Monday, February 29, 2016

On limited government and the HFFA

This is a first for aShortChronicle - a guest post.

Eric Rowell from Huntersville has been writing columns like yours truly for the Herald Weekly for a while now.  Due to space and timing considerations, this one did not make the paper, but its a great follow-up to a piece he wrote a while back on HFFA.


A brief preamble: This column was originally scheduled to run in the Herald Weekly on February 18. The decision was made not to run the column as written due to my most recent column in January dealing with similar subject matter, the HFFA. It can be difficult to thoroughly discuss a complicated issue in approximately 650 words – unlike the internet, print papers still have word limits. I thought this subject matter worthy of two columns and, therefore, decided against revising the column and posting here instead. I appreciate Mr. Short’s hospitality in allowing a non-Davidson related guest post to be published.

In a totally unrelated matter, the HFFA has not run an advertisement in the Herald now for three consecutive weeks while still running ads in the other local weekly paper in Huntersville after my January column was published. See here for that column.  I welcome anyone involved with HFFA in any capacity to respond to the arguments in my January column, or the column below. I am confident Mr. Short would be more than happy to post any response in an effort at fostering dialogue about the proper role of government in Huntersville.


Frederic Bastiat famously defined government as the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. By this he simply meant that it is within our nature to seek the greatest amount of pleasure while expending the least amount of effort. Man can satisfy his endless wants and desires in one of two ways: by ceaseless labyor and the application of his faculties to natural resources; or by seizing and consuming the products of the labors of other. This fatal tendency of man, to satisfy wants and desires with the least possible effort, is the origin of plunder, which is why Bastiat explains legislators should ensure the law maintains justice by protecting property and punishing plunder.

You’re probably asking, what does any of this have to do with the Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics center? The HFFA is just one example in Huntersville of the law being perverted by allowing taxpayer funding (i.e., the products of the labors of others) to be used to support, in my opinion, an improper function of town government. Many readers will disagree with this position and the idea of any limits on town government other than what a majority of the Town Board can agree to.

But, it is budget season in Huntersville and the proper function of town government is something that needs to be debated by our elected leaders when deciding how to allocate the scarce revenues available for the large number of potential beneficiaries. If less money went to HFFA, more money could be allocated for Rural Hill for example [see pg. 105 here.]. Reasonable people can disagree over whether Rural Hill should receive any taxpayer funding, but based on current statutes they (along with Latta Planation, the Hugh Torance House & Store, Visit Lake Norman, etc.) are eligible to receive funding from the same pool of money used to fund HFFA.

Ideas and elections matter, even on a local level. The current Town Board was elected, in part, because voters disagreed with the prior board’s overall philosophy on governing, which could be summarized by a motto similar to the Panther’s this season – “Keep Spending.” While the makeup of the Town Board has changed, the same special interests remain and are intent on maintaining the status quo.

HFFA proponents will be heard to proclaim, but how will the citizens of Huntersville stay healthy if taxpayer dollars aren’t used to keep the HFFA open? And what about all of the “economic development” Huntersville benefits from by the HFFA hosting events?

To which I would respond, how do the citizens of Huntersville keep from starving without the town using taxpayer dollars to operate a grocery store? How did any Huntersville resident do sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, run or swim before the HFFA was built?

If we are to accept the premise that the HFFA should continue to be subsidized by taxpayer funding because it is the centerpiece for health in Huntersville and the surrounding communities and because of the alleged economic benefits, should it follow that all other sources of competition be eliminated to maximize these health and economic benefits? Should the Town Board close all other gyms and pools to increase membership at HFFA? When the non-taxpayer subsidized Fitness Center at Birkdale was forced to close due to financial reasons, many former members joined the HFFA. Think of the increased revenues at HFFA if all the gyms in Huntersville were closed and their members all joined the HFFA!

There remains approximately $1,022,940 to be paid on the mortgage for the HFFA through the year 2020 before taxpayer dollars will no longer be necessary for debt service [see pg. 68 here]. The question for current Town Board members is what happens after 2020? Will taxpayer funding continue to be used for the current facility, or will HFFA finally be expected to become profitable?

These and other questions will persist as long as the law is used to take property from one person and give it to another and any attempts to censor such questions should be discouraged.

Eric Rowell is interested in meaningful ideas. He lives with his family in Huntersville.

Comments welcome at or @ericwrowell on Twitter.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Ric Killian considering run in new NC-13

With the chaos created by the Federal courts throwing out the maps for 2 of North Carolina's 13 US Congressional districts and the NCGA taking the opportunity to re-draw boundaries across the entire state in response, there is a lot of "considering" going on when it comes to who is going to jump into which race for Congress.

Nowhere is that more true than the proposed new NC 13th running from Iredell heading east across Davie, Davidson, Rowan, and Guilford Counties.  The current 13th is held by Republican George Holding, but he has decided to challenge Renee Elmers in the 2nd under the new maps.  That means the 13th is an open seat, and like all open seats it's attracting a lot of challengers.

Depending on who you believe and how you count, it could be as many as 10 - possibly more.

A number of those likely candidates are legislators taking advantage of a bit of self dealing benefiting only themselves.  Under the special rules passed for just this Congressional election, legislators are allowing candidates (meaning primarily themselves) to run in more than one race at a time.  Legislators can run in the March 15th NCGA primary and then turn around the next day and file to run for Congress in the special Congressional election currently scheduled for June 7th.

If a candidate wins both primaries, they have to pick one race to pursue, but for legislators in safe seats it's a sweet deal they gave themselves.  They can run for Congress risk free, and if they lose they head back to their safe seat in the general assembly.

One candidate whose name recently entered the mix will be a familiar name to Lake Norman area voters.  Colonel Ric Killian who ran in 2012 in the old NC-9 district is seriously looking at a run in the new NC-13.

Killian is currently on duty serving as an instructor at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA.  In April he will be retiring as a full colonel after a 30 year career in the military and heading back to North Carolina.  So, in some ways the chaos caused by the courts and the schedule conveniently arranged by legislators could not be more perfect for him if he decides to run.

We were a fan of Killian's when he ran for Congress in 2012, so the possibility of him stepping up again is exciting.  He ran strong in South Iredell in that campaign and should do well there again if he makes another attempt.  Incidentally, when Killian ran last time he himself was a State House member in a safe seat representing Charlotte in the NCGA.  However, he had to choose to give up that seat to make a run for Congress.  He didn't have the luxury of a fallback plan to stay in elected office like today's legislators - making his a much more politically courageous decision.

