Saturday, June 30, 2012

Town Budget Passes 5-0, Multi-Family Housing Residents Get a Couple Surprises

The Town passed its budget for 2012-2013 this past week and decided to earmark $350,000 of the Mi-Connection interlocal agreement windfall for "capital projects".  This is just a bit different from what was originally reported which was the entire windfall would go to replenish the Town's savings account.  Some of this decision is due to a State restriction which allows only 5% of a budget to go to fund balance in a given year.  However, the decision to plan the rest for more spending projects is a concious decision by the Board to do that rather than give any relief to taxpayers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Streetcar Supporters Run Away, Live to Fight Another Day

So what happened at the CharMeck Government Center on Monday night?

In the blink of an eye, Charlotte City Council went from a veto threat against a compromise budget that would still have spent over $600 million in additional capital projects to one that included zero dollars.  Yes, zero.  No tax increase this year and no new Capital Improvement Plan or CIP. 

The vote occurred along faction lines, not party lines, with the breakaway Democrats (Barnes, Cannon, Fallon, and Pickering) voting for the smaller plan and 2.44c tax increase that did not include the Streetcar.  Republicans Dulin and Cooksey switched votes to side with the Mayor's new zero tax increase budget, along with all of the Streetcar supporters.

Ironically, in the end only the two Republicans on the Council got what they wanted.  That's an amazing feat when outnumbered 9-2!

However, why did this happen the way it did? 

Monday, June 25, 2012

NC-9 - Predictable Disappointment...

This article from the CO about the pending runoff between Pendergraph and Pittenger was completely predictable. 

Some voters in NC ninth runoff not happy with candidates -

See below posts about the causes of same from before the first primary...

No Rest for the Wicked...More Negative Adds in NC-09 Posted 5/9
Do Candidates Matter or Just Money? Answer Posted 5/8
Pendergraph Electability Takes a Hit Posted 5/4
Do Candidates Matter or Just Money? Posted 5/3
NC9 Congressional: The Case for Killian. Posted 4/26

Saturday, June 23, 2012

NCS41 Debate

Jeff Tarte and John Aneralla met for a debate at Cornelius Town Hall on Thursday during lunch.  As one would expect in a primary between members of the same party, the candidates agreed on many points.  While it's difficult for Twitter to communicate complex topics, the below series does show a couple of themes. First, neither candidate comes off as a liberal. Both give fairly standard conservative answers. However, where they disagree, John Aneralla consistently took a more conservative stance. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Next Week Is BIG...

Next week is big for Davidson. 

Here's what is on the docket for the Davidson area...

Davidson Budget Vote 6/26...the Board pushed the budget vote until this specially scheduled "work session" because of information discovered late on the solid waste fee revenues.  These are coming in lower than expected and Staff originally thought this was due to a billing error on the part of the County.  This appears to be the case and communications to those who were not billed will be going out soon.  How this impacts the budget decision is unclear at this point, but don't be surprised to see an adjustment to the schedule of fees as part of the agenda to be posted on Friday.

Red Line Task Force Meeting 6/ reported here earlier, a meeting has been held with Norfolk Southern on their concerns with the Red Line plan.  The outcome of that meeting will directly impact the timeline of the project.

CHS Mental Health Facility Meeting at River Run 6/28...This meeting will be interesting.  River Run is hosting the meeting with their POA President (and newly minted Livability Board member) Mickey Pettus supporting the Town position on the project while other RR residents are leading the opposition to it.  If the meeting channels the same vibe as the recent Commissioner Chat at Hopewell Baptist near RR, there will be fireworks.  Longtime watchers of local board meetings remember that "chat" as one of the most contentious Town meetings in recent memory.

Bonus Opportunity for Regional Drama...

Charlotte Budget Vote on 6/25...The Streetcar project has become a major sticking point and Mayor Foxx has threatened a veto the budget if it is not included.  How will the compromise NC State Budget which restored LYNX Blue Line Extension funding impact the Democrats who bravely voted down the City budget last week?  Will they hold firm on dumping the Streetcar or will they get weak knees now that the Republican-led Legislature has decided to give $250m for a train of their own.

Legislators restore light rail funding in NC budget -Charlotte Observer

Update: The CHS meeting has been postponed per

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Red Line Update...

