JLF Piedmont Triad BlogRSS

Re: Amtrak crash

Just take my word for it —the discussion on the Dianne Rehm Show of this week’s tragic Amtrak crash was cringe-inducing. You guessed it—not enough money, not enough money; more money, more money. One caller even had the audacity to place blame for the crash on —get this —Ronald Reagan.

If you want a different perspective, read Antiplanner’s take. Here’s a sample:

In 2008, President Bush signed a law mandating that most railroads, including Amtrak, install positive train control (PTC) by December of 2015. PTC would force trains to slow or stop if the operator ignored signals or speed limits.

In 2009 and 2010, President Obama asked a Democratic Congress to give him $10 billion to spend on high-speed trains, and Congress agreed. Not one cent of that money went to installing PTC in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

PTC would have prevented this accident.

…If Congress were to respond to this crash by increasing federal infrastructure spending, it is all too likely that much if not most of that money would go for useless new projects such as new high-speed rail lines, light rail, and bridges to nowhere. We don’t need intercity trains that cost several times as much but go less than half as fast as flying; we don’t need urban trains that cost 50 times as much but can’t carry as many people per hour as buses; we don’t need new bridges if bridge users themselves aren’t willing to pay for them.

1 Comment

‘Can we stop whining and bellyaching about Volvo?’

Asks Carolina Plott Hound as Volvo after North Carolina —and Gboro-Randolph County (mind you still busily assembling proposed megasite) take a back seat to South Carolina in pursuit of the Volvo plant.

For what it’s worth, the N&R’s Doug Clark chimes in:

North Carolina was a contender, but not a finalist, for this prize. The runner-up award, for what it’s worth, went to Georgia, which already is in the car-making business.

So, how did South Carolina prevail? With the “friendliness, work ethic and passion” of its people, Volvo said. “What I believe won Volvo cars in South Carolina was our workforce,” Gov. Nikki Haley boasted.

Really? If so, what’s wrong with our workforce? Nothing. So, what else?

Low taxes? Cheap land? Non-union labor willing to accept lower wages than autoworkers up North?

Us, too! Many North Carolina politicians believe that’s all you need to lure any company. They are proud of our business climate.

But there’s this in South Carolina: Volvo will get an incentives package worth more than $200 million.

It’s a giant, multinational corporation’s dream come true, a grab-bag of delights that includes free land, tax breaks, worker training, a rail line and an interstate highway exchange.

And South Carolina politicians are positively giddy about it. They aren’t too proud to pay.
Republican politicians, like ours. But not like ours.

So, who is the vale of humility and who the mountain of conceit now?

I guess when it’s all said and done, the case can be made that the N&R’s criticism of Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-led General Assembly is consistent—they’ve bungled landing an automobile plant like they’ve bungled everything else. Still it strikes me odd that the brains down on East Market Street would suddenly trust a bunch of backwards, teacher-hating, homophobic, gun-loving, non-Medicaid-expanding, harshing-on-the-unemployed, Greensboro City Council-hating knotheads with $200 million in taxpayers’ money in an attempt to lure an evil corporation to our state.

1 Comment

Howard Coble PART hub

The Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation will break ground on the “Howard Coble Intermodal Transportation Center.”

N&R notes “perhaps fittingly, the new building is a scaled-down version of the hub’s more ornate original design, which carried an estimated price tag of $23.5 million”—- taking into account the former 6th District Congressional representative’s “frugal approach to spending.”

While that might be true, I’d like to think that Coble would be reluctant to have his name associated with a pseudo-governmental entity that has come up with more ways to spend taxpayers’ money than a dog has fleas. Just so happens –perhaps fittingly—- I saw an empty PART bus running down Elm Street this morning.

But what does Coble care any more? No doubt he’s enjoying successor Mark Walker sweat over fast track for President Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, considering how well NAFTA worked out for the textile industry.

No Comments

East W-S neighborhood opposes homeless shelter

Residents of a minority-majority East Winston-Salem neighborhood are voicing strong opposition to a proposed Salvation Army family homeless shelter:

“We have a volatile community,” said Marva Reid, president of the East/Northeast Winston Neighborhood Association. “We’d be doing homeless people a grave disservice putting them here.”

