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At the rezoning meeting in which Charlotte City Council members -- many of whose campaigns Harris has contributed to generously -- voted to approve the rezoning of the 1,756-acre tract that would become Ballantyne, Harris promised with a straight face that the neighborhood would include housing for low- and moderate-income people. Several years later, that particular phase of the project is, um, yet to be completed.
"I think we are both visionary," his wife Deborah once told the Charlotte Observer.
Charlotte City Council member Lynn Wheeler described it another way in an Observer article several years ago.
"Whatever Johnny wants, Johnny gets," said Wheeler. "He's sort of like the Santa Claus of Charlotte and we're all like his kids, taking care of us and helping improve our quality of life."
Not this time, Johnny. It's scary for someone to have that much pull. And we haven't believed in Santa Claus for a long time.
1. Charlotte Drivers
They're speedy, spaced-out and short-tempered. Except, of course, for the ultra-slow ones in big cars hogging the fast lane. Many of them would rather run you into a concrete lane divider than allow you to merge in front of them, as if letting you in would significantly lengthen the time of their trip. Watch out, they're Charlotte drivers, and they'll kill you!
Overall, they're an impatient, unpredictable crew. Over the past few years, even our police officers have had a poor record of tearing up the road, running stop signs, blowing through red lights and plowing into other drivers -- and that's when their blue lights are off and they aren't headed to an emergency.
Over the last few years, city transportation experts have tried to slow Charlotte drivers down and stop them at intersections with everything from speed humps to traffic cameras, with mixed results.
In Charlotte, as in other mid-sized cities across the nation, married women with school-aged children drive 21 percent more than their male counterparts, making an average of five trips a day to drop off and pick up their kids. They are Charlotte's most distracted drivers, and can often be seen inching along in traffic, with one hand on the wheel and the other swatting at a distant target in the backseat. Or if you don't see one of the minivan moms, you'll see the old guy wearing a hat going about one mile per hour in a 45 zone. Or it may be the uptown worker looking in the rearview mirror and putting on her mascara as she's driving up Providence Rd. Or maybe the two stoners passing a joint while they weave down Independence. Or one of the thousands who've never learned what a turn signal is for. Or the little old lady looking through the steering wheel of her Cadillac while slowing from 30 to 20mph as her medication kicks in. Or - our favorite - the driver in a left-turn lane who doesn't give a damn that the left-turn arrow went red about, oh, 10 seconds ago. Or the guy in the Ford Explosion who tailgates you because he's pissed that you're only going 10 miles over the speed limit.
Charlotte roads weren't built to handle the population or volume of traffic we have today, and during rush hour, the city's streets turn into a parking lot that extends for miles down I-77 and I-85.
The people who work in Charlotte have a tough choice to make. Live inside the city or county limits and pay higher taxes, or move outside and spend an extra hour-and-a-half a day in the car. Either way, you lose. And either way you'll have to deal with those drivers. *