Monday, February 25, 2013

Davidson Community Garden Fundraising Update

As mentioned back in January, the Davidson Community Garden launched a fundraising drive to install a water meter. After a record growing season last year where the garden donated over a ton of food to Ada Jenkins, installing a permanent water source will help ensure the garden's success in the future. 

Connie and Eddie Beach of South Street continue to do a wonderful job promoting the garden. At this point in the fundraising effort, I am pleased to report the garden is more than halfway to its goal of $3000!  See this  article from the Charlotte Observer earlier this month for a more detailed update on their efforts leading the garden - On tap at the Davidson Community Garden.

If you'd like to contribute and help the effort get over the finish line, please make check payable to DUMC, note "Community Garden" in the memo and mail to:

Davidson United Methodist Church
PO BOX 718
Davidson, NC 238036

Friday, February 22, 2013

UPDATED: Shakeup at NCDOT. Will it affect the Red Line?

In case you missed it, the shakeup at NCDOT has begun with Deputy Secretary for Transit, Paul Morris, being one of its first casualties.  Hat tip to the Daily Haymaker blog for picking up on this one.

As mentioned previously, Paul Morris's fate at NCDOT could be a harbinger of things to come with the Red Line project.  Mr Morris was brought onto the project by NCDOT as a consultant to get the project off of life support and then managed to work his way into a cabinet level appointment.  His experience working for well-connected outfits like Parsons Brinckerhoff and Cherokee Investment Partners certainly couldn't have hurt that meteoric rise, and I'm guessing having Deputy Secretary for Transit on his resume won't hurt either as he eases back into the private sector.

How his departure affects the project remains to be seen.  In light of events earlier this week with the introduction of pro-Red Line legislation at the General Assembly, the jury is still out on where this train ride is headed.

UPDATE: Other Links to story line...

Paul Morris will be replaced by Richard Walls per the Triangle Business Journal.  A quick review of Mr Walls previous employers shows that the new Dep Sec Transit may be no different than the old Dep Sec Transit - big-time consulting background, former employers involved in issues, more sure to come on this one...

NCDOT undergoes organizational changes - Railway Track & Structures

NCDOT leadership gets total makeover -Triangle Business Journal

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Fix is in for the Red Line - Senator Tarte Throws Support To Red Line Enabling Legislation

This is becoming a trend with our North Meck pols and transportation issues.

In another case of watch what they, not what they say...

Today, as one of his first major acts as the North Mecklenburg Senator, Jeff Tarte added his name to the list of sponsors for Senate Bill 103 mentioned here yesterday.  If there were any doubts that this bill is intended to support the Red Line, this should put them to rest.

You can't say you weren't warned.

Way back during last year's  primary campaign for NC Senate 41, then Candidate Tarte's inconsistency on this issue was pointed out here - Dueling Press Releases In NC Senate 41 Race Reveal Inconsistency For One Candidate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Red Line Enabling Legislation Submitted

Well that didn't take long!

As was reported in the January 18th post, Red Line Lobbying Picks Back Up, readers of aShortChronicle were reminded to keep an eye out for this legislation, and today it arrived.  With the new Republican led General Assembly barely 3 weeks old, a pair of bills were submitted today, which if passed, significantly enable the spending of over $450 million North Carolina tax dollars on the Red Line Regional Rail project in Mecklenburg County.

The enabling legislation comes in the form of Senate Bills 103 and 104 introduced by Republicans Fletcher Hartsell (R-Cabarrus)Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland), with S103 now also sponsored by Jeff Tarte (R-Mecklenburg) (Sen Tarte added 2/20. See update below).

The bills seem innocuous enough on their own.   S103 slightly modifies the existing law which allows special assessments for "critical infrastructure" to be levied when a petition is signed by a majority of property owners in the assessed area.  Furthermore, these property owners must represent a super majority (66%) of the assessed value in the Special Assessment District (SAD).  The change in S103 actually makes the "voting" process in this law more fair.  S104 eliminates the current sunset provision on the legislation.  That date is July 1st of this year.

What is not so innocuous is how this legislation will be used to support the Red Line project if passed as-is.

