Friday, December 12, 2008

The wrong Guy for probation

For 11 years state probation director Robert Guy has kept deadly problems in his department at a bureaucratic arm’s length, accepting the status quo when he should have been pushing solutions and relief for his department.
That put many North Carolina lives in harm's way.
Now he needs to go. He's the wrong Guy for that job.
An investigation by the (Raleigh) News & Observer uncovered this deadly statistic: Since the start of 2000, at least 580 people have been killed in North Carolina while under the watch of state probation officers. That’s 17 percent of all convictions for intentional killing.
Why? The investigation found the system loses thousands of criminals because it does not have enough officers to handle caseloads. In some cases examined by the newspaper, probation officers botched paperwork, failing at basic tasks such as filing arrest warrants or hooking offenders to electronic house arrest. In many others, officers were simply overwhelmed by workloads, players in a system plagued by poor pay, high turnover, high vacancies and an antiquated court computer database.
Guy, and his boss, Corrections Secretary Theodis Beck, haven't pushed reforms. They just stood by. There’s no excuse for that.
Guy should resign. If he doesn't governor-elect Beverly Perdue should give both him and Beck the boot when she takes office in January.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

McCrory's legacy

“I’ll always be known, and proud to be known, as ‘Mayor Pat.’ ”

With that, Pat McCrory announced Thursday that next year will be his last as Charlotte’s mayor. “In my heart, I’d love to be mayor for life,” he told a news conference, “but in my soul I know it’s time to move on.”

Indeed, McCrory’s zest for the job has been on full display since his first term in 1995. He’s been an active and energetic mayor, and will surely be one of the best-remembered in city history.
Does he have an admirable legacy? In many ways, yes. Most notable is the creation of a countywide mass transit system that debuted a little more than a year ago, with the opening of a light rail line between uptown and Pineville. McCrory has staunchly backed mass transit even when many of his fellow Republicans were just as outspoken in their dislike of the concept, and of the half-cent sales tax that helps fund the system. He has just as staunchly supported the philosophy that "transportation" means autos but much more, including transit, bicycles and sidewalks.

But is it time for him to bow out as mayor? Yes.
That shouldn't be taken as a slam on McCrory, and we hope he'll remain in public life.
But Charlotte needs an infusion of new thinking at the top. Any government does from time to time.
We've criticized him in the past for being too thin-skinned as well as for the occasional nutball remark – such as calling a proposal to pay city workers enough to allow them to pay the rent "socialism." He never took the time to really learn how to lobby successfully in Raleigh. We think he has too often catered to the far right wing of his own party (see previous "socialism" remark) – although many of them would demand to know when he ever catered.
But in sum, the city has thrived under his tenure, and he deserves a full measure of credit for that. We hope he stays in public life. He has contributions yet to make.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Extra! Read all about Illinois' blockhead governor …

Mike Easley has dodged reporters by running out the back door. He's been obstinate and obstructive about saving and sharing public e-mails that citizens have every right to put their eyeballs on.
And yes, he's been something of a do-nothing governor for eight years, except for plugging budget holes early in two economic downturns.
But so far he's not enough of a blockhead to try illegal funny business directly aimed at the newspaper … that we know about.
What was Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich thinking?
This is the same guy who said his state won't do business with Bank of America on moral grounds?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Transit -- less money or more?

So now we learn the half-cent sales tax for transit may not be enough to pay to build the planned system. Should anyone be surprised? Outraged? No way.

Guess what. Things change. And the Charlotte Area Transit System bumped up against skyrocketing concrete, steel and land costs this decade. And now we're into the worst recession in a generation. Sales tax revenue is down and so is government spending at all levels.

By now, of course, no one knows whether or how much construction or land costs might fall, or what that might mean for CATS' financing plans.

Nor does anyone know what the feds will do, though you'd be smart to bet on higher transit funding and changed rules for divvying up the money in the Obama administration. Both those things might bode well for CATS plans. So would an Obama stimulus package that -- as is widely expected -- includes transit.

In other words, not much is clear just now. But this is: Other counties in this region should be getting ready to join the transit system. That doesn't mean levy a tax this month or even next year. It does mean the region's leaders should do just that -- lead. Start educating voters about transit's benefits, and exploring ways to find dedicated revenue for CATS extensions.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why they didn't vote for McCrory

The John W. Pope Civitas Institute has posted a list of voter comments on why they didn't vote for Bev Perdue or didn't vote for Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory for N.C. governor. Plenty of comments were predictable: People wanted to vote Republican, or Democratic, or they "liked" one candidate or the other, or said they didn't know much about one candidate or the other.

Among reasons people didn't vote for Perdue (spelling and punctuation unchanged):
• No woman
• Because she whines
• Because I like Pat McCrory and he's the mayor of the city I live in
• Well i’m in charlotte and I am extremely impressed with him
• I never vote Democrat.
• Pro-abortion
• We have someone good in why take him away

Among reasons people didn't vote for McCrory:
• Needed a woman in office
• Didn't like demeanor
• He wasn't believable
• His opinions are so bad
• Because he is for off shore drilling and she is not
• Felt his values were big city and she lives in a small town
• Because he was the mayor of charlotte and I felt like charlotte would play too big role in his agenda
• Anti-environmentalist
• Because I live in charlotte and I think he's done a sh- - - - job

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Revaluation: Clear thinking needed

Since the Mecklenburg County commissioners decided to delay the planned property revaluation -- a proposal we urged them to reject -- they should show some clearer thinking on what to do next.

First, understand that revaluation, if accompanied by a revenue-neutral tax rate, doesn't mean everyone's taxes go up. If your property values have risen about as much as the countywide valuation has risen, your taxes would stay the same. Plenty of people would be in that situation. If your values went up more than average, or went down or rose less than average, you'd pay lower taxes. So the stuff about everyone's taxes going up is malarkey. Read between the lines: People with money and houses in sought-after neighborhoods (and thus, political influence) are more likely to see higher taxes. You figure it out.

Second, the argument to delay because the market is volatile is flawed as well. Yes, the market is changing, and yes, the real estate bubble has popped and some properties are selling for under the asking price or less than what people paid for them a few years back. But remember, the county plan was to revalue every two years. Under the old timetable there'd be a 2011 revaluation to capture any dramatic changes in market value. And a 2013 revaluation, a 2015 revaluation, etc.

Finally, there is one revaluation issue that is serious and deserves some study: How best to protect long-time homeowners on fixed incomes who live where home values are rising sharply. Neighborhoods such as Wilmore, Wesley Heights and NoDa are examples. People who bought into lower-income or working class neighborhoods may have legitimate problems paying rising property taxes. The county (AND the city) should find a way to address this problem. This won't be easy, mind you. Property tax laws are state laws, and require legislative changes, not just county-level action.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hohoho! Merry "Impeachment"?

An etiquette miscue?A Seattle artist sent in an ornament for the White House Christmas tree with the text of a resolution calling for President Bush's impeachment. Said a spokeswoman for First Lady Laura Bush, who solicited ornaments from congressional districts, "I think it really is a shame and, quite frankly, not very much in the holiday spirit."
No, not very merry at all.
Artist Deborah Lawrence said she just wanted to salute Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle, a longtime Bush foe who backs impeachment. The nine-inch ball Lawrence created is covered with swirly red and white stripes and features a picture of McDermott. The impeachment resolution is glued on in tiny text.
A local arts group selected her to do an ornament for McDermott's district. McDermott had nothing to do with it.
Sorry, impeachment enthusiasts, her ornament was rejected, the only one of 370 submitted that won't go on the tree.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ahem, new commissioners ...

As the new county commissioners are sworn in tonight (6 p.m. at the Government Center), two arrive with significant baggage. And by “baggage,” don’t think briefcase. Think container shipping.

Vilma Leake and George Dunlap, both Democrats who served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board, aren't the only ones responsible for that board’s unfortunate reputation for squabbling. Plenty of others share blame. But now they'll serve with a guy who may well be the most squabble-inducing elected official in the Metrolina region: Bill James.

District 6 Republican James delights in rhetorical hand grenades, often with a racial tinge. In 2004 he wrote in an e-mail that urban blacks “live in a moral sewer.”

Dunlap gives it right back -- fun for journalists seeking quotes, but bad for governing a large and diverse urban county. And the loquacious Vilma Leake, while on the school board, proved oblivious to gavels, rules, time limits or the rudeness of speaking over others. Let us hope she learns some courtesy.

Over the past decade we’ve spilled plenty of ink advising school board members to grow up and play nice. We don’t want to have to start writing that about the county commissioners. So, one more time: Keep the broader community in mind. Treat your colleagues respectfully, even in disagreement.

