Still Holding Hands…

In what is becoming an early-Spring tradition here in Fayetteville, City Manager Doug Hewett went on local radio this morning and defended the parking deck project downtown.

It’s making me a bit nostalgic…

I first published my concerns about the project in April of 2018. It must have struck a nerve, because Hewett immediately went on the radio and criticized my take. Since then, the contract’s been amended multiple times, costs have increased by millions of (tax) dollars, and the completion date continues to be pushed back.

This morning, Hewett assured listeners that the deck would be completed “soon,” and that the “big crane” would be returning in April to begin construction on top of the deck. Everyone loves a big crane. Hewett was hopeful that a few floors of the deck would open to allow Woodpeckers employees and Prince Charles residents a place to park.

Notice that the deck will be paid for with public funds (17+ Million). Also notice that the public won’t be parking in the deck when it opens.

But that’s O.K., Fayetteville, because after all this time, we’re still in love.

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Love is Patient

The deck was supposed to be finished a year ago. Hewett said the City is still deciding whether it will enforce the $1000/day penalty provisions of our contract with the developers:

Hewett’s not being truthful here. He knows his office won’t push for enforcement. The city has not enforced a single term of this contract in the past. Why would it start now? Instead, the City Council and Mayor will be asked for patience and understanding, and they’ll give it.

Love is Kind

And why would we make our development partners pay us money, especially days after we were ready to pay them nearly $200,000 in interest income?

Just Because” 😉

The council postponed the vote on the Assistant City Manager’s “interest income” proposal last week, waiting until after Valentines Day to give away your interest earnings to their development partner.

But look at the irony in that. We should be charging these developers over 300k in late fees ($1,000/day from March 15, 2019 to present). Instead, Doug Hewett’s office wants the council to pay them $186,095, for no reason at all. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.


Hewett also explained in the interview this morning that the parking deck is being built by “Hay Street Development Pad” (LLC), and not “Prince Charles Holdings” LLC. Hewett said many of the investors are the same, but technically, it’s two different companies.

Remember, we just have to take Hewett’s word for it on this. The public doesn’t get to know the identity of our development partners. It’s not a public record.

So while City Hall and these investors continue their tango into 2020, they’re asking the public to love a ghost.

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And by “love,” I mean they’re asking the public to throw millions of tax dollars at a ghost.

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If you look hard enough, you can almost see your money floating away…

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I have to make a (bad) joke about it because it’s such an inherently awful way to conduct city government. We should not be receiving assurances on the radio from an un-elected city employee about a public-private development deal with secret investors.

It’s way past time to shine some sunlight on this romance. Local media won’t dig into it, and it’s clear you’re not going to get a straight answer from City Hall.

It’s up to us.

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Thanks for reading.

Double Standards Reveal Cracks in Downtown Policy

Back in November, I wrote a post about Prince Charles Holdings’ request for more money for the parking deck that they are still building in downtown Fayetteville. I predicted the Fayetteville City Council and the Mayor would fund the company’s request. They did. I ended the post this way:

When they ask for more money in a few months, I’ll change some numbers around and re-post this article.

https://crosscreekdivide.com/2019/11/21/1-4-million-more-tax-dollars-downtown-parking-deck/

Well, Prince Charles Holdings has asked for more money. This is about the fifth time they’ve done so. It’s not as much a fulfilled prediction as it is clock-work at this point.

But the details of tonight’s City Council Agenda and exactly how they are going about the latest increase has me riled up. So you get about the 15th parking-deck-post on this site. My apologies in advance…

Investment Income

Apparently, the City of Fayetteville earns interest on the millions of dollars in bond money we borrowed to finance the baseball stadium and purchase the parking deck downtown.

All of the money we borrowed hasn’t been spent, yet, in part because Prince Charles Holdings can’t seem to finish the deck on schedule. It was supposed to be finished in October, and we don’t have to pay for it until it is finished, so the millions we borrowed to pay for it are presumably sitting in an account somewhere, earning interest. Apparently, we’re earning a lot of interest: $189,063 to this date, according to the city’s numbers.

“Great!,” you might think to yourself. “The city’s at least getting some money back. We can use that to offset the cost of the project and save the taxpayers some money!”

But…

…then the powerful forces of the Fayetteville bureaucracy go to work, and suddenly it’s not so great anymore.

Instead of giving this investment income back to the taxpayers or using it to lower the principal on the debt the taxpayers owe, our City Council and city managers want to give all of it to Prince Charles Holdings. They will vote to do so, tonight.

Are you even surprised anymore? Yeah, me neither.

Keep in mind that the initial cost for this deck was 7 Million Dollars. It’s now pushing 18 Million. 2.9 Million is being transferred out of the general fund to cover the overage. This means that other city services will have to be cut if we don’t raise taxes.

Segra Stadium Standards

Perhaps we could have used some of that $186,095 to offset the cost of our new baseball stadium which is also over-budget? But that’s too easy and too obvious.

Today, the Observer published an article stating that our new stadium already has cracks and water leaks. Fayetteville has hired an engineer to analyze and document the defects. This is a good thing. It’s smart government. Why? Fayetteville is battling with the contractor, Barton Malow, over the total cost of the project. Fayetteville can now use these structural defects as leverage to negotiate the final cost of the project and save the taxpayers money.