….Reid said the community has problems of its own it is working on.
“There were an overwhelming number of ‘no’ votes from the community,” Reid said. “I don’t understand why you have the majority of the community saying no and it’s still a debate.”

Shraddha Modi, the owner of MLK Pharmacy in the Eastway Plaza Shopping Center near the intersection of New Walkertown Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and about two blocks from the proposed shelter, said she doesn’t think the shelter would be good for the neighborhood.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood for nine years, and it’s getting better,” Modi said. “The neighborhood is finally starting to come together, so to me it’s not a good idea.”

More striking are comments from Housing Authority of Winston-Salem CEO Larry Woods:

“Our biggest concern is that the residents’ dreams won’t be adhered to,” Woods said. “At this time, having a shelter would have a chilling effect on families looking to move into this area and investors with interest in putting businesses in the area. Having a shelter there is not compatible with what we’re trying to do at this time.”

In whta could qualify as the overstatement of this young week, Salvation Army Maj. James Allison said neighborhood reaction to the proposed homeless shelter “was somewhat unexpected,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal. The W-S planning board approved the rezoning request for the shelter by a 7-2 vote. The City Council is expected to take up the issue in July.

No Comments

Gboro’s D-League proposal ‘interesting’

So says Greensboro native and Charlotte Hornets president and chief operating officer Fred Whitfield, who grew up on the old Carolina Courgars model:

“As a kid in Greensboro,” Whitfield said, “it was awesome being able to sit on the goal pads and see the stars of the ABA go up and down the court. When you’re 12, 13, 14 years old, that’s pretty tough to beat.”

The Cougars were a regional franchise, dividing home games among the Greensboro Coliseum and arenas in Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem. It’s an idea that wouldn’t work in the NBA, and with a merger of leagues looming, investors moved the team to St. Louis.

But would a smaller regional model work in the D-League?

That’s the proposal Matt Brown, managing director of the coliseum complex, talked about this week when Greensboro was named a finalist for the Hornets’ new minor-league team along with Raleigh, Fayetteville, Asheville and South Carolina cities Charleston, Columbia and Greenville.

Greensboro’s proposal would put D-League home games in three venues — a curtained coliseum main arena, a 3,400-seat Special Events Center court and Joel Coliseum.

None of the three could accommodate all the team’s home games alone because of busy current use.

Yeah the three-venue option is a tough bid, but the Triad’s still the logical choice, being right up the road from Charlotte. But always keep in mind —it’s Michael Jordan’s world, we just live in it.

No Comments

Gboro civil rights museum: robbing Peter to pay Paul

Rhino’s Scott Yost reports Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Center and Museum is seeking $250,000 from Guilford County to help pay off the City of Greensboro’s $1.5 million loan.

Looks like the Rhino’s out front on this story–look for it in the N&R either tomorrow or Saturday. No matter—bottom line is “museum backers would probably be wise to not count those county chickens before they hatch,” especially with the Republican-majority Board of Commissioners.

1 Comment

Food desert within a food desert

Triad City Beat reports on the less-than-successful rollout of Winston-Salem’s Liberty Street outdoor market:

By measures of food access and poverty level, the area is a classic food desert, as defined by the US Department of agriculture. From the intersection of 14th and Liberty streets, it’s a mile to the Food Lion and Save-A-Lot groceries at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and New Walkertown Road. Another Food Lion, at North Side Shopping Center, is 2.3 miles away.

To meet the US Department of Agriculture’s definition of a food desert, at least 20 percent of a census tract’s residents must be living in poverty; 67 percent of the residents in the area live below poverty. Median family income is $12,813, compared to $40,148 for the city as a whole. It would be hard to imagine a place in more dire need of healthy, affordable food.

The official opening of the Liberty Street Market last October, an event heralded with high-flown rhetoric from local elected officials, should have been a moment of renewal for an area that has been struggling to revive for decades. The diagonally placed pavilions equipped with overhead heaters — one enclosed and the other open — would be the envy of any neighborhood.