-- Mary Newsom

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Can Charlotte can the bag?

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing for a six-cent fee to be charged for each plastic bag now given away by city stores. He sees the fee (others might consider it a tax) as an effort to raise money for the city and to encourage greener living by creating an incentive for folks to switch to reusable bags instead. As the New York Times reports:

Plastic bags, particularly the flimsy ones that float over windy streets, are widely considered an environmental nuisance that use up petroleum, litter the landscape, clog storm drains and recycling equipment and linger for centuries in landfills. . . .

Several European countries already impose hefty taxes of as much as 33 cents on standard plastic bags. San Francisco has banned them altogether at large grocery stores and pharmacies unless they are biodegradable bags, which are more expensive than regular ones.

While some New Yorkers welcome this change, the Times goes on to say, many others think the plan is just too big a disruption of their lifestyle.

What about Charlotte? Some grocery stores here already offer incentives for shoppers to bring their own cloth or string bags. The Home Economist, for instance, offers five cents off the receipt for each bag a shopper uses of their own. Personally, I think it's a great idea, and have found it fairly easy to remember to bring my own reusable bags to stores for quite a while now. But are others willing to give up the convenience of plastic bags? Would Charlotteans welcome not having these things pile up in pantries, trash bins and cars? Or has the plastic shopping bag become a too-ingrained habit of our city life? -- Kevin Siers

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Urban chickens for when the sky is falling

Here's part of what the Boston Globe says the next depression would look like:

"According to Marion Nestle, a food and public health professor at New York University, people low on cash and with more time on their hands will cook more rather than go out. They may also, Nestle suggests, try their hands at growing and even raising more of their own food, if they have any way of doing so. Among the green lawns of suburbia, kitchen gardens would spring up. And it might go well beyond just growing your own tomatoes: early last month, the English bookstore chain Waterstone's reported a 200 percent increase in the sales of books on keeping chickens."
Of course, that's the fun part. The rest of the more depressing part of a depression can be found here. -- Kevin Siers

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Should Charlotte copy Pembroke?

UNC Pembroke is one of the state's smallest universities, with 6,303 students. Yet it has come up constantly in the debate about whether UNC Charlotte, which has 23,000 students, ought to start a football program. A reader suggests the success of that university's program, which is modest and targets a geographic community, not the big-time, might be a model for UNCC.

Here's what the reader wrote:

"It would be great to write about the UNCP program. In 2 years the program
continues to sell out each game went 9-1. If a program is built right from the
ground up, it can do wonders for the school and community. This could be a model
for Charlotte. It would only be fair to admit that I'm the proud parent of a
UNCP football player that was a product of Independence HS. If football were in
Charlotte at the time it's likely that a lot of our young men would stay &
play at home."

Here are some links he sent along:

What about it? UNCP is in Robeson County, in southeastern North Carolina. It serves a primarily rural area.
Can a large, urban public university take a page from the playbook of a small, rural one?

­- posted by Mary Schulken

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pat & Bev: Side by side in Charlotte?

"She can have the office right next to mine," quipped Pat McCrory, Charlotte's almost-governor mayor, in Monday's city council meeting.
He was talking about Democrat Bev Perdue, who bested McCrory, a Republican, Nov. 4 after a scrambling campaign to be North Carolina's governor. Nov. 4.
That's a gracious gesture for the loser of a close race to make - especially a race in which Perdue threw mud at Charlotte, McCrory's city, in order to drum up rural votes. We don’t know if McCrory was serious, but if he was, it could be the start of a lively relationship.
Here's what he was talking about: Perdue has said she will establish a governor's office in Charlotte and work there a few days a month. Charlotte City Council member Michael Barnes suggested the government center offer the governor empty space if it was available.
McCrory seconded that suggestion, then went one step further.
Was he kidding? Maybe he was thinking the governor might have a job for him …
Can't you just see Bev and her polished small-town cheerleader politician act side by side with Pat the city dude with his serious spectacles and his talk about the train?
­- Posted by Mary Schulken

Tax revaluation: It's about fairness

We hope the new board of county commissioners will look more closely at the issue of whether to postpone the county tax revaluation. An Observer article today indicated a delay is likely.

It's about fairness. When property values change but the tax valuation doesn't -- and the last revaluation was in 2003 -- plenty of people in expensive houses that have gained in value get huge tax breaks for years. And plenty of people in hurting neighborhoods, where houses have lost value, have been penalized for years.

Who needs fair, up-to-date valuations more? People whose homes have lost value and yet who are paying as if their homes are worth more? Or people who've gotten thousands of dollars in tax breaks? That's the question county commissioners must answer. Remember, tax valuation is a different issue from the tax rate. Commissioners can, if they choose, adopt a revenue-neutral budget next year. That means some tax payers would pay more and others less, because of their property values. It doesn't mean tax rates rise, although people with rising-value property would, as is fair, pay more. But people whose property values rose only as much as the countywide average wouldn't pay higher taxes. And people whose property values rose less than the average, or lost value, would pay lower taxes.

Delaying revaluation will cause even more political and financial trauma when it finally happens. The county's previous plan to continue with revaluation this year, and then move to every two years is preferable. Commissioners should stick with that plan.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Turnout today lower than expected

North Carolina's elections director is now predicting a lower-than-expected turnout, meaning more voters cast absentee and early ballots than actually voted today.
After talking to elections officials in about 60 of the 100 N.C. counties, Gary Bartlett, N.C. elections director, expected turnout to be at about 66 percent of registered voters, less than the predicted 70 percent.
Bartlett said he didn't know why turnout was less than expected. It would be easy to blame the rain, but lines were strong in the Triangle when rain was pouring today, he pointed out.
We have two theories:
Theory No. 1: So many people, pundits and polls were predicting an Obama victory that people who hadn't already voted figured their vote didn't matter.
Theory No. 2: The last week of near continuous robocalls, TV commercials that became a contest in negativity, daily flyers attempting to besmirch other candidates probably all combined to just make some voters say, "Ugh! A plague on both your houses."

Analyzing which votes are still out

The Obama-McCain race is neck and neck in North Carolina and the governor's race is still very close.
So the key question is: whose votes haven't been counted yet?
Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh just revealed the 21 counties that have not yet reported, and who those counties voted for in 2004:

-Graham (Bush +36)
-Jackson (Bush +4)
-Buncombe (Tie)
-Polk (Bush +15)
-Cleveland (Bush +23)
-Avery (Bush +52)
-Caswell (Bush +3)
-Montgomery (Bush +14)
-Scotland (Kerry +11)
-Hoke (Kerry +5)
-Cumberland (Bush +3)
-Chatham (Tie)
-Wilson (Bush +8)
-Greene (Bush +18)
-Franklin (Bush +11)
-Vance (Kerry +12)
-Warren (Kerry +30)
-Halifax (Kerry +14)
-Beaufort (Bush +28)
-Washington (Kerry +9)
-Gates (Kerry +5)

At a glance, that looks good for McCain and McCrory, with so many Bush-friendly counties on the list. But Jensen points out the only sizable counties on the list are Cumberland and Buncombe, both of which could go for Obama and Perdue. Chatham and Wilson are mid-sized counties that will likely go for Obama for Perdue.

Jensen also points out there are still a lot of votes to count from other counties that have partially reported.

Dole ousted on her own mistakes

Wow. Elizabeth Dole ousted. One of the biggest name in politics -- not just in North Carolina, but nationally -- dumped after just one term, according to The Associated Press, CNN and other major networks.

This election was a referendum on Dole more than her opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan. And Dole just gave voters too much ammunition in a year that's shaping up to be big for Democrats.

After six years of being invisible to many N.C. voters, Dole got desperate in the closing days of the campaign and aired an ad that will go down as one of the nastiest in N.C. political history.
It backfired and now Republicans have lost control of a Senate seat they had held since 1972.

- Taylor Batten

Can Republicans come back in Meck commish race?

Early voters gave at-large Democrats a huge lead in the race for the Mecklenburg board of county commissioners. You'd expect that, with a majority of early voters being Democrats. But the hole Republicans have to dig out of now is huge.
Democrats Jennifer Roberts, Harold Cogdell and Dan Murrey had roughly twice as many votes as Republicans Dan Ramirez, Susan Walker and Hal Jordan among early voters. That's 60,000 to 70,000 votes Republicans have to make up.
If you figure roughly 200,000 people voted in Mecklenburg today, the Republican commissioner candidates have to win about two-thirds of the vote today to make up the lost ground. Possible, but not probable.
If they don't, you're looking at a new Mecklenburg board of commissioners firmly in control of Democrats -- 6-3, at least, maybe even 7-2.
Republican Bill James would have a lot of fun on that board.
- Taylor Batten

Will rain affect N.C. outcome?

