Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sen. Nesbitt, welcome to Charlotte

Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, the N.C. Senate's new majority leader, visited fair Charlotte on Wednesday to meet and greet and, it would seem, reassure the business community that he will be just as business-friendly as his predecessor, Sen. Tony Rand of Fayetteville.

Accompanied by Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, Nesbitt stopped by the Observer's editorial board - for which we are grateful - and as we chatted, before Graham arrived, he talked a bit about the need for better public transit, especially rail. Seems he had gotten caught in a lengthy traffic jam driving I-95 past Washington. "It was a hundred-mile traffic jam, from Baltimore to Richmond," he said. "We've got to find another way."

But then, he started talking about rail transit and how it hasn't been successful. Mentioned Charlotte's new (as of 2007) light rail line and asked how it had worked out. We told him it had beat all its ridership projections and was in most parts deemed a success. "Oh," he said.

I think Charlotte Area Transit System (aka CATS) leaders might want to buy the man a lunch or three and take him for a spin on the Lynx some rush hour afternoon ...

My colleague Jack Betts, who among his many valuable contributions writes the This Old State blog, recalled:

Back in the 1990s when legislators could still accept such trips, the Charlotte Chamber brought legislators to Charlotte for a Hornets basketball game and a tour around town. I wound up strolling around the Blumenthal with Nesbitt and another House appropriations chair, David Diamont of Surry County. It was obvious neither of them got to Charlotte much, and they seemed to be awestruck with all the new buildings, the cultural amenities – including some built with state assistance – and the can-do atmosphere that marked a city clearly on the rise. They were struck by how many things Charlotte had and aspired to, compared with the rest of the state.

The things they saw in Charlotte were not new things that no one from elsewhere wouldn't have known about, and it struck me that Charlotte was not a part of the state that these legislators visited often.

Nesbitt's remarks about transit Wednesday seemed to show that he had not spent much time in the Queen City since then, either. It's not that he doesn't get around. With a district in Buncombe, a law practice and a stock car racing team he helps his son with, and a legislative concentration on what went wrong with the state's badly botched mental health reforms, he has stayed busy – and as Senate majority leader he'll be busier yet.

Betts concluded: "If I were the Charlotte transit folks, I'd have a representative sitting in his office tomorrow morning at 8 a.m."


JAT said...

Mary, did you tell him that CATS gives a way a free train ride with every bus ride? Point out the "can't miss" high density developments along the line that are flops, bankrupt, and owe back taxes? That CATS cannot afford to build the 2030 plan without an additional half-cent sales tax -- even after tossing a $500m. streetcar to the city, to be paid for with the city's General Fund revenues?

Yep, some success.

Anonymous said...

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

On the contrary, do you notice that critics never offer a solution to Charlotte’s traffic and transportation problems, or statistics and true facts to back up their arguments that the progress to date is unsuccessful?

All I can fathom is that they feel we should increase the number of cars on our roads. Spend all the transportation money on roads. Let someone else pay for and worry about the costs of treating health issues arising from the pollution. Let someone else pay for the highway infrastructure. Let the sprawl grow along present and future beltways rather than along mass public transportation lines.

Maybe they are really bad at math. Maybe they think 50 private automobiles cause less strain on public finances and create less environmental problems that one bus carrying 50 people, or one light rail train carrying hundreds of Charlotte commuters.

JDC said...

According to Nesbitt’s record, his vote on issues that could be deemed to fall in the “transportation” category include a NO to ban cell phone use while driving by persons under 18, a NO on the state helmet requirement for motorcyclists and YES to increase the width and length of tractor trailers on state highways. Doesn’t sound encouraging for rail transportation or highway safety on his watch.

Maybe he got in a 100-mile traffic jam he and legislators in other states caused by voting for bigger trucks so those vehicles can roll down embankments or sideswipe autos and cause wrecks, effectively blocking traffic. Maybe he should have voted for bigger trains.

When he thinks of light rail, he probably thinks of the fun-ride monorails at amusement parks. He obviously isn’t aware of the traffic and transportation problems facing major NC cities. Before getting him onto the LYNX, first take him out to Rock Hill or Mooresville and make him drive the interstates into the city so he can see the difference.

Anonymous said...

Great point JDC.

Anonymous said...

Thats Amazing! Sen. Malcolm Graham was in Charlotte - it must had been a very special occasion.

Anonymous said...

"it struck me that Charlotte was not a part of the state that these legislators visited often."

State legislators that never visit Charlotte? WHAT AN ABSOLUTE SHOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course they don't. From all indications, when children are born in rural areas of the state, their parents immediately begin teaching the little babes that Charlotte is the embodiment of evil, that it is better to go to hell than to have anything to do with Charlotte. So when these little ones grow up to be state legislators, they act accordingly - both in their physical presence and their voting records.

Nothing new under the sun here...