Not much has been heard about the Red Line in recent weeks other than repeated attempts to plan a June meeting with Norfolk Southern to fully understand their complaints.  Per an email from Mayor Woods that meeting has apparently taken place and will be the topic of discussion at next week's Red Line Task Force session on 6/27. 

At the end of June, the clock will really start ticking on the financing plan behind this project.  On June 30, 2013, the state legislation expires which allows Special Assessment District revenue to back bonds sold to fund a project.  If that occurs the project would be dead in the water regardless of  what Norfolk Southern has to say.

The new Legislature will have to vote on granting this extension, and doing so will in effect be voting to back hundreds of millions in Red Line debt since there's no reason to extend the legislation other than this debt.  To be sure, that could be interesting in this political environment.

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Public Service Announcement - Blackberries are ready for picking!


Wild blackberries are one of the true delicacies of living in the South. Starting sometime in late June through July the deliciously tart berries ripen from red to black and are good in everything from ice cream to cobbler. One of the simplest and favorite ways to enjoy them is simmered with ample amounts of sugar and served over hot biscuits. Freeze them in zip lock bags, and you can enjoy them all year long.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Engineering an Upset at Charlotte City Council

It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.  -Samuel Adams

Not intending to be overly dramatic, but that quote came to mind this morning as I listened to Warren Cooksey of Charlotte City Council explain how four Democrats were convinced to break ranks and vote down an 8% tax increase.   Whether that result can hold under what must surely be intense pressure remains to be seen.  However, the achievement of the surprise vote this past Monday should not go underappreciated.

Commissioners Dulin and Cooksey worked relentlessly over several weeks to educate some of the newer members of council on the alternatives.  The more experienced members were certainly made aware of the political consequences of pursuing an unpopular tax increase. Activists in groups like SMART and CAUTION kept up the pressure.  Regular citizens called and wrote council members to express their opposition.

All of this resulted in a board where Democrats hold a 9-2 advantage voting down a budget that was supposed to be a sure thing.  In fact it was such a sure thing that Mayor Anthony Foxx apparently put in little effort ensuring that he had the votes.

In what must surely be an embarrassing ordeal leading up to the DNC, Mayor Foxx is now spending the latter half of this week attending the US Conference of Mayors.  Rather than basking in the glory of being the mayor of the city hosting one of the biggest political events of the year, he is answering uncomfortable questions about who is really in charge in Charlotte.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Local Rail Transit in the Crosshairs

Seemingly out of nowhere, every high-dollar rail transit project on the CATS project list has suddenly come under serious fire. 

The Red Line missteps have been well documented here in this blog and elsewhere, but in the last few days the Charlotte Streetcar and even the Blue Line Extension are no longer the sure things once predicted.

This week's Charlotte City Council defeat of the City Manager's budget proposal was at least partially driven by the high cost of the Streetcar funding included in the budget's capital plan - $119 million in bonds that would be paid for by a large property tax increase.  After last November's elections and the near sweep of City Council by the Democrats, passage of the budget and the Streetcar funding seemed a sure thing.  Tuesday's 5-6 vote with 4 Dems voting with the Council's 2 Republicans came as a total shock - particularly to Mayor Foxx who has long been a Streetcar proponent.  When this budget ordinance comes back around later this month, don't be surprised is the Streetcar is the major spending item that is not on the list.  See this Observer article for more background.

Even more surprising is the risk posed to the Blue Line Extension to UNCC in northeast Charlotte by the State Legislature.  The State Senate has passed a budget amendment that removes funding for Charlotte rail projects which would effectively kill the BLE.  While this is an outside possibility, polling shows that it would be supported statewide if not by the entire local legislative delegation - both Republicans and Democrats.  Mecklenburg Republican, Ric Killian, has proposed a gas tax cap that will likely be voted on this session.  If it passes, recent polling by Civitas shows that funding for mass transit is the top target of taxpayers if gas tax revenue is reduced.  See question #9 on these recent polling results.  59% of respondents say cut mass transit first if the gas tax cap brings in less revenue.  The next closest is "New Road Construction" at 27%.  If the gas tax cap passes, this will give them political cover to pull BLE funding.

