Thursday, March 27, 2014

One view: Cannon a symptom of something much worse

Former long-time City Council member and curmudgeon Don Reid has been railing for years against the culture of local government. He has questioned just about every major project Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have engaged in, from the uptown arena to the NASCAR Hall.

In an email this morning to WBT's Keith Larson cc'd to the Observer editorial board, Reid gives his take on the arrest of then-Mayor Patrick Cannon. He suggests that any corruption Cannon is guilty of is not so different from more official actions.

Do you agree or disagree?

Here's Reid's edited note:

Here’s my take:  All this self-righteous indignation from the former mayors and others is nauseating.  Although this Cannon situation may be worst case, Charlotte is not this paragon of virtue that has suddenly been prostituted by one person.
Tell me how this is different from the spending of public money on projects like NASCAR Museum and Whitewater, based on lies and exaggerations of economic impact and attendance figures!
How is this different from a mayor and council holding an arena referendum costing the taxpayers over $100,000---then ignoring the result? ...
... How is this any different from having the uptown crowd form a political arm to destroy their opponents while using its financial influence to co-opt other elected officials?
How is this any different than the way many elected officials/bureaucrats and former elected officials/bureaucrats “find” jobs with institutions that need their political influence?
How is this any different from elected officials ‘stealing’ taxpayer money and awarding it to selective companies and supporters in the form of incentives….ie millions to the Panthers and the millions that are certain to be given to the Bobcats-Hornets?
How is this different from ... extravagances like the cross-town trolley and light rail when half our roads are in disrepair and traffic clogs our freeways?
The list could be much longer…….but this is the Charlotte Way…..crony capitalism is the hallmark of the uptown crowd and the billions spent on city and county contracts.  This is what the airport dispute was all about!  All this may qualify as being ‘legal’,  but corruption never-the-less and undermines any attempt by self-righteous, Charlotte’s so called leaders and politicians to paint Charlotte a ‘city of sanctity!’
Charlotte, indeed, needs a cleansing, but the resignation of Pat Cannon will not accomplish this----it is only a symptom.


Pete said...

It comes across to me as somewhat of an unprofessional, wide-ranging rant rather than a reasoned argument. However he does make some good points, and I do agree with the underlying concern that Cannon is simply the most clumsy and unsophisticated of a larger culture of politicians that get away with similar behavior hidden behind indirect methods.

Jon Pfeifer said...

And what is Don Reid's vision for this city? What does he feel the role of government is? Pick up the trash, replace the bulbs in the streetlights and keep adding lanes to 485 every few years until we have a 12 lane superhighway from Mint Hill to 77? It sounds like he's just complaining about projects that differentiate Charlotte from a suburban wasteland.

Garth Vader said...

Jon Pfeifer,

If those projects had merit, the government would not have to force their funding at gunpoint.

Cornelia said...

In lieu of any information as to what happened with such things as the flawed reval and the airport fiasco that ended with the city's firing Orr, how can one disagree with Reid. Some of Vilma's constituents believed that their properties were grossly undervalued so that developers could snatch them up cheap; some residents of Cornelius and south Charlotte believed their properties were inflated in order to compensate for the undervalued properties elsewhere. Outdated property cards could not possibly have been to blame, but that was the only explanation we were given. No bureaucrat was ever fired for the errors. City staff saw no repercussions for grossly inflating the attendance figures or underestimating the cost of the NASCAR HOF or the Whitewater Center's projected revenues.What was firing Orr all about--to whom contracts were awarded? How about the proposed doubling of the food and beverage tax when only a fraction was needed for the stated purpose. And the streetcar that makes no sense from a ridership/transportation prospective? One that property taxes will have to subsidize if and when it is operating? It certainly does not look as if these decisions benefit the ordinary citizens of Charlotte/Mecklenburg. This scandal and the smoke around hurts this area's future--in the short term and for years to come. Compared to other southern metro areas, we were already faring poorly.

Cornelia said...

Make that "perspective." I cannot type but I can spell.

blockhead said...

Some of us have made similar arguments for years. Pat McCrory never needed to be flagrantly corrupt - he was a tool of big business who did whatever he was told. His payoff was his so-called job at Duke Energy (did anybody ever, ever figure out what he purportedly did there?) Hugh McColl now piously laments Cannon's lack of honesty. This is the Hugh McColl who openly bragged about how, as CEO of then-NationsBank, he circumvented banking laws restricting interstate mergers to build today's too-big-to-fail Bank of America. Hugh McColl was a champion of Bill Simms, the CEO - and for a while, the golden boy of uptown Charlotte - of TransAmerica who in the 1990s, made up his entire life's story, including lying about winning an Olympic gold metal. For a year or two, McColl was draped around Simms' shoulder like a wet rag, every step he took. And who was the champion of McColl, Simms, et al? Rolfe Neill, publisher of The Observer, who never met an uptown fat cat he didn't like. Cannon may be proven a criminal (he's innocent until proven guilty). None of these others, and a dozen or so like them, will likely ever come to trial.

blockhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cornelia said...

I wonder if Patrick has begun to sing and to whom his first song will be dedicated. Ought to be lyrics worth hearing.

blockhead said...

