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Where will the Charlotte Observer end up?

Or put another way, can the newspaper afford to keep itself based in whole or part in or near Uptown, now that the building it operates out of but no longer owns on Stonewall Street has been sold? We’ll find out very soon.

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Solve an issue, create a problem

As Andrew Dunn of the Charlotte Observer writes:

The plan sounds great: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools cuts down on the amount of paperwork schools have to wade through by simply giving free lunch to everyone in 74 schools with high percentages of low-income students.

But the new method is causing a number of problems for the school district as it plans for future years. In short, CMS now has no easy way of knowing which of its schools have the most economically disadvantaged students. That makes allotting teaching positions and classroom supplies a whole lot harder.

Expect a lot of fallout from this over the next few years.

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Music, then and now

Was rummaging around Wikipedia when I came across something that sums up exactly how nichified and disposable our popular culture has become.

In 1971, B.B. King put out his landmark Live in Cook County Jail. It went to #1 on the Billboard R&B charts for three weeks. So how many albums topped the R&B charts at some point in 1971? Only seven; the other six were Curtis Mayfield Curtis, Isaac Hayes …To Be Continued, The Jackson 5 Maybe Tomorrow, Aretha Franklin Live at Fillmore West, Marvin Gaye What’s Going On, and Isaac Hayes again with the Shaft soundtrack.

Fast forward to 2013, when a mere 26 different acts topped the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart for at least a week. And the music market got even more divided
in 2014, when 33 artists topped the combined R&B/Hip-Hop album chart — and that further breaks down as 24 artists topping the R&B charts and 24 acts atop the Hip-Hop weekly album list at some point during the year.

And music now having a short shelf life most certainly isn’t just a black thing. In 1971, 11 different artists topped the Billboard 200 album list — as compared to 33 different albums topping the chart in 2014.

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The battle for control of the airport. Again.

And again the fault lines are pretty predictable. The latest development, per the UPoR:

Three members of a separate airport oversight committee created by the legislature, including businessman Felix Sabates, wrote in their letter that the seven city-appointed members of the Charlotte Airport Commission “have refused to carry out or misunderstood their duties” under the act that created the commission.

“The Commission, in its present form, is just not working,” Sabates, Muriel Sheubrooks and Ken Walker wrote the governor, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. “It appears that the City’s appointees have decided to put the political wishes of the City officials who appointed them over their duties to the commission.”

The seven city appointees currently make up a majority of the 13-member commission. If the makeup were changed to end that majority – which the oversight group suggested would “probably” be necessary – the commission could fight more vigorously to run the airport. So far, the group has deadlocked on crucial issues such as whether to direct their lawyers to fight for the commission’s existence.

What, members appointed by the city of Charlotte might want the city to continue to run the airport? How could this possibly be? I’m just shocked, shocked I tell you…

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RIP B.B. King

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Why the 440th Is the Odd Unit Out

My latest column for Carolina Journal:

RALEIGH — It’s a decision that on its face seems very strange: The Air Force wants to stop basing transport planes at Pope Field, which is located next door to Fort Bragg, home of the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division.

The unit in question is the 440th Airlift Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit that flies C-130H tactical transport planes. Absent congressional action, the unit soon will be inactivated.

As Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., put it to the McClatchy Washington Bureau, “Why on Earth we would jeopardize the training and readiness in that context — the only place on the planet where we do that? It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

There is a certain perverse logic behind the Pentagon’s actions — and it highlights the need for another round of Base Closure and Realignment Commission actions and a serious rethinking of the role of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve going forward.

Every generation of military aircraft is both more advanced and more expensive than its predecessor. The result is that we don’t replace planes on a one-for-one basis, and haven’t for decades. While this is especially true for fighter jets, it also applies to military cargo aircraft.

And if you have fewer planes, eventually you need fewer airfields to base them. Which speaks to the role of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard in 2015. The original idea behind the guard and reserve was sound enough. When established after World War II, there were plenty of experienced military pilots who wanted to continue serving their country and plenty of reasonably modern military aircraft available.

Nearly 70 years later, the Air Force is struggling to keep all of its existing reserve and National Guard units active. Not all units have their own manned planes — some share them with regular Air Force units while others operate drones.

And the Pentagon lacks authority outside of BRAC to eliminate guard and reserve units that aren’t located on active-duty bases. Nowhere is the issue of the role of the reserve and guard more important than with the C-130 fleet.

The Air Force currently has 318 aircraft, only a third of them serving with the regular Air Force. The Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve operate the other two-thirds. By 2019, the Air Force would like to reduce its C-130 transport fleet to 300 planes, with guard and reserve units retiring older C-130H aircraft.

So why is the 440th Airlift Wing the odd unit out? A recent Air Force report on C-130 basing states that “the additional $116 million in savings generated by closing the stand-alone wing along with the wing’s C-130s made closing the 440 AW the most cost-effective way to eliminate eight excess C-130s.” The report also says that the Air Force can meet training needs at Fort Bragg without a C-130 unit.

The report ignores the big picture, what in BRAC is called “military value,” a numeric calculation of how well a base performs a particular task. In the last (2005) BRAC round, Pope Field received the highest military value rating in the transport aircraft category of any base, active or reserve, that then housed C-130s.

So even though a C-130 unit should be based in Fayetteville to serve Fort Bragg, under existing rules the Air Force must eliminate units at active duty bases first.

We need another BRAC round to ensure that military aircraft are based properly. At the same time, the roles of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard need to be reconsidered in an era when we just don’t have enough planes for them to fly.

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Farmers markets have plateaued

As Andrea Weigl of the Raleigh News & Observer writes:

Here are the details: Between 2007 and 2012, the number of farmers selling directly to consumers increased 5.5 percent, while the value of sales declined by 1 percent. (These sales include transactions at farmers markets, roadside stands, pick-your-own farms and community-supported agriculture subscriptions.) For a little historical context, between 2002 and 2007, the number of farmers selling directly to consumers increased 17 percent and the value of sales increased 32 percent.

In other words, today we have more farmers splitting the same pot of money.

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Duke Energy is no fun

As the UPoR reports, the company will enforce its ban on large inflatable items on area lakes this year.

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The N.C. DOT random as usual

On April 22nd, the Charlotte Observer had a story out about how the last section of I-485 would be open by “by July 20” without providing a more specific completion estimate. The story did have a quote from a state engineer though stating that “We don’t have the means to push at this point.” So the DOT being DOT today announced that the highway would open on… June 5th. I guess they somehow found a means to push after all.

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Hot political rumor the moment

That Mike McIntyre may be considering running for U.S. Senate against Richard Burr. This comes as someone was polling recently asking how well Kay Hagan and McIntyre – and only Hagan and McIntyre — would do against Burr. The Democrats chances of beating Burr would be helped considerably if they could field a name candidate — and if Hagan isn’t running, then McIntyre wouldn’t be a bad option. It remains to be seen whether McIntyre likes the numbers that the poll show — that’s presuming the poll was being done on his behalf, which isn’t a given — and decides to enter the race.

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May 2015
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