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Changes Won’t Decide Election

JLF head John Hood’s column yesterday is on the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court allowing November’s election to proceed under new rules passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly last year. John’s key point:

Although the 2013 law’s photo ID requirement won’t be in effect until 2016, Democrats fear that other changes going into effect this cycle — such as confining early voting to 10 days rather than 17 and requiring Election-Day voters to cast ballots in their assigned precincts rather than casting provisional ballots elsewhere — will depress turnout among Democratic-leaning constituencies. It is also possible that some Republicans hope these changes will reduce turnout among Democrats. Many certainly believe that the changes will deter fraudulent voting. If voter fraud is widespread, then deterring it would clearly result in lower measured turnout.

Based on the best-available empirical evidence, however, neither side is correct. With one exception, none of the changes to North Carolina election laws will likely affect voter turnout to any perceptible degree.

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A judge rules on who should run the airport

And both sides say it favors them. Which, sadly, is typical for this bizarre, pointless issue.

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US Airways draft summer schedule to Europe out

It’s less bad for CLT than feared. The airline’s offerings to Europe in June 2015 from Charlotte Douglas International Airport:

London Heathrow: 2 daily, on an A330-300 and an A330-200
Frankfurt: 2 daily, both on A330-200
Paris: daily on an A330-300
Rome: daily on an A33-300
Madrid: daily on an A330-200
Dublin: daily on an A330-200
Barcelona: daily on an A330-200

Only the two London flights and one of the Frankfurt flights operate year-round or close to it. The rest are summer-seasonals, though the definition of “seasonal” varies by route. Note that Dublin and Madrid get upgraded to an A330-200 in 2015 from a 757 and 767-200ER in 2014 respectively.

Discontinued routes from CLT: Manchester, England (daily 757 in summer 2014), Lisbon (4 weekly 757 in summer 2014), Brussels (4 weekly 767-200ER in summer 2014). The second Frankfurt flight, and Barcelona survive for now.

You’ll note the use of the words “US Airways” and “draft” in the title. There’s a reason for that. This is very much still a US Airways schedule. There’s no cross-fleeting involved as of summer 2015 — US Airways jets and only US Airways jets are flying from US Airways’ hubs in Philadelphia (PHL) and Charlotte to Europe.

Key development: The phase-out of US Airways 767-200ER on flights to Europe. US Airways has operated 10 of these in recent years, but three were retired earlier this year and the remaining seven are apparently done flying long-haul routes (if not retired entirely) by next summer. Of course, to do so, US Airways had to reduce its long-haul flying… which gets us to why this is very much a draft schedule. What US Airways uploaded over the weekend for its summer 2015 flying from PHL and CLT to Europe and Israel requires 16 A330-200 to operate and that’s without any spare aircraft. That’s a bit of a problem as US Airways only has 15 A330-200 with no additional aircraft of the type on order. (The A330-300 fleet is used to its normal degree). So additional changes of some sort are coming — either at least two flights to Europe from CLT or PHL are going to be cut, the US Airways 767-200ERs will continue in service longer, American Airlines jets (likely 767-300ERs) will have to take over some of the PHL or CLT flying, or US Airways is suddenly going to have to acquire a couple extra A330-200s.

So you can think of this schedule as a step along the process, and most definitely not the end state for international flights from CLT. And in any case, additional changes are likely in 2016.

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Buffalo Bills sold for $1.4 billion

which gives the Charlotte Observer an excuse to look at the value of the Carolina Panthers and whether the Panthers might relocate. The best quote appears at the end of the story from John Vrooman, a sports economist at Vanderbilt University:

Even with a smaller stadium renovation, Vrooman said he doesn’t see the Panthers as a credible threat to move. That’s because they aren’t part of a group of lower-tier teams – San Diego, Oakland, Jacksonville and St. Louis – that are more likely to relocate.

“The team will not move now or in the future regardless of ownership, because there are no superior economic alternatives to Charlotte,” he said. “Any gains from an upwardly mobile move to a larger market would be taxed away by the rest of the league in the form of a relocation fee.”

Yup. But whether the powers-that-be in this city believe what should be obvious is a much different question.


Lufthansa to use smaller plane on CLT-Munich next summer

A A330-300, instead of a Airbus A340-600, the same plane the airline typically uses during the winter. The move was widely expected, as Lufthansa is now competing against US Airways instead of working with it.

Note that “smaller” here is a relative term. Lufthansa doesn’t really do small on its transatlantic flights. The smallest aircraft it uses in that role is the Airbus A340-300 and A330-300 — both have the same length fuselage, the difference is the number of engines and range. (The A340-600 is a stretched A340-300.) The largest aircraft US Airways has is the Airbus A330-300.

Lufthansa also has a new denser product out called Jump. It isn’t planning to fly aircraft in the Jump configuration to Charlotte at this time.

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Court: With No Maps, City Must Prove Zoning Violations

I have an article out for Carolina Journal on a case about an alleged zoning violation with a twist: the town involved lost all copies of the official zoning maps involved. The article in its entirety:

RALEIGH — It seems like a small business owner’s worst nightmare: Learn that you have lost the ability to use part of your property for your business based on a change of zoning boundaries — and government officials say no copies of the zoning maps exist. Yet that’s exactly the situation a Macon County property owner faced until the state’s second-highest court intervened.

