to districts that are already solidly Democrat. If these trends hold, then it’s unlikely that Democratic prospects of taking back the House will improve substantially through the end of the decade.

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DBE fraud. Imagine that

DBE, as in a “disadvantaged business enterprise”, which is what most people would call a minority contractor. Certain federally-funded construction projects require the use of DBEs. Boggs Paving Inc. is accused of overstating how much work DBEs got in order to qualify for state and federal contracts.

To no great surprise, such fraud is rather common. As the UPoR reports:

Fraud involving minority contracts appears to be a growing problem, says David Wonnenberg of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General.

In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, DBE fraud or abuse accounted for 25 percent of the Inspector General’s caseload. By April of this year, he said, that had risen to 29 percent.

Last year, a Pennsylvania bridge-beam manufacturer was convicted of what was described at the time as the largest fraud ever involving the DBE program. The company received more than $136 million in contracts by using a minority-certified company as a front. After his conviction, the bridge company’s owner faced up to 330 years in prison.

A recent Inspector General audit found significant problems in the DBE program, including “weak” contract oversight and safeguards that participation by minority firms is legitimate.

Overall the U.S. highway department has had limited success helping minority firms, Wonnenberg said, because “most certified DBEs never receive work on federal projects.”

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NASCAR’s new television deal… and the attendance problem

Big money, courtesy of NBC. While NASCAR attendance is down, and ratings aren’t what they once were, the sport continues to attract male viewers, which has value to advertisers, especially as the entertainment market continues to splinter. And NBC wanted to make a splash.

But what about that attendance problem? The solution, writes Mike Mulhern, is to reduce the number of seats at tracks… and ask for public money along the way.

This new Daytona project, dubbed Daytona Rising, by marketers, could get some ‘public incentives,’ like other big time sports get, if ISC officials can work things out with state officials. The first attempt at that didn’t get far. But ISC men say they’re not giving up.
The ‘new’ Daytona includes widening 18-seats to 20 inches or more. When completed, this track would have only 101,000 seats, instead of the 168,000. Also included, a major upgrade in restrooms; currently restrooms here have 812 fixtures, and the new plan would increase that to nearly 1,900.
Reducing seating could help track promoters in two ways.
First, by creating what ISC people are calling ‘a sense of urgency’ about buying tickets, to get fans to buy earlier….reducing the effects of forecasts of bad weather.
Second, by taking the sport back to the days when fans had to buy a Saturday ticket too to be able to buy a ticket to Sunday’s Cup race; that would help pump up crowds for the Nationwide and Truck series.
ISC men says the sooner this sport can start selling out Cup events again, the easier it will be to promote Nationwide and Truck.

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Charlotte election update

Filing closed on Friday, and the news is as much about who isn’t running as who is:

Democratic mayoral nomination: Essentially, Patrick Cannon versus James Mitchell with Cannon likely a slight favorite as he’s served at-large on city council. “Smuggie” Mitchell’s decision to get in the race is fascinating. He certainly has a chance. It’ll will be interesting to see how Mitchell’s leadership in the Panthers stadium lease negotiations goes done with the public: Does Mitchell come across with voters as a hero for getting a deal that ties the team to the city for awhile or a goat for being in charge of talks that often made the city look bad?

Not running: Rep. Becky Carney and Sen. Daniel Clodfelter. Either could have presented another stronger challenger to Cannon and Mitchell.

The winner of the Democratic primary will almost certainly face Edwin Peacock in the general election in November. Found an interesting blog on N.C. politics called “Carolina Strategy”, which offers up this analysis, which seems pretty much spot on:

Edwin Peacock is a fine candidate. Some conservatives have complained about his opposition to Amendment 1, but from the results last year it looks like Mecklenburg residents shared his concerns. Peacock will almost certainly win many of the independents who voted for Obama last year, and he’ll probably win a fair share of white Democrats. But Republicans have a very low ceiling in Charlotte. In fact, it’s possible that the ceiling is already too low for any Republican to win.

Peacock can still prevail. But it will be tough. He’ll need to run a near-perfect campaign, and his opponent will have to have some missteps or be embroiled in scandal. Even if Peacock does win, time is running short for Republicans to be competitive in this city that is quickly becoming solid blue territory.

City council: You can see the 2011 election results here. Basically, Democrats are very likely to carry five of the seven city council districts, with Republicans expected to take the other two.

Democrats currently hold all four at-large council seats. There are seven Democrats, four Republicans, and one Libertarian running at-large. The GOP faces a registration and demographic disadvantage at-large. To overcome that, it would help a lot if Charlotte city government was in the news a lot, and not necessarily in a positive way. That’s what happened last year, and early this year. More recently though, the General Assembly and the airport issue has crowded out most everything else. Neither of those topics are particularly helpful to Republicans running in city-wide elections. For Republican candidates to have a shot, the focus needs to return to local issues like taxes, the street car, the Panthers stadium lease, and, yes, taxes.

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