The eastern half of North Carolina has been getting rained on steadily most of the day. How does that affect the outcome of races for president, governor and U.S. Senate?

That half of the state is a mix: the urban Raleigh area, the small cities and suburbs of Wilmington, Wilson and Rocky Mount, the rural white areas and rural black areas.

If it rained hard enough to keep people home, that could hurt Bev Perdue, who needs strong turnout in eastern North Carolina to beat Pat McCrory for governor.

At the same time, it is believed that Republicans were going to make up a bigger proportion of the electorate today than they did during early voting. Of the 2.5+ million people who voted early, 52 percent were registered Democrats. Black voters made up 26 percent of early voters, compared with 17 percent in 2004. So if the rain is keeping people away from the polls, it might be keeping more Republicans away than Democrats. That would be bad news for John McCain, Pat McCrory and Elizabeth Dole.

- Taylor Batten

Monday, November 3, 2008

Praise from afar of U.S. prez politics

We voters in the United States might think the presidential election season is endless, and a test of fortitude and patience. But Economist magazine finds our process praiseworthy. "America's bizarre process for electing its president inevitably raises questions," it says in its most recent edition. "No other country obliges its future leaders to spend two years on the campaign trail. No other country forces them to conjure hundreds of millions of dollars out of thin air. And no other country gives make-or-break power to people in plaid shirts in out-of-the-way places."

"The complicated obstacle course is about as good a test of a potential president's character as you can devise...The system may be time-consuming and money-grubbing. But it has allowed the son of a couple of nobodies, who was denied a floor pass to the Democratic Convention eight years ago, to become, by dint of sheer charisma and organizational skill, the probable president of the country. "
In a separate article, the international politics and business magazine gives its endorsement: "For all the shortcomings of the campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama offer hope of national redemption. Now America has to choose between them.
The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America's self-confidence."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Pssst, Palin ... Sports fans vote, too

Pity Sarah Palin. The Republican vice presidential candidate must be telling the truth when she says she's an outsider to East Coast politics. She apparently hasn't learned that sports fandom has rigid boundaries that may be invisible to outsiders but are very real.

On Thursday, speaking in Erie, Pa., in western Pennsylvania, she made the mistake of praising the Philadelphia Phillies, who the night before won the World Series.

Trouble is, that part of Pennsylvania is the Pittsburgh Pirates' territory (or the Cleveland Indians'). Pirates-Phillies tension is right up there with Tar Heels-Duke-Wolfpack tension. Some in the crowd booed at the mention of the Phillies. (Watch the video below.)

Speaking of which, Palin's due to appear Saturday in Raleigh. That is trecherous territory. She'll have to praise the Heels, Devils and Pack with equal vigor -- or maybe punt, and praise the Panthers?


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sad signs of the times for bear cubs

Poor bear cub! Poor momma bear! (See "Dead bear cub closes freeway" about a cub killed by a vehicle on Interstate 26 near Asheville.)
But at least this dead cub didn't get swaddled in Obama campaign signs like another newsworthy ursa Americanus from the N.C. mountains a week ago. (See 2 WCU students charged in dead bear incident.)
Or, as one wag said, there weren't any Obama signs left in that part of the state.
-- Posted by Mary Newsom

Friday, October 17, 2008

The jokes were on McCain and Obama

The 63rd annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner was held in New York Thursday night, and those of us who saw parts of it on television were in for a treat. Dressed in tuxes, both presidential candidates got a chance to publicly and goodnaturedly crack jokes about each other, themselves and others at the charity event. And they each got in some good ones, giving us a refreshing view of their human side, and their humanity.

GOP Sen. John McCain might have been the most surprising. At this event away from the campaign trail, he wasn't stiff or forboding but funny, relaxed and genuine. Some of his zingers: "Where's Bill, by the way?" he asked of Hillary Clinton, who attended. "Can't he take one night off from his tireless quest to make the man who defeated his wife the next president?" And this: "Events are moving fast in my campaign. And, yes, it's true that this morning I dismissed my entire team of senior advisers. All of their positions will now be held by a man named 'Joe the Plumber.'" And this joke: "This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all, it began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as 'The One.' Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him that one."

Sen. Barack Obama got in some good ones too. They were so funny to him that he couldn't resist snickering as he told them. There was this joke: "I do love the Waldorf-Astoria," he said of the place where the dinner was held. "You know, I hear that from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian tearoom." And then there was this joke: "The mayor of this great city, Michael Bloomberg, is here. The mayor recently announced some news - made some news by announcing he's going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term, which caused Bill Clinton to say, you can do that?" And this one: "Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father Jorel to save the Planet Earth."

They both also chucked the partisanship, and sincerely praised each other. They sounded a lot like good decent men, who were friends. Three weeks before the election, it was a wonder to watch. To read, their entire comments go to

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's on the Internet, so it must be true?

We've seen a lot of bogus things flying around the Internet about both presidential candidates. But there's one floating about now that is so far-fetched, no one could believe it's real. And yet gullible readers are lapping it up.
An e-mail making the rounds purports to quote Democrat Barack Obama on the Sept. 7 "Meet the Press" television show.
Supposedly, Obama said on the show that he wants to:
-- Change the national anthem to "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" to placate our enemies;
-- Redesign the American flag to placate our enemies;
-- Disarm America to a level that makes "our Middle East Brethren" happy;
It also quotes Obama as talking about "hatred" for America, his wife's disrespect for the flag and how they have both attended several flag burning ceremonies. This is all reported, in the e-mail, by one Dale Lindsborg of the Washington Post.
Come on, people. You're e-mailing this to all your friends, in a panic, in disbelief that this man is leading in the polls.
Here's an idea: think for yourself! Spend, oh, 10 seconds on Google and see if there really is a "Dale Lindsborg" at the Washington Post. Spend 30 seconds seeing if Obama was even ON the Sept. 7 "Meet the Press."
Are you so predisposed to one candidate or the other that you can't think critically?
- Taylor Batten

Friday, October 10, 2008

Uh, it's Obama, not Osama

Oops! In an upstate New York county, hundreds of voters have been sent absentee ballots in which they could vote for “Barack Osama” for president, not Barack Obama. The absentee ballots sent to voters in Rensselaer County did identify John McCain correctly.
Elections officials have apologized and shredded the remaining "Osama” ballots, and mailed corrected ones to the 300 or so people who got the erroneous ones.
The officials called the situation "human error," "very unfortunate" and "an embarrassment". Could it also have been a Freudian slip? These days, Obama opponents at rallies have taken to calling him a terrorist, or an associate of one. The best known terrorist, and the most despised in the U.S. is named Osama - Osama bin Laden, leader of the al Qaida terrorist group behind the 2001 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Time postcard: Charlotte not 'trifling' now

"In 1791, George Washington called Charlotte, N.C., a 'trifling place.' In 1941 an author scoffed that the city had as much use for high-rises 'as a hog has for a morning coat.' By 1991, Charlotte was still a minor-league city without major-league sports, a cultural wasteland with a central business district that died every weekday after work."

So goes a Time magazine "Postcard from Charlotte" you can find online at,9171,1844558,00.html. OK, so they got it wrong about Charlotte being "without major-league sports" by 1991. The city's first NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets, had already completed two seasons before 1991. So Charlotte wasn't as "minor league" then as the writer assumed.

But it's our two big banks that have pushed the city into the national spotlight of late. As the nation's financial system teeters, Bank of America donned a white hat and came to the rescue of Merrill Lynch. Wachovia was ready and in talks to help Morgan Stanley.