Here's what we had say about Killian back then:

"Ric Killian has the trifecta of foreign policy, legislative, and business experience that will allow him to hit the ground sprinting in Congress.  None of the other candidates can match that.  His military background will allow him to step into some of the same areas where Sue Myrick has been effective such as defense and intelligence.  Having served on active duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he knows more than any other potential member of congress what war truly means and how the military should be used.  His legislative background provides the lengthy history needed for conservative voters to feel comfortable with his approach to government.  Killian received A ratings from the conservative group Civitas Action before it was "hip" to be conservative in the NC Legislature - meaning before the Republicans were in the majority.  Killian received some of his highest ratings while in the minority when it took real political courage to cast those votes.  His business background ensures he will minimize wasteful spending wherever possible.  He regularly sites the national debt as the highest risk to this country, and he has shown how to reign in spending in his leading role in overhauling the State transportation budget using zero based budgeting to eliminate waste."

Those words were true in 2012, and they are even more true now.

With groups like ISIS on the rise, the national debt passing $19 trillion, and an ascendant Russia on the global stage, it's encouraging to have candidates like Ric Killian willing to step forward.  Our country needs leaders with his kind of experience, not politicians looking to take advantage of rules they themselves made.

Take a look at Killian's 2012 campaign video if you need more proof he's the right candidate for the job.

Here's hoping he decides to run!!!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Honesty is always the best policy

This post first appeared in the Herald Weekly at

Few shows in the history of television have ingrained more anecdotes and sayings into our psyche than Seinfeld.  The long running comedy ended its reign over prime time nearly 18 years ago, but to this day, still on a regular basis one comes across situations that bring reminders of the show that was famously about “nothing”.

One of those reminders happened to yours truly a few weeks ago on what I thought would be a routine trip to the auto repair shop.  Instead, I felt like I’d been dropped onto the set of an episode from 1995 with this famous exchange about auto mechanics.

Jerry: “Twenty-eight hundred dollars?!! That's the estimate on my car?!! No, don't even do anything. I'm gonna think about it. Okay, bye.”

George: “What's to think about? If Putty says it's what it is, it's what it is. He's not gonna cheat you.” Jerry: “Except that it's not Putty.” George: “What happened to Putty?” Jerry: “Eh…I went to this other place. I think they might be trying to screw me.”

George: “Well, of course they're trying to screw you. What do you think?  That's what they do. They can make up anything. Nobody knows. ‘By the way, you need a new Johnson rod in there." "Oh, a Johnson rod. Yeah, well, you better put one of those on.’”

Just substitute me for Jerry in the above exchange and you get the picture?  I’d taken my truck to a new place and instead of great service, I got the “Johnson rod.”  Or more specifically, I got someone trying to sell me a $1,300 break job when the breaks felt fine.

It was time to go to “Putty’s”,  or in my case since I’m here in North Mecklenburg and not New York City, that place would be C.A.R.’s in Huntersville at the intersection of Mt Holly-Huntersville Rd and 115.

If you are looking for an honest mechanic, a place that won't steer you wrong, and somewhere you’ll be treated fairly, Jim Neitzke’s shop is the place to go.

Those are descriptors I've heard from everyone who I've ever run into who has gone to C.A.R.’s – including folks at the Herald. Weekly whose offices used to be right next door.  My own personal experience also bares this out.  On more than one occasion Neitzke (pronounced “night ski”) has given me  advice on why something didn't need to be done – rather than trying to sell work just to make a quick buck.

And it's not just Neitzke himself who has this attitude towards high quality customer service. On this recent trip one of the shop mechanics, Francisco, explained in detail why my breaks looked fine for at least a few thousand more miles.  He even showed me why some recent work that I'd actually paid for as part of the “Johnson rod incident” might not have even been done.  After taking the time to show me under the vehicle what it should have looked like, it was pretty clear that was very likely the case.

Neitzke like many in the region is a transplant.  He bought the shop in 2005 after well over two decades as an airplane mechanic working for United Airlines based out of Chicago.  After 35 months straight in the early 2000s commuting betweeen the Queen City to the Windy City and with the airline industry in constant, he jumped at the chance to own his own business.

In his eleven year run at the helm, he’s built up a loyal following of customers, and after my own recent mistake of trying someplace new out of a misguided sense if convenience, I can say he's added another in myself.

If you are like me, I've always wondered what C.A.R.’s stood for.  Was it some cleaver acronym like Carolina Auto Repair?  Or maybe the “C” stood for Certified?  No.  It's neither of those.  C.A.R.’s is the initials of the shop’s original owner – Charles Archibald Reid.

That was a name just too good to change for one of the best  auto repair places around.

LNTC falls apart. Mayors to meet Monday to plan way forward.

With last week's action by Huntersville to withdraw from the LNTC, it was just a matter of time before the other shoes dropped.  That happened this week.

On Tuesday, Davidson voted to withdraw from LNTC by a vote of 3-2 with Commissioners Fuller and Jenest opposing it. (Officially, it was 3-1 due to Jenest being on the phone and only present voters count.)  As part of the vote, they retained the right to revisit the decision to withdraw at the next regularly scheduled meeting in March. On Friday, Cornelius is likely to do the same at a special meeting called for that purpose.

There is some question on the validity of the Davidson vote, as it was not on the published agenda, and the agenda that was published actually said the work session portion of the meeting was cancelled.  Questions are out to the Town and UNC-SOG to see if this can be verified.

However, it was the Davidson meeting on Tuesday that gives a little insight into what may be coming in the very near future.  The video is here.  Its the first 45 minutes.

Apparently, this coming Monday there will be a closed meeting of area mayors to discuss a way forward. The meeting was called by Davidson Mayor John Woods.  A few additional staff may be there, but Woods specifically indicated that this would be a non quorum meeting and that the media was not invited.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Davidson about how the region had gotten to this point with Woods using the word "bullying" to describe Huntersville actions.  Commissioner Fuller also appeared upset, and Commissioner Jenest who was on the phone seemed particularly disappointed.

One thing that became clear from the Davidson video is why the action is all taking place now within the towns. There is apparently a 4 month notice clause in the LNTC interlocal agreement for members to pull out of the group.  Since funding of the body comes from the town budgets a decision has to be made now.   March 1st is 4 months prior to the July 1st start of the new budget year.

Davidson's Board seemed most concerned about whether they would be on the hook with Mooresville alone to fund the body if both Cornelius and Huntersville had dropped out.  That, much more than a belief the LNTC had no value, appeared to be the driving force behind their withdrawal.

Monday's Mayors' meeting will be interesting.  My hope is that Huntersville Mayor Aneralla is wearing his body armor.  My guess is that he will be the target of many barbs from the other mayors.

Some might call holding that meeting behind closed doors where that can't be seen to be "bullying".

But hey...that's just me.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

#NCGov McCrory up to his old tricks

aShortChronicle recently told you about Governor Pat's in-kind campaign contribution from an article on the Forbes Magazine website by a big time McCrory campaign campaign donor.  That's an in-kind donation highly unlikely to be claimed by the McCrory campaign.

Well, now ProgressNC is accusing the Governor and his campaign of doing something similar by illegally coordinating with the official groups supporting the "Connect NC" bond  referendum for this fall.

Here's the response from McCrory mouthpiece Ricky Diaz according to a WBTV report.

