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Citizen Servatius needs a break, so this is her best of the year in review. Enjoy. Merry Christmas!

If the city of Charlotte spends $54.97 to buy a case of Kleenex and I want to know about it, the city must give me a full accounting if I ask. But police officers, who are city employees, can shoot a man dead and the police department, which is a city department, doesn't have to divulge a single damned detail about what happened. From "CMPD Officers Shoot Again, Then duck the consequences," November 14, 2007.

Scottland Belk, 39, got frustrated with his mother, Margarette Kalinoski, after a spat over a car. So he beat her skull in with a baseball bat, then strangled her to death. America's Most Wanted helped in the hunt for Belk and his wife, who then conned their way across the country pretending to be Hurricane Katrina victims. Like every murder case featured in this column, Belk's file contained a notice explaining that he was being charged with first degree murder. "The state presently intends to seek the death penalty in this matter, if this matter is not resolved by a guilty plea." Translation: Your victim's life wasn't worth a damn to this community, but our time is. If you don't hack us off by making us take this case to trial, which we lack the funds to do anyway, we'll let you off easy. Despite a prior federal conviction for bank robbery, Mecklenburg County prosecutors offered Belk a plea deal he couldn't refuse. He pled guilty to second degree murder and is currently serving a 15-year sentence. From "Misdemeanor Homicide, True tales of slaughter," April 18, 2007.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings and revelations that the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was picked on in school, a public backlash followed, with talk radio callers chiming in that everyone gets picked on, but not everyone picks up a gun. That's true, and Cho is the only person to blame for what he did last month. But what sticks in my craw about the whole "bullying" debate that has surrounded Cho is the tendency to lump all kids who get picked on into a single group, as if bullying is just a normal right of passage everyone goes through. For many people, that's true. But what a small group of kids has to endure is something else entirely. A few years ago I read an ACLU press release about the degrading psychological "torture" some terrorism suspects were forced to endure when they are interrogated by our government. I was unimpressed because I knew kids in high school who went through much worse. The difference, of course, was that the terrorists could make it stop by telling their interrogators what they wanted to know. From "An Invisibility Cloak, Psychological brutalization for students," May 2, 2007.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education Chairman Joe White made a heart-felt speech last week about how he has really been misunderstood on school discipline. His own kids will tell you he's pretty conservative about that, he said. White can't be serious. Since he assumed the school board chairmanship in 2003, there have been more than 150 assaults on school personnel, 18 sexual assaults, 27 assaults resulting in serious injury, 18 assaults involving the use of a weapon and 94 possessions of a firearm. And that's just a small sampling of school crime. Tough? School officials finally admitted last week what I've been writing in this space annually -- that no one has been expelled from the school system in at least five years. From "Joe 'Robo Cop' White Gets Tough, Anything for 581.6 million," July 8, 2007.

For years, Thomas Sayre has made his living selling circles and, from time to time, the occasional square. Sometimes he stacks the circles on top of each other to form cucumberesque shapes. Other times they are freestanding. Government art bureaucrats love Sayre's circles and have paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars for them over the years. The vaunted, highly qualified art critics with Charlotte Area Transit System's art-in-transit program call Sayre an artist. The head of the art program, which bought $142,000 worth of orange discs from him for the South Corridor light rail line, told me he was brilliant a few years ago. I agreed with her that he was brilliant. Not a brilliant artist, but a brilliant marketer who is running one heck of a racket. From "Running Circles, Around a faux art world," October 3, 2007.

The only African-American I see struggling to succeed around here is Mackey. I defy anyone to name one piece of information about his background that Mackey was asked for that Bailey wasn't. The painful truth is that most of the controversy surrounding Mackey could end tomorrow -- and could have ended weeks ago -- if Mackey simply turned over his police personnel record, as Bailey did promptly when asked. From "Racial Whiplash, Charlotte gets smacked," December 12, 2007.


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