posted on March 29, 2007 11:55
Obsessions can be two-edged swords, like Ahab’s pursuit of the white whale. Mayor Meeker’s obsession is unusual. He’s fixated on downtown. His current goal is to transform Hillsborough Street into an enclave of wide-sidewalks, English-style round-abouts and strolling pedestrians. But he has one problem. The ‘head shops’ and tattoo parlors along Hillsborough Street are not quite up to his standards.
But he also has a solution. He just persuaded the City Council vote to give businesses grants of up to $10,000 to redo their facades. It’s part of the Mayor’s “Façade Rehabilitation Program.”
Now, even if you agree with Charles Meeker about lining the pockets of businesses with taxpayers’ money, you have to admit how he picks those businesses is peculiar. It’s not based on need. Or providing new jobs. It’s based on one thing: Geography. One patch of Raleigh is the ‘Promised Land.’ If you live or work there you get a subsidy. If you don’t, you don’t.
With one hand the Mayor piles regulations and taxes on businesses across Raleigh – with the other he exempts businesses downtown. A shop on Hillsborough Street a ten-thousand dollar subsidy; a shop on Capital Boulevard gets nothing. It’s a double-standard. In practice, Mayor Meeker has one set of rules for his friends (downtown) and another for everyone else.
The two Republicans on Council can do little or nothing to change that policy, but the Mayors allies – the five Democrats – can. They can say to Charles Meeker, We need one Raleigh. Not two.
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