So it's hardly surprising that a lot of people want to know more about what makes Charlotte tick - and prosper. Interesting reading.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Prez politics in N.C.: A kid's perspective

National politics is becoming very accessible to Charlotte residents, especially now that some polls and pundits have tagged North Carolina a battleground state in this year's presidential race. Emma Elizabeth Churchyard wrote to the Observer about the excitement she feels after Barack Obama's visit Sunday. Here's what she had to say:

"In April, my mother, my sister and I walked up the street to hear Hillary Clinton speak. As soon as the rain started, Rowan and I ducked under the platforms (which kept us dry) while my mother got soaking wet. Then the sun came out and so did Hillary. She talked about gas prices, education (stopping EOG’s - I liked that one) and stuff a kid wouldn’t understand. When her speech was over, she came to shake everybody’s hands. I felt like a squeezed mouse, but I got to the rails and she signed my T-shirt. Being there made me feel independent. I want to be kind of like her someday.
So when my mom told me Barack Obama was coming to Charlotte, I was like "Let’s go! Let’s go! I was ready to climb in the car and wait in the rain again. I had a T-shirt and a sharpie. But I had to wait until Sunday.
On Sunday, we drove up to see a line four blocks long. All you could see was "Obama" on everyone’s T-shirt, hat, button, bumper sticker and body writing. I was EXCITED. I felt like I was gonna get up close to him, just like I did with Hillary Clinton. And then, I saw that the next block was covered in people. And the next. And the next. And the next. I saw babies, I saw kids, I saw teens, I saw adults - in every skin tone you could think of. And all I could think was, "We’re never going to get in."
We finally found the end of the line and joined it. After a good 30 minutes of mapping out what we could do if we couldn’t get in to see Obama, the motorcade arrived. People ran for the street. They were screaming "Yes, We Can!" (Apparently that’s his motto.) I was hopeful - people left the line! But not enough. I never saw so many people in my entire life.
A lady campaign worker urged people in line to give up and go to the corners, where they could at least hear Obama. The rally was supposed to start at 1 pm, and it was already close to 2 pm. I urged my parents to go to the corner. We did.
I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear much either. But it was better than where we were and it was better than staying at home. All those people gave me hope that somebody young and smart, who likes kids, might be President. Just being within 200 yards of Obama made me feel important, independent and made me want to be just like him. (If he wins.)"

Monday, September 22, 2008

Still bigots around, says new prez poll

No one wants to talk about race in this presidential election, least of all Democratic nominee Barack Obama. But a new poll puts a laser on racial attitudes and how they may affect the outcome. The poll results may be unsettling for Obama.

The AP-Yahoo News poll, conducted with Stanford University, found that 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view of blacks and about one-third of white Democrats do. According to the poll, many call blacks "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.
More than a third of all white Democrats and independents — voters Obama can't win the White House without — agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views.

Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren't voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president — white, black or brown.

The findings suggest that Obama's problem is close to home — among his fellow Democrats, particularly non-Hispanic white voters. Just seven in 10 people who call themselves Democrats support Obama, compared to the 85 percent of self-identified Republicans who back McCain.
The survey focused on the racial attitudes of independent voters because they are likely to decide the election.

Lots of Republicans harbor prejudices, too, but the survey found they weren't voting against Obama because of his race. Most Republicans wouldn't vote for any Democrat for president — white, black or brown.

"There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn't mean there's only a few bigots," said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyze the exhaustive survey.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Best and Worst of Pat McCrory?

Mayor Pat may be zooming up the polls in his race for N.C. governor, but his local popularity is lagging a bit - at least among the "critics' panel/copywriters" and the readers of Charlotte's "Creative Loafing", a weekly news and entertainment tabloid. In it's recent 21st annual Best of Charlotte issue, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was named both the "Worst Member of Local Government" and the "Best Member of Local Government". The Creative Loafing staff and critics gave him the "Worst" title. But the readers picked him for "Worst" and "Best".

One pundit said he may have made both the best and worst in readers' minds because he may be the only local politician they've heard of. Could be.

At least, he didn't win this title: "Public official most in need of Tasering". The winner of that appellation? Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Kaye McGarry. Find the Best of Charlotte listings at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

One definition of success

Late yesterday afternoon, during the after-work rush hour, a LYNX light rail driver was overheard begging the crowds at the Third Street and Stonewall stations not to get on the train.

Friday, September 5, 2008

David at RNC: McCain's good man, gave good speech

David McKee, 15, of Waxhaw, ends two weeks of convention attendance as a participant with the Junior Statesmen of America. He attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver last week and the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., this week. Here's his final dispatch to the Observer:

"I listened to John McCain's speech last night. In charecter, I think he is a good man. He gave a good speech, and I respect what he's been through. However I think he has changed a lot of his positions to please the right wing of his party. And therefore, I don't feel that he is what's best for our country.

"There are a lot of people here giving away free swag. I have picked up a lot of cool stuff. The best was when a Coke lobbyist came to talk to us. She used to be a member of Junior Statesmen of America when she was in high school - just like me. Now she works as a lobbyiist in Washington on behalf of Coke. She spoke to our group and asked what was Coke's recycling goal? One guy guessed 30 percent. Wrong. I guessed 100percent, and that is right. I ended up with a cool Coke hat.

"I have been working with Current TV to help them do a piece on younger attendees at the convention. Orginally they were going to interview me, but that day I opted to go to the Ron Paul Rally for America, and they were interviewing at the RNC. They did interview four teens from our group. However they failed to get waivers from them so that they could use the footage. The producer had my card, so they contacted me and I helped them get waivers from three of the four people interviewed. Current TV may give me producer credit on the piece. I met with the reporter and he gave me a DVD about what the world thinks of America as a thank-you present. We plan to keep in touch.

"Our JSA speakers' program brought in Nancy Theis, Director of White House Correspondence. She says she volunteers to go through all the letters that come to the president. She says she sends the "best" to the president's secretary to get a reply. "You know, the sick and dying kids type," she said. She said that she is a die hard conservative, and would never have worked for the Clintons.

"I am going home. I can't wait. I look forward to seeing my dogs, and chilling out. I plan on doing a recap of both conventions for next week."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

David at RNC: Too much 'belittling'

Let's get right to Sarah Palin and her speech last night. I was not impressed. I felt that she made a lot of attacks, and many of them don't check out with the facts. She obviously had a speech prepared for her and had been rehearsed. I don't think in the future we will ever see her that well-versed again.

What strikes me while I am here is how very mean-spirited the Republicans are. This is much different than what I heard at the Democratic National Convention, which was more positive and hope filled. Here we have heard lots of attacks, belittling and put-downs. There's a lot of flag waving but not much about what the Republicans are actually proposing they would do.

Here is one thing they are saying. Last night on the floor they kept chanting "Drill, baby, drill". We can not drill are way out of this situation. Off-shore drilling is not going to help. It will do very little to help gas prices and energy independence. It would only lower gas prices about 3 cents and not for 10 years. We need to explore alternative energies of any and every kind that are not petroleum based. We especially need to explore energy options that are non-polluting. We need to free ourselves from Oil, Coal, and Gas. These three are depressing our economy and creating a modern-day depression.

She said last night that we should explore coal. This idea of clean coal is a myth. It isn't clean now. There is not currently technology to make it clean. Clean coal ads are deceptive. They are as dirty as the coal they mine. There is just no effective way to get the carbon out. Sarah Palin proudly talked about her pipeline for natural gas. There is nothing "natural" about it. It is a finite limited resource, and converting all our energy needs to a finite resource that will run out does not make sense.

Earlier in the day, our Junior Statesmen group heard from Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate. He talked about how he used to be a Republican but is now a Libertarian. He thinks that Republicans and Democrats are just different sides of the same coin. I don't think that is true, but he does.

Today in the Junior Statesmen speakers program we are to hear from Nancy Theis, Director of White House Correspondence. That should be interesting. And tonight of course is John McCain's speech. The RNC's program says that tonight's theme is "Peace". Hmmm.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Day 3: David sees Arianna, Fred Thompson

From Waxhaw teen David McKee, who is at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul with the Junior Statesmen of America program:

In our speakers' program Tuesday we heard from Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post. She spoke about the Huffington Post and her view of politics. She said that they ask their writers and reporters to be very transparent about their political views. I thought she was a very respectable woman. She spoke with a lot of dignity and professionalism.

Tuesday afternoon I went to Ron Paul's alternative convention, the "Rally for America". There were a lot more people there than I would have expected. Tucker Carlson from MSNBC spoke. There were several other speakers as well. In general the Libertarians want lower taxes. And they said that there is little difference between Democrats and Republicans because all both of those parties want is to raise taxes and make our government go bankrupt. They also want to abolish the Federal Reserve. It's their belief that the Federal Reserve caused the housing bubble, and all economic bubbles. They said that the Green Tech is a coming bubble. I don't see how this is true. How could the Fed be causing bubbles? I just don't see how.

I felt that the Rally for America wasn't pulled together well. The announcer wasn't that good. They didn't spend much money on anything, and there were a lot of advertisements. Ads for law firms, Ads for Ron Paul's constitutional pamphlet, Ads for "USA Tomorrow". It just didn't feel all that pulled together. Of course, Ron Paul doesn't have the money to spend on something like this the way that the Republican Party does. It did feel like a sincere attempt on the Libertarians' part.