The Red Line is a $450 million project, and this legislation will provide about 1/4 of the required funding via a complex SAD.  The remaining funds come from other pools of money - NCDOT funds, Charlotte Transit Tax dollars, and a TIF that will consume nearly all of the incremental tax revenue generated near the rail line.  However, this Special Assessment District funding is absolutely KEY. Without it, there is no Red Line financing plan.  Effectively, votes for S103 and S104 are votes to allow the spending of all this other money as well.

Also, as has been covered extensively in The Red Line Chronicle page, SAD and TIF financing mechanisms are attractive for this project precisely because they do not require direct voter approval.  That's hardly a very small-d democratic approach to spending this kind of money.

So what should legislators do?

If they are concerned at all about paying more that just lip service to out of control spending, they should take steps to ensure this legislation does not open the door to spending hundreds of millions on a project like the Red Line.  Capping the amount of funding supported by these SADs would be a good start.

UPDATE 2/20 - If there were any doubts that this bill is intended to support the Red Line, Senator Tarte adding his name to the list of sponsors should put them to rest. However, this should not be a surprise.  Way back during last year's primary campaign for NC Senate 41, then Candidate Tarte's inconsistency on the Red Line was pointed out here - Dueling Press Releases In NC Senate 41 Race Reveal Inconsistency For One Candidate.

Monday, February 18, 2013

To anon, or not to it "Ok" to be anonymous when criticizing Mi-Connection?

This morning I received an intriguing question from  They were in search of an anonymous user named @CrunchyCnsrvtv who had just posted this on Twitter. was interested in finding out who the poster was and if I happened to be him/her/it.

The above post was sent early Monday morning.  As of Monday evening, the search continued with @DavNews reaching out to @CrunchyCnsrvtv with this tweet.

To clear up any confusion. I am not @CrunchyCnsrvtv on Twitter.  Which, to the chagrin on many I am sure, means there is another vocal conservative voice in Davidson.

Though I personally have no problem with anonymous posting as long as it stays tame, not everyone feels that way.  Not sure why wants to track down an anonymous Twitter user who posted a critique of our local cable provider, but as a Mi-Connection customer and an owner via my tax dollars that subsidize the endeavour, I do have a question.

Why does Mi-Connection NOT have a Twitter presence for customer service?

@CrunchyCnsrvtv and myself follow each other on Twitter so I've seen customer service related posts from this user before.  Guess what?  They get results if there is someone on the other end to receive them.  When today's incident occurred, I vaguely remembered seeing a couple of tweets a while back from ol' Crunchy and went to see if they were still there.  Here they are...

To Hyatt Hotels...

To Marriott Hotels...

Here's the relevant point...

Whether or not a customer is anonymous or not should not matter!  These large hotel chains obviously do not think so and neither should Mi-Connection - or anyone else.  Mi-Connection prides itself on customer service being it's strong point.  It is a technology company!!!

To me, as a company owner, why Mi-Connection does not have someone monitoring Twitter is a bit more concerning than the anonymity of one of its customers critiquing them there.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

When the Media Becomes the Story

"Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." - Mark Twain.

Whether Twain actually said that quote is somewhat in dispute.  It has been attributed to several people over the years.  What does not appear to be in dispute is the somewhat public dust up between the Lake Norman Citizen and members of the activist group over the paper's coverage of the I77 HOT lanes project.

The brouhaha started immediately after the "Media Watch" post from this blog on January 27th and has been running ever since.  Sparking a full-blown media controversy was not the intent of that piece, but apparently it struck a nerve.

Immediately after that post, the Citizen published this story HOT topic: A guide to the toll lane concept with Straight Talk on Toll Lanes as the cover of their January 31st issue.   It was a good article, and if it had been published earlier, there would have been no point in writing the "Media Watch" post.  Things seemed back to normal with the Citizen doing its usual stand-up job of reporting the local news.

After that however the back and forth continued with escalating barbs traded by both sides.  In the February 7th issue the Citizen also took on other local media outlets regarding how they were covering the story, publishing a piece with extensive references to journalistic ethics and poking some very direct and indirect jabs at the ethics and quality of other local papers.

Immediately after that issue, a part-time Citizen employee took to Facebook to stump for the paper on the North Mecklenburg Republican Women's page without first disclosing his employer.  He was immediately called out on that fact by one of the readers.  A spirited back-and-forth ensued.

