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Gary Bettman speaks

The NHL commissioner says that the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh to stay:

“I don’t think anyone needs to worry about the future of the franchise in Carolina,” Bettman said in an interview. “[Owner] Peter [Karmanos Jr] is exploring his options, but there is no rush, no pressure, no timetable. I am certain if he sells the franchise, he will continue the legacy of having the franchise in what has been a strong market and keep it where it is.

“People should not be concerned about something fueled by media in other locations. Everything Peter is doing is being done to ensure the long-term future of hockey in the Triangle. That’s where the league believes it should be and where it will be.”

Bettman quickly added, “Is that a strong enough statement?”

Actually not, exactly because it’s never a good sign in business or government when someone has to deny a rumor. It usually means that a problem has gotten so obvious that it can no longer be ignored. And in the case of the Hurricanes, the problem is attracting fans — the team has the worse attendance this year in the NHL. And it’s for sale, and has been for awhile, with other markets where people actually care about hockey interested in obtaining a team. So, yes, hockey fans in the Triangle — and Charlotte —
should be very worried, despite Bettman’s comments.

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CATS latest epic fail

So what’s about the most basic information that a transit system could possibly be interested in? Ridership. And what is it that CATS is now saying that it might not have reliable data on? Ridership. If you don’t know how many people you’re actually carrying, how can make rational decisions about where to add or reduce service or how many buses to buy? You can’t. In most any other business, this sort of a problem will get people fired. Not in the wonderful world of government-run transit in general, and in Charlotte in particular, whether this issue rates less than 300 words in the Charlotte Observer. Pathetic.

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Quote of the moment

“In ’16, when it comes election time, anybody who’s not on the right side of this are going to be in trouble.”

— Huntersville commissioner Danny Phillips, as quoted by the Charlotte Observer, on the decision to add toll lanes to Interstate 77 in northern Mecklenburg County.

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Time to close the TSA

Jeff Jacoby, writing in the Boston Globe, on the Transportation Security Administration:

Let’s face it: The Transportation Security Administration, which annually costs taxpayers more than $7 billion, should never have been created. The responsibility for airport security should never have been federalized, let alone entrusted to a bloated, inflexible workforce. Former TSA administrator Kip Hawley calls it “a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic” and warns that “the relationship between the public and the TSA has become too poisonous to be sustained.” More tests and more failures won’t fix that. Scrapping the TSA would.

H/t: RD

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Charlotte Hipsters Make Their Demands

My latest column for Carolina Journal:

CHARLOTTE — It was a protest that absolutely no one in Charlotte saw coming. A dive bar in a hip neighborhood was to be replaced with an apartment building with more retail space. Such redevelopment plans usually aren’t very controversial in Charlotte — but this one turned out to be. And though the redevelopment project went forward, the protest suggests a new type of millennial issue activism that could have far-reaching impacts in the state’s rapidly growing urban areas.

Charlotte, the state’s largest city, is adding population rapidly — nearly 80,000 people between 2010 and 2014 alone. In response, the city has seen a wave of new apartment construction. Most of the new apartment buildings popping up in the Queen City look very much like condos, featuring high-end finishes like granite countertops, and carrying high monthly rents. They aren’t being sold as condos, though, because the financing for condos dried up after the housing bust. So for now, at least, apartments they shall be.

Unsurprisingly, the city of Charlotte really likes the idea of such infill redevelopment. The city can’t expand out any more, so it must expand up if it wishes to grow its tax base. And that means tearing down old buildings and replacing them with newer, bigger, more expensive structures.

This building spree of high-end apartments is especially noticeable in trendy, eclectic neighborhoods such as Southend, NoDa, and Plaza Midwood, which are located near but not in the city’s central business district. These structures are not occupying vacant lots. Whatever goes up in these areas replaces an existing building that’s being torn down, a building which might contain some elements that have made the area popular.

This very dynamic is upsetting some people who frequent these neighborhoods. A proposal to tear down an old two-story commercial building best known for housing Tommy’s Pub in Plaza Midwood, a venerable dive bar along a main thoroughfare, set off a firestorm of criticism earlier this year.

