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Top local news of 2011, Part 2 

Part 2: Nukes, schools and bananas

Last week, our review of 2011 recapped the actions of two twisted outfits that inflicted the most damage on Charlotteans over the past 12 months: banking and state lawmakers. We follow up this week with a review of other important local stories from the year that not too many of us are sorry to see end.

'Nanner Town

The city, county and state gave Chiquita Brands everything but the kitchen sink (and Tim Newman's stash of Bobcats tickets) to get the banana behemoth to move its headquarters to our fair burg. Mayor Anthony Foxx emphasized the oodles of jobs the move could bring, Uptown suits looked so happy they seemed to be vibrating, and local radio spewed many a banana joke.

No one, however, really knows how many jobs, if any, Chiquita will generate for Charlotte. That depends on how many Cincinnati Chiquita employees want to move here. Some people are appalled that we're paying big dough to a company, formerly called United Fruit, that's burdened with a long, sordid and infamous history of predatory, even murderous abuse in several Latin American countries. (That's where the term "banana republic" comes from.) It doesn't help, either, that Chiquita was caught paying millions to a Colombian right-wing terrorist group.

Our main objection to the Chiquita move, however, is simple: there's something inherently seedy about elected officials whoring out the city the way they did, particularly to a company with so much baggage.

School Board Insurgence

When the school board picked two talented newcomers as chair and vice-chair, it was a strong signal that we may see a turnaround from the data-driven, teacher-morale-killing "corporate model" of management pushed by former superintendent Peter Gorman.

Shady Pete became increasingly unpopular in 2011, and finally jumped the shark when he went behind CMS teachers' backs to urge state lawmakers to take away teachers' veto power over his performance-pay plan. Not long after his Raleigh jaunt was revealed, Gorman packed his bags and left for a job peddling for-profit education technology for Rupert Murdoch.

Then came the election — and with it, those new, more teacher-friendly school board members who are readying to have their say. We're crossing our fingers and scoring one for humans vs. technocrats.

Duke Energy

Duke's proposal to merge with Progress Energy isn't going so hot. First, the two companies had to give up their plans for a huge rate hike, but that didn't impress opponents of the merger. As we speak, Duke and Progress are trying to jump through multiple hoops to please the federal government, which says the merger could give the new company more power than one energy company should have. The battle comes after environmentalists soured on Duke CEO Jim Rogers and his talk of going green, when it became obvious that Duke still plans heavy investments in coal and nuclear.

County Commission Nastiness

Mecklenburg Commissioner Harold Cogdell decided he wasn't unpopular enough with members of his own party, so he schemed with the commission's Republicans to take Jennifer Roberts' position as chairperson. He'll go along with the GOP on cost-cutting measures, and in return they'll help him ... hmm ... go along with their cost-cutting measures? Who knows what the hell Cogdell was thinking; whatever he wanted, you have to wonder whether it's worth "chairing" a group in which exactly zero other people respect you.

Other Highlights

• Occupy Charlotte has been camped at Old City Hall for months, giving aging liberals a thrill; enraging conservatives who hate anything lefties do; and exposing the limitations of local TV news. Other than those three things, and perhaps teaching us how to conduct meetings via finger waggling, its effects on the city have so far been inconsequential.

• Mayor Foxx wants city and county governments to consolidate – a recurring, common-sense idea that would save money. Most county commissioners are opposed to the idea, so ... long story short: It ain't gonna happen anytime soon. City Manager Curt Walton and County King Harry Jones are both opposed, since consolidation would result in at least one of them losing his job.

• Rep. Sue Myrick revved up her acute Islamophobia in 2011, saying that the "Arab Spring" removal of the Mubarak regime in Egypt was awful and could result in — here it comes — WORLDWIDE RADICAL MUSLIM RULE!! Shrill Sue's truly classic move, though, was on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 when she canceled her scheduled appearances because she was afraid of being attacked by Iranian terrorists. Delusion, thy name is Sue.

• And lastly, Bill James' weirdest moment yet. After Osama bin Laden was killed, James sent a mass e-mail condemning President Obama for "allowing" bin Laden to be buried according to Islamic tradition, thus "caving in to placate the jihadists." Proper terrorist-killing etiquette, according to James, would have been to put bin Laden's body on public display, where Americans could pee and crap on it, after which the body could be eaten by pigs. Quick — somebody help this man catch his runaway id!

Image credit: Voice of the Copts
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