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A handy list of who broke their arena promises

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If you're like the rest of the city, you're probably confused. Last year, city leaders said they wouldn't use property taxes to build a new uptown arena. They'd let the voters decide whether to build a new arena. Then, after the voter referendum failed in June­ and election season began ­ they said the people had spoken, and they wouldn't be building an arena. In fact, they wouldn't even vote to discuss it. In last fall's elections, most city council candidates brushed aside the question of how they'd vote on an arena because, they said, the issue was dead. But that was then, and this is now. After council members were elected or reelected last fall, they changed the rules of the game. Some didn't even wait for election results to finish rolling in before they began talking about resurrecting the arena debate. After the city's three major corporate institutions put a $100 million offer on the table in January that would essentially provide temporary gap-financing for a new $230 million arena, they concocted a new arena funding recipe that included property taxes.

Then, this week, the council voted 8-3 to go forward with an arena funding plan that includes at least $25 million in property taxes and does not include a referendum. So subtle was this screw-over that it's difficult to tell just who's to blame on the council. That's why Creative Loafing has created this handy record of council members' various positions on the arena to help both you and them remember just where they stand ­ and where they stood just months ago. The list was compiled using various media sources, including the Leader, Creative Loafing and city council meeting notes and records.

Pat McCrory, Mayor

City Council Election 1999: Did not commit to a referendum

Before the June 2001 referendum: After some accused him of sitting on the fence on the arena issue, McCrory outlined conditions he said the council should insist on if it approved an arena: no property taxes, a detailed arena business plan from the Hornets that included future financial projections for the team and the NBA, and private sector participation in the financing of the project. The mayor was adamant throughout the arena process that property taxes not be used to fund an arena.

After the referendum failed: McCrory says he can't see the city contributing much beyond land and infrastructure.

Now: Defends using general city funds, or property tax money on an arena. Says corporate financing offer on the arena has changed his stance on the issue though only one of his "conditions" for using public money to build an arena has actually been met.

His vote Monday: Doesn't vote.

Patrick Cannon, At-large

City Council Election 1999: Didn't commit to a voter referendum.

After the referendum failed: In August, Cannon says, "I don't think they should expect the City Council to go back into the thick of things anytime soon. We are elected by the people and the people made their decision.

Five months later, in January, his tune has changed. "From my perspective, an ownership change wouldn't hurt in the way of trying to rekindle talks to keep the team here in Charlotte," said Cannon.

His vote Monday: For arena proposal

Pat Mumford, At-large

City Council Election 2001: Made no clear commitment to do or not do anything regarding an arena other than to check out any new deal that came forward and weigh its benefits against other city needs. "If there is a new deal that is brought forward, I'm willing to look at that," Mumford said in January.

His vote Monday: Against arena proposal

Lynn Wheeler, At-large

City Council Election 1999: Wheeler repeatedly said she would only support a new arena under three conditions: "If property taxes are not used, if there is a referendum to gauge public support and if there is a strong economic payback to the city."

Before the June 2001 referendum: Wheeler repeatedly says she considers the referendum binding. "If we ask the public for their opinion and then we don't abide by it, we are in essence spitting in their face," she said last March.

After the referendum failed: In November, Wheeler says "It's not appropriate for the council to discuss a new arena and I don't think there's anything we could or should do to keep the Hornets in Charlotte."

Her vote Monday: For arena proposal

Joe White, At-large

City Council Election 1999 Committed to a voter referendum.

Before the June 2001 referendum: "I strongly support the total package, but I would do what the people say."

After the referendum failed: Says he would support nothing more than land and infrastructure without a referendum. "I've always supported talking about it," he says.

His vote Monday: For arena proposal

Sara Spencer, District 1

City Council Election 1999: Didn't commit to a voter referendum.

Before the June 2001 referendum: Didn't commit to anything on the record.

After the referendum failed: "Something has to come to us," said Spencer last month. "There has to be some reason for us to take a step. I reckon we would know it when we saw it."

Her vote Monday: For arena proposal

James Mitchell, District 2

City Council Election 1999: Mitchell vows to support a referendum

Before the June 2001 referendum: Mitchell says that he will abide by his constituents' wishes.

After the referendum failed: In January, Mitchell said, "I think we heard loud and clear from the referendum that part of the no vote was due to the ownership. If we change ownership, that will give us enough momentum from the community to justify putting it back on (the council's agenda) as a priority now."

His vote Monday: For arena proposal

Harold Cogdell, District 3

City Council Election 2001: Makes no promises on an arena beyond considering any deal that comes before him and possibly spending some public money to build it.

His vote Monday: Against arena proposal

Malcolm Graham, District 4

City Council Election 1999: Commits to a referendum.

Before the June 2001 referendum: Is one of the council's most open-minded members as far as using different revenue sources to get an arena built. "I always try to stay open," he says.

After the referendum failed: Ditto. Insists that there's a difference between the arena deal voters voted on this spring and the one council is considering now. "It is a different council and different circumstances so it is a different scenario," said Graham. "As we move forward, we simply have to be willing to invest in ourselves."

Now: On his November comments that the city should furnish land and infrastructure for the deal, Graham now says, "I said we ought to do land and infrastructure plus. I wasn't specific."

His vote Monday: For arena proposal

Nancy Carter, District 5

City Council Election 1999: Carter commits to a referendum.

After the referendum failed: "Land and infrastructure. That's it."

Her vote Monday: For arena proposal

John Tabor, District 6

City Council election 2001: Reluctantly commits to holding another referendum if the city uses public funds for an arena after being pushed by a reporter.

Now: "More than likely because of the timeline, we would not have time to go to a referendum," Tabor said he'd be willing to attend special meetings to speed a reasonable arena deal along in January.

His vote Monday: For arena proposal

Don Lochman, District 7

City Council Election 1999: Won't commit to a voter referendum, but later votes for one.

Before the June 2001 referendum: Tends to get upset and wave arms in the air whenever the topic is brought up. Lochman is the deal's toughest critic. "I don't understand why we're doing this," he says.

After the referendum failed: After the fall council elections are over and the subject of the referendum debate comes back, Lochman again flips out. "I don't understand why we're doing this," he asks council colleagues over and over. As usual, they ignore him.

His vote Monday: Against arena proposal


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