by Jeff Taylor
Didn’t think it was possible, but right now the city of Charlotte is pulling a deal even more crooked and wrong than the Uptown arena reversal. It that case the public’s will was ignored. In the current debacle, what the public wants is not even an issue. Hell, no one is bothering to tell the people who pay the bills what is going on.
The mad stampede to get money for the $158 million Uptown arts complex is simply wrong. This community has had absolutely no opportunity to discuss the wisdom of jacking up the car rental tax in order to fund CATS, thus freeing up general fund revenues to pay for the arts projects. None.
The working plan, such as it was, was to use the car rental tax to pay for the arts projects — a crazy linkage, but one we could at least discuss on the merits. Now, in order to get Raleigh to sign off on the plan, Charlotte is willing to give CATS another dedicated revenue stream and shift money around inside the city budget to pay for the projects. Public discussion is out the window.
The last time CATS got a dedicated revenue source, it took a public vote — now it is just going to happen by decree? John Lassiter and Pam Syfert decide it is a good idea and — boom — it is done?
And let’s be clear — if general fund revenues are used to pay for the arts projects — even more than had been contemplated under the previous car rental tax funding mechanism — then Charlotte will have just raised its property tax rate in order to pay for a $158 million playhouse for bankers. That is wrong. That is evil.
This scheme should not go forward without a significant amount of input from the public. It would commit Charlotte to several financial positions any one of which could wind up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. But the Uptown crowd does want your input. They know what is best for the city, their city.
Your job is to shut up, go to work, and pay your taxes.