Friday, October 09, 2009

Hackney's advice to Foxx and Lassiter

Whatever their differences, Charlotte's mayoral candidates agree on one thing: the city needs a better relationship with Raleigh. Not surprisingly, both Democrat Anthony Foxx and Republican John Lassiter think they would have a better shot at making that happen.

So I asked House Speaker Joe Hackney when the Orange County Democrat was in town this week: How could Charlotte improve its standing in Raleigh?

"The key to that is a closer relationship with the legislative delegation," said Hackney. "The second thing that's important is achieving partisan unity on the issues that are important."

When Mecklenburg has achieved things in Raleigh, he said, it's usually because local officials are united.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Help is right up the road -- on I-495

Speaking to a group of Uptown Charlotte Democrats today, House Speaker Joe Hackney tried to mollify concerns that Raleigh lawmakers don't show a lot of love to Mecklenburg County.

"There's often a perception in Mecklenburg, I am told, that nobody cares about Mecklenburg," he said.

"I can assure you I keep up with it. I know all about 495 ... " People in the audience quickly corrected him that it's completion of the I-485 beltway that is a concern to Charlotteans.

"485, same thing," Hackney said quickly.

Meanwhile the Chapel Hill Democrat blasted Republican legislators for "trying to fight against us at every turn" during the last legislative session. He outlined the difficulty of balancing a state budget that had a $4.6 billion shortfall. The Democratic controlled General Assembly used a package of cuts and tax hikes and federal stimulus money to balance the budget.

"We did what we had to do to protect education and our universities," he said, adding that Republicans did nothing but ridicule Democratic proposals. "This session (they) were not serious about government ... It's a national trend."

My colleague Ben Niolet posted this from the N.C. Republican Party:

N.C. Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer couldn't resist poking fun at a gaffe House Speaker Joe Hackney made while trying to show he is knowledgable about issues related to Charlotte.
Hackney mistakenly referred to Charlotte's incomplete Interstate 485 as "495."
"Despite his selfless attention to Charlotte’s roads, Hackney struck an oratorical pothole when he didn’t know which road he was talking about, and had to be corrected by the audience," Fetzer said. "Speaker Hackney went to Charlotte to demonstrate his awareness of the Queen City’s needs and laid an egg. Let’s hope he didn’t take the wrong road home to Chapel Hill.
"The Speaker should know his roads. And not just the ones that curve sharply to the left,” Fetzer said.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Outtakes from the Bill Belk hearing

Some points that didn't make the paper from Mecklenburg Judge Bill Belk's hearing before the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission Wednesday:

-- Over two days of hearing, Belk had blasted Paul Ross, the commission's executive director. Wednesday he accused him of bullying, being the source of leaks and acting in a way that was "not civilized." He also seemed to imply Ross was involved in a cover-up. Ross had previously described a February confrontation in which Belk accused him "of being a liar."

During a break Wednesday, Belk walked up to Ross. "I hope someday we could have a good relationship," he said. Though I couldn't hear all of Ross's response, he told him he'd offered "a lot of misinformation." He didn't look ready to add the judge to his Christmas card list.

-- At some points, it was hard to tell who was hard to tell who was on trial: Belk or The Observer. He criticized the paper for publishing stories as far back as January about his apparent conflict in staying on the board of Sonic Automotive, and listing his annual compensation from Sonic ($143,502.)

He accused the paper of "character assassination" and trying to foment "class warfare."

-- He pointed to an editorial after his November election that suggested judges be appointed, not elected. "A lot of people have used me as the poster boy of why we should have appointment of of judges," he said.

-- Belk insisted serving on the board of Sonic is no conflict. If Sonic ever showed up in court, he said, he would simply recuse himself. "I recuse myself from cases of shoplifting at Belk's," he said, "because I would probably try to hang them."

-- Belk seemed very confident that Sonic, run by his friend Bruton Smith, would provide him with health insurance when his current policy with Monroe Hardware expires in May. A Sonic spokesman said while there have been discussions, the company doesn't offer insurance to directors. "It has not been established yet," Belk acknowledged. "Should not be a problem."

-- Despite three opinions -- including one from the state Supreme Court --- that the Code of Judicial Conduct bars service on corporate boards, Belk seemed confident that it doesn't really. "All the case law is in my favor," he told the commission.... Let's be realistic. I did the research.... All I did was do my homework. How can you penalize somebody for knowledge?"

-- Belk tried to turn a prosecution witness into a character witness. Supreme Court Clerk Christie Speir Cameron testified about a letter she sent Belk on behalf of the court. "How long have we known each other?" Belk began. Cameron said she had only seen him "three or four times" in college.

-- District Judge Rebecca Knight, who helped coach new judges at a workshop in December, said she couldn't uunderstand why Belk had so many questions at the time about his membership on the board of Sonic. "I couldn't figure out why he wanted to be on the board of a hamburger restaurant," she said.

-- Belk said he suspected early that Chief Judge Lisa Bell didn't like him. "A dog knows when somebody doesn't like them," he said. "So does a human being."