Finally, this week things apparently took an ugly turn with allegations of lawsuit threats posted on the Citizen website in its Editor's Blog under a post titled "Crappy little newspaper? Not so much".  For some reason this piece did not make it into this week's print edition.  However, if its contents are true, then that's truly unfortunate.  And unproductive.  And unnecessary.

The I-77 story is important.  It will change the North Mecklenburg area permanently.  And, if we're being honest about it, nobody knows for sure whether that will be a positive or negative outcome for the region.  Both sides in this debate seem certain that they are right and that the other is not behaving in good faith.

Reality is something different.

The Citizen isn't a "crappy little newspaper", but the citizens opposed to the toll road need to be heard.  They do have a voice.  In the end, we will all be living with the results of this decision by our political leaders and that should be the focus of everyone's attention.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reshaping North Carolina Via the Ballot Box

With the new General Assembly only two weeks old, a theme seems to be taking shape that could result in North Carolina voters having a large say in reshaping how government operates here in the Old North State.  If successful these changes would enshrine some small government principles into the State Constitution and change how the judges who interpret that Constitution are elected.

Every Legislature has a number of proposed amendments, but few make it to the voters.  Last session the big one was the controversial "Amendment 1" regarding same sex marriage.  Many others however can not muster the three-fifths vote needed in each chamber of the legislature to get on the ballot.  The UNC School of Government has a good piece here on those that did not make it in 2011.

What will be different this time?  The veto proof Republican majorities in both houses of the Legislature, that's what.  With 77  Republicans in the House and 33 in the Senate, they have the votes to put anything they want on the ballot.  If they choose to do so, several amendments are currently targeted for the November 2014 General election - making that a particularly big day for the voice of NC voters.  It is hard to see these not passing if the citizens are given a say about them.

Here is what we may have in store.  If they ultimately pass, private property will be protected, term-limits will be in place for leadership of the General Assembly, and North Carolina will protect its status as the least unionized state in the Union by elevating its right-to-work laws.

Eminent Domain - "Private property shall not be taken by eminent domain except for a public use. Just compensation shall be paid and shall be determined by a jury at the request of any party."

Annexation Amendment - "The General Assembly may not authorize any annexation initiated by a city, town, or other government subdivision unless the eligible voters living within the proposed area of annexation, and they alone, are allowed to vote, and the proposed annexation is approved by two‑thirds of those voting. Such election shall be placed on the ballot in accordance with law within the proposed area of annexation for the general election next occurring after the municipality proposes the annexation. This paragraph does not prohibit property owners from requesting annexation if they so desire. No city, town, or other governmental subdivision may exercise any jurisdiction beyond the corporate limits."

Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits - "No person may serve as Speaker in more than two General Assemblies. The initial convening of a session of the General Assembly after the terms of members commence shall constitute a new General Assembly for the purpose of this Section. Only service as Speaker during any part of an odd‑numbered year constitutes service as Speaker for that General Assembly for the purpose of this Section."

NC Right to Work/Secret Ballot Amendments - "The right to live includes the right to work. The exercise of the right to work must be protected and maintained free from undue restraints and coercion. It is hereby declared to be the public policy of North Carolina that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization or association."

However, regardless of what happens with any of the proposed amendments, it's up to the judiciary to interpret the laws and ultimately the Constitution.  Bills have been already been introduced in both houses of the Legislature which would restore partisan elections for our judges.  If passed, that too should push the state in a more conservative direction.

There is a reason bills H65 and S39 are titled "Restore Partisan Judicial Elections".  In the past they used to be that way.  Previous Democratic legislatures made judicial elections non-partisan because too may Republican judges were winning even though Democrats have huge registration advantages in the State.  It seems even when North Carolinians were electing Democrats to make their laws, they wanted more conservative Republicans to help enforce them.  More on that here.

Elections matter.  The new Republican General Assembly may be about to put on a good display as to why.

UPDATE: And the march continues with Senate Bill 82 filed on 2/13.  This bill would eliminate straight ticket voting.  Shockingly, people would be expected to have some idea of who they are voting for in each race.

