Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No big-name Democrat wants a U.S. Senate seat?

Are top-tier Democrats afraid to take on Richard Burr? Burr (left), a first-term Republican U.S. senator from Winston-Salem, is looking stronger each time a notable Democrat announces he won't run.

The latest was Mike McIntyre, a congressman from North Carolina's 7th district. He said this week that he feels he can be more effective by running for an eighth term in the House.

So add McIntyre to a list of prominent Democrats who are taking a pass. That list includes Attorney General Roy Cooper and U.S. Reps. Heath Shulter, Brad Miller and Bob Etheridge. State Sen. Malcolm Graham of Charlotte has also said he won't run.

This fact is being touted by the national Republican Party, which is probably confused but relieved. Polls suggest that Burr could be vulnerable to a well-funded challenge from a prominent Democrat next year.

You may think there's plenty of time for someone to step up, given that the election is more than 15 months away. But Burr has a very respectable $2.5 million in the bank. So unless a Democrat plans to spend millions of his own money, no time like the present to get moving.

On the other hand, was anyone giving Kay Hagan a shot in July 2007?

- Posted by Taylor Batten

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lassiter is winning big! No wait! Foxx is!

Isn't it fun how you can make numbers say whatever you want?

Republican John Lassiter's campaign sent out an e-mail today touting Lassiter's commanding lead over Democrat Anthony Foxx in the race for Charlotte mayor. Lassiter is leading Foxx 42-26, with 32 percent undecided, according to a poll from Cornerstone Solutions.

But wait! Six hours later, Foxx's campaign sent out an e-mail saying that Foxx is actually leading, 48-34, with 17 percent undecided, in a poll from Anzalone Liszt Research.

No, we're not sure what to make of that either. One thing that stood out to us: Blacks made up just 13.8 percent of respondents in Cornerstone's poll. We figure they are likely to make up a much larger number than that on Election Day. And one surprising finding: even though the Cornerstone poll had Lassiter comfortably ahead, it showed that Foxx had more support than Lassiter among voters for whom the economy was the most important issue.

On the other hand, the Anzalone poll showed the race pretty much dead even until the pollsters gave information about both candidates. That's when Foxx pulled ahead in that poll. So the pollsters' wording could be crucial there.

In any case, we have a hunch: poll numbers in July might not stand up all the way to November.
-- Posted by Taylor Batten

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Higher taxes for everyone!

So after months of negotiations, state Democratic lawmakers today agreed on a plan: raise taxes by nearly $1 billion to avoid further spending cuts in the state budget -- and do it in a way that hits everyone.
The plan raises taxes by $982 million by hiking the sales tax rate by a penny, adding a 2 percent "surcharge" to state income tax bills and imposing small tax increases on cigarettes (10 cents a pack) and alcohol (about a nickel a six-pack, and 5 percent on liquor).
The plan is badly flawed. It hikes taxes on everyone, including hitting the poor disproportionately, while doing little to address the problems that got us into this situation in the first place. It relies on the same taxes that, this crisis shows, fluctuate too wildly to be a reliable revenue structure for a growing state.
Lawmakers should have cut the income tax rate, not put a surcharge on it. They should have cut the sales tax rate, not increase it. They should have closed loopholes on business taxes. And they should have applied the lower sales tax to more services.
Senate Democrats have been pushing to overhaul the tax system. But it appears the House put doing the right thing on the back burner and just relied on the higher taxes they could get passed.
Which means, we'll be in a budget mess even after this passes. And if you think some of these increases will be "temporary," you haven't been paying attention.
- Posted by Taylor Batten

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Charlotte history unfolds!

The history of Charlotte development in 9 minutes, "Metropolis" is a fun, stop-motion animation video by artist Rob Carter. Click the link to view:

As described on his web site:

is a quirky and very abridged narrative history of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. It uses stop motion video animation to physically manipulate aerial still images of the city (both real and fictional), creating a landscape in constant motion. Starting around 1755 on a Native American trading path, the viewer is presented with the building of the first house in Charlotte. From there we see the town develop through the historic dismissal of the English, to the prosperity made by the discovery of gold and the subsequent roots of the building of the multitude of churches that the city is famous for. Now the landscape turns white with cotton, and the modern city is ‘born’, with a more detailed re-creation of the economic boom and surprising architectural transformation that has occurred in the past 20 years.

"Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, primarily due to the continuing influx of the banking community, resulting in an unusually fast architectural and population expansion that shows no sign of faltering despite the current economic climate. However, this new downtown Metropolis is therefore subject to the whim of the market and the interest of the giant corporations that choose to do business there. Made entirely from images printed on paper, the animation literally represents this sped up urban planners dream, but suggests the frailty of that dream, however concrete it may feel on the ground today. Ultimately the video continues the city development into an imagined hubristic future, of more and more skyscrapers and sports arenas and into a bleak environmental future. It is an extreme representation of the already serious water shortages that face many expanding American cities today; but this is less a warning, as much as a statement of our paper thin significance no matter how many monuments of steel, glass and concrete we build."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Graham to Sotomayor: Elections matter

Leave it to South Carolina's senior senator, Lindsey Graham, to call it like he sees it. During his opening statement at Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing this morning, Graham said what everyone was thinking but wouldn't say:

"Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed."

Graham, a second-term senator from Oconee County, left open the possibility that he would vote to forward her confirmation to the full Senate, the first Republican at the hearing to suggest that. If he does, he could well be the only Republican on the committee to do so.

Graham made clear that he disagreed with Sotomayor on many issues, and he was troubled by her "wise Latina" remark. But he wisely said that was not a reason to vote against her confirmation. President Obama won the November election, Graham pointed out, and "that ought to matter. It does to me."

In other words, Supreme Court nominations have become too politicized. Senators should be judging her intellect, her honesty and her credentials, not whether they agree with her on every issue. Just as most Democrats did when they voted for George W. Bush's nominee for chief justice, John Roberts (78 yes votes).

- Posted by Taylor Batten

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One year, or 50, to help Mecklenburg's needy?

It's only talk, but Willie Ratchford takes it as a good sign.

Mecklenburg County commissioners this afternoon launched the beginnings of a conversation about the cliff Mecklenburg's nonprofits face.

A panel discussion among nonprofit leaders and others last week drew more than 200 people. Carol Hardison of Crisis Assistance Ministry suggested that the community needed a human services strategic plan to tackle the growing woes of the poor.

Today, commissioners discussed what a process would look like to devise such a plan. They agreed to try to convene a meeting next month of all of Mecklenburg's elected bodies to get community-wide buy-in. That's smart, since the problem goes way beyond county government.
Commissioner Harold Cogdell raised eyebrows when, talking about how complicated the problem is, he referred to striving to have a better community "in 30 years, or 50 years."

Commissioner Vilma Leake didn't like that. "Someone said 50 years. I hurt when I hear that," she said. "We need to act right away."

(Cogdell later emphasized that he shares the desire to get something done immediately.)

Commissioner Dan Murrey said the process needs to involve businesses, foundations, hospitals, nonprofits and others, along with government. He said it would take at least a year to devise a comprehensive strategic plan.

Ratchford, executive director of the city's Community Relations Committee who helped organize last week's forum, said he had hoped the forum would spark a conversation about the problem.

"It's starting to happen," he said.

- Posted by Taylor Batten

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mark Sanford: 20 Questions (or maybe 13)

What we wonder:

– Who was waterboarding Mark Sanford and forcing him to keep giving interviews to reporters?

– Is it possible that the continual string of embarrassing interviews was related to the campaign- and media-savvy Jenny Sanford having kicked her husband out of the house?

– How long will it take before the rest of us can announce plans to hike the Appalachian Trail without provoking snickers or eye-rolling?

– How long since Sanford was actually on the Appalachian Trail in mid-June – a spot about as secluded as Myrtle Beach on Fourth of July weekend?

– Who clings more tightly, a drowning man to a raft or a besmirched public official to a job?

– Which shows worse character – having meaningless anonymous sex, or only having sex with someone you love?

– Which shows worse character – having meaningless anonymous extramarital sex or having extramarital sex with someone you love?

– Is “crossed lines” anything akin to “hiking on the Appalachian Trail”?

– How much difference is there between having sex and lying about it if you’re Bill Clinton, and having sex and lying about it if you’re Mark Sanford?

– Is there a “sex line” and if so, where – really – is it?

– Might Cabarrus County commissioner Coy Privette have some tips to share?

– Has Jenny Sanford called Bill Diehl yet?

– What does it say that carrying two pooping piglets into the State House was only your second goofiest moment as governor?

– Posted by Mary Newsom (with an assist from Lew Powell)