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Strike One 

Stadium plan removes too much green space

Hi, hello and howdy. Hope you had a peaceful, relaxing holiday season. I know you didn't, but I still wish you had. Since I've been, umm, away for a few weeks, I'm using this week's column to catch up a bit, so let's get right to it. Several events and issues deserve some attention:


Just before Christmas, Charlotte Center City Partners honcho Michael Smith unveiled a proposal to bring the Charlotte Knights to Third Ward. Trouble is, the plan sounds like what it is: something three guys hashed out over breakfast -- which included, apparently, too much coffee. The scheme is so complicated and involves so many different groups, just describing it brings to mind those indecipherable "Place Tab A in Slot B" illustrations you used to get when you ordered something out of a comic book. If all the necessary land swaps happened, and all the various governmental bodies agreed, the city would wind up with a downtown baseball stadium. But we would also wind up with a smaller park than has been planned for the area, and Marshall Park would be gone. Charlotte already has less green space downtown than almost any other American city its size, so further reducing our parks acreage is a lousy idea. Other results of Smith's proposal would include some nice profits for Wachovia and Mass Mutual and a $5 million expense for the city at a time when our roads are falling apart and trash is piling up on the streets and highways. Meanwhile, no one seems to know what happened to the simpler idea of putting a baseball park where the fabulous Memorial Stadium & Horseshoe Pitch is located.


George W. Bush's casual trampling of the Constitution and his ill-tempered reaction to the New York Times' revelation of his warrantless spying is yet more evidence, as if we needed it, that he's the worst president in American history. The Times' own Bob Herbert nailed it last week when he said, in so many words, that W probably doesn't have enough brains to grasp the implications of his actions, unlike Nixon who at least fully realized he was breaking the law when he ordered secret wiretaps.


Unlike, oh, say, 700 or so other American cities, Charlotte doesn't have a street named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. City Councilman Smuggie Mitchell tried to change that last week. But this version of City Council seems even more clueless than usual, so of course Mitchell's proposal will now be the subject of a "study." Why not just rename the downtown part of Third Street, where the city's MLK statue is located? And never mind that the sculpture was justly named "World's Worst Martin Luther King Statue" in Jerry Bledsoe's North Carolina Curiosities book. Seriously, if City Council wants to really honor Dr. King -- and I say this as someone who took part in the Poor People's March when it came through Charlotte in 1968 -- they could revive the Living Wage ordinance proposal and pass it by enough votes so that McCrory can't veto it this time.


In mid-December the CMS Task Force released its recommendations for overhauling the school system. One of the plan's ideas, the splitting of the system into semi-autonomous districts, is a good one, although great care would need to be taken to see that each district gets equitable funding and that schools within each district are dealt with equitably. Even though the plan would pour more money into schools with high concentrations of needy students, it doesn't suggest doing anything about the resegregation of CMS, something we've seen since the move to "neighborhood schools." That's bad enough, but it was positively shocking to hear the task force co-chair, former mayor Harvey Gantt -- who in the 1960s was the first black student to attend Clemson University -- saying that "court orders and public opinion" left the task force no choice in the matter. Doing the right thing would have meant challenging "public opinion" (i.e., suburban whites' indifference toward blacks) and maybe even going back to court. Instead the task force focused on smoothing the community's ruffled feathers -- after all, one of its roles was to get everybody to play nice. I mean, how else can the Chamber attract more almighty dollars to town if outsiders see us bickering over education?

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