"Instead of helping to pass the bipartisan ConnectNC bond that invests in education, national guard readiness and infrastructure without raising taxes, it's pretty obvious that Roy Cooper, the Democrat Party and their SuperPAC ProgressNC are trying to undermine it.They have been coordinating for months and laying the groundwork to try and thwart the bond this (sic) with a bogus complaint just like this, which will only waste taxpayer money and get thrown out like their other frivolous complaints. In fact, I predicted it on Twitter a few days ago. It's just a shame that the Democrats, their SuperPAC and their leading candidate for governor say they support higher education, but now it seems like they only support it if Democrats get the credit."

Now, while there almost certainly is some truth to Diaz's claim this is about politics (it is campaign season after all), it's also likely there is some truth to the complaint about coordination.

The walls between campaigns and PACs are notoriously thin.  Staff and supporters often float seamlessly between the two groups.  Ad agencies and other connected groups support both parties.  In this case, the complaint indicated McCrory's campaign and the Connect NC campaign are using the same Virginia based law firm - a firm with connections to Karl Rove.

Having a controversial referendum on the ballot while at the same time running for high office provides a bad case of deja vu when it comes to McCrory.

Back in 2007 when Mecklenburg activists first worked to repeal the county's 1/2 cent transit tax, McCrory (then the mayor of Charlotte) immediately jumped into the referendum fray.

From this article at Charlotte Business Journal, as Mayor, Pat McCrory took the lead in coordinating the "counter offensive" to the citizen-led repeal effort.  He even directed the use of government resources to oppose it.

When the Vote Against Repeal effort ramped up, it engaged in all sorts of shady tactics.  Read this piece from for the details.  McCrory was running for re-election as Mayor and planning his first run for Governor.  McCrory filed to run for Governor in January of 2008, just 2 months after winning re-election.

When it comes the Connect NC bonds, nothing that happens in the next weeks until election day should be at all surprising.  Doing whatever it takes to impact a referendum involving one of his pet projects is par for the course for McCrory.

Friday, February 19, 2016

More details on new congressional districts. Who will likely run for new NC12?

The NCGA passed a bill Thursday evening outlining the way forward for the Congressional primaries scheduled for March 15th.

This is what will take place in the event the U.S. Supreme Court does not intervene to keep the old districts.  With conservative Justice Antonin Scalia's death this past weekend, the prospect of help from the Supremes is more unlikely.  If the Court deadlocks at 4-4, the lower court decision stands and new districts will have to be implemented.

NC98 Rep John Bradford put this out on Facebook Thursday evening - providing more details on how this will fall out.

So,  over the next few weeks expect a lot of jockeying around who will file for Congress when the new filing period opens the day after the rest of the primaries occur.

In the new NC12, it would seem unlikely that current Rep Alma Adams from Greensboro would file on the Democrat side. With Charlotteans Rodney Moore and Malcolm Graham both already indicating they will run according to the Charlotte Observer, Adams would have a very hard time winning.

On the Republican side it will be hard to find serious candidates with a real chance.  That's because the new NC12 tilts heavily Democratic - even more so in presidential election years - just like the old NC12.  Data on the new districts posted at shows a likely 2-1 split favoring Democrats.  Having chatted yesterday with a representstive close to one possible candidate, this is a real issue.

Two Charlotte area Republicans who filed in the old NC12 will likely still be runnng though - Ryan Duffie and Leon Threatt.

Most of the likely other Republican candidates in Mecklenburg County are already committed to legislative races anyway.  Since these are unaffected by this Congresssional redistricting issue it would seem unlikely that any of them would throw away a good opportunity at the state level for a risky opportunity at the federal level.

One of the other changes implemented in the bill passed on Thursday is the removal of the possibility of a second primary. In North Carolina if a winning candidate gets less than 40% in the first primary due to there being several candidates in the race, a second primary is triggered between the top two vote getters.  Removing that provision gives a very strong advantage to incumbents across the state because they now do not have to even get a majority to win. Since incumbents have higher name recognition, removing the possibility of a 2nd primary, gives their campaigns a big boost.

So how did our local Republicans in the NCGA vote on all this?

Both Charles Jeter and John Bradford voted for the House Primary Bill.  On the Senate side Jeff Tarte voted for the new districts.  Expect all of them to support these bills again when the head to the opposite chambers today.

Update: Well, apparently the prediction about Alma Adams not running in the 12th was incorrect! The Observer is reporting that she is IN!  We sometimes forget that common sense goes out the window with politicians trying to stay in office

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Republican bastion of North Mecklenburg headed to new Democrat NC12?

Legislators in Raleigh faced with having to redraw two of the state's Congressional districts due to a Federal court order, appear to have taken a more extreme approach than many would have expected.

For voters here in North Mecklenburg that would include a big move from the current NC9 to the vastly reconfigured NC12.

Voters in Davidson may remember being part of the old NC12 that snaked its way from Charlotte along I85 up to Greensboro.  Prior to the last round of redistricting that also included picking off Davidson along the way.

In decades past that may have made some sense to include it in the old strongly Democratic 12th, due to Davidson's reputation as a liberal college town.  However, by 2010 that had changed somewhat.  Davidson, like the rest of North Meck has more Republicans than Democrats.  Independents outnumber both parties.  See here for more on that from back in 2012.

Cornelius and Huntersville were in the old 9th, long represented by Republican Sue Myrick.

With the proposed map pictured above, all that history goes out the window.

The old gerrymandered 12th becomes a compact and more sensible district completely within Mecklenburg County - including all of North Mecklenburg.  The 9th District, now includes just the southeast part of Mecklenburg and a number of counties along the South Carolina border.  It will be a much more closely contested district than the current NC9.

The newly proposed 12th is one of three heavily Democratic districts in the state - meaning many North Meck voters accustomed to having a House Republican representing them in Washington, DC will almost certainly have a Charlotte Democrat in that spot.

Another quirk of this new map is that neither Republican vying for the current NC9 nomination will live in the new NC12.  Rouco is in Mooresville and Pittenger is in the new 9th.  Also, Alma Adams who represents the current 12th district won't live in the new 12th district.

What this means is that unless the NCGA reopens filing to allow for new candidates to enter the race, the 12th is unlikely to to be represented by someone who lives in the district - a situation which is actually allowed at the Federal level.

The proposed new map throws much of the state into disarray with some equally strange circumstances going on in other districts.

One has to almost wonder if the NCGA did this on purpose to make it difficult for the Feds to approve it and put pressure on the US Supreme Court to let the old districts least for this election.

#NCGov McCrory has billionaire spinmeister/donor at Forbes Magazine

Came across this link on today, and it got the campaign season BS meter ringing loudly.

It's an article from Forbes Magazine written by billionaire Rex Sinquefield out of Missouri.  The article reads more like a campaign add than anything else.

One would think McCrory single handedly is responsible for NC's AAA bond rating.  Here' a sample...

