Barney Offerman is a beloved figure among Charlotte's progressive community, admired as much for his integrity and wit as for his organizing abilities. We honor him for his life of dedication to social justice. After years of labor, racial justice and literacy work in New Orleans and Mississippi, and a stint in the administration of Ohio governor Richard Celeste, Dr. Offerman moved in 1986 to Charlotte, where he was Distinguished Professor of Business and Economics at Johnson C. Smith University for 10 years. While there, he established the Lifelong Learning Center for adults returning to school. He was also one of the movers behind the establishment of Charlotte's first homeless shelter, and he either launched or gave critical support to the North Carolina death penalty moratorium movement, various labor struggles, and efforts to promote peace and immigrant rights. In 1995, he became director of the Charlotte diocese's Catholic Campaign for Human Development. He retired from that position in 2001, but continues to lend advice and support to area progressives who benefit from his knowledge and experience.
More and more people are coming to the realization that Gorman may not be the long-view, visionary superintendent CMS desperately needs. Crowded schools in the 'burbs, lousy inner city schools, bullying, endless official tests, opaque CMS administration, clueless downtown desk-sitters dictating to principals and teachers -- all were problems when Gorman started, all are problems still. The clincher for the Loser award, however, has to be the unimpressive way Gorman has gone about cutting the CMS budget, i.e., canning teachers left and right with little input from the principals, while keeping his own thrilling Q&A show on TV.
BEST ACTIVIST (INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP)
Stop Cliffside Coalition
We think Duke Energy's plan for a new coal-burning plant near Cliffside, N.C., is a terrible idea (don't get us started on the myth of "clean coal"). That's why we're glad there's a group like the Stop Cliffside Coalition to draw attention to the issue, support research, file lawsuits, demonstrate, raise Cain, whatever it'll take. This coordinated campaign of N.C. citizen advocacy groups has led the charge for clean energy in the Carolinas; we salute them for their hard work and hope they'll keep it up. StopCliffside.org
BEST LOCAL CHARITY
Urban Ministry Center
Just a few blocks from the Square Uptown, the Urban Ministry Center is a vibrant, vigorous complex of buildings, programs and committed people, all focused on helping the homeless. And by "helping," we don't just mean a sandwich and a cot. The entire space is an urban oasis with, yes, a daily soup kitchen, but also a laundry, mail service, counselors, art classes, sculpture, an organic garden, and most of all, a welcoming, helpful spirit. They've taken on more and more clients in the current Great Recession without batting an eye. Help 'em out if you can.
945 N. College St.
BEST NEW SLOGAN FOR CHARLOTTE
"Recommended By 3 Out Of 10 Unemployed Bankers"
Runners-up: "Banking Capital Of The World Without The Capital"; "If We Build It, They Will Come"
BEST MEMBER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
City Councilman Anthony Foxx
A repeat winner. Foxx is rare in Charlotte. He was actually born and raised here. In 2005, he was elected to the Charlotte City Council as an at-large member and maybe his knowledge of the city has something to do with his sage actions on the council. For instance, in a time of budget crisis for Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, Foxx led the charge to give CMS the money that the city owed the school system from the Safelight/Safe Speed program. Of course, everyone else fell in line and voted to give CMS what was owed to them. Foxx is currently running for mayor, hoping to be the first person not named McCrory to lead the city in over a decade.
WORST MEMBER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
School Board Member Kaye "Gay Agenda" McGarry
There were four contenders for this award, and three of them are on the School Board; no wonder Chairperson Molly Griffin is getting out. McGarry, poster woman for rightwing suburbanites, gets the award here for her consistently tight-sphinctered, tight-fisted, and, don't forget, anti-gay approach to running our schools. We're hoping Kaye avoids this award next year, so maybe she can repeat this useful mantra for the next 12 months: "They're public schools, not Bible colleges."
PUBLIC OFFICIAL MOST IN NEED OF TASERING
Mayor Pat McCrory
We've often been critical of Mayor Pat McCrory during his long, seemingly endless tenure -- corporate puppets just affect us that way, we guess. So we figure, why stop now, just because he's leaving? So, Pat, please accept this parting gift from old friends: a quick zap on your way out the door.
WORST POLICING TREND
Driving At High Speed And Killing People