Monday, February 11, 2013

NC Legislature Challenges Municipal Planning Authority - Davidson in the Crosshairs

The new NC Legislature has bills in the works for legislation which would enforce limitations on current planning authority for the State's municipalities.  For town's like Davidson that place a very high premium on town planning and design, any attempt to limit that authority is seen as unacceptable influence from Raleigh on local control.  Some of these supposed limitations could just be imagined. Others, certainly would be painfully real.  Regardless, they are bound to have those at Town Halls across the state in an uproar if these bills go forward. 

Will all the municipal hand-wringing be justified?  Let's take a look at what these bills would accomplish.

The first bill is a reincarnation of a bill which died in committee last session when the clock ran out.  That bill was  S731.  Senate Bill 731 intended to enforce limitations on the ability of municipalities to control development through certain types design restrictions.   According to an email from Senator Dan Clodfelter (D-Mecklenburg) who was the bill's sponsor the last time, S731 is planned to be resubmitted.  As of January 31 that resubmission has not yet happened.

This bill was apparently so egregious that it spawned a full-blown study of its impacts by the Town of Davidson.  This study was conducted using Town resources under Davidson's CDC-funded Design for Life program.  The D4L program has funding to conduct three annual Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) on various aspects of design issues affecting the town.

Here was Senator Clodfelter's response when asked if a bill like S731 would be reintroduced.

"SB 731 passed the Senate last session (by a very strong bipartisan vote), but it arrived in the House too late in the session to be considered before adjournment.  It will be reintroduced this year.  The bill has no effect on such things as walkable design, bike-friendly design, or anything of the sort.   I have read the “study” and was perplexed by the fact that the authors of the study seemed to be talking about a piece of legislation they had never even read.   There has been a great deal of “Chicken Little” reaction to the bill, and that has been equally perplexing.   The bill actually is a restatement and reinforcement of current zoning statutes, which I think are quite direct about the permissible subjects that may be regulated through zoning ordinances.   The need for the bill has come about because some local governments have been simply ignoring the limitations in the current statutes.   I do not know whether Davidson is one of them."

So, when Davidson Mayor Woods said at Board work session recently “finding a champion in Raleigh for our side of this is going to be a challenge.” ( 1/23/13), the sentiment behind Senator Clodfelter's email would likely be the reason why.

The second piece of proposed legislation actually has been submitted.  It's impacts would be much more far reaching.  House Bill 79 - Annexation Amendment - would amend the North Carolina State Constitution to much more strictly limit annexation of unincorporated areas within the state.  The new language would amend Article VII of the State's Constitution to include:

The General Assembly may not authorize any annexation initiated by a city, town, or other government subdivision unless the eligible voters living within the proposed area of annexation, and they alone, are allowed to vote, and the proposed annexation is approved by two‑thirds of those voting. Such election shall be placed on the ballot in accordance with law within the proposed area of annexation for the general election next occurring after the municipality proposes the annexation. This paragraph does not prohibit property owners from requesting annexation if they so desire. No city, town, or other governmental subdivision may exercise any jurisdiction beyond the corporate limits. 
If passed, this change would need to be approved by a statewide referendum before becoming law... 

this act shall be submitted to the qualified voters of the State at the statewide general election on November 4, 2014, which election shall be conducted under the laws then governing elections in the State. Ballots, voting systems, or both may be used in accordance with Chapter 163 of the General Statutes. The question to be used in the voting systems and ballots shall be:
"[ ] FOR          [ ] AGAINST
Constitutional amendment requiring municipal annexations not requested by the property owners to be approved by a two‑thirds vote of the voters in the area to be annexed, and prohibiting municipalities from exercising jurisdiction outside their borders."

In boom times, municipalities have used annexations and the additional tax revenues generated by them to fund new spending.  This legislation would effectively bring that to an end.  While strictly limiting unrequested annexations would impact all municipalities, it's that last part (highlighted in bold) which could particularly impact towns like Davidson.  Davidson exercises planning authority in select areas outside the Town boundaries.  This amendment would bring to an end control over areas within the town's Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction or ETJ.

In an email to Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus), one of the bills primary sponsors, when asked about the intent of that language and if it would strip authority over areas like the ETJ, the response was short and to the point.

"That is the intent of that wording."