"Last week, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory delivered the banner news that his state upheld its AAA bond rating – the highest rating possible – from all three major bond-rating agencies. North Carolina’s stellar standing owes much to Governor McCrory’s leadership. Unwilling to send the Tar Heel State down the same tax-and-spend death spiral that plagues too many other states, the North Carolina governor developed a strong approach toward tax reform – and stuck to it."

The news is good to be sure, but the credit is misplaced.   If anything, the credit goes to the fiscal conservatives in the NC Senate, not McCrory.

Here's a more accurate depiction from on the governor's involvement with the 2013 tax reform Sinquefield credits to McCrory.

"This deal is a far cry from what Civitas was calling for on this site.  The Senate had stood strong on trimming taxes and cutting government. Today, the Senate approved a much-more watered down bill favored by Team Tillis and the McCrory administration.

Gov. Pat had balked at earlier, more conservative proposals put forth by the Senate, saying that he needed to be sure that there would be enough revenue to pay for the things that state government needed to pay for. Yet, this week, we had McCrory, Tillis, and Berger this week touting a tax bill. The legislature has yet to pass a budget.  How does Gov. Pat KNOW that this tax bill gives him enough revenue if a budget has not been passed?

It’s nice that tax rates are being adjusted downward.  But if the GOP majority in the legislature doesn’t seriously trim the size and scope of state government, this tax “deal” is irrelevant.  The spending craze will just pile onto our current debt. Gov. Pat’s proposed budget is $400 million higher than Bev Perdue’s final budget. "

So, who is this guy Rex Sinquefield, Missouri billionaire?

Well, for one thing he's a McCrory donor.  Sinquefield and his wife both sent maximum sized checks of $5,100 each to the McCrory campaign this last reporting cycle.

How much do you want to bet Governor Pat won't be reporting Sinquefield's column in a national magazine as an "in kind" contribution?

Not much?  Me either.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New details on new Exit 30 hotel

After last week's post here at aShortChronicle regarding the possible new hotel at Davidson's Exit 30, the property owners have apparently been fielding a few questions.

Today they put out the below press release providing a few more details.

Press Release:

Preliminary plans are under development for a new hotel at the corner of Griffith Street and Davidson Gateway Drive in Davidson, reports Martin Kerr of Martin Kerr & Associates.

The location would be next to Woodie’s Auto Service and Repair. Site investigation and due diligence are in the final stages. The owner and hotel developer will submit plans to the Town of Davidson within the next few weeks.

The proposed hotel would be built and managed by a local hotel developer with existing properties in the Lake Norman and Charlotte area. The hotel is an upscale, recognized international brand, with approximately 120 rooms. Initial plans include meeting space with an enhanced technology package, a pool and full service restaurant with possible lake views.

“A hotel is a great complementary use for this site instead of the multi-family project approved and originally envisioned here,” says Kerr. “It is expected to generate less traffic in the immediate area as well as throughout town. Additionally, it will produce more revenue for the town from food and lodging taxes. From a market and potential customer perspective, it is close to I-77 and amenities in the Harris Teeter area, yet still within walking distance of Davidson College and Main Street.”

“Preliminary research supports capacity for an additional hotel in Davidson,” Kerr adds. “We are excited about the potential our location presents. We look forward to sharing more information as details become available and to working with the town, community and developers on this excellent opportunity.”

As mentioned in the previous post the Town of Davidson responded last week when asked about the project that...

"The Davidson Commons East conditional master plan (last amended in 2013 to allow for Woodie’s) depicts two storefront and/or workplace buildings up to three stories and not to exceed 50 feet for the parcels in question. Any deviation from this approved master plan would require a conditional rezoning and approval from the Board of Commissioners."

When asked if Kerr expected the project to go through the conditional zoning process, he responded the answer to that question would have to wait until the project application was submitted.

If the answer to that question turns out to be "yes", expect that process to be an interesting one.

There have already been some concerns expressed about having a hotel next to a school.  (CSD is right next door.)  However, as Kerr points out, a multi-family apartment complex could go on the site as well.  That may not be a better situation for those with any safety concerns.

As with almost all new projects that impact the small town character of Davidson, traffic and safety concerns are likely to top the list with this one.

Huntersville pulls plug on Lake Norman Transportation Commission. Is it time for a change at LNTC?

The full effect of last November's election in Huntersville is beginning to take shape.

Monday night, Huntersville's Board of Commissioners voted 4-2 to withdraw from the Lake Norman Transportation Commission (LNTC).  That's the body formed by the four area towns to provide a uniform front for the region's transportation issues.

Town LNTC rep  Commissioner Melinda Bales and Commissioner Charles Guinard vote "no".

The implications of this could be significant.  As the largest member of the group by the population it represents, Huntersville's withdrawal puts a big dent in the body's reason for existence.  It will also take with it roughly $25,000 in annual funding - putting a big dent in the body's funding.  See this article  for details on what each town pays.

Current LNTC director, Bill Thunberg, had this to say about the news.

"While I am disappointed in Huntersville's decision, it is my intention to represent fully all members of the LNTC while the LNTC considers its options.  There is value in regional collaboration and the Lake Norman Regional Transportation Commission remains committed to regional collaboration on issues around transportation and land use in the Lake Norman area."

The problem is that it's really, really hard to see that value.  On the two biggest transportation issues facing the LKN area in recent years (the Red Line Regional Rail project, and the I77 HOT lanes) the LNTC has been an utter failure.

The Red Line is stalled because nobody got permission from Norfolk Southern to use their tracks before proceeding to plan the project, and the LNTC sat on its hands regarding the HOT lanes for nearly two years while opposition mounted.  If anything, the LNTC was a supporter of the concept of HOT lanes.  Mr Thunberg was regularly brought in to speak to its member Boards and chat up the idea.

In hindsight, the LNTC has acted more as a rubber stamp for these large scale projects driven by Charlotte and NCDOT rather than the local advocacy body as was intended.

With the body now at a crossroads it's time to ask the question if it's leadership can meet the challenges.  Instead of a rubber stamp, it needs to be a body willing to fight tooth and nail for what the region needs.  To do that may also require a leadership change at the helm of LNTC.

Someone who's willingness to fight for the area is beyond question would be Kurt Naas, founder of

When asked the hypothetical question if he'd be interested in the job, Naas had this to say on Tuesday.

"The LNTC has always been a good idea in concept but unfortunately disappointing in execution. I hope there will be another formal mechanism advocating for regional transportation.

As far as the Exec Director, yes, I would be interested. Over the past few years I've developed a grasp of transportation issues and policies, and as a private citizen led the region's largest grass roots advocacy effort in recent memory. I started with basically zero political support (and a few cases of open opposition by some very powerful people) yet still managed to change the position of every LKN town."