Wednesday night, we were at the Republican Convention for all the speakers. Fred Thompson attacked Obama and praised Sarah Palin as McCain's Vice Presidential pick. I think that McCain is taking the biggest gamble of his career by choosing Palin. She is under investigation, has a daughter not much older than me who is pregnant and all this is coming out just in the first week after her selection. It may end up that lots of things on her resume are invalidated. It raises suspicion if she could be a good President if she ever needed to be.

Her choice as VP was made to help the Republican Party. To appeal to the masses, he could have picked an Independent like Joe Lieberman. Palin's stance on many things does not appeal to the mainstream in this country. For example, I think that teaching creationism in the schools is kind of scary. Because it's forcing one religion onto a whole county, which would violate the First Amendment, which guarantees us the freedom of religion.

It's interesting to see that the Republicans unify behind their candidate but then there are flashes of guns and steel in their eyes while they praise them. It seems as if there might be lots of political back stabbing behind the scenes. Yes they look unified to the American people, but when the wool is pulled over your eyes everything looks good.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Did McCain's folks vet this?

Many bloggers and columnists thought John McCain's VP pick was a little on the cynical side -- pick a woman and pick up many unhappy Democratic women voters still upset over Hillary Clinton's primary loss. But Sarah Palin hasn't always been about sister solidarity. The YouTube clip below of an on-air interview from January has Gov. Palin simply giggling in response as a talk radio host attacks one of her opponents , a cancer survivor, as a "cancer" and a "bitch." She then says she would be honored for the radio jock to attend her State of the State address. One doubts this will impress many Hillary supporters.

Here also is an opinion column from the Anchorage Daily News about the interview.

David to see Arianna Huffington, Ron Paul

From David McKee, 15, of Waxhaw, who is at the Republican National Convention as part of the Junior Statesmen of America:
"Yesterday (Monday) afternoon we were at the Xcel Energy Center for the abreviated convention. Cindy McCain and Laura Bush spoke briefly. I did not get a warm impression of Mrs. McCain. Most of the focus was on Hurricane Gustav. I feel like maybe that was so the Republican Party would get good publicity. The shortened business portion of the meeting went by faster than any meeting I have attended. A motion would be made, the ayes taken, and then they would call for the nays but give no time for a nay to be heard. Then on to the next motion.

While we were outside the convention center waiting for the bus to take us back to the hotel, I was approached by a reporter to do an interview. The reporter from Current TV, my favorite channel, wanted to interview me!! We were leaving, so I gave him my card and he said he would contact me to set up an interview. I hope so, because I would really like that. we had to go back to the hotel because the evening of speakers at the convention was cancelled due to the hurricane.

When we got to the hotel, after dinner Junior Statesmen had arranged for David Mark, from, to speak to us. He talked about what he does and what is about. Basically, he analyzes the strategies and logistics of politics and campaigns. It was a very interesting and educational evening for me. I didn't know about before, so now I have a new site to go to so that I can learn more about this election.

As had happened in Denver, this morning we missed the delegates' breakfast because people overslept. This is extremely disappointing for me. I really wanted to get to talk to delegates from North Carolina. However I am very glad that we made the delegate breakfast yesterday, and we were able to get floor passes. I think that the next presidential election in 2012, I am going to try and become a delegate myself. So today we will go right to the speakers program that Junior Statesmen has set up for us.

Today we are supposed to hear from Arianna Huffington. This afternoon, we are supposed to go to the Ron Paul alternative convention. That should be very interesting.

Day 2: David in St. Paul

From David McKee, 15, of Waxhaw, at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, with the Junior Statesmen of America:
Monday morning we got up early and went to the North Carolina delegates' breakfast. I talked to some of the delegates about how their system for nominating a candidate might be different from the Democrats. Turns out it's not very different at all. I asked one delegate how it is that he became a delagate. He said he just went to his district's convention and got elected as a delegate.

The best thing that happened is that they had floor passes ready for us for the whole convention. Floor passes were next to impossible to come by in Denver. So I was really excited about that.

At lunch, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, where our lunch was hosted by the Young Republicans Club. Mike Huckabee was there to talk to us. He spoke positive things about Sarah Palin, the Vice Presidential Nominee. He said she has all the right values for the job.

Many of the teens here are very Republican or Libertarian in their ideas. At lunch they were saying that all the Democrats have a California Attitude, and in a stoned voice they mockingly said "like hey dude, vote for Obama" ha ha ha. Of course, I don't think that's true at all.

Going to the convention center this afternoon for the abbreviated RNC meeting we had an unexpected obstacle. Anti-war protesters were blocking our way by forming a human chain to prevent us from getting into the center. Police on horse back had to drive them back so that we could run quickly past. As we passed, they all gave us the finger and shouted obscenities at us. While I undersatnd that they are upset about the war, I do not think that they should go that far.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Day 1: David in St. Paul with the GOP

David McKee, 15, of Waxhaw is in St. Paul for the Republican National Convention. He's attending as a Junior Statesmen of America participant. He was in Denver last week with the Democrats. He's giving us his impressions in daily dispatches. Here's his first from St. Paul:

"Sunday we arrived in St. Paul on a direct flight from Charlotte. This time my friend Catherine has come along too.We are staying in a Holiday Inn. It has the that old 1980's look. You know, printed sheets, 80's colors and bad springy beds.

"We got in very early. The Junior Statesmen folks had arranged for a shuttle to the Mall of America. I didn't want to go, because I was worried that I would miss the last shuttle and get stranded there, so I just kicked back the afternoon.

"Sunday afternoon, I met another teen here with our group that said something that shocked me. He declared with in 5 minutes of my meeting him that all Democrats were Communists and Hippies. I didn't tell him my politics. He just said it like every one thinks this is true. He made me nervous.

"Today, we will go to the delegation breakfast of our state in the morning. Then, we will be hearing from an agent with the Secret Service that is in charge of Dignitary protective division. I think that is pretty cool. We will try and go to see a taping of Hardball with Chris Matthews. I did that at the DNC too, and it was very interesting.

"On Tuesday we are supposed to go to Ron Paul's Rally for the Republic which should be interesting. Later in the week, we are to get a visit from Bob Barr, who is the Libertarian candidate. But I know that he cannot win no matter what he does. His party did not get 15 percent of the vote in the last election, so he is not eligible for the electoral college. This is why an independent will never get elected. The electoral college is set up so that it basically protects the two party system.

"We are also to hear from Ariana Huffington later in the week. The speakers lined up to talk to our JSA group are very impressive. I would not have expected so many well-known people would want to talk to a group of teenagers.

"Sunday night we had a dinner for all the Junior State Teens that are here on this trip. I sat and watched two people have a dinner table debate. A George Bush supporter and a Libertarian were having a debate about the Iraq war. The Libertarian said, "Why are we in Iraq?" Then the Bush supporter said, "Because we had intelligence that said the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction." The Libertarian replied, "But that was false information, and it didn't come from Iraq, it came from US''. Hmmmm. Interesting discussion.

"I heard that the RNC has canceled all speakers for Monday and are planning on turning the convention into a fundraiser for hurricane victims. I have doubts about that."

Friday, August 29, 2008

David's last day in Denver with Democrats

David McKee, 15, of Waxhaw, has been giving us his impressions of the Democratic Convention in Denver all week. He is part of the Junior Statesmen of America group. This is his final dispatch from Denver. He'll be at the GOP Convention in St. Paul, Minn., next week:

"What an amazing day (Thursday)! We got up at 7 a.m. and went to downtown Denver where I finally got to go back to a great breakfast restaurant called the Delectable Egg. It was great. The French toast was divine. I am a big breakfast guy, and I loved this place! I have made a lot of friends with other students on this trip with Junior state while here, and it was fun to just go and hang out.
We walked over to Invesco field from downtown Denver. It was a very long walk, and we had to go along highways with no sidewalks. We stood in line for security for a long time, and I ended up getting searched, because I didn't take every thing out of my pockets when I went through the metal detectors.

We ended up at the stadium for about 9 hours. There were a lot of speakers and music too. We were in the back corner of the stadium, on the North West corner, with the stage facing South. So we were basically behind the stage. But it didn't matter. We were there for the making of history.

For me personally, Al Gore's being there and speaking was just amazing beyond belief. My most important issue is to reverse Global Warming and create new clean energy sources so that we are free of oil. Al Gore is my inspiring role model now, and in my future political life. His endorsement was for me the most important endorsement of this election.