If you are a fan of limited government, then these two bills seem like common sense.  Ensuring municipalities do not exercise authority outside their approved powers and protection of property rights are definitely good things.  However, placing limits on government authority is not everyone's main objective.

As part of its agenda on Tuesday 2/12/13, Davidson's Town Board will discuss its legislative priorities for the coming year.  It would be surprising if these two items are not a hot topic of conversation.

Friday, February 8, 2013

MeckGOP Chairman race really a proxy fight?

At last night's annual MeckGOP precinct meeting two candidates for MeckGO Chairman introduced themselves to many of the voters who will select a new top leader at the March county convention.

With Mecklenburg County having over 180k registered Republicans, controlling the local Party mechanism would be a nice bit of leverage to have for any politician, and it seems two of the biggest names in NC politics have thrown proxies into the ring.

Igor Jablokov and Bradley Overcash both made their pitches for the chairmanship of the MeckGOP.  Interestingly, neither gave a lot of information on what they had done for the local party to deserve the top spot.  Instead, both focused on their connections powerful elected officials.

Igor Jablokov has been a member of Governor Pat McCrory's transition team and Bradley Overcash worked for Congressman Robert Pittenger back when he was in the NC State Senate.

The question is will the local party faithful pick one of these two men with strong establishment connections or will someone else who has a longer history working the Party's grassroots step forward.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I-77 Expansion: An Alternate Plan

The State position on widening I-77 boils down to this.  HOT Lanes via a Public Private Partnership (P3) is the only plan that works.  There is no funding to do it any other way - especially with general purpose lanes. 

That's their story and they are sticking to it.

What has not been explained clearly to the public is what exactly has been worked through before coming to this decision.  Clearly, there could be other ideas that could work.  Yes, there may be trade-offs, but there certainly could be an alternative plan that would relieve the worst congestion, meet improved mass transit capabilities, meet criteria that would ostensibly improve air quality, and likely qualify for the various funding pots dedicated to managed lanes - all without locking the State into a 50 year toll project.  

Let's look at one possible scenario. What if the State...
  • broke the project into phases to make the costs more manageable. 
  • got creative on maximizing usage of the available capacity.
  • accessed all possible funding mechanisms.
Here's how this could work:

Phase 1: Now
  • Extend the existing HOV lanes up to Exit 36.
  • Allow limited use of the HOV lane to Hybrid an/or ILEV vehicles for a fee.
  • Implement a coordinated carpool/SLUG program to encourage more use of the HOV lane
  • Enhance the Express Bus service from Exit 36 to Charlotte.
Phase 2: 25-30 Year Plan
  • Expand 77 again with a third general purpose lane north of Exit 23 to Exit 30 by building a new HOV lane and converting the current HOV lane to general purpose.  
  • Widen any overpasses as needed at that time.
How to pay for it?
  • Since many of the existing pools of money are restricted to "managed lanes" the expansion of the single HOV lane in Phase 1 should qualify.  Converting the HOV lane in Phase 2 to a GP lane would/should not be an invalidation of the agreement around the original funding for managed lane in Phase 1 as long as the State made the Phase 2 lane HOV.  There would still be the same HOV capacity.
  • Charge a $100 per year fee for special plates to any Hybrid/ILEV vehicle that wanted unlimited access to the HOV lane.  This type of fee is done in places like Virginia and Florida as examples.  Yes $100/yr would be much higher than in those states, but it would certainly be less than paying a toll every day for high users of the proposed HOT lanes in the current plan.  The state could manage the number of plates issued to ensure the capacity of the HOV lane is not overloaded.  However, maximizing the use of this lane would free capacity on the GP lanes and make all lanes flow more freely.
  • Reprioritize Mecklenburg 1/2 cent transit tax money for the Red Line to the HOV lane.  "high-occupancy vehicle facilities" are authorized valid expenditures as part of the bill allowing the transit tax passed in 1998.  This is a valid pool of money that has never even been mentioned in the HOT lane discussion.  It's a sacred cow we can no longer afford.
  • Pro: The State says there is no money for widening I-77 with general purpose lanes for decades. This plan gives the State that time while allowing for the relief of the immediate traffic congestion in the Lake Norman area.
  • Pro: Same number of total lanes at end of Phase 2.
  • Pro: The immediate costs would be significantly less.
  • Pro: There would be all of the transit and carpooling enhancements of the HOT plan.
  • Pro: No locking in the State to a 50 year contract via a P3.
  • Pro: No tolls, but still a revenue stream from special plates users to partially fund future expansion.
  • Pro: More flexibility in future expansion.  If Phase 2 warrants it at that point in time, the lane built in future decades could also be a manage HOV lane instead of  a GP lane.  (Not preferable, but an option nonetheless.)
  • Pro: Quicker construction in Phase 1
  • Con: Could just move the current bottleneck down to Charlotte.
  • Con: Does not address Charlotte's issues around I-277.
  • Con: There is no guarantee that Phase 2 money is available decades from now.
  • Con:  It does not guarantee a travel time under the absolute worst conditions like HOT.
  • Con: Two construction projects over time.
So the question is this.  If a plan like the one outlined here is workable, do the Pros outweigh the Cons and should the cost of addressing those Cons be paid only by Lake Norman commuters via the proposed tolls of the State's HOT Lane plan?