An observation, for what it's worth (which is probably what you're paying for it - nothing).

There's a parallel here between this indictment and countless stings set up mostly by sheriff's departments in which a deputy poses on line as an underage boy or girl and entices a bonehead pervert into propositioning a sexual encounter. No crime, other than solicitation, is actually committed. There is no actual "victim."

In this case, no real crime was committed except, allegedly, Cannon's demonstration that he was open to being bribed. Since it was altogether a sting, there is no actual "victim." The really interesting point, which I'm sure The Observer and other media must be pursuing hotly, was a passing phrase in the initial story about his arrest. That is, that the FBI stepped in at the behest of "local police" who'd heard repeated reports to Cannon's alleged misbehavior. That's where the real story lies. That hints that there were actual cases in which he took bribes. From whom, and for what? The bribers, seems to me, are on the hook too.

Curmudgeon said...

Don Reid and Cornelia raise excellent points about actions by those in power and with influence that, while perhaps legal, are less than ethical and/or above board.
The sad news is that this type of behavior certainly exists in every city in America.
It is also worth noting in the case of Mr. Cannon that Charlotte's mayor has NO power per se. He doesn't hire, he can't fire, he supervises nothing. His sole role is as figurehead. He presides over city council and votes if there is a tie. That's it folks! He not only took money from the FBI, he lied to them about his ability to influence things such as zoning.

Cornelia said...

Curmudgeon, there is a whale of a difference between power bestowed by the position (none in the case of the mayor of Charlotte) and an individual's actual power. The city manager owes his/her job to the council (mayors have frequently served on the council.) How do I know that Charlotte's bureaucrats have not operated in an environment that yielded to the wishes of the majority of the council or to very smooth or strong personalities? As I said in my earlier post, something surely went on during the reval with some county bureaucrats. We have never been told what so we are left to assume the worst. Carlee's slight of hand in magically finding the pot of gold at the end of the streetcar rainbow makes me concerned that that was a condition of his being hired. You will recall that Foxx was his chief sponsor. How do we ordinary citizens know that heavy campaign contributors had not already gotten options to buy land along the (fool's) gold line and, therefore, it had to go through no matter what? We have been seeing that play out on the state level for decades.

Shamash said...

I figured Cannon wasn't trustworthy when I heard how he made his money off his parking business.

And then, when there were rumors and such that he worked behind the scenes to censor the group American Renaissance.

I figured he was rotten to the core, then, with no respect for anything this country represents much less a city, county, or state.

Rotten enough to violate someone's first amendment rights, but just too sneaky to get caught.

But "good" enough to get elected by many people's low standards.

Anyway, in this case, all this smoke finally led to a fire.

I'm just glad it got snuffed out before something really big got screwed up.

But as a former mayor in prison, he can swap tall tales with his buddies from New Orleans and Birmingham.

I hope there's more to come from anyone else who is dishonest in government.

Because there is more than enough cronyism in CharMeck to go around.

Shamash said...


Influence comes in many forms.

Official and unofficial.

Officially Charlotte's mayor has no power.

But look where the last few are today. One's a governor and the other a high ranking federal apointee.

Officially, Patrick Cannon cannot thwart ANYONE'S First Amendment rights.

Unofficially, he apparently can.

Since he did.

Unfortunately, we'll probably NEVER know the whole story behind a politician's "unofficial" powers and wheeling and dealing.

So "where's the beef" (as they used to say)?

All we usually see is the smoke and sizzle they leave behind.

If convicted, I wish him a long and unhappy life in the slammer.

Eventually some of our elected officials will figure out this is serious stuff.

Kevin M said...

"...Charlotte is not this paragon of virtue that has suddenly been prostituted by one person."

Thank you. Many of us have been saying this for years.

Questions remain: Who else?

Why does the Observer steadfastly refuse to investigate any corruption in city or county government?

Shamash said...


Kevin Siers is on a roll with his editorial cartoons.

Loved the "monopoly" card.

Ghoul said...

Let's not forget Mayor Foxx's wife got a $100,000 job with the county, after the job was posted for a few hours. Reminds me of the fake job Mary Easley got with NCSU, and the fake job Michelle Obama got with a Chicago hospital.

Cornelia said...

And don't forget Rodney's relative and the judge's daughter. All hired by the county. And were not there reports of an assistant county manager's family getting the job of decorating the $70k redo of the former county DHS woman's office? A bunch of cronies, all. and there are reasons to suspect at least favoritism in both local governments.

smarkalek said...

Mr. Reid is right, the relationship between local government officials and the business community is way too cozy, resulting in so called public-private partnerships that are far more beneficial to the private side with the public bearing the vast majority of the expense. Our government is one of the few, by the few and for the few. I wonder if this case isn't just the tip of the iceberg?

John wood said...

Don thank you for your analysis. You did leave out our elections official who steered contracts and went to jail as well as speaker black who was part of our city corruption. Our city attorney fights for closed door sessions and is part of our corrupt culture

Shamash said...


Wasn't there a "church" behind a lot of these cozy government job arrangements?

Seems that I recall something along those lines in the past.

Of course, no one wants to tackle that gorilla.