Obama's speech at Invesco Field last night was remarkable. It was a thing to see him in person. He is down to earth, and just a regular Joe like you and me. He is just an amazing speaker, with a great voice. He stated what he is going do when he gets into office and that was great. I especially liked the idea of being free of foreign oil in 10 years. I really trust Obama. In fact I would trust him with my life if I knew him as friend.
Thursday's events at the convention: I thought it was very gracious of Hillary to skip the roll call and just let Obama be declared the nominee. Bill Clinton gave a good speech as well, but I think he talked too much about Hillary. I wish he had said more about Obama, but he did really energize the crowd.
The speech by Joe Biden was very good. I think that Biden has strengthened the ticket and increased the odds of the Democrats' winning. I loved the unannounced appearance of Obama. It was fun.
After we left our evening of watching the convention, we started back to our bus but the street we had to walk down was blocked. We saw the bomb squad was there, and they were shouting "Get back, get back!" and we had to leave. They exploded something that was a suspicious package of some kind I think. I don't know what it was, but when they set it off there was a really loud BOOM that rang in your ears. The blast got our adrenaline flowing.

I am flying home today. I was worried that I had missed my flight this morning, but relieved to find that I had just looked at the time wrong. I have had a great time here, the time of my life. I am looking forward to going next week to St. Paul for the Republican convention. It will be interesting to compare the two conventions after it's all over. I leave for that one early on Sunday morning, and my friend and fellow Charlotte Teen Voices Junior Statesmen Chapter officer, Catherine Michniak, is coming too. We are both excited!

Shrewd choice, but with risks

Could this campaign possibly get more interesting?

Sen. John McCain's pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his ticket is a shrewd move. It's been obvious for weeks plenty of Hillary Clinton supporters – many of them women disgusted at what they saw as misogyny in the presidential campaign that plenty of liberals never noticed or decried – weren't sold on Barack Obama. How many will now consider voting for the McCain-Palin ticket? Probably quite a few.

Palin is attractive (she was runner-up in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant), mother of five, an avid outdoorswoman with a reputation as a reformer in a state whose long-time U.S. senator is under indictment. Wikipedia reported she was also point guard on a state championship high school basketball team – that's sure to resonate with North Carolinians. She's a former union member, married to a union member.

On the other hand, it's the undecided and independent voters who will likely decide this election. They're an unpredictable crowd, with diverse interests and outlooks. Choosing a socially conservative, pro-NRA, reform-minded woman may well be quirky enough to win over independents who might have been wavering toward Obama, or those who don't really look at policy positions and issue statements so much as going with their gut.

It's shrewd but it's also risky. Many Clinton supporters are disgusted with the Republican Party's and the Bush administration's steady assault on legal abortion. Bush's Supreme Court choices have put Roe v. Wade clearly in jeopardy. McCain himself is staunchly anti-abortion, despite all the trial balloons about choosing an abortion rights veep candidate. So is Palin.

How many Clinton supporters would be OK with such an anti-abortion ticket, versus those who would approve and those who don't care? Hard to predict.

Also, as political analysts were speedy to point out, it will be tricky now for McCain and the GOP to keep attacking Obama's lack of experience.

McCain is 72 (his birthday is today) and has had cancer twice. He's reported to be cancer-free and in good health. But any actuarial table will show he's less likely to live through an eight-year set of presidential terms than a 47-year-old like Obama. How much will voters fret over the possibility of a vice president with so little political experience?

Palin's been governor of a state with only 670,000 people – it's about the size of Charlotte – and only since election in 2006. Before that she was on the city council and then mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, population 5,470, although she ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2002.

This year's campaign has already made history – twice – and been as fun to watch as any Aaron Sorkin script might have been. The next two months will continue this historic campaign's role.

Posted by Mary Newsom.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Day 4: David in Denver at Dems gathering

David McKee, 15, of Waxhaw is at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. These are impressions he e-mailed to the Daily Views today:

Today is going to be great. We are guaranteed a seat at the Obama acceptance speech because the whole Junior Statesmen group is volunteering at Invesco field to help with the event. We had to arrive at the stadium this morning at 9 a.m. because we have to get through all the security. I had to get an official North Carolina ID before I left, just for this event, because only state-issued ID's or passports are acceptable proof of identity to get into this event. Security is so tight.

On Wednesday we had a wonderful speaker discussing body langauage that I mentioned in my last dispatch. Dr. LaTosha Bruce came to our speakers' forum to talk to us about "Rhetoric in action, the effects of body language." She showed us videos on different aspects of body language, and we talked about some specifics. For example, the way a person's feet point tells you a lot about what they are thinking. Feet pointing towards the speaker mean they are listening. Feet pointed away from the speaker tell you they are not interested, and they want to leave. Everyone has a personal space of about 3-4 feet around them. When people are being aggressive towards someone, they often lean into their personal space. This way they communicate dominance with out saying anything. If you step forward into someone's personal space, it's seen as more intimate conversation. If someone steps back a pace from you, it means they don't like you! Persuasive people have good use of body language. Active body language is a good thing. Barack Obama gets a good work out from all the movement in his speeches. That means he is using lots of good body language!

Mr. Joel Benenson, who is a pollster and senior strategist for the Obama campaign, spoke to us about polling and how polls are used in planning a campaign. He said he doesn't put much stock into general polls, such as "Do you prefer Obama or McCain"? These polls can fluctuate wildly from day to day and they really don't show anything concrete, even though they get a lot of attention from the media. He says the polls that really matter are polls on issues. Political campaigns use polls on different issues in order to formulate thier platform.

One more interesting thing I learned on Wednesday. Mr. Peter Fenn talked to us about advertising in politics. He noted that these days ads are being used almost like press releases. That when a candidate wants to get something out there, it's easier for them to make an ad, get it on YouTube and quickly spread their message that way rather than a traditional press release. This is a real change in the way a campaign gets the word out.

These speakers really make an impact on me. When we spoke with the Democratic Youth Council, one guy in our group asked the most interesting question. He said "I want to be involved, what do I do?" They said "just start any way you can. Work in your community, volunteer to work with your town council or at your mayor's office. Just start any way you can!" I want to start when I get home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Local teen helps set up for Obama's speech

David McKee, 15, of Waxhaw, is spending this week at the Democratic national Convention in Denver with the Junior Statesmen of America. Here's his dispatch on what it's been like:

On Tuesday afternoon I attended the Democratic Youth Council. They talked to us about the importance of the youth vote. I am so excited to hear that one of the youngest democrats serving in the nation is North Carolina State government representative Tricia Ann Cotham and she is representing Charlotte!! I am so impressed with this fact that I had to call both my parents on the spot to tell them. I don't think they realized that Charlotte is making history (and in fact, neither of them knew about this).

I am thinking a lot about Jim Leach, the republican that endorsed Obama on Monday night at the convention. His speech showed me that real unity CAN be achieved between the Democrats and the Republicans. He is a guy that wants what's best for the regular guy, not just what's best for the big companies.

Hillary's speech. Wow. It was good and powerful and well formulated. But I don't think that she got through to the hard-core Hillary supporters. I liked her speech and thought it was very good. Maybe she should have said "I know you want to vote for McCain so that I can run again in four years, but you need to vote Barack Obama."

The other teens at the convention are really nice. Everybody is as into politics as I am. It makes me feel very happy I guess. We missed the delegates' breakfast today because some people didn't get ready on time. I am really disappointed. I really wanted to go and talk to the delegates. But at our Junior Statesmen speakers forum today, we have had several interesting speakers. Earlier, there was a rumor that Oprah is going to come and talk to us. But sadly that turned out to be just a rumor.

Junior State has lined up so many great speakers for our group. I am learning so much from these speakers. I really enjoy this part. First up was a speaker that discussed the use of race in past political campaigns. Historically race has been used in the past to stir people's emotions to try and influence how they vote. The speaker felt that very little of that had happened in this campaign which is progress.

Next was Dr. LaTosha Bruce, an expert on rhetoric and body language. She gave us several fascinating tips on how body language communicates more than words do. She said that people use their hands to point to their most valuable assets. So when Obama points at the crowd, he is saying that the people listening are the most important thing to him.

We had Mr. Peter Fenn, president of Fenn communications' group come and talk to us about campaign advertising. He disscussed how there are two types of negative campaigning direct attack and comparison attack. It's wierd to think that there are people who actually sit around and plan negative campaign attack ads.