Oh what a difference six months makes.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

June Board Meeting Rundown - No Budget Vote, And More Importantly - No Camping with Mace

Davidson's June meeting Tuesday evening was short by recent standards.  That was mostly due to the big item on the agenda - the 2013 budget - being pushed to a newly scheduled work session two weeks from now.  The stated reason was how long it has taken to get a handle on the lagging revenues from the solid waste fee.  Town Manager Leamon Brice said this was just nailed down late last week so staff needed time to incorporate that into a final budget.  That would seem to say that these revenues may be lagging for a valid reason and staff needs time to reconfigure the budget based on lower revenues.  Since solid waste is now an enterprise fund that is concerning since its revenues are supposed to fully cover the service.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Davidson Trifecta: DCG, Market "Flash Mob", and Band of Oz

This weekend around town provided a trifecta of examples why Davidson is a great place to live.  As I've said before it's like living in a Norman Rockwell painting at times and this weekend was one of those times.

Davidson Absent from Town Hall Day in Raleigh

This past Wednesday was "Town Hall Day" in Raleigh.  It's an annual event put on by the League of Municipalities for representatives from cities and towns across the state to meet with their legislative delegations.  There was also a dinner that night with our delegation to the Legislature.

Davidson appeared to be the only Mecklenburg municipality that did not send any representatives this year. 

It's the first time Davidson has missed the event in years according to Town Manager Leamon Brice.  The absence was due to some unstated scheduling conflicts.

Unfortunately, it seems like a missed opportunity to work the state legislature - particularly considering some of the serious concerns and requests Davidson has on the docket with the State.  While I don't necessarily agree with all of these concerns, there are at least 3 items needing Legislative support that have been a focus for the Town in recent months.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

On deck in Davidson...2013 Budget Approval...then 4-Year Term Referendum

As schools let out and we head into the summer political doldrums, two events are on deck at Town Hall in Davidson. 

Commissioners need to approve the 2013 budget by the end of June.  This should be unexciting since they have decided to kick-the-can down the road regarding decisions on what to do with the Mi-Connection dollars freed up by the new interlocal agreement.  As of now, that money will sit in fund balance - waiting to be spent at a later date - with no indications that taxpayers will get any relief.

The second event officially begins in July with the proposed Charter Amendment to extend Commissioner and Mayoral terms from 2-years to 4-years.  See schedule here.   This maneuver by Town Hall promises fireworks if the Board goes forward with a referendum on the change this November.

Update: No mention of either item on the June agenda.  Guess these will wait a little longer.

Update 2: is now reporting that the budget will be voted on tomorrow.  Sorry if I missed it, but check the above link for the current agenda.  It is the first item under "old business".

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Will Red Line buyer's remorse hit Davidson residents like those in California?

Came across this link on Facebook - Poll: Voters turn against California bullet train - and could not help but think of the recent Citizen Survey results for Davidson and the Red Line.

In California, voters approved bonds to support high-speed rail by a 53% to 47% margin four short years ago.  However, in the recent poll by the LA Times, "fifty-five percent of voters want to see the high-speed rail bond issue that was approved in 2008 back on the ballot, and 59 percent say they would now vote against it."

Why?  Costs skyrocketed.  Project scope reduced.  Environmental and societal impacts surfaced.

On the most recent Citizen Survey, 59% of respondents in Davidson rated building the Red Line as "Essential" or "Very Important".  Of course, the Red Line has been promoted as being cost-free and risk-free, so I suppose one can see why the results would be that one-sided.

If the Red Line eventually goes forward and reality has its say (like it did with Mi-C and always does) will Davidson have Red Line buyer's remorse?

Bonus Observation:  The LKN Citizen named Mayor Woods "Citizen of the Year" in 2011 for his role in driving the Red Line forward.  At last week's Commissioner Chat, Mayor Woods sort of cringed when someone in the audience called him the "face of the Red Line".  I wonder if he's now having "politician's remorse"?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Have we lost Davidson?

At one point during Tueday's Commissioner Chat one of the speakers lamented that we have "lost Davidson".  Is that true?  Have we "lost" what makes Davidson, Davidson?

As a new resident - at two years I still consider myself new - I probably don't have the perspective to answer that question.  However, the long-time resident making the statement at  last Tuesday's Commissioner Chat obviously felt very passionate and disappointed that it may be true.