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Burgess, a Democrat, initially targeted Lynn Wheeler, a Republican with mayoral ambitions, for destruction and attempted to split the powerful economic development committee Wheeler chairs into two committees. Burgess then denied putting that item on the council's first retreat agenda, insisting that a facilitator put it there. The drubbing she received from her skeptical fellow council members over that should have served as a warning, but it didn't.
Another time, Burgess told a Charlotte Observer reporter she "had the votes" to pass an important motion during the arena debate, then said the reporter got the story wrong when other council members had no idea what Burgess was talking about.
In Charlotte politics, the person who makes the motion to do something usually gets the credit for it. Most politicians understand this, and back off other folks' motions. Not Burgess.
"I can't believe this shit," an Observer reporter swore from the council chamber press pit last year.
The reporter had just watched Burgess "steal" a politically popular motion from another politician who had come up with the idea for it and worked for a week to put the votes together to pass it.
Perhaps that's why many Democrats and Republicans alike sighed with relief when Burgess lost last month's Democratic primary to Ella Scarborough in a 30 percent to 64 percent rout.
For most people, that'd be politically devastating. But we believe Burgess will be back when her batteries run low, looking to feed off the glare of the lights.
5. Bill James
Homophobe, racist, sexist, prig, creep -- the accolades just never end for this scary, 44-year-old county commissioner and CPA. Bill James, who has been a Charlotte resident since '87 and county commissioner since '96, has over the years pulled off enough pious, narrow-minded stunts to piss off just about everybody, regardless of their political affiliation, race or gender. And Lord help you if you end up on his email list.
One of James' earlier and most infamous moves as a public official was when he joined with the hopelessly homophobic Hoyle Martin to form a coalition to cut arts funding because of their opposition to gay themes in Charlotte Rep's production of Angels in America. He followed that with such gems as a 1999 guest editorial in The Charlotte Observer where he wrote that blacks "live off the government," and "view it as an entitlement, a guaranteed source of funds." Never one to refrain from sticking his nose where it doesn't belong, he was one of the first and most outspoken critics of Bill Clinton following the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He promptly drafted a resolution to condemn Clinton, ostensibly to set some kind of moral example. Other county commissioners saw it as James seizing a political opportunity and pushing them into a debate that had no bearing on their roles as commissioners.
Just last year, James once again went out of his way to find something to object to when he caught wind of a plaque being erected in Freedom Park honoring slain activist Kim Thomas. James objected that the plaque -- which simply read "An Activist for Good Causes" -- was going into a public park and was paid for by the National Organization of Women (NOW). NOW, in which Thomas was a member, pushes for such things as abortion rights, affirmative action and lesbian rights. "NOW should stick to its knitting and honor the woman without having to push their pro-abortion stance on the rest of the country," James said.
And who could forget the endless and infantile squabbling between James and his nemesis, former Democratic commissioner Lloyd Scher. During one tussle in '99, Scher became so exasperated he filed a motion to censure James because of what he called "racist and divisive comments." For all the reasons listed here, and many more, CL readers always shower Bill James with votes when it comes time to vote for the "Most Embarrassing Public Official" in our Best of Charlotte readers' poll.
4. Tony Elwood
You might have heard Tony Elwood's name before. That is, if you work in a video store, or attend the odd Sci-Fi/Horror convention. Perhaps you've seen one of Elwood's movies: both Killer! and Road Kill USA were lauded by B-movie connoisseur Joe Bob Briggs as being among the top films in their respective years, and Killer! was shown on Showtime. Elwood's also known for his work with movie props, and has done work on such films like director Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2. Now, he's decided to take on the tech world, creating 3-D computer animation that is known nationwide, much of it created by his multi-media company, Indievision, located in an old refurbished red-brick warehouse beside the railroad tracks near Central and Pecan. Part of his magic can currently be seen at www.thethickuns.com, a new online comedy series featuring life-size puppets portraying a white-trash family in West Virginia.
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