Having someone like Naas in the LNTC Executive Director spot is of course a hypothetical question since there currently isn't a job opening at LNTC.  However, for people aching to have a government willing to fight for the public interest rather than those of bureaucrats, it is something interesting to consider.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Good Turnout for West Branch Public Information Session...Planning Board Map Amendment up next.

Sketchy weather didn't keep people away from the public information session Monday evening at Town Hall.  The topic was  West Branch - Davidson's newest major neighborhood proposal consisting of 306 new homes off of Davidson-Concord Rd on the 169 acre Westmoreland farm.

The project promises to bring a lot more traffic to the east side of town.

The increase in traffic will greatly impact the intersection of Robert-Walker and Davidson-Concord roads which has ling been a dangerous spot.  According to a project representative at the meeting, the required traffic study should be available in a few weeks.  Whether or not that study recommends a traffic light, roundabout, or some other additional safety measure at D-C Rd will be critical for residents in Bailey Springs, River Run, and Bradford.  If 300 new homes in the immediate area doesn't convince NCDOT to make it safer, it would seem nothing will.

West Branch traffic will also impact the Hudson Place, Pine Rd, and Kimberly corridors leading to downtown due to the new connection from the back of the neighborhood to Hudson Place.  These neighborhoods have long been effectively dead end with minimal through traffic.  Now they are going to be the alternate way to get to/from Downtown Davidson as well as people going to/from Bailey Middle and Hough High schools.

Traffic was just one of the concerns mentioned.  Other concerns included impacts to the existing greenway through the area, additional students for crowded area schools, and a perceived lack of transparency in the process.

As reported earlier, Commissioner Brian Jenest's firm, ColeJenest&Stone is doing the land planning work on the project - a situation which, naturally, raises eyebrows.  Multiple people approached yours truly asking about that and if it was a conflict of interest.

The next stop for this project is the Planning Board on January 29th.  The project apparently needs a Map Amendment around the neighborhood services area.  It appears the developers desire to reduce the "neighborhood services" portion of the project to include 3 single family homes and allow townhomes without storefront appearance - 57 units are impacted, more than 20% of the total project. (UPDATED: Original post said 71 units impacted.)

The red line in the below picture shows the current zoning for neighborhood services.  The blue line shows where it will be moved if the zoning amendment is approved.

The below picture shows the impacted home sites.  The blue dashed line matches the current neighborhood services zoning.

If this map change comes before the Town Board it will be interesting to see if the Board allows Commissioner Jenest to recuse himself.

They should, but after what happened last week, who knows what this board will do when it comes to conflicts of interest?!?!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

More on why Davidson's Board got conflict of interest vote WRONG!

As written earlier this week, a three vote majority of Davidson's Board forced fellow commissioner Brian Jenest to vote on a change involving the historical designation on part of the Westmoreland Farm property while Jenest is also working on a project on that same property.

This gets a bit technical and a bit long, but this post on the UNCSOG website explains why they got the decision wrong.

Conflict of Interest: How do the voting statutes relate to the criminal statute?

The subject of conflicts of interest for city and county elected officials has both legal and ethical dimensions. In the legal realm, there are two main statutory provisions: 1) the contracting statute, which creates criminal liability when a public official or employee who is involved in making or administering a contract derives a direct benefit from the contract; and 2) the voting statutes for city and county governing boards, which provide that a member shall be excused from voting only upon “matters involving the member’s own financial interest or official conduct.” This post identifies some important differences between the two statutory provisions, and discusses to issues about how they relate to each other. Next week’s post will discuss the process of excusing members from voting.

How the statutes are different:

The contracting statute, G.S. 14-234, creates criminal liability, making it a Class 1 misdemeanor for an individual to derive a direct benefit from a contract with his or her unit of government. The resulting contract is void and unenforceable.  The contracting statute defines key terms, such as “direct benefit,” and “making or administering a contract.” The definition of direct benefit in the contracting statute specifically includes an interest by the spouse of the public official or employee. The contracting statute applies to all public agencies, and any public employee or officer within those agencies, but only with regard to the making or administering of contracts.

The voting statutes, G.S. 160A-75 (cities), 153A-44 (counties), are silent as to any liability or consequence for failing to be excused from voting on a matter involving one’s own financial interest. The statutes do not define terms and give no specifics about what constitutes financial interest, except to state that the question of compensation and allowances for the board does not involve a member’s own financial interest.  They apply to any matter that might come before the board – not just contracts.

How the statutes relate:

Should the definition of “direct benefit” in the contracting statute be used as a guide in interpreting what constitutes a member’s own “financial interest” in the voting statutes? No. Both statutes probably have a common purpose: to ensure objective decision-making in the public’s (rather than a private individual’s) best interest. But the scope and applicability of the statutes are different. The contracting statute seeks to prevent financial gain from contracts, and it defines “direct benefit” in ways that are specific to interests that arise in contracting. The broader language in the voting statutes reflects their broader applicability across all matters coming before the board. The voting statutes address “financial interest,” which could be either beneficial or detrimental. So, for example, a person might be excused from voting on a matter involving her employer, since she could stand to gain or lose, depending upon how she votes.  As such, the definition of direct benefit in the contracting statute is too narrow to encompass all of the financial interests that might affect voting.

On the other hand, in cases where there is a direct benefit under the contracting statute, it is safe to assume that the benefit is considered a financial interest under the voting statute. This is reflected in the voting statutes themselves, which cross-reference both the contracting statute and several provisions in the land use regulations statutes, to make clear that a conflict under those provisions is a basis for being excused from voting.

If you go back and listen to the video of the hearing and fhe discussion about Jenest's requested recusal, you hear Town Attorney Rick Kline and Commissioner Graham use the word "direct" a number of times.  Clearly, they are incorrectly applying the standard from the criminal statute to the voting statute.

Even the example sited of recusing someone from voting because their "employer" is involved applies.  One can reasonably say Jenest is "employed" by the Westmoreland's through his efforts planning the develoment of the West Branch neigjborhood on their property.  His firm's name is on the application submitted along with Lennar Homes.

Jenest clearly had an interest in the outcome of this vote whether it positively or negatively impacted his very closely related project.  At the very minimum if the change did not go through, his firm would have had to deal with those implications possibly even redesigning a larger portion of the West Branch project that would have remained in the historic designation.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Town Hall sales pitch for Catalyst Project in full force. Sign up to have your voice heard!

This week, the Town of Davidson relaunched its sales pitch for the so-called Downtown Catalyst Feasibility Study. That’s the effort to study/plan/propose redevelopment of 3.5 acres of town-owned land surrounding and including Davidson Town Hall.

The renewed effort to sell this to the public has so far included a four page color insert in the most recent edition of The Town Message quarterly newsletter.  That landed in mailboxes this past weekend.  The pitch also includes the announcement of four small group “roundtable” discussions to be held later this month.  There was even been a dry-run of these roundtables held this Monday with a  group of hand-picked residents to help the Town work on its messaging for these later meetings.