What do we get instead of answers this question?  We get municipal officials meeting behind closed doors with consultants this past Monday to see presentations on why the Sate P3 HOT plan is the best option. 

See HOT Lanes: Municipalities Exert Influence with NCDOT on Monday?

Monday, February 4, 2013

UPDATED: HOT Lanes: Municipalities Exert Influence with NCDOT on Monday?

In a classic case of "watch what they do, not what they say" Lake Norman municipalities have for weeks said they have no real influence over the decision by the State to pursue widening of I-77 with High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes via a Public Private Partnership (P3).

As recently as Tuesday this past week Davidson Mayor John Woods told a room full of Davidson residents at a Town Community Chat...

"The community is engaged in a rather confusing and complex discussion," Davidson's Mayor John Woods said.  There has been a lot of back an forth discussion and opinions on what is right or wrong about this, but we are under the direction of the state. The town of Davidson doesn't manage I-77, nor does the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County or Iredell County." Huntersville Herald 1-31-13

Yet, two days later on Thursday the Lake Norman Citizen reported on meetings being organized for Monday Feb-4 between the LKN Towns and NCDOT...

The meetings are open only to elected officials and selected town staff, but similar public sessions are planned in the coming weeks.  Because only two elected officials from any one town will be present at any one time, the sessions are not subject to open meetings regulations.  The meetings were organized by mayors Lynette Rinker of Cornelius, John Woods of Davidson, Jill Swain of Huntersville and Miles Atkins of Mooresville. - 1-31-13 breaking news

Also, this isn't the first time Davdison Mayor Woods has exerted municipal influence in support of HOT Lanes.  Back in 2010 when the project was in its infancy Mayor Woods submitted this letter in support of the HOT lane concept on behalf of the Town of Davidson.

So either the municipalities have no influence or they do.  It would appear to be the latter.  Why they feel the need to exert this influence in meetings coordinated to circumvent State open meetings law is a different question.

Letter supporting HOT Lanes from Davidson in 2010.

UPDATE: Scheduled Town of Davidson Attendees and Times.  Received Monday AM, after a Sunday request.  Mayor Woods responded Sunday with instructions to provide the information Monday morning.

10:30-12:00 – no representatives from Davidson
1:00-2:30 – Comm Rodney Graham, Comm Laurie Venzon, Mayor John Woods and Cristina Shaul (Town Communications Officer)
2:45-4:00 – Comm Connie Wessner and Comm Jim Fuller 
*Asst Town Mgr Dawn Blaubaum will attend either 1-2:30 OR 2:45-4:00 meeting

Under North Carolina law there was still no quorum for Davidson at the 1pm meeting even though half of the Board Members were there.  See here from the UNC School of Government for more details on that.  Comm Brian Jenest did not attend, but as the former Chair of the LNTC he likely knows the State position well.

MUMPO Presentation from January 18th meeting on I-77 project.  Unconfirmed report that Jim Ray of RayStrategies would be at today's meeting.  Mr Ray is mentioned on Slide 2.

UPDATE #2: Another unconfirmed report that Parsons Brinckerhoff gave a pro-P3 presentation at Monday's meetings as well.  PB is also the leading consulting company on the Red Line P3 proposal.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Charlotte Streetcar...a real "threat" from Governor Pat or just kabuki theater?