For all its promise, six months in there is no fresh produce for sale at the market, hours of operation are sporadic, only a handful of vendors have been showing up, and foot traffic is scarce.

You guessed it— allegations of political motivation behind the rewarding of the contract to operate Liberty Street Market are flying around, with City Council member Vivian Burke — who represents the Northeast Ward — in the middle of it all.

No Comments

Hi-Toms to High Point?

High Point Enterprise reports HP Convention & Visitors Bureau president and CEO Tim Mabe is pitching a new downtown baseball stadium for the Thomasville Hi-Toms. But –as the headline states—the idea is short on details, including–you guessed it —cost:

“Imagine 75,000 people dumped right at the front door of Washington Street on an annual basis,” Mabe said. “I think that could be a game changer.”

The project, he said, could give High Point a niche as a prime venue for youth-sports events.

He said organizers haven’t approached property owners in the area. He said International Market Centers owns about 10 acres in the vicinity of 200 Steele, though it does not own the facility itself.

“I couldn’t imagine a scenario where IMC would not be a partner in this,” said Mabe. “We hope the public sector will also have a role.”
HiToms President Greg Suire said organizers envision development of the park as a public-private partnership.

“The ballpark in Charlotte, which we visited, was public-private. Greensboro was all private. I would think our’s will be much more private than public,” he said.
Organizers have had discussions with potential donors, he added.

“We’re not ready to divulge where we are with that,” Suire said. “I think it’s going to be another six to seven months before we say, ‘Here’s the actual plan.’ But, as far as the groundwork of the vision and the mission, that’s been established. We have a sense of what we want to do.”

Stay tuned –HP has been grasping for some type of downtown sports/entertainment venue for a while now. More intriguing is Suire’s statement that the Hi-Toms would split time between the new stadium and the team’s current home, Finch Field, which is owned by the City of Thomasville and has been recently renovated.

But with “modern amenities, from the luxury boxes to the 360-degree concourse, the different views,” it would be hard to imagine the Hi-Toms staying at Finch, if the new stadium ever becomes reality.

1 Comment

Victory for Ignite High Point—yippeee

By a 5-3 vote, the High Point City Council approved Ignite High Point plan for a “library plaza” project at an estimated cost of $2.1 million. The project would “would entail creation of a gathering space in front of the building to host community events and library programming, as well as landscaping, farmer’s market stalls and “pocket parks” in the parking lot.

Finally Ignite High Point catches a break after its usefulness emerged as an issue during last year’s City Council elections.

But citizens are still skeptical about both Ignite High Point and the library plaza project —note the comments beneath HP booster Aaron Clinard’s op-ed stumping for the project. And they have a right to be skeptical —council member Jim Davis —one of the ‘no’ votes’ (along with fellow council members Cynthia Davis and Jason Ewing) noted that “the bulk of the purported funding source for the project — about $5.7 million in two-thirds bonds — was earmarked by the previous council for water line replacement on N. Main Street and other infrastructure upgrades,” adding there were “19 water line breaks on N. Main Street last year.”

What a choice on behalf of taxpayers —“gathering spaces” or core infrastructure.

1 Comment

W-S—Too white

According to City Council member Vivian Burke, who spoke out as the council considered additional economic incentives for Herbalife to expand its operations in W-S:

…Burke said it was “a shame and disgrace” that the city has spent so many millions of dollars on incentives over the years when “we see how few citizens have opportunities for these jobs.”

..Burke’s complaints about minority hiring went beyond Herbalife. She criticized Winston-Salem Business Inc., the community’s industry-recruitment organization, for not having enough minorities on its staff.

And Burke said that while the city has made big strides over the years in hiring more minorities to work in city government, there are still city offices in which all the employees are white.

“Supervisors will have to do a better job,” Burke said.

The incentives proposal was sent back to the finance committee to be further debated in time for the council’s May 18 meeting.

No Comments

JLF Network Websites & Blogs