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SWAT team usage

The Asheville Citizen-Times had an informative article out last week on police use of military equipment in Western North Carolina. As a practical matter, how police use ex-military equipment largely falls into two categories: SWAT teams and crowd/riot control. And while SWAT teams respond to active-shooter and hostage situations, they are most often used to serve search and arrest warrants. The Asheville Police Department has seen its use of its SWAT team to serve warrants drop dramatically in past few years:

City police reduced the number of Emergency Response Team deployments by 73 percent since 2011. […]

Deputy Chief Wade Wood said city police started using a threat assessment form around 2011-12 that has, in part, caused deployments to drop.

The three-page form is a checklist that helps police determine whether a tactical operation is needed to handle an arrest or search warrant.

It assigns points to questions including whether the suspect has police or military training, is mentally unstable or on probation or parole. It also looks at whether the offense in question involved a weapon and whether anyone was injured.

And it looks at whether the location where the warrant will be served is fortified or whether police would encounter surveillance and lookouts.

At the end, an officer adds up the points and if they reach a certain number, a tactical operation is planned.

The APD’s form sounds like a much better way of determining whether a SWAT is needed rather than just relying upon some officer’s judgment as it requires that multiple factors be considered. More jurisdictions should use such a mechanism in determining SWAT team usage.

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Amazon.com coming to Concord

With a 222,500 square-foot distribution facility, its first in North Carolina, reports Charlotte Business Journal. And that would explain why the company suddenly reversed policy and started North Carolina residents sales tax earlier this year.

H/t: LS.

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The NBA and race. Again

This time it’s Bruce Levenson, the owner of the Atlanta Hawks, that’s selling his team after self-reporting race-related comments that he made in an email he sent two years to team officials. A sample, per the New York Times:

“I think Southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority,” Mr. Levenson said in his email, pointing out that he had earlier told the executive team that he wanted “some white cheerleaders” and “music familiar to a 40-year-old white guy,” and that he thought “the kiss cam is too black.”

The U.S. population is 13.2 percent black. For the league to succeed, it needs to attract white fans. If that sort of internal email gets Levenson fined by the league, as appears to have been likely had he not sold, then the league is indeed in deep trouble.

Bonus observation. The Atlanta Hawks made the playoffs the past seven years… and were 28th of 30 NBA teams in attendance last season. Which gets us to this:

“I think [Atlanta is] the toughest market in the United States,” said Bill Sutton, a professor of sports business at the University of South Florida. “It’s a transplant market. It’s an SEC market. It’s a market that hasn’t latched onto their sports. It’s a team I would have already expected to be up for sale.”

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Where’s the art gone?

WFAE has an interesting article out on the changing nature of Charlotte’s local art scene. If you think of NoDa as where it’s located, you’re behind the times:

Back in 2006, NoDa had eight galleries. Today, there’s just one. Organized gallery crawls have given way to disorganized pub crawls.

There’s a good reason for that, says Joe Kuhlmann. He heads the NoDa Business Council.

“The cost of retail space and everything just kind of made it where the business model of an art gallery became more difficult.”

The financial crisis of 2008 had plenty to do with that, but Kuhlmann says there are other factors. The more popular NoDa became, the more real estate prices rose. Gallery owners found themselves priced out of the neighborhood.

“The retail space and the cost of those spaces—you know, just wall space—cost a lot of money,” Kuhlmann says.

Been saying that for awhile. And yes, Charlotte’s music scene is very vulnerable to the same phenomenon. You can read the WFAE here.

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On Robeson County

For those of you not familiar with Robeson County — think where I-95 hits US 74 as you head towards Wilmington — it’s a not a very charming place. Think rural, poor, very violent, and with significant three-way racial tensions (white, black, American Indian) with the extra kicker that the Lumbee aren’t even a federally recognized tribe. The New York Times takes notice of the place, profiling the recent court decision to overturn the convictions of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown for a notorious 1983 rape and murder. Worth a read.

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How debates matter

Political consultant Doug Raymond on Wednesday night’s debate between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan:

From a political standpoint, both campaigns understood that these type of debates don’t attract the average voter. The vast majority of people who watched this debate are politically astute and have made their decision about this race long ago. The goal of this debate was to drive home consistent messages so the media who cover the debate have little choice but to use these carefully crafted sound bites. Votes aren’t often won or lost by those who viewed the debate, but instead by those who read or watch sound bites from the debate the following day.

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The former Eastland site, again

Seems that the city wants to spend $50,000 on a consultant’s report — don’t call it a study — that summaries previous studies on what to do with the previous Eastland Mall site. This is apparently the next step in the process of the city deciding what to do with the site. Per the Charlotte Observer:

Some City Council members appeared frustrated that the city hasn’t been able to find a developer to build something on the site, which was once the commercial hub of east Charlotte.

