Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Spinning Away

spinningRemember when spinning used to be something you did when you were a kid going round and round on the playground Round-A-Bout?  Today, its taken on a whole new meaning.  Spin is what political handlers do when they tell you what you “really” saw and heard after you saw and heard it.  Watch any national debate and immediately after the event is over, political advisors are falling over themselves to get to the nearest microphone to tell you their side of what just happened.

Many of you have read the stories of my Granddaddy Russell.  Granddaddy was a farmer who could pretty much see through anybody’s spin.  I know firsthand because I considered myself a “master spinner” from the time I could talk.  Grandmamma didn’t call it spin. She claimed I was just flat telling a story.  One afternoon, I was giving my best spin on how the grades marked on my report card didn’t accurately reflect how well I was doing in school.

Granddaddy sat down, took off his hat, and took a long swallow on his ice water.  I knew that was a sure sign I was in for one of his colorful stories. Granddaddy asked, “Billy, have I ever told you about Uncle Earnest’s chickens?”  “No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

“Well, your great uncle had these chickens in a large hen house when they  started to fight, wounding and killing each other. One day, Earnest got this advice from a retired state representative who lived up the road and always had an answer for everything.     “Add some uncooked grits to the chickens’ food,” said the stately politician, “it will calm them down.”Kenny_Delmar_as_Senator_Claghorn

After a week Uncle Earnest came back to the sage and said, “My chickens continue to die. What should I do?”   “Add apple cider to their drinking water, that will help for sure,” said the representative .  A week passed, and again your uncle went up to see the wise man. “The dang chickens are still quarrelling. Do you have any more answers?”

“I can give you more advice,” answered the retired politician. “The real question is whether you have any more chickens.”     Like the boy who cried wolf one too many times, eventually my uncle realized while the retired representative had a different remedy for the same situation, his chickens would one day run out.  While my grandparent’s love was boundless, eventually my stretching the truth would have its limits.

In any election season with all the reasons why you should support or oppose something – you need to ask yourself – Does it benefit my family, my business, and my community?    While you may not have a child in school, does paying for school construction benefit our thriving business community?  What about mass transit?  According to the City of Charlotte, the average Mecklenburg County citizen spends about $39 a year to support our transit tax.  Is it worth the price of a” Big Mac” hamburger a month to make sure we have bus service for those people who don’t have cars or who choose to take a bus to their jobs?

It would be a real welcome change to turn on the television or radio and hear an elected official give a response that was free of political spin.  Just a simple answer to simple questions.  Instead we hear someone say this and twelve different people have twleve different interpretations of what was said.  Sometimes I think we’re just spinning out of control.

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March 13, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

Pennies for Progress

 200px-SfogWhen I was ten, my grandparents took me on a trip to visit Six Flags over Georgia.  Carowinds, today’s regional amusement park, was still years from breaking ground. We loaded up the car and down the highway we went.  Granddaddy, not one to splurge on unnecessary items, had purchased a Mercury  automobile without air conditioning.   No matter!  Grandmamma had packed a bag with Cracker Jacks, Cheese Nibs, and cool orange sodas.

While the trip down seemed uneventful, withstanding the anticipation of a ten year old, the return trip proved to be quite amusing.  We left Atlanta about mid-day on a hot July afternoon.  The late start and the fact we had no AC began to take its toll on the inhabitants of granddaddy’s new car.  About the time we reached Greenville, granddaddy began flapping his arms in great anxiety.  Mumbling to himself he seemed to be quite agitated.  Grandmamma asked him what seemed to be the problem.  “My arms keep sticking together, “ he complained.

“What kind of deodorant did you use this morning?” my grandmamma inquired.  “I don’t know.  Whatever you had on the counter,”  he retorted with a grimace on his face.     I could see a look of thought before she responded back at him.  “I didn’t have anything on the counter ,” she said.  “The pink can Louise.  I used the deodorant in the pink can.”  Grandmamma looked straight ahead and then responded with a shrug, ”No wonder you’re miserable.   That was my hair spray.”

Today’s drivers do not need to use hair spray as deodorant to get agitated with driving.  Our congested roads are getting more crowded each day.  Even with out of control gas-hikes, our traveling seems unabated.photo_1245200218530-1-1

     If the Village at Lake Norman project is approved by our County officials and gets the green light from NC DOT, many of our road needs could be addressed.  However, our Charlotte regional road projects still exceed $6 billion in funding.

Our neighbors to the south in York County (SC) have taken matters into their own hands with a road campaign called “Pennies for Progress”.   A temporary sales tax approved by the voters prioritized regional road needs throughout the county.  The 1997 campaign raised $185 million for 14 road projects.  The tax, set to expire in 2009, was reapproved in 2003.  Ironically, Jerry Helms, the Vice President for Operations at Carowinds, chaired the initial campaign and recently addressed the elected leadership of Lake Norman’s four lake towns.

Helms stressed that the success of the referendum was establishing trust in the campaign by creating a tax that sunset after raising the funds; prioritizing the road projects; ensuring road projects were spread evenly throughout all areas of the tax district; and having an independent board (with no government composition) oversee the program.

707-279388-133086_embedded_prod_affiliate_6Some have suggested a Lake Norman “Invest a Head” program modeled closely after York County’s Pennies for Progress.  Like the latter program, it would be imperative to keep the program accountable by making sure the revenue mechanism is temporary and requires voter approval.

Granddaddy Russell was never amused when I recounted the trip back from Atlanta.  He passed away many years ago but those memories always bring a smile back to my face.  And I’m quite certain if he were here today, he’d agree – York County’s Pennies for Progress … certainly made a lot of cents!

March 12, 2009 Posted by | Transportation & Road Improvement | , , , , | Leave a comment