Hello, dear readers. It's time for a new edition of Columnists Are Human (note: as always, Charles Krauthammer and Tom Ashcraft not included). As you know, this is where we look at how good columnists take their gut reactions to the news and transform them into the clear, reasonable works of journalistic art you readers love -- or at least love to hate. So, once again, here's a series of recent news items, followed in each case by my gut reaction, and then a carefully crafted commentary more suitable for a column.
Item: Mayor Pat McCrory will probably run for governor.
Gut reaction: Thank God, and bye-bye Fratboy!
Final version: A gubernatorial run by McCrory would take him out of town more often, reducing his influence in City Council meetings. His inevitable loss in the race -- no Charlotte mayor has won statewide office since the days of Fred Flintstone -- would also weaken him locally, leaving him to slink back into Council meetings with his tail between his legs. In other words, for progressive Charlotteans, McCrory's gubernatorial run would be a win-win!
Item: Singer and American Idol veteran Kellie Pickler, of Albemarle, revealed on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? that she thought Europe was a country, had never heard of Hungary, and believed Budapest is the capital of France.
Gut reaction: Christ Almighty, how can schools graduate somebody that stupid?
Final version: Ms. Pickler, although a fine singer, is unfortunately an all-too-common example of how America's lax educational system keeps many Americans woefully ignorant of the rest of the world.
Item: Republican County Commissioners won't serve on bipartisan Mackey panel. Commissioner Ramirez said, "We didn't want to be meddling in their internal affairs."
Gut reaction: What a lyin' sack. They've done nothing but meddle in the sheriff appointment fiasco from Day One.
Final version: Mr. Ramirez's reasoning for backing out of participation appears to be at odds with his fellow GOP commissioners' recent behavior.
Item: County commissioners delay approval of plan to let the Charlotte Knights build a baseball stadium Uptown.
Gut reaction: Too bad it's merely a speed bump for the Uptown corporate bulldozer that's shoving the stadium deal through.
Final version: On the surface, the complex stadium land-swap plan seems like a good deal -- we'd get a new baseball stadium, which well-heeled Uptown residents could walk to in a nostalgic, Leave It To Beaver-type haze (assuming Beaver's parents were wealthy bankers); more Uptown residential space would be created, as well as bigger offices for CMS and a new park in Third Ward. But potential problems are getting very little attention in the usual Charlotte rush to give Uptown business interests whatever they want.
First, the stadium will be shoe-horned into a space that's barely large enough to contain it, and could not be expanded later. Second, Wachovia and Mass Mutual will make a tidy profit from the deal, while public expenses will total millions of dollars; if Center City Partners is genuinely civic-minded, perhaps they could convince Wachovia and Mass Mutual to hand over some of their profits to the cause.
Third, and this, to me, is the biggest objection to the project, the deal means a big net loss of green space. Charlotte already has less green space Uptown than almost any other American city its size, and further reducing that slim supply of parks acreage is a terrible idea. The stadium will be built on land that was approved by voters for a park (and specifically, not for a baseball stadium), which would be much larger than the newly proposed Third Ward park. When Commissioner Parks Helms said the stadium project will "create a center city that will be unequaled in this country," I suppose he was speaking of the unequaled ratio of concrete to green space.
Item: U.S. Justice Department sets formal criminal inquiry into the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes.
Gut reaction: Let's hope they do a better job of digging out the truth than the Valerie Plame investigation managed to do.
Final version: It remains to be seen whether new Attorney General Michael Mukasey's chosen prosecutor will be able to nail a culprit. If the Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby case is any indication, we may see a second-tier person turned into a scapegoat.