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Archive for September, 2013

The AAC qualification battle

From the Charlotte Observer:

When the General Assembly passed a law to transfer control of Charlotte’s airport from the city to an independent commission, legislators said their goal was to remove politics from its oversight.

Instead, they wanted to put aviation and business experts in charge.

But as the commission takes shape, critics say new members don’t have more airport expertise than the City Council members currently in charge of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Appointees and commission attorney Richard Vinroot, however, say their business backgrounds and other experience make them qualified.

What a complete joke. I’ve read the minutes for the existing Airport Advisory Council for the past 10 years and I can’t recall a member ever voting against any item Jerry Orr was proposing. And unsurprisingly, Jerry Orr and his current backers seemed just fine with that. Where the tension set in is when the city started to question Orr, relations soured, and we are where we are today.

What the Friends of Jerry really want is what we’ve had in the past — a nice group of cheerleaders on the airport board that won’t ask any hard questions of Orr but will make a lot of noise about about how incredibly wonderful Charlotte’s aviation future is. Vinroot may talk about the appointees’ qualifications, but the reality is that applying too much industry knowledge or some business sense in providing oversight will not be appreciated by the people pushing for a regional authority. Jerry Orr is the aviation equivalent of a rock star… and one does not question a rock star.

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The Catawbas speak

OK, so now that Catawbas claim that they don’t need state approval to open a casino in Kings Mountain. From the UPoR:

But attorneys for the Catawba Nation say a settlement with the federal government and a 26-year-old Supreme Court decision would allow the tribe to offer a wide range of games, if U.S. officials give the necessary approvals. The tribe says it would like to reach a compact with North Carolina to share gaming revenue, but that it’s not a requirement.

“Whether they have a compact or not, they will go forward with gaming,” said Gregory Smith, a Washington lawyer representing the tribe.

This is another obvious negotiation ploy. If it really was obvious that the Catawbas could build a casino without the state’s approval, why would it bother to offer to cut the state in? Wouldn’t that just be giving money away?

Bonus thought:
And if state and local consent really didn’t matter, why would the Catawbas settle for Kings Mountain? Wouldn’t the tribe make a ton more money by putting a casino in Charlotte?

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Controlling health care spending

JLF head John Hood’s column early this week was on controlling health care spending, and on what the Right and Left should hopefully agree upon:

As societies mature and economies grow more sophisticated, it is entirely reasonable for the share of total economic output devoted to health spending to rise. Technological innovation and economies of scale, among other factors, allow people to satisfy their immediate needs for food, clothing, and shelter at a decreasing unit cost. That leaves them a growing share of their incomes to devote to other goods and particularly to services, including health care. This is just basic math: all subcategories of household spending (including savings to fund future spending) must all up to 100 percent of income in the long run.

So far, so good. But health care is not exempt from the law of diminishing marginal utility. Initial spending on clearly valuable medical services alleviates tremendous human suffering and death. As we continue to spend more on health care, however, the next increment of personal benefit tends to be smaller than the previous one. It is possible to spend a great deal of time and resources on medical care that doesn’t really save or improve lives much, either because the treatments had a low probability for success (think heroic efforts to save terminal patients) or because we spend many preventive-care dollars on people with a low probability of getting sick in the first place.

If resources were unlimited, it would be meaningless to speak of spending “too much” on health care — particularly since we would all reside in Heaven and have better things to speak about. Here on planet Earth, however, resources are inherently limited. To the extent that households, businesses, or governments spend ever-increasing sums on health care that doesn’t produce similarly increasing benefits, we can’t spend money on other goods and services that might make us safer, happier, and more productive.

Specifically, excessive spending on health care pushes up federal income and payroll taxes, which discourage private investment in new companies, employees, and capital goods. At the state level, excessive spending on health care via Medicaid and other programs displaces additional private investment via higher taxes while displacing greater public investment in assets such as roads and schools.

While we may continue to disagree about how best to discourage excessive health care spending, surely we can all agree that addressing the issue is critical to rejuvenating America’s economy and improving our quality of life.

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CLT – PDX goes year-round

We’ve been watching US Airway’s Charlotte – Portland, Oregon (PDX) flight for many years now. The airline first offered summer seasonal nonstops between the two cities in 2007. The flight has remained seasonal ever since, though the season has gotten a bit longer in recent years. Now US Airways is making the big leap of offer its nonstop CLT – PDX flight throughout the year. Note that I did not say daily year-round — the flight looks to operate three days of the week (generally Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays) from roughly November through February before operating daily again come March.