All of this is in response to the less than favorable reception this project received when it was rolled out last fall.  The reason for all this effort is described in the four page color insert like this.
“After the last public input session on October 20, 2015 we realized that there was a need to provide more information and seek more feedback on the Downtown Catalyst Feasibility Study.”

There is one word to best describe that reason, and that word is “understatement”.  There is another word that can best describe that meeting last October 20th, and that word is “debacle”.  It was a debacle, that is, if the goal was to sell the public on the project’s merits.

During that October 20th meeting dozens and dozens of town residents packed Town Hall to an overflow, standing room only crowd including a couple dozen additional seeds added to accommodate the gathering.  The crowd was so large that one of the consultants from the UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative who was there to present the proposed plan joked that the crowd was evidence of the town needing more space.
It was a joke met with groans rather than laughs.

You see, the people who gathered that night last fall were overwhelmingly against the project as it was being proposed at that time.  Dozens of people spoke, and only a handful (and that’s being generous) spoke favorably of the idea.

Though in fairness, one of the few who spoke in support of the project did provide one of the evening’s more memorable comments.  That’s the speaker who will forever be remembered by those in the room as “The Lamborghini Guy”.

That speaker asked the crowd if they’d noticed all the Bentleys and Lamborghinis in town to dine at the fine establishments on Main Street.  He somewhat lamented where the drivers of those fine automobiles might go if they couldn’t find parking.  Didn’t the town owe it to the restaurants to solve this problem he asked?

The crowd that night was not sympathetic to the plight of Lamborghini drivers.  The crowd was not amused at cheap jokes.

No, the crowd that night was concerned about protecting the character of Davidson.  They were concerned about ensuring the town does not lose that something different it possesses – that something special centered around the town core on Main Street.

So, here we are nearly four months later, and the Town is ready to try again.  To their credit, they are at least making the effort.  But honestly, it’s probably going to be a steep uphill climb.  The kinds of heartfelt positions seen last fall do not change easily.

If done right though, Town Hall should at least get the answers to the many questions they still have about the study – questions that probably should have been answered before the study even started.

Questions such as:
Do you want residential housing downtown?
Do you want a hotel downtown?
Should the town-owned land downtown be developed?
What is an acceptable level of development?

The real trick for citizen will be making sure Town Hall listens once they have the answers  But the first step is to make sure Town Hall has them.  To ensure that, sign up for one of the roundtable discussions planned for February 18th and 25th.

Sign up at
This post first appeared in the Herald Weekly at

Thursday, February 11, 2016

#NCGA: About those $15,000 boomerang checks...

The Charlotte Observer reported last week about the campaign coffers of Mecklenburg pols running for the NCGA.

In the report, the Observer reported, Rep Charles Jeter was "boosted by $16,000 from the House Republican caucus."

That of course would be a totally improper use of party funds since Jeter faces a Republican Primary opponent in Tom Davis and the party is not supposed to meddle in primaries.  It is also totally not true.

Yes, Jeter's campaign report shows a $15,000 contribution from the Republican Party House caucus on August 20th, 2015.  However, what the Charlotte Observer failed to report was that this money was returned to the caucus on December 1st, 2015.

So, what was that money shuffling really all about?  The answer to that is the real story.

Regular readers of this site will remember some stories from last year about shenanigans in the closing days of the NCGA long session - shenanigans  involving legislation for something called Affiliated Party Committees.  These committees if used would allow NCGA leadership to cut the state parties out of the campaign fund management loop. This was an effort by legislators to do an end run around the NCGOP after the top spots in the party apparatus were taken over by grassroots activists.

This money shuffling in/out of Jeter's account was part of a larger effort by the legislators to protect their money.  Or maybe another way to put it, it helped protect the money of the special interests that fill their campaign coffers.

As reported at, Jeter was not the only person to receive one of these $15,000 checks.  At least eight legislators received them.

Charles Jeter
Rob Bryan
Susan Martin
Nelson Dollar
Bill Brawley
David Lewis
Stephen Ross
John Szoka

As was mentioned in the linked Haymaker story, this was initially explained as an effort to bolster campaign funds for legislators in risky districts.  The Haymaker clearly debunked that explanation.  It might have applied to Jeter in NC-92 because that is one of the few partisanly competitive districts, but certainly it did not apply to several of the others.

No, this was an effort to secure the House Caucus money, from any possible use at NCGOP HQ.

A peak at all the latest campaign reports for the above mentioned legislators shows that they all received $15,000 checks in late August.  Most were returned in late October/early November.  Rep David Lewis was particularly generous adding an extra 10 grand for a total of $25,000 sent to the caucus.

During just the last reporting period, Lewis raked in $58,800 from special interest PACs. That's not counting contributions from individuals who may also be rated to those same industries.  When you see that kind of money flowing back up to the caucus and you look at the sources going to the legislators sending the money to the caucus, it's safe to say some of it is special interest money that the caucus was "protecting" when it did all this shuffling.

Jeter's $15,000 check was returned on December 1st - the first day of the filing period for this election cycle.  Jeter's check was one of the last 2 returned.

So, circling back to the beginning, no caucus money will be helping Jeter in his primary against Tom Davis.

HOWEVER, this does show that on Jeter's watch as Republican Conference chair there was some "three card monte" shuffling going on with caucus $$$ due to a lack of trust between GOPe legislators and Grassroots activists who had stormed the barricades at NCGOP HQ.

What happened between August when the Caucus money was drained from the accounts and when it was returned a few months later?  Establishment operative Dallas Woodhouse took over as NCGOP Executive Director.

You may remember the Woodhouse name from these posts regarding HOT lanes connections.  See here and here.  He was the staffer at the Tom Tillis supporting PAC that funnelled $4.7 million in dark money to Tillis's NCSEN campaign.

Putting a hard core establishment guy in charge of NCGOP HQ made sure there were friendly eyballs watching, making it safe to return the money.

Always, alwaaaaaays, follow the money!!!  It will tell you a lot!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Three Davidson Commissioners drop ball on clear recusal vote.

Like Elvis, common sense has left the building at Davidson Town Hall!!!

Or maybe to be more accurate, it left the seats of Commissioners Jim Fuller, Rodney Graham, and Stacey Anderson on Tuesday night.

When the Davidson Board faced a question of allowing fellow commissioner, Brian Jenest, to recuse himself from voting on an issue directly related to a project his design firm is doing, these three Commissioners actually forced Jenest to vote after he said he had a financial interest in the vote.

Yes, you read that correctly.

These three commissioners forced a fellow commissioner to vote when he clearly said that if the issue did not pass, he could suffer a financial consequence.

aShortChronicle previously reported that Jenest planned to ask for a recusal on the redesignation of the historical area on the Westmoreland Farm property related to the Beaver Dam viewshed.  Jenest's firm ColeJenest&Stone is doing the design work for the West Branch development on the same property.  To his credit, Jenest followed through with that commitment.

Unfortunately, these three commissioners thought they knew more about Jenest's interests than he did and decided that he should vote against his own wishes.