From Thursday's Charlotte Observer...

Gov. McCrory warns streetcar could risk light rail money

and Friday at WCNC...

Council Members to Gov. McCrory: Wait, was that a threat?

Call me a cynic, but people need to remember that this is politics.  What you see is not always what is really going on.  To think that Governor Pat McCrory is going to let anything derail the Blue Line Extension is fantasy.

Governor Pat is and always has been a mass transit supporter in all its forms and at all costs.  Between his two runs for the Governor's mansion he spent his time lobbying for higher transit taxes elsewhere around the country.  See here for an example as recently as 2011 from our neighbors to the south in Atlanta.

As was pointed out in the above CO article, Governor Pat has in the past supported going outside the Mecklenburg County transit tax in support of the Red Line.  Also true is the fact that backing out now on the Blue Line Extension is highly unlikely with the Full Funding Grant Agreement in place.  Finally, the newly preferred way to build infrastructure for NC Republican appears to be increased use of local funds rather than more State funds.

The Red Line plan, the Charlotte Streetcar plan, and the I77 HOT lanes plan are ALL following this model.

Here's how this very likely could play out.  Governor Pat's "threat" causes the Charlotte City Council which is dominated by Democrats to reflexively vote to put Streetcar funding in a future CIP simply because a Republican "threatened" them.  That gets the Streetcar moving again - accomplishing the real goal of the so called "threat".  Governor Pat feigns outrage, but nothing happens to the BLE.  

The other projects go forward as well following the additional local funding model.  Much of the time this will be done without even asking the voters.  My guess is that at some point they will actually use the Charlotte Streetcar as the example of how local funding works to support these other efforts.

There is one way to know if the above is possibly not the case.  As the NCDOT reorganizes under the new Transportation Secretary (Tony Tata), if Paul Morris keeps his job as DepSec for Transit that can be taken as a sign it's going to be full speed ahead and business as usual.  If he is replaced, then maybe there is a course correction in the works when it comes to building trains.

Until we know what happens at NCDOT, this is all just kabuki theater.

Friday, February 1, 2013

aShortChronicle turns one year old! How are we doing?

One year ago today, I hit the "Publish" button on the first post of this blog.  I had no idea where it would go or how it would be received.  To say the least, I have been humbled by the response.

Thank you!

If you'd asked me what I hoped to achieve by writing a blog about local politics with a focus on tiny Davidson, I'm not sure what my answer would have been a year ago.  But today, looking back on this past year this is what I'd say. 

Give people the whole truth while making a point and hopefully it will make a little bit of a difference.

So, how are we doing?  Honestly, in just one year I think we've achieved quite a lot.

I say "we" because this whole effort would not be possible without all of the people who have sent in story ideas, provided background information, and helped point me in the right direction.

Over the past year...

Posts from aShortChronicle have become regularly featured on as part of their "House Guests" columns.  PunditHouse is the website for stories on Charlotte area politics from the conservative point of view.  Being asked to submit as a House Guest was a nice surprise and acknowledgement that these stories may be worth reading.  Thanks to Christian Hine for reaching out.

Here in Davidson, I'm confident in saying that posts from aShortChronicle had at least some impact on the Town's decision in 2012 to abandon efforts to pursue 4-year terms for elected officials.  Was this blog the whole reason they dropped the issue? No, absolutely not.  Did it make a little bit of a difference? Yes, I'm absolutely sure that it did.

Finally, I'm proud of a couple of posts which covered some slightly off-beat topics weeks earlier than the local media and the more traditional pundits.  It's nice to see that some of what's covered here is deemed newsworthy by those who make covering the news their business.  See...

(Incidentally, on January 31st the NC Senate introduced bill S39 to reinstate partisan judicial races on only it's 2nd day in session.)

Now, if we could just get the "real" media to dig a little deeper on some other important stories we'll really be getting somewhere!

However, my guess is that if you want to get the whole story on some topics you are going to have to continue looking elsewhere.  Hopefully, aShortChronicle will continue to be one of those places.  With municipal elections, major transportation infrastructure issues, and the business as usual government chicanery, year two promises to provide plenty of good stories.