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Archive for February, 2014

US Airways to add OKC and TUL flights from CLT

With OKC being Oklahoma City while TUL is Tulsa. Per the Charlotte Observer, flights start on July 2 and are twice-daily on large regional jets (have a first class section). Service levels are comparable to Des Moines and Omaha, which US Airways added flights to from CLT in 2012 and are of similar size and about the same distance from the Queen City.

The addition of flights to these two cities isn’t a surprise as they are the first and fourth largest markets lacking a nonstop within 1,200 miles of Charlotte. They are also the two unserved cities in which American Airlines is the strongest. Put another way, this is the low-hanging fruit in terms of connecting the dots from the merger. Indeed, US Airways adding Oklahoma City was pretty much inevitable — remember, the airline tried to get an additional Washington Reagan National slot with the additional hook being that it would add twice daily CLT-OKC flights as well if it won (it didn’t).

More analysis later.

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JLF, NC WARN tout benefits of N.C. electricity competition

The John Locke Foundation and NC WARN — yes, you are reading that right — co-sponsored a forum highlighting the need for increased competition in North Carolina’s electric market. The entire event runs nearly two hours but there’s a ton of fascinating information that the speakers bring up. If you have an interest in energy policy, it’s well worth your time to watch the video of the fourm, which is available here.

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Rebuilding the panthers: Defense and special teams

To continue with the challenges facing the Panthers this season, by position group, and focusing on the high number of unrestricted free agents (UFAs) the team has:

Special teams: Kicker Graham Gano has a big leg and his pretty accurate. He’s also an unrestricted free agent, which means that some team that needs a kicker might want to lure him away. Given how good Gano has been, he’s worth a fair bit more than league minimum.

Defensive line: The Kraken devoured a lot of QBs this past season and some team will pay the Kraken a lot of money next year and beyond as a result. The only question is whether that team is the Carolina Panthers or not. DT Colin Cole is also a UFA. He was a starter for part of the season. He’ll also be 34 next season and was on a league-minimum contract in 2013.

Linebacker: The issue here is depth, or really the Panthers’ lack of it. Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are great. Behind that the Panthers Chase Blackburn and AJ Klein. All four are under contract for next year. Davis and Blackburn though will both be 31 and Blackburn could be a salary cap casualty. The Panthers other linebackers in 2013 were special teams players on league-minimum players than are now UFAs: Jordan Senn, Jason Williams, and Dan Connor. The Panthers spending a mid-round pick on a linebacker wouldn’t be a surprise. Hard to image them spending much money at LB on a talent upgrade though, given the more pressing needs the team has elsewhere.

Secondary: In 2013, the Panthers essentially held an open tryout for safety and cornerback spots for guys willing to take a league minimum deal or just slightly more. (Only Charles Godfrey made more than $1.1 million in 2013.) The flip side of this is that much of the secondary are now again free agents, putting the Panthers back in the position they were in a year ago. UFAs are S Quintin Mikell, S Mike Mitchell, CB Captain Munnerlyn, and CB Drayton Florence while James Dockery is a restricted free agent and not likely to get a tender. And as Joseph Person wrote for the Charlotte Observer today, the Panthers “are at fish-or-cut-bait point with [cornerbacks] Josh Norman and Josh Thomas.”

Munnerlyn and Mitchell both played above the value of their contracts in 2013 and are in their primes. Resigning will take more a bit more than league-minimum money and they’re also likely looking for more than a one-year deal. Godfrey, meanwhile, is a potential salary-cap casualty.

Up next: recent developments

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The future of frequent flier programs

You get miles — program points — based not upon the distance you fly but rather the amount of money you spend. Pay a higher economy fare, get more miles. Buy the super cheap non-refundable ticket, get fewer miles. This is the model Delta Air Lines is going to come next year. It will be interesting to see if United and American/US Airways go along.

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Eastland studio deal possibly in trouble

So reports the Charlotte Observer. Seems that city wants more details — think projected construction costs excluding things like consultant’s fees — and Studio Charlotte Development so far has been unwilling and/or unable to provide them. According to the city’s economic development director, the negotiations don’t seem to be going anywhere fast. Brett Hesse of Studio Charlotte Development, meanwhile, provides this response to the UPoR:

“We had heard some people in the city were confused because of the lack of information. Have they read our 38-page RFP response? It’s in strong detail.”

This may qualify as one of the more public arrogant responses for a request for data from someone that’s looking to write you very large checks in some time. This also doesn’t bode well for the quality of management that we can expect from the film studio.

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Minimum Wage Hikes Hurt The Most Disadvantaged Workers

That’s the title of an extremely well-written column by my JLF colleague Roy Cordato. A highlight:

Empirical estimates by two Duke University economists suggest that for each increase of 10 percent in the minimum wage there will be a 2.9 percent decrease in the likelihood that a low-skilled worker will find employment. This means that the increase in the minimum wage being proposed by Obama and the Democrats implies almost a 12 percent decline in the chances that a low-skilled worker will find employment. For those low-skilled workers who start out severely disadvantaged in the marketplace, this would be just one more obstacle placed in their path.

Advocates of minimum wage laws ignore the economic analysis and the idea that there is any relationship between productivity of the worker and wages paid. They buy into the myth that people’s wages can simply be raised and poverty can be eliminated by government decree, without any change in workers’ productivity.

By assuming that increasingly higher minimum wages will cause no one to be unemployed, they are making one of two assumptions; both are absurd. They are assuming either that there is no one in the labor force whose skills are so low that they cannot command the higher wage or that employers simply ignore worker productivity when considering the cost of hiring a worker.