Ultimately, only Commisioner Cashion showed common sense and voted to allow Jenest to recuse himself.

Start watching the tape of Tuesday's meeting at the 40 minute mark.  This is minutes after the public hearing.   If you want to watch the hearing, start at minute 19.

During the hearing and in the questions afterward it was clear that a significant portion of the proposed West Branch neighborhood, including the commercial neighborhood services portion, would no longer be in the historic designation if the change in historic designation was approved.  The impact would be that the Historic Landmarks Commission would no longer have design approval authority over more of the proposed West Branch development.  Getting that approval could have been a particularly tricky thing for the commercial area and removing that requirement has a definite benefit to Jenest's project with the Westmoreland family.

After Jenest was forced to vote, he abstained. That actually counts as a "yes" since he was not excused.  The historic designation change was actually unanimously approved.

So what does all this mean???

It means to have a "conflict of interest" in Davidson, you apparently have to have wads of cash being directly stuffed into your pockets a la Pat Cannon for a majority of the Board to recognize it.  Anything other than that is apparently some sort of gray area.

With all the potentially controversial development projects on the docket including the Catalyst Project  and potentially a new hotel at Exit 30, that's not a place where citizens want their government to be!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

#NCGA - Big Solar looooves Charles Jeter!

That's just one of the takeaways from NC92 Rep Charles Jeter's latest campaign finance report that finally appeared on the NC BOE website on Monday.

Out of $30,000 in contributions from individuals, at least $18,950 came from individuals clearly associated with green energy.  That included 2 maximum contributions of $5,100 from Charlotte billionaire Jay Faison and his wife. Another $2500 came in from the NC Clean Energy Businees Alliance PAC.

That makes for a whopping total of at least $21,450 from people associated with a single business.  (It's at least that much considering there could be more squirreled away in other donations.)

Jeter's stunning total of solar cash for the second half of the year bested what Sen Jeff Tarte brought in from Big Solar in the first half of 2015.  His was a relatively modest $17,000.

What's the reason that's a big deal (other than the obvious implications of so much money coming from one type of business)?

The issue of solar subsidies has been a huge source of controversy this past year within the Republican House Caucus.

The issue even spilled over locally within the MeckGOP when former (emphasis on former) MeckGOP Chairman Curtis Watkins resigned suddenly after being accused of trying to recruit a primary challenger to House Majority Leader, Mike Hager.  Watkins works in the green energy busines, and Hager has been one of the leading voices in the NCGA opposing subsidizing that business.

Working in concordance with the NCGOP platform, conservatives like Hagar in the NCGA have been successfull in scaling back some of the mandates and subsidies imposed by Raleigh forcing higher usage of energy from sources such as solar.  To do that, they've often had to fight members of their own party.

Jeter currently serves as the Conference Chair for the House Republicans which means he is in charge of raising and managing the Caucus's campaign funds.

Fr conservative voters, it is easy to see how having someone in that position who is raising so much money for his personal campaign account from a lobby the party platform opposes, would/should be considered a problem.

Bonus Observation: In what has to be a rare thing for a state legislator, Jeter sported more than one billionaire donor.  Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson gave him $500.

Monday, February 8, 2016

UPDATED BREAKING NEWS - Possible new hotel at Exit 30?

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates. Updates at bottom.

Original Post:

Both parcels fully pictured
here are in question.  Town
owns land to right along
Griffith St. Total area 2.1 acres.
As aShortChronicle reported last week, Town of Davidson officials will be kicking off the renewed sales effort for the Downtown Catalyst Project Monday evening with a "pilot" roundtable discussion made up primarily of town advisory board members.

Now, this morning comes a piece of breaking news that could significantly impact this discussion.

According to a person on site Monday morning at the construction equipment that suddenly appeared last Friday at the parcel adjacent to Woodies Auto and the Community School of Davidson at Exit 30, the work taking place is part of "investigating a hotel" on the site.  When asked about the size of a potential hotel, the answer was that had not been determined.   According to the person at the site, even bigger projects had been discussed, but it looked like the idea of a hotel is one that could "go".

When development was originally discussed at the site a coulle years ago, it was a multiuse project with condos and office.  See this story here.  The idea of a hotel would be a significant departure from that plan.

Requests for more information are out to the Town Planning and Economic Development departments as well as those associated with the property.

In relation to the Catalyst Project, this could be a game changer.  When the initially proposed details of the Catalyst Project came out last October, the most controversial piece was the inclusion of a hotel at the site in town center.  The consultants from the UNC School of Government had floated the idea by developers and including a hotel as part of Catalyst and indicated it was well received as a way to gain more interest in the project.

Now that the idea of another hotel is apparently in the works, the question must be asked if Davidson could support possibly 2 new hotels.

If nothing else, it highlights the risk of the Town diving into the development business where they have little control over what the private sector may do that competes with a town related effort.

Update #1:  Martin Kerr of Flat Creek Construction in Davidson was able to confirm that a hotel developer is interested in the property.  The equipment on site is for soil testing.  At this time the hotel brand or size is not available.  More details should be available in a few weeks.  Mr Kerr did confirm a development application has not been submitted, but the town has been aware of the possibility of a hotel from preliminary discussions. No response has been made available from the town at this point.

Update #2: From town public information officer Christina Shaul...

"The Davidson Planning Department fields questions daily from residents and developers as to what could be built on a specific property. In these conversations, we typically discuss the planning ordinance and the development process. Most of these questions do not lead anywhere. However, once we do have a formal submittal for development, we make this information public by posting to our website. We have not received a formal development application submittal for the parcels in question.

The Davidson Commons East conditional master plan (last amended in 2013 to allow for Woodie’s) depicts two storefront and/or workplace buildings up to three stories and not to exceed 50 feet for the parcels in question. Any deviation from this approved master plan would require a conditional rezoning and approval from the Board of Commissioners."

Thursday, February 4, 2016

#NCGA - Pro-Toll Mayor Travis continues support of Pro-Toll Rep Fraley

There are lots of sayings in the rough and tumble game of running for public office.  One of them is “money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

With last Friday’s deadline for submitting campaign finance reports now in the rear view mirror, we get the first glimpse at how candidates are doing in this phase of the run-up to next month’s primaries.  That should definitely provide some interesting fodder in coming weeks for those who follow local elections closely.

With so much going on with the I77 tolls project recently, it seemed like a good idea to check up on the report for NC House 95 Representative, John Fraley.  Fraley is currently the only Lake Norman area member of the General Assembly still openly supporting the project and its controversial contract with Spanish firm Cintra’s local subsidiary -  I77 Mobility Partners.

When Fraley challenged Mooresville’s Robert Brawley for the seat back in 2014, his candidacy was widely speculated to be an effort supported by Raleigh power brokers backing the tolling project – people such as Thom Tillis, then the Speaker of the NC House.  Back then, Brawley had been involved in a very public spat with the Speaker largely over the plan to put HOT lanes on I77.