John Shearl runs J&J Lawn and Landscape on property he bought in 1993 off N.C. 28 in Highlands. His company uses two buildings on the property, a shop building near the road and a storage building further back.

On Aug. 19, 2009, the town of Highlands issued a zoning violation notice to Shearl, saying he was making commercial use of a building on property zoned as residential.

In that part of Highlands, zoning designations are set based on the distance from the center of N.C. 28. Shearl’s property has split zoning, with the front portion zoned commercial and the rear portion residential. In the 1980s, the demarcation line between commercial and residential zoning was 230 feet from the center of the highway. The town later rezoned the area and moved the demarcation line to 150 feet from the center of the highway. While Shearl’s shop building clearly is on the part of the property zoned commercial, the storage building is between 150 and 230 feet from the middle of the highway and affected by the zoning change.

Before the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, Shearl argued that his commercial use of the storage building was a legal nonconforming use, and that he should be allowed to use the storage building for his business because he was using it as such when the zoning line was moved. After the board and a Superior Court judge ruled against him, Shearl renewed his claim at the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Ordinarily, a property owner bears the burden of establishing the existence of a legal nonconforming use. But the appeals court ruled that standard should not apply in this case.

“Given the unique factual circumstances presented here, we hold that [the town] bears the burden of proving that petitioner’s zoning violation dates back to petitioner’s purchase of the property,” wrote Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr. for the court.

“Because the burden was inappropriately placed on Petitioner, we vacate the superior court’s order and remand this matter for a new hearing.”

The “unique factual circumstances” Hunter referred to surround changes Highlands made in 1990 to its zoning scheme. The town claims it moved the zoning line in 1990 — three years before Shearl bought the property, so he could not claim the building as a nonconforming use. But the town also admitted that it has lost all copies of the 1990 map.

“We believe that where, as here, a town fails to comply with its obligations under local ordinances and state law by failing to keep official zoning maps on record for public inspection, the appropriate remedy is to place the burden back on the town to establish the location and classification of zoning districts when the landowner began his or her nonconforming use,” wrote Hunter.

The appeals court made clear that the town now faces a high burden to prove that it moved the demarcation line in 1990, given that the best evidence to show such a move no longer exists.

“Respondent must produce such evidence on remand establishing that the line was at 150 feet when Petitioner began his commercial use of the storage building,” Hunter wrote. “Otherwise, it must be presumed that petitioner has a legal nonconforming use given the absence of any evidence tending to show that petitioner’s building is within the earlier 230-foot demarcation line.”

Court of Appeals decisions are binding interpretations of state law unless overruled by the N.C. Supreme Court. If a similar case arose challenging a local government’s zoning authority and the locality had lost its maps, the locality would have the burden of providing other evidence.

The case is Shearl v. Town of Highlands, (14-113).

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Possibly transformitive technology of the moment

Welding clothing together. As the Associated Press reports, the Navy is researching the possibility of using ultrasonic welding to make its uniforms lighter, more durable and cheaper to produce.

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A most surprising poll result

JLF head John Hood had a column out last week on the various local organization that produce high-quality polling data. A highlight:

And when it comes to predicting the outcomes of elections, don’t fall into the trap of assuming that only paid professionals staffing phone banks or running auto-dialing machines produce valid results. The surveys that Elon [University] and High Point [University] conduct are filled with useful insights about what North Carolinians think — and how they are likely to act on it when casting their ballots.

With that in mind, Elon University’s latest poll results, which try to get at why people vote the way they do, produces a rather surprising result. The conventional wisdom is that Libertarians candidates mainly take votes from Republicans. Elon’s survey found a rather different result in this year’s Senate race:

[Libertarians Sean] Haugh, who has consistently polled between 5 percent and 8 percent, could hurt [Democrat Kay] Hagan more than [Republican Thom] Tillis. Although Libertarians traditionally lean more to the political right, respondents who said they would vote for Haugh overwhelmingly chose Hagan when they were shown a ballot with just Hagan and Tillis.


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It’s now harder to get a prescription filled for hydrocodone

As the Winston-Salem Journal reports:

The path became longer today for getting a prescription filled for hydrocodone combination products.

Because of a federal regulatory change effective today, patients needing those potent painkilling drugs now have to go to a physician’s office to pick up a signed prescription slip for a 90-day supply and take it to the pharmacy, rather than having it faxed or emailed to the pharmacy.

Another change is that a return doctor visit is required to get another 90-day supply.

More here.

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The NFL in Los Angeles soon?

Mike Florio of NBC Sports is reporting that “Per a league source, the current plan is that the NFL will send one or two teams back to Los Angeles within the next 12 to 24 months.” The three teams mentioned as possibly moving to LA are the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders, or St. Louis Rams.

Charlotte impact: If true, a NFL return to Los Angeles should greatly reduce the pressure that Charlotte officials feel to throw money at the Carolina Panthers. The great perceived threat was always that the Panthers would relocate to LA under whoever owns the team after Jerry Richardson. Of course, it’s a different matter as to whether the people crafting policy for the city are smart enough to do so, as they seem to have their doubts as to whether Charlotte is worthy of hosting a NFL team at all absent throwing massive amounts of money at the team.

H/t: CJ

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October 2014
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