Low wages define poverty; they do not cause it. Wages, like other prices, reflect underlying realities. In this case, the underlying reality is that there is a large and growing number of people in Obama’s economy whose skills are so low that they cannot command a wage that is higher than even the current minimum wage. The high unemployment rate for low-skilled, disadvantaged groups is the messenger that conveys this reality.

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Pat Cotham: Starstruck and clueless

That’s pretty much the takeaway points from this UPoR story about the Cotham’s sudden interest in Olympic swimming. Yes, top U.S. swimmers train here in Charlotte. But there’s a huge jump between that and this:

Lately Mecklenburg County commissioner Pat Cotham has teased her Twitter and Facebook followers with photos of her surrounded by U.S. Olympic swimmers training in Charlotte.

With one of her postings, she remarked: “I am thinking about Olympics in Charlotte sometime.” With another, she opined: “Could we ever draw the summer Olympics to Charlotte?”

The answer to that is “almost certainly not” and if so it would cost billions of dollars. Perhaps Cotham would like to share with the citizen of Mecklenburg County how much she’d like to raise their property taxes by in pursuit of her dream though.

The immediate goal though is to build a new aquatic center. And why does Charlotte need a new aquatic center? Because Greensboro and Cary have new aquatic centers. Which kind of undercuts the think big, think Olympic line that Cotham is pushing.

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Court says ‘community caregiving’ empowers searches

Got an article out for Carolina Journal on the ‘Community Caregiving’ exception to the Fourth Amendment. Reprinted in full:

RALEIGH — The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures. Yet in a January decision, the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of an officer’s decision to stop a car even though he didn’t suspect the driver of any wrongdoing. The court concluded that there was a “community caregiving” obligation in this instance that overruled the Fourth Amendment.

On May 27, 2010, Transylvania County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Kreigsman was driving on Highway 280. Slightly ahead of him in another lane was a red Corvette driven by Audra Smathers. Smathers’ car was driving at about the posted speed limit, and Kreigsman noticed nothing suspicious about her driving. A large animal then ran in front of Smathers’ car, and she hit it. Smathers continued driving, though at a reduced speed.

Kreigsman was concerned that the fiberglass body of Smathers’ Corvette may have been damaged seriously by the impact. He decided to pull her over to make sure she was OK.

When he did so, he discovered that Smathers smelled of alcohol and had glassy eyes and slurred speech. Smathers failed a field sobriety test Kreigsman conducted. Her blood alcohol level was measured at 0.18 — more than double the legal limit — and she was charged with driving while impaired.

At trial, Smathers moved to suppress the evidence resulting from the stop, claiming that Kreigman’s actions violated her Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. She brought the case to the Court of Appeals after a Superior Court judge ruled against her.

The Fourth Amendment states:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a “reasonable suspicion” standard applies when police conduct a traffic stop, which is considered a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Before the Court of Appeals, the state conceded that Kreigsman did not have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing when he stopped Smathers.

The state still contended that that the stop was not unreasonable. The Court of Appeals agreed, accepting the state’s alternative argument and — for the first time in North Carolina — recognizing a community caregiving exception.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court in Cady v. Dombrowksi ruled that a search of a damaged car abandoned on a highway was not unreasonable and didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment. A number of state courts have adopted similar reasoning.

Appeals Court Judge Robert C. Hunter described the rationale behind the exception as “the desire to give police officers the flexibility to help citizens in need or protect the public even if the prerequisite suspicion of criminal activity which would otherwise be necessary for a constitutional intrusion is nonexistent.”

The appeals court addressed whether such a community caregiving exception should apply in this case. The court adopted an analytical approach used in Wisconsin. This requires the state to establish all three findings:

• a search or seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment has occurred;
• under the totality of the circumstances, an objectively reasonable basis for a community caretaking function has been shown; and
• the public need or interest outweighs the intrusion upon the privacy of the individual.

The appeals court answered “yes” to all three questions in Smathers’ case and allowed the evidence to be used against her. Specifically, the court noted that the collision occurred at night in a rural area, and noted that the deputy’s concern that Smathers might need help outweighed both the lack of evidence that her car suffered major damage and the substantial intrusion on her liberty.

The case is State v. Smathers, (13-496).

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At Newark airport, the lights are watching you

Literally, as the New York Times reports:

Visitors to Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport may notice the bright, clean lighting that now blankets the cavernous interior, courtesy of 171 recently installed LED fixtures. But they probably will not realize that the light fixtures are the backbone of a system that is watching them.

Using an array of sensors and eight video cameras around the terminal, the light fixtures are part of a new wireless network that collects and feeds data into software that can spot long lines, recognize license plates and even identify suspicious activity, sending alerts to the appropriate staff.

and:

“No one really wanted the smartphone 20 years ago because they didn’t know they could have it,” said Fred Maxik, founder and chief technology officer of Lighting Science Group, which manufactures LEDs. “And I think the same is true of lighting today: No one knows what lighting is going to be capable of.”

OK. And why does this scare me?

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A word about the Olympics

In a nutshell, Winter Olympics > Summer Olympics. Why? Simple. There are a rather finite number of sports of ice and snow. And that’s a good thing, because it creates an overall event that you can reasonably follow. For example, tomorrow medals will be awarded in seven events: women’s giant slalom, men’s 15km mass start biathlon, men’s ski halfpipe, men’s snowboard cross, men’s 10,000 meter speed skating, women’s 3,000 meter relay short rack speed skating, and a Nordic combined event (large hill sky jump /10 km skiing). That’s it. Not the who-knows how many events of the Summer Games. Seven. Yes, sometimes less is more.

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