I am concerned about Bill Clinton speaking tonight I worry that he may give more amunition to the Republicans to use against Barack Obama. I am not sure why he is speaking at the convention. I guess because he was the last Democratic president.
Tomorrow, the Junior Statesmen teens are volunteering at Invesco field for the Obama's acceptance speach event. We have to be there at 9 am to get through the Secret Service security and to help set up for the event. I am not sure what we will be doing, but I am really excited to be part of this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Local teen in "his element" at convention

David McKee, 15, of Waxhaw, is attending the Democratic Convention in Denver as part of the Junior Statesmen of America program. Here's a dispatch from him on Tuesday:
"This morning we listened to former Senator Bob Graham. He is also former governor of Florida. He said that he has held 408 different jobs during his life time! Among his jobs was an MTV video for Jimmy Buffet. It's about a couple that goes to Florida and falls in love with someone else. He played the husband in the video. Senator Graham has been a real Jack of all trades. I guess politics is the job that stuck.

We also heard from George McGovern who ran for president in 1972. He talked about his military service and his time in the second world war. He compared the prime of his life to this time. He remembers when delegates were elected by middle-aged white guys who just nominated other middle aged white guys. A lot has changed, and he thinks it is good. He compared Barack Obama's speaking style to that of Abraham Lincoln. McGovern said that there needs to be humor in politics, and that Obama brings that into his speeches. He thinks that Obama speaks in a way that he himself can understand, in a way that is more like the average guy.

On this trip, one of the other teens that I met is a neo-conservative/ Libertarian. He doesn't like John McCain, he likes Ron Paul. He thinks we should privatize everything. He thinks that we should have minimal government. He thinks people riot at protests just because the police are there. He thinks if the police where not present at a protest then things would be peaceful. He says that Libertarians want no police, no federal reserve, no government regulation at all, no taxes at all. I thought to myself, without taxes, how would you run schools, and build bridges and roads? He's very nice, but I had to work hard to keep my composure while talking to him. I decided not talk politics with him, just keeping it casual!

We then heard from Andrea Stewart-Cousins, former New York state senator from Albany, where we used to live. She talked about what she did in the state senate. We moved from Albany NY to Charlotte six years ago, and for me her voice sounded like home.

Our next Speaker talked about gender issues. She was a really strong old fashioned feminist. She thought that gender should be the most important issue in this election. She felt that all women should be voted for just because they are women. Obviously, as an aspiring Senator myself, I didn't quite agree.

I am looking forward to Hillary speaking. Who wouldn't?

Monday night during the speeches, I though that Ted Kennedy was amazing. He's a great speaker. I was moved by what he had to say. I especially remember him saying "that the dream will live on and that Barack will carry the torch forward".

I feel like I am in my element. I am surrounded by people who love what I love!

What it's like at the Democrats' convention

David McKee is our teen correspondent at the Democratic Convention in Denver. Here's his dispatch on how things are going. He had computer trouble so his mom Carol sent this to us late Monday night:

"David arrived in Denver Sunday afternoon on a smooth direct flight from Charlotte. He was met at the airport by the folks at Junior Statesmen of America. Teens from all over the country have come to Denver for the convention. In fact, while hundreds of teens applied, only 250 nationally were chosen to attend. David is one of only six teens from the State of North Carolina to be chosen. They got up very early this morning (5 AM) in order to attend the North Carolina delegates breakfast at the convention center. Just the teens from our state were present at this breakfast, where they were able to sit and talk to the delegates, and listen to State Party leaders address the group.
"In the afternoon, they were whisked off to the Cable center at University of Denver for a Meet the Delegates speakers program. David was most impressed hearing from the youngest super delegate at the convention, Stephen Rae who is just 18 years old. For David, who is very passionate about politics, it was encouraging to see that you don't need to middle aged in order to be active in your party. David aspires to be a Senator, and is also very encouraged to hear that the Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden began his Senate career at the age of 29. Maybe he wont need to wait 30 years to get involved!

"After a quick dinner, it's off to the Denver Convention center for a watch party for this evenings convention activities. He is looking forward to hearing Michelle Obama speaking, and is hoping that the rumor about Ted Kennedy's appearance tonight turns out to be true.
Security is very, very tight here. It is hard to even get near to the Pepsi Center. There are lots of protesters out on the streets.
"Tomorrow the Junior Statesmen teens will hear from Former FL. Gov. Bob Graham and 1972 George McGovern. In the afternoon, they will attend Democratic youth Council at the convention center. "

Michelle O nailed it

Watching Michelle Obama's speech Monday night was like watching gymnast Nastia Liukin dazzle the Beijing crowds with a flawless tumbling routine.

Obama's task was to dispel the Republicans' attempts to portray her and her husband, Barack, as "elites," to make clear she loves her country and – probably most difficult – to walk the cliff edge that Americans require of any potential First Lady.

First Lady candidates are supposed to be warm, charming and socially flawless – without seeming the least bit studied or overly concerned about manners and appearances. Without looking as if they care too much about wardrobes, hairstyles or their looks they're supposed to be attractive and fashionable and have perfect eyebrows.

They're supposed to be smart and accomplished – without raising any suspicions that they might actually try to have anything to do with their husband's public policies. They're supposed to favor women's rights, and careers are fine as long as they make clear they think of themselves as wives and mothers foremost and, perhaps most important, know how to bake cookies.

Michelle Obama pulled it off. She talked movingly, yet with flawless poise and delivery, of growing up on Chicago's South Side in a blue-collar family with a father who suffered from multiple sclerosis and a mother whom she called a "rock." She talked about her husband's similarly middle- and working-class background, and of his love for his daughters. And she talked about her love of her country.

Some McCain supporters have tried to portray her as a Marxist liberal activist and as an "angry black woman" along the lines of '60s leftist activist Angela Davis, although she's a hospital executive and a corporate lawyer. Monday night she needed to dispel critics who pounded her in February for a supposed lack of patriotism after she said: "People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics, and ... for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."

She did all that with grace, charm and a 150-watt smile. It was the equivalent of a double back flip with a twist. (And her eyebrows looked just terrific.)

Posted by Mary Newsom

Monday, August 25, 2008

Women voting? Not so crazy an idea

Before August 26, 1920 when the 19th Amendment became law, women had to make a case for why they should be allowed to vote. In North Carolina, the Equal Suffrage Association of North Carolina laid out theirs in a written statement called, "Twelve Reasons Why Women Should Vote." Among their commonsense reasons were these:
Because those who obey the laws should help choose those who make the laws.
Because laws have an effect on women as much as men.
Because laws affecting children should include the woman's point of view as much as the man's.
Women's Equality Day Tuesday acknowledges the struggle of women in getting the right to vote. N.C. women had a long fight on their hands. When the first women's suffrage bill came before state lawmakers, it was referred to the committee on insane asylums. That's right. Women voting was considered crazy.
N.C. was the next to last state to ratify the 19th Amendment, with lawmakers approving in 1971. Mississippi was the longest holdout, waiting until 1984 to give its stamp of approval. Better late than never, we suppose.
Find these and other facts about the women's suffrage movement in North Carolina on the UNC university libraries site,

Catharsis: smells like politics

From YouTube: a new product just in time for the Democratic convention . . .

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden: Safe, savvy choice. But does it matter?

Sen. Joe Biden was a safe and savvy choice for a vice presidential candidate to run with Barack Obama. But unless the choice is someone voters believe unfit to step in as president, does the second name on a presidential ticket really matter?

Biden, 65, a six-term Delaware senator who has chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and now chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, brings decades of Washington expertise to the ticket. He's a blue-collar Catholic who was born in Scranton, Pa., a state expected to be a key battleground in November.  

What voters look for in a veep candidate is someone whom they're comfortable with as a fill-in president, in case something happens to the chief executive. They don't want a dumbbell, a crook (remember Spiro Agnew?) or anyone with unexamined skeletons in the closet. 

Joe Biden fits that bill. He's had his share of uncomfortable publicity, because he, too, ran for president– in 1988 and this year. But his gaffes have been extensively aired: In 1988 he gave a speech with wording suspiciously similar to one given by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.  In 2007, he got in trouble for saying, of Obama's candidacy, that he is "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." And campaigning in New Hampshire he said, "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent."  It's easy to see why the guy didn't go into a career as a diplomat.

Some die-hard Hillary Clinton supporters are disappointed, of course. But choosing Clinton – if she would have accepted – might well have lost as many voters as it gained. She remains a divisive figure, and some undetermined number of voters simply aren't ready to vote for a woman. 

Joe Biden's not a guy who keeps his mouth closed. That could make for a more interesting campaign. Whether it will make the difference between victory and defeat for Barack Obama is nothing anyone can, at this stage of the campaign, say with any certitude.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How many homes make you 'elite'?

Er, just who's the "elitist" again? Looks as if the John McCain supporters trying to depict Democrat Barack Obama as elitist might oughtta change their tune. It turns out McCain didn't know how many homes he and his wife, Cindy, own. The answer, Sen. McCain, is at least eight. asked McCain Wednesday how about the number of homes he and his wife own. McCain said, "I think -- I'll have my staff get back to you."