This means that Charlotte now has year-round service to nine destinations in the mountain and Pacific time zones (Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Portland) plus summer seasonal service to Sacramento. What’s next out west? Probably not much anytime soon, regardless of whether the US Airways/American Airlines merger goes through. Tuscon or Albuquerque are probably the most likely possibilities, but there are several closer cities lacking service from Charlotte that would make more sense, beginning with Oklahoma City.

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Lawsuit claims Panthers negotiations broke Open Meetings Law

Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith reports on the lawsuit against the city contending that it violated the state’s open Meeting Law in its negotiations with the Panthers and decision to fund Bank of America Stadium improvements through a tax increase. A highlight:

“They deliberated and voted secretly for a plan to raise the prepared food and beverage tax for stadium renovations,” said Mike Cozza, a former TV newsman and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “There’s no exemption in the Open Meetings Law that allows closed discussion or votes for a tax plan.”

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CMPD Citizens Review Board

As currently constituted, the Citizens Review Board, which is suppose to provide oversight of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in cases of alleged police misconduct, is simply useless. Under the rules it currently operates under:

The CRB may hold an appeals hearing only when it appears, based upon a preponderance of the evidence, that the disposition of the disciplinary charges entered by the Chief of Police constituted an abuse of discretion by the Chief of Police.

In other words, the person filing a complaint must present evidence to the CRB to get a hearing that it’s more likely than not that the discipline imposed on an officer was grossly inadequate. How a common citizen is suppose to come by such evidence is unclear and is reflected by citizens going 0 for 79 before the review board with most cases disposed of without the board even holding a hearing.

Now comes word that a task force is recommending that the CRB process can be improved by communicating better with the public and publishing its rulings. Er, no. There are only two meaningful options: Either lower the threshold to trigger a hearing while also giving the board greater investigative authority or abolishing the CRB as a waste of time.

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Batten on the mayor’s race

The Charlotte Observer’s Taylor Batten offers up an interesting analysis of the 2013 mayor’s race in Charlotte, drawing heavily from the results in 2009. The key point:

It was in the racially mixed precincts where [Anthony] Foxx won the election. In those 101 polling places, 59,000 votes were cast. Foxx won those precincts by more than 14,000 votes, overwhelming [John] Lassiter about 62 percent to 38 percent.

This is where the opportunity for [Edwin] Peacock lies. If he does as well (and as poorly) in heavily white and heavily black precincts as Lassiter did (and there’s no reason to think he won’t), he would need 40.5 percent of the vote in the “mixed” precincts, or just 2.5 percentage points more than Lassiter got there. Entirely possible.

It all suggests that Peacock needs to maintain his image as a moderate while not alienating his Republican base. And he could use a misstep or two from [Patrick] Cannon as well.

If that all happens and Peacock still loses? Then we write the Charlotte Republicans’ obituary.

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Carowinds gets incentives

From both Charlotte and Mecklenburg County for adding rides and stuff as part of an effort to increase attendance from 1.9 million a year to 2.5 million. Among those voting against the incentives, which come to nearly $1 million (90 percent of what the amusement park would pay in property taxes on the improvements for the next three years) was City Council member Michael Barnes. In explaining his vote, Barnes said that “I’m still not convinced they wouldn’t do this work without this grant.” Yup.

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Why Generation Y Yuppies are unhappy

The Huffington Post nails it here.

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Open Meetings suit over Panthers’ stadium deal

The Charlotte Observer’s Taylor Bratten offers up a quick explanation of the issues involved in an Open Meeting lawsuit against the city about its decision in closed session to grant incentives to the team and raise the tax on restaurant meals to cover the cost of the incentives and then some. OK, and then a lot. Some sample quotes:

The plaintiffs argue that the law allows secret negotiations only about paying incentives, not raising taxes. [Charlotte City Attorney Bob] Hagemann says there is no established case law addressing this question. He points to the statute’s wording “matters relating to…” Raising taxes to fund the Panthers’ incentives is a “matter relating to” the incentives, he argues. Close call, but I doubt the statute was written with the intention of allowing governments to craft plans to raise taxes or create new ones in closed session. Advantage: Plaintiffs.


However the lawsuit turns out, it will be valuable to have a court interpret just what the law allows when discussing tax dollars for private business.

True enough. And depending on how the courts rule, it could also be something the General Assembly may want to address in the future.

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September 2013
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