“My first reaction is, ‘Wow, we have studied this to death,’ ” said council member Al Austin. “I hope we can build upon this. The community is just done (with waiting).”

John Autry, who represents the area, asked: “What will this tell us that we don’t already know?”

The issue isn’t so much trying to figure out what we don’t know as it’s publicly admitting what the core problem is with the east side of town: the housing stock in the area is largely obsolescent. Small, dated housing attracts working class families. Their limited income results in limited shopping and dinning options in the area. And that’s not something that’s easily fixed.

The great danger is that city council will throw public money at some hair-brained scheme simply so that pols can show that they care and say they’ve done something to help the east side. That whatever the development turns out to be would likely fail within a year or two politically almost doesn’t matter at this point.


Bonus thought:
The latest idea? Put a pond on the Eastland site as part of a park. I doubt that will go over well with area residents.

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BB&T BallPark silliness

The UPoR offered up a story on the Charlotte Knight’s new BB&T BallPark after its first season. Unsurprising, it was 100 percent positive, extolling how wonderful a thing the ballpark was and how wise a decision it was to spend public money on it. A sample quote:

“No knock on the team, but baseball at times almost became secondary,” said Jim Garges, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation director. “It’s a part of the total experience of BB&T and the park: It’s a fun place to watch a baseball game, but also to hang out with your friends.”

And, of course, exactly that is the problem. The first year is typically the best for a new stadium. Those fickle fans might be at whatever the cool spot of the moment is next year or five years from now and the ballpark for some AAA baseball. So let’s wait awhile before declaring the new ballpark an astounding smash hit.

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An airport audit

The audit report on Charlotte Douglas International Airport that City Manager Ron Carlee ordered is out, and the results are predictable. The report found weak oversight — imagine that — and has the usual suspects trying to spin what it all means.

And some quotes from the UPoR:

[Interim Aviation Director Brent] Cagle attributed the poor oversight to rapid growth. Charlotte Douglas’ traffic shot up 80 percent in a decade.

“The phenomenal growth of the airport outstripped our internal controls,” said Cagle, who became interim director last year. “It was everything we could do to keep the lights on and the doors open, and that’s what we focused on.”

He attributed the airport’s problems to “growing pains” similar to what might happen as a mom-and-pop store grows into a major corporation. But he said even unintentionally poor management is a problem that must be fixed.

“It erodes confidence,” Cagle said, “and we need to restore that.”

Bulls***. There are many ways to measure growth, and Cagle is using the measure — passenger volume — that best fits his argument. If you look at other measures of airport activity, you’ll find much more modest growth. For example, aircraft operations — takeoffs and landings — totaled 269,069 in the first half of 2014, compared to 251,081 in the first half of 2006. That’s a 7.2 percent increase. What we’ve seen is US Airways adding some flights — combined US Airways/American Airlines flights totaled about 542 a day compared to 670 a day this summer for a 24 percent increase over eight years — but even more so increase capacity by replacing smaller aircraft with larger planes. So apparently US Airways replacing its 125-seat Boeing 737-300 with 189-seat Airbus A321 somehow overstressed airport staff. Who knew.

CLT was a major hub in 2004. Hell, it was a major hub in 1984. Having inadequate procedures in place is simply unacceptable even if it hasn’t yet resulted in fraud. That said, Brent Cagle could do much to rebuild confidence in the airport by stop telling such preposterous tales.

Which, of course, brings us to Jerry Orr. Even if Cagle says the audit report wasn’t all about Orr, it was.

“It looks to me like they spent a half a million dollars to try to discredit me, and ended up shooting themselves in the foot,” Orr said.

Perhaps, but Orr still doesn’t get it. The airport’s problem had long been Orrism, allowing the airport to operate under the unquestioned leadership of Jerry Orr, Great Giver of Aviation. Anything that increases oversight and strengthens internal procedures is an important step forward.

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Unaffiliated voters

JLF head John Hood in his column last week wrote about the importance of unaffiliated voters, which make of 27 percent of all registered voters in the state. That does not mean that over a quarter of the state’s voters are swing voters. As John notes:

Nevertheless, a fair reading of the two sets of data would be that a large share of unaffiliated voters in North Carolina — perhaps a third or more — are in practice Republican voters. If you add in a small number of unaffiliated voters who reliably behave as Democrats, it would be reasonable to consider something like 10 to 15 percent of the electorate to be truly unaligned.

That’s still a significant share. It means that candidates can’t win just by turning out their base. They have to swing some unaligned voters their way. But be careful not to exaggerate the number — or to use party registration as a guide for evaluating survey results and prognosticating elections.

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