A Politico analysis of property and tax records and interviews found that the McCain family owns at least eight. (Listen here to the question and response: Download here)

Technically McCain doesn't own any homes. They're all owned by his wife, Cindy, her dependent children and the trusts and companies they control. Cindy McCain inherited control of her father's beer distributorship -- Arizona's largest -- and is worth an estimated $100 million.

Politico found five of the eight McCain properties were purchased between summer 2004 and last February, for a total of $11 million. They're condominiums: Two are near San Diego and three are in Phoenix. One of the Phoenix condos became the couple's primary Phoenix residence after a Cindy McCain family trust in 2006 sold for $3.2 million the house in which they raised their children. It's 6,600 square feet and cost $4.7 million.

The two California condos, in Coronado, cost a total of $4.7 million. Cindy McCain bought them in 2004 and this year, through another family corporation. The other homes are: a ranch outside Sedona, Ariz.; a three-bedroom Arlington, Va., condo; a La Jolla, Calif., condo that's home to Cindy McCain's elderly aunt and on which the family trust recently paid nearly $7,000 in back taxes.

Of course, the Obama campaign created a video ad almost instantly. And McCain's campaign continued to lambaste Obama for having a "mansion" in Chicago. They may want to rethink that strategy. Obama and his wife paid $1.65 million for their home in 2005. And there's only one of it.

Fighting over who's "elite" is silly. Wealth neither confers success nor guarantees failure. Consider elites George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and both Roosevelts. Consider non-elites Richard Nixon and Andrew Johnson -- and Abraham Lincoln. It was ridiculous when George Bush -- scion of a family with generations of wealth -- depicted John Kerry as too "elite."

(Irony noted: Kerry had married an heiress. Wonder what the GOPers who pooh-poohed that in 2004 are saying about Cindy McCain?)

Any voter who's deciding whom to vote for based on who's an elite isn't using enough brain cells.

Posted by Mary Newsom

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Smooth start for school buses? That's a laugh riot

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials are saying they're in better shape for the start of school this year than last year because they've got no school bus driver vacancies. We're pleased to hear that.

But if you think the first week of school bus rides will go smoothly, we have some underwater land we'd like to sell you.

With 111,000 students riding 135,000 miles daily, and 37,000 sub stops, there will be problems. Many problems. It's impossible not to have them. Buses will break down. Drivers will get sick. Those "practice runs" many drivers take don't iron out all the wrinkles.

Experienced CMS parents know the first week of school bus riding is fraught with problems. Is the bus late, or does it not have your child's stop on its list? Should you give up and drive to school, or wait another 10 minutes? And if you call the school transportation office, will anyone answer?

In previous years, parents couldn't get answers because all the bus office lines were busy and stayed that way for hours.

If CMS can solve its inability to get timely answers to frantic first-week-of-school parents, then the other, predictable busing snafus will be a lot easier for parents to weather.
Posted by Mary Newsom.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Football at UNCC!

Now that we have your attention ...

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois remained coy about football at the faculty convocation Wednesday. Here's a link to his complete remarks covering what he sees coming in the new academic year. (Also see video posted here.)
He covered equity issues with UNC system funding, long-term staff and faculty needs and campus security, among other things.
Here's what he said about football:
"Seriously, I have nothing more to say about football this morning other than
that I still hope to deliver a recommendation to the Trustees in September,
but it is impossible to know whether they will act on that recommendation at
that time or take it under advisement for decision later in the fall or thereafter. I am continuing my process of due diligence and do plan to share a good bit of my
research with the Faculty Council early in the fall."
More mystery, more intrigue. More waiting to see if pursuit of athletic prowess or academic muscle will steer the university to its identity. - Posted by Mary Schulken

Protests in China: Reality vs. Rhetoric

"We think that you do not really understand China's reality. China has its own version and way of exercising our democracy," Wang Wei, vice president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, told journalists.

Oh no, Mr. Wang, we understand quite well.

China is being pressured to show it has improved its human rights record, as it promised to do as it vied to host the Olympics. Before the Games opened, it said political protests were not forbidden. They'd be allowed in three parks. Of course, the parks are far from the game venues. And if you want to protest, you must follow the rules. Fill out applications with detailed paperwork five days in advance. Protests must not harm "national, social and collective interests."

And here's the kicker. Out of 77 applications for protests received, not one has been approved: 74 were "withdrawn," two were suspended and one was rejected.

This is China's reality: No matter what the government has said or says now, it is not open to protest or free speech. Period.

Posted by Mary Newsom

Monday, August 18, 2008

The racial story Democrats won't tell

When the Democratic convention opens Aug. 25 in Denver, expect to hear party chest-pounding on the history that will play out there: Democrats are expected to designate an African American as their candidate for the White House.
The nomination of Barack Obama will be an exciting moment for a nation with a history of deep racial inequality.

But, as an article in the Wall Street Journal points out, the Democratic party has whitewashed its own racial history.
A commentary linked here by Jeffrey Lord, creator, co-founder and CEO of a conservative video site and a Reagan White House political director and author points out the party built its success in the 19th century on a platform that supported slavery and its success in the 20th century supported segregation and discriminatory Jim Crow laws that make blacks second class citizens.

He writes:

The missing history raises the obvious question of whether the Democrats, unable
or simply unwilling to put their party on record as taking direct responsibility
for one of the worst racial crimes of the ages, will be able to run a campaign
free of the racial animosities it has regularly brought both to American
presidential campaigns and American political and social life in general.

The article fails to mention that a Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, was the pivatol political player in enacting the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in the 1960s, which undid the most substantial legal barriers blacks faced in America.
Yet Lord raises a good point: Why aren’t the Democrats being honest about the party's checkered past? Can that past really be overcome?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The story the Enquirer hasn't reported

You win a few, you lose a few.

Here’s a story you probably won’t read in the flush-with-newfound-credibility National Enquirer: reports the Enquirer has settled a lawsuit filed by a Cape Cod woman who claimed the tabloid filed false and defamatory stories about her supposed "love child." with Ted Kennedy.
Read about it here.

What a wacky fishbowl. The tabloid that's perhaps wrong about Kennedy turns out to be right about John Edwards? (Here's the latest Enquirer reporting on that.) But who knows if it's true or not?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What? Congress has money ties to big oil?

What? Members of Congress with financial ties to oil business? Really?
And Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., who represents the 8th District, leads the top-25 list of those with holdings in leading oil companies?
Read about it here. The Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group for disclosure by government, used personal financial reporting databases to make a list of representatives in Congress with connections to oil. Some have a little money tied to oil. Others, such as Rep. Hayes, have a lot.
So, guess who stands to gain if energy policy and reforms favor oil, and consumpion? Lawmakers with financial ties do.

How can Washington enact responsible long-term energy policy changes – ones that include conservation, alternative energy sources and mass transit – with those kinds of connections?
Posted by Mary Schulken

Friday, August 8, 2008

Edwards' affair: Trite. Hypocritical. Ordinary.

Confession may be good for the soul, but what does it do for a former presidential candidate who was supposed to make a speech at the Democratic convention? John Edwards told ABC News today that, yes, he had an affair and he had lied about it while running for president, but that he wasn't the father of her baby.

According to ABC News' Web site, friends of the woman, Rielle Hunter, 44, said Edwards met her at a New York City bar in 2006. His political action committee later paid her $114,000 to produce campaign website documentaries despite her lack of experience. Edwards told ABC the affair began after she was hired by his campaign. He also said that his wife, Elizabeth Edwards -- whose cancer was in remission at the time -- and others in the family learned of the affair in 2006.

How trite. How tawdry. How hypocritical. And how ordinary.

If American political life were scrubbed free of all men (and women) who'd had extramarital affairs, precious few would serve. Even Charlotte's own Republican Rep. Sue Myrick, a very public born-again Christian, had an affair before she married her current husband, Ed.

If affairs disqualified men for the presidency, we'd have had no FDR, no JFK, no Clinton, probably no Eisenhower. (No Warren G. Harding, either, but almost everyone agrees that would have been a good thing.) Thomas Jefferson wasn't married while he was president, but he fathered children with his late wife's slave (and half-sister).

Edwards' actions were sleazy, and his credibility is probably destroyed. Keep him off the speaker's podium at the convention. Please. But he's not even a candidate anymore. Can't we devote some of that considerable reporting energy expended on the Edwards love child story to some topics that, in the end, will make more of a difference to more people's lives?