Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson feels his name is being tainted, and we dont blame him. The Charlotte City Councils dash for cash is making him look bad.
Richardson sought $125 million from the city of Charlotte to help pay for renovations to Bank of America Stadium. The City Council jumped on board, and then some, and then some more.
The City Council wants to double the sales tax on food and beverages in restaurants for 30 years to pay for the Panthers renovations. Heres the rub: That tax hike would bring in close to $1 billion, or some $875 million more than the Panthers requested. The city went weeks without explaining that chasm and to this day has given only a vague explanation that the extra money could be used to pursue amateur athletic events and possibly help the Panthers again 15 or more years from now.
Sources close to Richardson tell the Observer editorial board that the Panthers owner is annoyed that the city is using his request as a springboard for raising taxes more than necessary. Richardson asked for the $125 million over 15 years but the public sees a billion-dollar tax increase that lasts 30 years. Richardson believes some of the stink of such a big tax hike could be falling, unfairly, on him and the Panthers.
Richardson and the team knew about the citys tax hike plans early on, a source said. But now he realizes how thats playing.
Whether to help the Panthers renovate the stadium is a legitimate debate and for some folks, a tax hike of any size would be wrong. We think the teams impact on the city warrants some public participation.
Whether to raise hundreds of millions more for things like amateur sports deserves at least as much debate. City Council members, with their secrecy and obfuscation over their ambitions, not only turn much of the public against themselves, but threaten to drag Richardsons reputation down as well.
Add teeth to records law
Speaking of government secrecy, encouraging news out of Raleigh.
Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, filed a bill Thursday that would help the public know more about what its government is doing. The bill makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor to deny access to public records and meetings.
Currently, government officials face no criminal penalty for keeping public records private. Imposing criminal penalties would encourage public officials to err on the side of openness, as the law already requires.
North Carolina would join about a dozen states that take government openness seriously by making violations of public records laws a criminal offense.
As Goolsby said, The bottom line is its the publics money, its the publics documents, these things are being done in the publics name, and we have a right to know.
Good for Goolsby for recognizing that. Now, the legislature should also pry open personnel files for government workers in certain instances. When a public official is fired, the public has a right to know why.