“You won’t be able to tell it from any other neighborhood in Charlotte,” said resident Caroline Hall to WCNC-TV. “The only reason I come here on a daily basis is because of the uniqueness of the neighborhood.”

Complaining on Facebook about something is easy. Translating that into action is more difficult, and what’s happened and continues to happen in this case. People actually did speak against the proposal before the Charlotte City Council. A workshop held several months after council approved the rezoning on how to preserve locally owned businesses that rent space in old buildings drew more than 50 people and generated considerable press attention.

This is different from the usual rezoning protest in that it involves a commercial, not residential, property and most of the people objecting actually don’t own houses nearby. At the same time, it is reminiscent of more traditional restrictions on growth, involving a group that “got theirs,” found its niche, and wants to block any changes.

At some level, it’s difficult to take Hall and others like her too seriously. Essentially, this amounts to people who hang out in trendy areas asserting that they are entitled to prevent actual property owners from doing things differently. That’s difficult to defend economically or philosophically.

As Bismarck said, though, “politics is the art of the possible.” If millennials continue having difficulty making the transition from renters to homeowners, and can’t really afford to have kids, either, then we could see the rise of a new sort of urban politics, one catering to specific concerns such as this. And in such a world, for better — or likely worse — addressing the strong aversion to change by those who don’t have skin in the game may become a political imperative.

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The limits of Southwest Airlines’ business model

In 2011, Southwest Airlines began service from Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP) with seven flights a day to a total of five destinations: 2 x Baltimore, 2 x Chicago Midway, 1 x Nashville, 1 x Houston Hobby, 1 x Orlando. How’s that worked out for them? Not so well. All five of routes of those routes have proven to be duds. Orlando and Nashville service went early on, while flights to Baltimore, Chicago, and Houston are ending in April. Simply put, the 137-seat 737s that Southwest flies are too much plane for a smaller market like GSP.

Southwest though isn’t giving up on GSP yet; come April, the airline plans to start three-a-day flights from GSP to Atlanta. So essentially, a hub-and-spoke service model with the hope that enough people will fly from GSP to connect on Southwest in Atlanta to other destinations — using big, mainline aircraft, only a few times a day, which is something legacy carriers like Delta or American did circa 1985. How desperate and, yes, sad.

Charlotte impact:
Well, Southwest eliminating Baltimore, Chicago, and Houston nonstops from GSP might mean that the airline’s flights to those destinations from CLT might attract a few more passengers, and thus well get the Queen City a few more Southwest flights. We can hope, right?

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2016 is going to be a good year for cankerworms in Charlotte

As the company that made Tanglefoot, the goo that you put on bands to catch the female of the species as it climbs up trees in the fall, went out of business.

Upside: Scotts Miracle-Gro has bought the formula and plans on starting production early next year.

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Retiring Rucho?

The Insider’s Patrick Gannon has a column out on Bob Rucho, who recently announced that he won’t be seeking reelection next year. Gannon’s piece begins:

If you pay attention to state politics, you’ve heard of Bob Rucho.

The retired dentist and lightning rod from Matthews in Mecklenburg County has been at the center of many of the most controversial pieces of legislation since Republicans took control of the House and Senate after the 2010 elections.

Rucho’s legislative work – combined with his seemingly endless passion — led some in the Republican inner circle to launch a whole new lexicon, with his last name as the root.

You’ll just have to read the article to find out exactly what that lexicon consists of.

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Why we aren’t likely to see liquor store privatization

As more craft distilleries open, the liquor market is starting to fragment just like the beer market has over the past decade. Some people home that as more distilleries open, it will cause North Carolina to privatize liquor stores. Unfortunately, privatization advocates are likely to be disappointed. Here’s why, in a short quote from a Raleigh News & Observer article.

But [Broadslab Distillery Jeremy] Norris says the state’s growing number of craft distilleries likely wouldn’t back a privatization plan. That’s because the state’s centralized ABC system helps small businesses get their products in stores across North Carolina.

In states with private liquor stores, Norris said, “it’s a lot more work as far as getting widespread business, and the business gets a little more cutthroat.”

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American Airlines adds another retro jet

Here’s a link to a picture, and I’ll say you either really know your aviation history or lived in the western U.S. for the livery to mean anything.

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November 2015
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