Fraley’s 2014 campaign finance reports were highlighted by huge loans to his campaign from his own personal funds totaling over $80,000.  He also raked in 10s of thousands of dollars more in contributions with much of that coming from out of state sources.  Much of that war-chest, to the tune of over $64,0000, was spent with a high powered and well connected Raleigh political consulting outfit called The Stewart Group.  Fraley’s campaign treasurer also happened to be the same firm used by most Republican US Federal candidates, a firm named CM&CO, out of Raleigh.  One of that firm’s largest clients that cycle according to just happened to also be the Thom Tillis US Senate campaign.

With all that political fire power backing him, Fraley eked out the primary election victory against Brawley by a mere 106 votes.

However, all of that may not be the most interesting thing about Fraley's reports that cycle.  The most interesting was one donation from an address in Cornelius.  That address would match the address on Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis’s campaign reports.  However, the name on the donation was not that of the Mayor, instead it was from his wife.  In fact, the $2000 donation was one of the largest individual donations Fraley received last go-round.

All of that just provides a little background.  What does it have to do with this cycle, you may be asking?

Here are two things.

First, Fraley has raised and spent much less this time – a mere $20,000 raised and less than $3,000 spent – leaving him with cash on hand of about $23,000.  Things could certainly change after this report, but that’s a clear indication he believes he has little to fear from his primary challenger this time.  That would be political newcomer and anti-toll candidate David W Thomson of Mooresville.

The second is that one of his biggest donors, continues to come from that same address linked to Cornelius Mayor and HOT lanes supporter, Chuck Travis.  This time though, there is really no mistaking where that money originated.  The name on the check is Travis’s, or more specifically the “Chuck Travis for Mayor” campaign committee.  Travis raised an unusual amount of money last time for someone running unopposed – over $35,000.  It was many times what he'd raised for his previous local campaigns.

Travis serves on the state's Turnpike Authority Board, so sending some of his leftover campaign cash to a fellow toll supporter to use in this cycle somehow seems sort of fitting.
That brings to mind another saying…
“Birds of a feather….”

Davidson Catalyst Project - Take 2

When details about the so called "Downtown Catalyst Project" first hit the general public last fall, it is safe to say its opening reception and initial reviews were less than blockbuster. (Read this if you need a synopsis of that early part of this story.)

In fact, the reception was so bad, the presentation had to go back to editing.  Town economic development director, Kim Fleming put it another way.

“After the last public input session on October 20, 2015, we realized that there was a need to provide more information and seek more feedback on the Downtown Catalyst Feasibility Study,” said Economic Development Manager Kim Fleming. “We have outlined multiple ways to answer your questions about the study and receive additional input from citizens to help guide the future of the downtown area – we hope you’ll attend one of these sessions later this month.”

The sessions Fleming is referring to are a series of "roundtable" discussions designed for small groups to talk about the project.  They are planned for later this month.

Here are the details from the Town's press release.

"Citizens are invited to attend one of four identical roundtable discussions on the Downtown Catalyst Feasibility Study at the Davidson College Presbyterian Church Congregation House (218 Concord Road) on:

·         Thursday, February 18 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.

·         Thursday, February 18 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

·         Thursday, February 25 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

·         Thursday, February 25 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.

These roundtable discussions are open to the public and we encourage your participation. Citizens will sit at tables and a discussion will be facilitated by town staff, members of the Davidson Board of Commissioners, and the Development Finance Initiative team. Space is limited, so we encourage you to save your space by registering for a session on our website at Those who are not registered will be accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis."

This all sounds good and Davidson residents should definitely pack these sessions.  If they are not a series of full houses, then town residents won't have anyone to blame but themselves for the decisions that are ultimately made.

However like any good "show" , there is a "pilot" before the series kicks off.  This show in Davidson is no different.

On February 8th, this coming Monday, there will be a dress rehersal for these open discussions.  How that goes could be telling.

Twenty two town residents have been invited to participate in this pilot.  Most would be called "insiders" to the goings on at Town Hall.  The vast majority of the invitees serve on the town's various appointed auxiliary boards.

When asked about the purpose of the "pilot", Fleming responded that "the purpose of the pilot session is to make sure that the proposed roundtable format addresses citizens questions about the study and provides enough time for citizens to provide feedback about the study. We will spend some time at the end of the session discussing what worked and what didn’t work with the roundtable to see if any changes need to be made for the additional 4 public input sessions."

While it's not necessarily a bad thing to have knowledgable insiders participating in the pilot, the participants also likely aren't representative of town residents at large.  So, it will be interesting to see how this goes.

Rusty Knox has been a leading voice opposing the Catalyst Project.  He's also one of the invitees to this initial pilot session.  Knox had this to say about the makeup of the "pilot" group after seeing the list.

Knox said he feels personally "the list is weighted very heavily towards town hall."  Knox goes on to say the list doesn't seem to represent the sentiment seen from the public at the raucous October 20th meeting where nearly every speaker opposed the project.

Davidson has one last chance to do this right.  If people feel these meetings are being manipulated or coordinated to achieve a desired outcome, when the curtain finally comes down on this show it won't be pretty.

Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Roy Cooper's Political Bombshell

This past weekend the good folks over at made public an Investigative Demand letter sent from AG Roy Cooper's office to I77 Mobility Partners/Cintra.

It's a very interesting read.

16 different demands for documents are made covering 3 main categoies.

  • Information about I77 Mobility Partners' public communications plan.  For a project that was supposedly a "done deal" the firm has been sending out a lot of ads and press releases still "selling" the plan.
  • Cintra's other failed projects in North America.  This would seem to be largely in reference to the issues brought up by Cornelius resident Diane Gilroy in a letter to Governor McCrory. Read the previous coverage at aShortChronicle on Gilroy's research here and here.
  • Financial related questions about the project.  The AG's office wants to know more about how much money Cintra expects from the state as well as communications to the ratings agencies.  Read the previous coverage at aShortChronicle on the HOT lanes debt here.

All of these things have been questions/subjects aShortChronicle has been covering for months, so it's nice to see the AG's office finally catching up.

However, we want to point out something specific related to the first bullet listed above.  The one related to the ads.  The fifth demand is specific to lobbying and ad placement.

"5. All communications between You and Ross Communications, Mercury LLC, and any other firm engaged to advertise, lobby, or communicate to the public or third parties regarding the I-77 Express Lanes project."

Regular readers of aShortChronicle will recognize the name Mercury LLC.  The firm and its "man in NC", Russell Peck, have been covered here, here, and here over the past several months.

If Peck's name is ringing a bell more recently, that may be because he's reprising his role from 2012 as Governor Pat McCrory's campaign manager.

Having your campaign manager's firm involved in an official investigation conducted by your opponent can not be a good thing!

If/when that political bombshell gets dropped on the campaign trail by the mainstream media, it will be fun to watch.