This is responsible city management. This is how it’s supposed to work.

So why the double-standard?

Despite the fact that our leaders sold the parking deck and the stadium as a package deal, they now refuse to treat these projects the same way even though it is in the city’s interest to do so. It’s baffling, really.

I don’t know who invested in Prince Charles Holdings. It’s not public record by the way, and the city won’t tell us. I do know that they are very powerful behind the curtain.

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Do you know of any other entity that is treated this way by the City of Fayetteville? City management goes out of its way to enrich these people. Our elected leaders gladly vote “yes” to repeated cost increases and waive penalties for missing construction deadlines.

Several months ago, Mayor Colvin had an apt analogy when Prince Charles Holdings asked for more money for the deck:

I actually agree with him. Any bank would keep the interest that it makes on its own money for itself.

We’ll just give it away.

Mayor Colvin's Olde-Fashioned Politics

The Fayetteville City Council has invested millions of your tax dollars in order to encourage and stimulate economic growth downtown. Mayor Mitch Colvin recently made the personal decision to capitalize on that growth and purchased a commercial building downtown. But, Colvin’s building lies in an area the Fayetteville City Council designated as a “Historic District,” and our good Mayor was recently introduced to the red-tape of Fayetteville’s “Historic” bureaucracy that has long been the hindrance of many a good Cross Creek businessman.

You see, a few decades ago, the City of Fayetteville made a policy decision to preserve the “historical integrity” of several areas, including downtown.

“Design Guidelines” keep each structure looking the way it did when it was first built. You could say we want these areas to look “olde” and true to their original architectural style, including my personal favorite, “Richardsonian Romanesque.”

These guidelines are still in place, and if you want to upgrade a building in the historic district, you have to follow certain rules.

First and foremost, you have to submit an application for a “Certificate of Appropriateness” from the Historic Resources Commission before you do any work to your building. It’s a very simple form. I found it online in a few minutes:

Mayor Colvin submitted multiple COA applications, but his contractor made changes to the structure that were not included on the applications and were not pre-approved by the Historic Resources Commission, setting up a great deal of drama.

Battle with Commissioner

Bruce Arnold is a member of the commission. Arnold, along with his wife, own multiple downtown businesses. Arnold attempted to bring attention to the unapproved changes to Colvin’s building a few months ago. This caused a bit of a media stir, with Arnold even claiming that Colvin threatened to sue him over his allegations.

The exterior work on Colvin’s building is now completed. Of much concern to members of the Historic Resources Commission, Arnold in particular, were the paint on the building and the installation of glass and aluminum doors.

“Historic” Aluminum and Glass Doors

Colvin asked the Historic Resources Commission for permission to “amend” his prior applications to include all of the changes that were made the building. He argued that old photographs show the doors were once aluminum and the building was once painted, so Colvin gets to do the same in 2020.

Despite his photographic evidence, Colvin was apparently worried about the vote. He had his attorney, Jose Coker, of the Charleston Law Firm, try to keep Bruce Arnold and the commission’s chairwoman, Liz Varnedoe, from voting because of “prior statements” each had made about the changes. In short, Colvin claimed they were “biased” against him and couldn’t be impartial.

They voted anyways. Colvin won, 6-1. Arnold was the only dissenting vote.

Colvin Can’t Take a Win

Apparently, winning 6-1 wasn’t good enough for Colvin. So the very next day, he decided to trash Arnold on Facebook:

As of today’s date, Colvin’s post drew over 271 comments. Most of them are in support of Colvin, and many imply that Colvin is being singled out because he’s black. It’s not hard to see why. Colvin capitalized two words in his post: “RUDE” and “WHITE.” He also included the hash-tag “doublestandards.”

One Man’s Opinion

Colvin admittedly made changes to a historic building without prior approval. He then asked for special treatment from the commission. He got it. He won 6-1. But it wasn’t perfect enough for him, so he’s got to trash the dissenting voter, call out his businesses, and imply that race is involved.

And we wonder why Fayetteville is so divided?

Colvin’s complaints are old and tired and do nothing to bring us together as a town. I realize we are in the time of the “untouchable” executive, but a Mayor, like a President, should follow the same rules as everyone else and shouldn’t attack those who seek to hold him accountable to those rules.

If you don’t like the rules, you have more power than anyone to change them. Give that a try instead of attacking your constituents on social media.

Thanks for reading.

Preach

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the Republican candidate for Governor, Dan Forest. The post included a video of a speech Forest gave on M.L.K. Day. The controversy surrounding the speech was covered in state-wide news, and some national sites even picked up on it.

Well, I watched the video again. Then I watched it a few more times.

I put my lawyer cap on and tried to look at it objectively, focusing not so much on what was said, but on what was happening in the room. What struck me as I continued to replay it was that Forest has his intended audience eating out of the palm of his hand. Those in attendance even began to enthusiastically quote Bible verses back to Forest.

