by John Grooms
Bless our city’s little heart: the wince-worthy moments just keep coming. Take this week. Three serious Charlotte embarrassments reared their heads, and that’s not including Rep. Sue Myrick’s terror-rific 9/11 freakout.
For Charlotte (or in booster-ese, “SHAH-lut”), embarrassments are hard pills to swallow, seeing as how the powers-that-be spent the better part of the last 30 years bragging about the wonderful, shiny newness of our fair burg. There’s a lot to like in Charlotte; otherwise, I wouldn’t still be here. One thing that’s not to like, though, is the city's inability to laugh at itself. That’s probably the banker influence at work, but with Bank of America, our Number One Corporate Citizen, in deep shit, you’d think a little gallows humor would be uptown’s new conversational coin of the realm. God knows it would help loosen a few of those overly clinched sphincters, the owners of which you see strutting uptown at lunch.
So this is as good a time as any to get a grim chuckle out of our town’s ongoing string of bad luck:
The first embarrassment: Once again, attendance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is bad; not only bad, but getting worse. July attendance at the Hall fell 35 percent compared with figures from July 2010, which were nothing to get excited about.
This should be embarrassing to the entire uptown booster crowd, which in this case includes Charlotte City Council. After all, council failed to do its job when it let Tim Newman, then-CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, get away with lying like a rug about the potential number of Hall visitors. Newman knew his figures were wild exaggerations, but he never mentioned it to council, which is bad enough. But the truth is, just about everybody knew, or should have been able to tell, that Newman’s figures were bullshit, and transparent bullshit at that. But council never challenged those figures, knowing that if the Hall’s attendance fell short, they could blame Newman for lying. These latest, paltry attendance figures should serve as a warning the next time uptown’s caffeinated suits start getting all excited and squirmy about some new big idea.
Second embarrassment: House Speaker Thom Tillis, of Cornelius, wanted to appoint a licensed real estate broker, Joseph Ramsey Jr. of Raleigh, to the "public member" seat on the N.C. Home Inspector Licensure Board. The problem was that the appointment violated the board’s directives, which specifically bar licensed real estate brokers from taking the “public” seat, since that profession already has a board seat set aside for it.
So how did Tillis weasel out of the problem? He got his GOP pals to change the inconvenient rule, so that it now merely says the public member of the board cannot be an "actively engaged" broker. Because, you see, um, Ramsey is a licensed real estate broker, but it’s Tillis’ understanding that Ramsey is not currently an active broker, so that makes it OK. Does this remind anyone else of the time Tim Newman said it was OK to give an associate $100K from the CIAA tournament since he had first placed the outside money into the Visitors Authority’s funds? Weasels on parade.
Third embarrassment: The U.S. Department of Labor told Bank of America that it must pay $930,000 to an employee who discovered and reported pervasive fraud at Countrywide Financial Corp., which had been bought out by BofA. The Labor Dept. said the employee was fired “in violation of whistleblower protections.” The Bank, of course, is “disappointed” in the Labor Dept.’s ruling. Said BofA spokesman Dan Frahm, "The bank's actions in dismissing this associate were solely based on issues with her management style and in no way related to the complaints and allegations she made."
Sure they were, Dan. I’m sure everyone believes you. And Thom. And Tim. You guys go back to your workplace and scowl; the rest of us will be shaking our heads and chuckling. At least today.