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Out-of-the-Box Awards

In "praise" of lawmakers' creative thinking



It's an election year, and things are crazy. Trees are coming down and city taxes are going up. Times like these make us thankful for the wise leaders who watch out for the interests of everyday people like you and me. While we're down here floundering amid the turmoil, some of the people we elected are doing what has to be done to survive such odd days: they're thinking outside the box, looking for creative ways to solve problems and keep things in balance. It's time we recognize their efforts, so I'm proud to present Boomer With Attitude's inaugural Out-of-the-Box awards.

Most Surprising Out-of-the-Box Thinking: Billboards in the Desert

You have to hand it to state Sen. Bob Rucho. When the Matthews Republican pushed the new billboard law through the General Assembly, he showed the kind of creative thinking we've come to expect from the GOP majority in Raleigh. Talk about counter-intuitive! Normally, ordinary, non-business-mogul types might assume that protecting the city's famed tree canopy is more important than watching an electronic billboard flip from Bojangles to Newport cigarettes ads. And everyone is in favor of giving cities more control over their own cityscapes, right? Well, hold on there — Rucho and his business-fellating buddies in the legislature had a higher calling: creating a new, statewide urban landscape consisting of six electronic billboards per mile squatting over clear-cut land. Think of it: at six per mile, the billboards will be able to show pay-per-view movies, turning I-77 and I-85 into Cinema Toll Roads, and thus gaining more revenue for the state. So, to Rucho & Co., way to go!

The Annual Legal-Shmegal Award: The Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board

Thinking out of the box can sometimes mean entertaining the possibility of the unexpected, and what's more unexpected than a legally elected board breaking the law? That's the kind of creative brainstorming we've seen lately from the school board. They have met with superintendent candidates without making public announcements about the meetings. That, of course, is blatantly illegal. Do the school-board members care? Naah. They're so bad — and out of the box — it gives me goosebumps.

Boldest Voting Strategies: State Reps. Becky Carney and Kelly Alexander

Congratulations to two of the freest thinkers Mecklenburg County ever sent to the state legislature. These out-of-the-box pioneers, both Democrats, proved they're not bound by stodgy ideas such as "party loyalty"; they've lent their support to Rucho's "Billboards in the Desert" initiative. Even though Carney and Alexander modestly gave credit for their votes to a mysterious city lobbyist who supposedly "misinformed" them, they should take credit for being creative.

It's certainly not the first time either lawmaker has thought out of the box. Carney, for instance, is usually pro-consumer — but not when it came to Internet service. Carney co-sponsored a bill last session that outlawed cities from offering publicly owned broadband service to its residents. If Davidson's and Salisbury's experiments in municipal broadband are an indication (they were exempted from the bill), the services are much faster than what Time Warner Cable offers. Carney probably figured out how to prevent school-age kids from spending too much time on the Web: by keeping the Internet slow and expensive.

Alexander showed out-of-the-box thinking in his own way. A funeral director, he knows most voters don't want their lawmakers passing laws that benefit members of the legislature. That's why it was boldly out-of-the-box when he and another lawmaker/funeral-director successfully introduced a bill allowing funeral homes easy access to a dead person's bank account. What a visionary!

The 2012 Out-of-the-Box Grand Prize: County Commissioner Harold Cogdell

It's time for Cogdell to change his name to "Mr. Out-of-the-Box." First, the Democrat connived with GOP commissioners to oust chairwoman Jennifer Roberts. Afterward, he leaped out of the new box he'd built for himself and decided to quit the commission altogether because the other commissioners are too fight-happy for his sensibilities — even though it was his backstabbing that ratcheted up commission meetings' rage factor. Topping himself last week, Cogdell turned into the commission's version of an acid-head college roommate, daringly declaring that — ready for this? — "Truth is a matter of subjective perspective." I'm starting a rumor that Harold may soon jump completely beyond the box and launch a new career as a freelance bathroom-graffiti author.

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