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Streetcars, stadiums and taxes, oh my! 

In which readers submit questions of great public interest

Congratulations! You've reached the Boomer With Attitude inner sanctum, also known as Ask BWA. This is where readers ask your humble correspondent questions of great public interest and other readers ask moronic questions while insulting me. I've axed the latter this time around, so let's get started. Readers seem to have tax money, transit and stadium improvements on their minds.

Dear BWA: I don't get why so many Charlotteans are thrilled about the light rail extension but no one wants the west/east streetcar proposed by Mayor Foxx. — 0x000AMelinda L. Cranford

Dear Melinda: Not being a soothsayer, I can only surmise that people are excited about extending the Blue Line to UNC Charlotte because they've seen the light rail line's popularity, experienced its convenience, and noted the ensuing investment and attractive development along South Boulevard. As for the streetcar, several objections have been raised, including city council members' fear of signing on to more big projects in view of the lousy economy and the fact that the first stage of the streetcar pushed by Foxx is a dinky "starter kit" people are laughing at. Here's a clue to another objection: The streetcar project will connect west and east Charlotte. Understand? No? Well, west Charlotte is primarily black, and east Charlotte has a large Latino presence. More Charlotteans than most of us want to admit think that connecting those two areas is a dangerous idea. Yes, that's a very stupid reason, but we're talking about racists, not rocket scientists. And if politicians have shown us anything the past four years, it's that they're not above cringing in fear before the wrath of racist yahoos.

I think the main problem with the streetcar is urgency. As I've written before, the west and east sides have been neglected far too long and need help now, not in the decade or more it would take to complete the streetcar route. Instead of bickering over Foxx's starter kit, the city needs to come up with ways to spur development in those areas first and crank up the streetcar later. One thing's for sure: If the streetcar is axed but improvements to the Panthers' stadium are approved, City Council will sorely regret it. And speak of the devil ...

Dear BWA: Can you believe that the Panthers, a run-of-the-mill NFL team at best, wants the city to pay for improvements to their stadium? — Disgustipated

Dear Disgustipated: First, nice Popeye reference in your nickname. Second, why such surprise at the Panthers' request? It's standard operating procedure. There are currently five pro sports teams blackmailing, er, asking their cities' taxpayers to help foot the bill for a new stadium or fancier, more luxurious amenities at an existing one. Team owners try to convince the suckers by making the usual bogus arguments, promising expanded economic activity, jobs, rainbow pie and streets made of candy, and somehow citizens are supposed to still believe them. They fly politicians to big-ass stadiums, where that particular brand of sucker can Oooh and Aaaah and think, "I'll be such a hero back home if we buy this!" The Panthers paid for their own stadium, so they're not as piggish as many other pro teams, but still, come on. It's a bit much — actually, it is galling as hell — for teams to ask taxpayers to finance improvements for a stadium in which most of those taxpayers can't afford to buy decent seats. Talk about the 99 percent financing the 1 percent. No one can convince me that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who is worth a half-billion dollars, can't pay for the improvements he wants out of his own pockets. His request should be turned down flat, at which time he could then ask the people who would actually benefit from new stadium amenities to foot the bill, i.e., the stadium's PSL owners (a personal-seat license gives its owner the right to purchase season tickets). In other words, if those who can afford Panthers tickets want a ginormous HD screen to watch the game (ever heard of "home" or "couch"?), then they are perfectly welcome to buy one. Otherwise, leave the rest of us alone. I'd like for anyone to point out how this wouldn't be the fairest deal for all concerned.

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