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Change you can’t believe in

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is a danger to the middle class. Just ask Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue. As for Perdue, she’s part of the power elite, one of five or six people who control everything in the state. McCrory says so.

Economic outlook

North Carolina’s society has become multicultural, its economy has become more diverse, and the state has prospered in recent decades. But leaders must adjust their policies for a more metropolitan economy — focused on cities and suburbs — and address a widening disparity between rich and poor, says Ferrel Guillory, director of The Program on Public Life at UNC Chapel Hill.

He rests his case with Edwards

I never meant for there to be a sequel to my August column about the newspaper business. But after John Edwards and Rielle Hunter teamed up not only to make whoopee (as well as a baby, allegedly) but also to make my point for me, that previous piece is worth revisiting.

On a need-to-know basis

There’s a fellow living near Butner, where the federal government is considering building a germ-defense lab, who is prone to dress in a white suit and red cape with a large BS emblazoned on his chest. He’s Bio-Safety Man,and he must be a scary dude. Or at least a very persuasive one. Why else would more than a quarter-million dollars of public money have been temporarily earmarked to overcome his opposition to the lab?

The wages of sin taxes

Smoke hovered in the hallways in 1999 when farmers from across the state came to Raleigh to have their say on how legislators should use money from the multibillion-dollar national tobacco settlement.

Chuck McGrady

Chuck McGrady is used to getting weird looks when people find out he’s an environmentalist and a Republican.

Mary Price Harrison

She’s only been a member of the legislature since 2005, but Democrat Pricey Harrison has signed her name to more bills than colleagues with four times her tenure.

Muzzling the tax bite

Seven years ago, North Carolina lawmakers were starved for cash. A slowing economy put the state budget temporarily in the red, leaving a shortfall exceeding $1 billion. Legislators responded by turning the dogs loose on tax scofflaws.

James O'Brien


Pull of the public purse strings

The last time North Carolina legislators decided to borrow money with voter-approved general-obligation bonds, the late Harlan Boyles was state treasurer. These days, the honorables issue more-expensive certificates of participation— $554 million just last year.

Regional Report Triangle July 2008

For years, Durham has played Raleigh’s little brother, tagging along and getting less attention. It’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport, not the other way around. Until a few years ago, they were part of the same metropolitan statistical area, in which Raleigh, of course, got top billing. When national magazines compile best-of lists, they usually think of Raleigh first.

Rolling in the “D’oh!”

One of the many unhealthy similarities between journalists and politicians is that both run the risk of becoming wedded to a particular policy or point of view. Intellectual flexibility is a desirable quality in both professions, yet intoo many cases when the circumstances change … Oh, hell. Enough of the throat clearing and pussyfooting. I need to just man up here and say it: The state’s Global TransPark might prove to be a success after all.

Regional Report Charlotte June 2008

It’s not always good to be No. 1. In April, the waterway that courses through the center of the Charlotte region was at the top of America’s Most Endangered Rivers, compiled by American Rivers, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group.

Regional Report Eastern June 2008

Imagine a city the population of Greenville — about 75,000 — springing up in Eastern North Carolina in the next three years. That’s what military buildups in the region will amount to, and while one expert calls base expansions “the biggest economic-development announcement in 40 years,” the news has sobering consequences.

Stoplight up ahead

Each day, tractor-trailers unload goods at warehouses or stores in and around Charlotte. For many, the stop marks a brief foray into North Carolina. They’ve come from Charleston, S.C., or Savannah, Ga., or distributioncenters set up along interstate highways to serve those ports.

Firming up lobbyists

For as long as anyone has kept track, the most influential lobbyists in Raleigh have been colorful characters who rose to the top of their trade on their connections and ability to schmooze prickly legislators.

Going into labor

My daddy was a union man, but he didn’t cut a particularly proletarian figure in the custom-tailored suit and Sinatra-style, short-brim fedora he favored upon shedding his blue twill uniform for a night on the town. Then again, the Plumbers and Pipefitters union had been part of the American Federation of Labor — “skilled craftsmen, the aristocracy of labor,” he was quick to remind us - before its merger with the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1955.

Minding market forces

Perhaps you look at the embarrassing debacle in Roanoke Rapids involving the publicly financed theater overseen by Randy Parton and think, “Well, when you lie down with third-tier country singers, you get up with a huge debt andpublic scorn.” I look at that same mess and think, “Did we learn nothing from Global TransPark and the North Carolina Information Highway?”

North Carolina's dry heaves

Landscapers and lawn-care companies feel picked on these days. They really shouldn’t. They may soon have plenty of company when it comes to how water, or the lack thereof, affects businesses in North Carolina.

A moderating influence

Every four years, North Carolina Republicans talk about ending the Democrats’ stranglehold on political power in the state. And every four years, Democrats usually beat them back.