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Untangling Charlotte’s Web

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CharlottesWebSpiders are truly amazing creatures.

They feed by ensnaring their prey in a craftily, durably constructed, but largely invisible web. These stealthy arachnids then proceed to fatten themselves by methodically sucking the very lifeblood from their unsuspecting victims. In comparison, the modern era vampire legend of Dracula seems like a children’s bedtime story — perhaps “Charlotte’s Web,” but without the innocence and charm.

Ironically, Charlotteans have been the unsuspecting captors of another purposely-invisible web, spun by an equally parasitic predator, Charlotte Center City Partners (CCCP). For decades, this unelected group of self-anointed leaders has been operating as a de facto shadow city government, unaccountable to the public, yet funded by public tax dollars.

Over time, this perversion of our system of government has allowed CCCP to quietly and systematically suck the lifeblood from every area of Charlotte, allowing our infrastructure to decay and our neighborhoods to wither, while frittering away our increasingly precious resources and economic future to pay for an endless array of expensive uptown toys, including that beloved overpriced and redundant uptown arena, twice rejected by the voters.

All this has consistently been supported by The Charlotte Observer and Charlotte Democrats, but historically enabled by “Republi-crats” Pat McCrory, Lynn Wheeler, and others, leaving Charlotteans with a totally unaccountable city government, and rapidly eroding public trust.

During his entire tenure as Mayor, McCrory was full-time employee of Duke Power/Duke Energy (Duke is represented on the CCCP Board of Directors by Jim Turner, as its Chairman). McCrory finally resigned from Duke when he decided that it might be perceived as a conflict of interest with his mere candidacy for the N.C. Governorship. For 14 years, he inexplicably saw no such conflict with the actual elected office he held as Mayor of Charlotte. Since losing his 2008 bid for the governorship, Mr. McCrory was hired by his brother’s company for what seemed like 10 minutes, but is now a full-time employee of Moore & Van Allen, a powerful uptown-entrenched law firm, which is represented by Ernie Reigel on the Executive Committee of the — you guessed it — Charlotte Center City Partners Board of Directors. Some things never change.

Anne Caulkins, president/publisher of The Charlotte Observer also has a seat on the CCCP Board of Directors. Being the monopoly-holder of local daily newsprint brings with it a responsibility to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. I’m sure Ms. Caulkins will be at-the-ready to explain that she has no editorial duties or input at her newspaper. Okay. So, when was the last time you ever saw any Observer investigative reporting of CCCP, or a critical news story or editorial not in total, predictable lock-step with CCCP positions?

The CCCP web has established its threads of influence and control in every area of Charlotte. These tentacles run wide and deep. One carefully selected member of City Council and Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners also sit on the CCCP Board of Directors. With CCCP coming to the city for funding, it’s baffling how anyone can claim that our elected city officials sitting on the CCCP Board presents no conflict to the public interest.

Our unelected city and county managers, Curt Walton and Harry Jones, who actually run our local government, also sit on the CCCP Board of Directors. Would it be logical, then, as a matter of policy, that all CCCP Board meetings, minutes, emails, and records be made public? Good luck with that.

Just remove your mittens long enough to solve a quick math problem. Count all the times Pat McCrory or Lynn Wheeler took a public stance against any official CCCP position during their many terms in city government, add to it all the times that city managers Pam Syfert or Curt Walton have refused to rubber-stamp CCCP decisions, throw in all the times county managers Harry Jones and Jerry Fox have stood up to CCCP, plus all the Observer news stories and editorials critical of CCCP — and I’ll wager that you’ll have enough digits left over to play a piano concerto.

Charlotte deserves much better. In these challenging economic times, we shouldn’t be financing an unelected, unaccountable, self-serving oligarchy with precious public tax money. To put it simply and directly, Charlotte Center City Partners should be promptly de-funded.

With apologies to Ronald Reagan, perhaps concerned Charlotteans will finally begin to shout from the highest uptown bank tower and let it resonate from Ballantyne to Beatties Ford Road: “Mayor Foxx and City Council Members: Tear down this web!”

Special to PunditHouse

©2010 Wayne Powers. Used by permission.

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