Bless our city's little heart: The wince-worthy moments just keep coming. Take last week, when four serious Charlotte embarrassments reared their heads. There's a lot to like in this city; otherwise, I wouldn't still be living here. One thing that's not to like, though, is the inability of the city's "leaders" to laugh at themselves. But that's their problem. With Bank of America, our No. 1 Corporate Citizen, in deep shit, a little gallows humor is in order. So with that in mind, here are last week's four biggest civic embarrassments. Let's do it, in reverse order of shame, a la David Letterman.
No. 4: House Speaker Thom Tillis, of Cornelius, wanted to appoint a licensed real estate broker, Joseph Ramsey Jr. of Raleigh, to the "public member" seat on the N.C. Home Inspector Licensure Board. The problem? The appointment violated the board's directives, which specifically ban licensed real estate brokers from taking the "public" seat. Tillis weaseled his way out of the problem by getting GOP lawmakers to change the rule. Now, the rule merely says that the public member of the board cannot be an "actively engaged" broker. Ramsey is a licensed real estate broker, but not, according to Tillis, currently active. So that makes it OK. Does Tillis' reasoning remind anyone else of former Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority honcho Tim Newman claiming it was OK to give an employee $100K from the CIAA tournament since he had first laundered the outside money through the Visitors Authority's funds?
No. 3: Speaking of the devil: Tim Newman's imprint is all over Embarrassment No. 3. We all knew that attendance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is really bad. But not only is it bad, it's getting worse. July attendance at the Hall fell 35 percent compared with figures from July 2010, which already were nothing to get excited about.
This should be embarrassing to the entire Uptown booster crowd, which in this case includes the Charlotte City Council. After all, Council failed to do its job when it let CRVA's Newman get away with lying like a rug about the potential number of Hall visitors. Newman knew his figures were wild exaggerations, but he never mentioned it to Council. Just about everyone knew — or should have been able to tell — that Newman's figures were nonsense, and transparent nonsense at that. But Council never challenged those figures, knowing that if the Hall's attendance fell short, it could blame Newman. The latest, paltry attendance figures for the NASCAR Hall should serve as a warning the next time Uptown's over-caffeinated suits start getting all excited and squirmy about some new big idea.
No. 2: The U.S. Department of Labor told Bank of America that it must pay $930,000 to an employee who discovered and reported pervasive fraud at Countrywide Financial Corp., which had been bought out by BofA. The Labor Department said the employee was fired "in violation of whistleblower protections." The Bank, of course, is "disappointed" in the Labor Department's ruling. Said BofA spokesman Dan Frahm, "The bank's actions in dismissing this associate were solely based on issues with her management style and in no way related to the complaints and allegations she made." Sure, Dan. I'm sure everyone believes you. And Thom. And Tim.
No. 1: And the most embarrassing moment of the week? You guessed it — that prize goes to Rep. Sue Myrick's terror-rific 9/11 freakout.
The perpetually frightened-by-something-or-other congresswoman canceled her appearances on 9/11 because, she said, she'd been warned by "intelligence sources" that she was on an Iranian government list of people who work against Iran, and that the list implied that those people should be harmed. It turned out that the Iranian "list" was a verbatim reproduction of "Fear, Inc.," a report by the Center for American Progress on what the organization called the "Islamophobia industry." It's important to note that no one else on the dreaded list changed his or her 9/11 plans in any way.
Myrick's freak-out made national news, where she — and, by association, Charlotte — was roundly ridiculed. So much for standing up to the terrorists and showing them we're not going to live in fear, huh? Hopefully, Myrick will finally retire at the end of her current term (if she can convince herself she's not as important to national security as she thinks she is), and we won't have to put up with out-of-towners making fun of us every time Sue says or does something crazy.
Of course, the down side of that is that we won't have Rep. Sue Myrick to kick around anymore. Aw.