The speech could easily be a sermon, Forest a preacher, and his audience a congregation at any evangelical church in North Carolina on any given Sunday. This is what gives it political power. You can criticize the content, but you can’t really argue against its effectiveness.

The Political Power of Preaching

First off, this isn’t a case study in evangelical politics. I’m not going to discuss abortion, or gay marriage, or the bathroom bill. This is about an oratory skill that certain individuals possess in politics.

I’m talking about a politician’s ability to “preach” to his/her audience, regardless of the content of their speech or the “content of their character.” (This post started with M.L.K., after all.)

The power of preaching can be used to draw out a person’s deepest emotions. Human emotions can be relatively positive (hope, justice, compassion) or they can be negative (anger, fear, retribution). Regardless, the people that matter in politics are prospective voters. Emotions drive these voters to the polls. When that happens, assuming your preaching didn’t backfire, you win.

Oratory skills can make up for a lot of deficiencies in politics. They can also be used as a spring-board for fame and higher office. The “Cross of Gold” Speech, in which William Jennings Bryan evoked the literal crucificiction of the working man by elites, made him a national superstar.

“You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

Most contemporary press accounts attributed Bryan’s nomination to his eloquence, though in the case of Republican and other gold-favoring newspapers, they considered it his demagoguery. The pro-silver Cleveland Plain Dealer called Bryan’s speech “an eloquent, stirring, and manly appeal”. The Chicago Tribune reported that Bryan had lit the spark “which touched off the trail of gun-powder.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined that with the speech, Bryan “just about immortalized himself”.

The current president has been compared to Bryan often. Here’s a story from the Wall Street Journal, describing Bryan as “The Trump Before Trump.” According to the Journal, “Both men used their communication skills to upend well-established political hierarchies.”

Image result for trump rally

Care for a recent Democratic example? How about this one…..

Barack Obama does not win the Democratic Nomination in 2008 without that speech. It just doesn’t happen.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be “flashy” like Bryan, Trump, and Obama to be an effective political preacher.

Robert Kennedy wasn’t master orator. In fact, he was probably below-average. He just kind of talks his way through it, but he draws out some of the purest emotion that a heart can imagine. The man could “preach.”

RFK’s “preaching” power lies in the depth and quality of his words as well as the steady conviction with which he serves them.

Tar Heel Preachers

Despite being the in the Bible Belt and the home-place of Billy Graham, North Carolina politics have been somewhat devoid of the kind of preaching we see on the national stage. You can go back to Jesse Helms for a little firebranding, but for the most part, we’re a little too “reserved” in our politics.

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Our current Senators, Burr and Tillis, are low-key men. They’re simply not ones to get you inspired or stirred up. Burr doesn’t even bother wearing socks, after all.

The last man I can think of that had the oratory skills I’m describing (and still does despite his age) is Jim Hunt. Kay Hagan didn’t. Pat McCrory didn’t. Roy Cooper doesn’t.

So we have to wonder whether the Tar Heel State needs a preacher in 2020?

I think it might…

The Right Side

My first post of the year was about the concept of “fear” in the 2020 election. Well, that was before the outbreak of the coronavirus. You could say that we’re in an uncertain time right now.

We’re also in a massively divisive time in terms of partisan politics. I’m not going to get into that. It’s self-evident, and if it’s not, pay attention to the impeachment vote in the Senate in a few days.

So we have a lot of uncertainty, some fear, and a huge partisan fight going on. Where do people turn when all this happens?

I think it comes down to whether you’re in the fight or not. If you’re on the outside looking in, it’s easy to shrug off these feelings. One “preacher” made that same mistake, and it cost him a lot of votes, although he still won the election:

I don’t think we have the “elitist” luxury of sitting back and analyzing this fight in 2020. We’re all in it this time. Trump picked a fight for the whole country. Democrats answered the call by impeaching him, and 2020 is shaping up to mean more than a normal election.

Everyone wants to be right.

Everyone can’t.

The man who can make Tar Heel voters feel and believe that they are on the right side of this partisan war will win the Governor’s race.

Roy Cooper better step up his game. He’s got a preacher comin’ for him.

Out here in the middle
Where the center’s on the right
And the ghost of William Jennings Bryan preaches every night
Savin’ lonely souls
In the dashboard light.

Dan Forest Discusses Race Extermination on MLK Day

“There’s no doubt that, when Planned Parenthood was created, it was created to destroy the entire black race. That was the purpose of Planned Parenthood. That’s just the truth. That’s not just some bloc on the side. That was the purpose when that organization was created.

How the black community can’t come together and see that and understand that and fight against it, I don’t know. And how the white community can’t come together and see that and fight against it, I don’t know either.”

Dan Forest

Dan Forest is your Lieutenant Governor. If you haven’t heard, he’s running against Roy Cooper with a hope to remove the “Lieutenant” from his title.

Forest is a Christian conservative to the bone. He’s going to cloak his desire for political office as a calling from God. He may or may not be honest in his motives. But that’s between him and God.

However, Forest demonstrated this past weekend that he is very happy to conflate the support of a woman’s right to choose with the extermination of black people.

Welcome to the 2020 Gubernatorial Campaign in the Great State of North Carolina. This is only the beginning.