City and county governments in Charlotte aren't firing on all cylinders lately, so it's a good time to issue some fresh directives for Battlestar Mecklenburg. So, with apologies to Bill Maher and his HBO show's signature feature, here are some New Rules for Local & State Government:
New rule: Big shots on the public payroll who lie to their bosses to promote boondoggles, and/or can't keep "irregularities" from popping up faster than you can count them, have to be fired.
Seriously, is it impossible for taxpayer-funded bigwigs to be fired in this city? The head of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, Tim Newman, lied like a rug about potential attendance at the Nascar Hall of Fame in order to snag the hall for Charlotte, and didn't tell City Council that his figures were false — a lie of omission that pulled the wool over Council's eyes, and eventually led to the big white elephant that's squatting Uptown between Caldwell and Brevard Streets. Meanwhile, County Manager Harry Jones and some of his underlings have grossly mismanaged one thing after another, including the latest snafu, a county attorney negotiating a golden-parachute "settlement" for disgraced Mental Health Director Grayce Crockett. On top of that, the county then lied about the money to voters and the County Commission. In a sane town, both those guys would be history; and in most cities, you'd be looking at indictments coming down after revelations of shady dealings like those in Crockett's $99,000 payout.
City Council, at the very least, needs to issue a serious, public reprimand to Newman and the CRVA for lying via omission to the voters' elected representatives.
On the other hand, Jones' continued employment on the taxpayers' dime has moved from being merely puzzling to acquiring the feel and smell of a genuine scandal. Jones' defenders love to say that he has responded appropriately to the county's well-publicized, multiple messes; those arguments miss the point, which is that Jones is responsible for overseeing those departments' actions, not just for reacting "appropriately" when the next person inevitably screws up.
Newman and Jones are both favorites of the local business community, but it's time for Council and the County Commission to put on their big boy pants and do something about these public disgraces.
New rule: When a large planned highway project turns out to be a bad idea, don't build it.
Seems simple enough, but just try stopping any big government project once the plans are in place. The Garden Parkway toll road was recently exposed by the Observer as 1. a $435 million waste of N.C. taxpayers' money; 2. a goldmine for former N.C. Sens. Robert "Small Government" Pittenger of Charlotte, and David Hoyle of Gastonia, both of whom bought land near proposed exits along the toll road's route; and 3. a job-killer for North Carolina and job-creator for South Carolina, which isn't paying a cent for the road's construction. As if that wasn't enough reason to kill the project, consider that the road won't even do what it was originally intended to do — relieve congestion on I-85; in fact, studies now show it would increase I-85 traffic. With severe budget cuts coming from Raleigh, e-mail your state reps and let them know about a quick way to get rid of a needless $435 million expense.
New rule: When your cushy city job pays $199,000 per year, try to act as if you give a rip.
When a teenager broke airport security, stowed away in a wheel well of an airplane, and became a national security issue, Jerry Orr, the city's airport honcho, turned into Mr. Blasé, acting as if the whole episode was someone else's responsibility. That's not what folks expect out of a $199,000 per year pubic official, Jerry.
New rule: From now on, sanitation workers have to take ALL the garbage.
Your street should not look worse than it did before the trucks came. I don't know about where you live, but after the weekly pickup, my street often looks like a friggin' hurricane came through.