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On corrupt politicians, and other infestations

By Keith Larson
Special to the Observer

There’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask in light of the swirl surrounding the (formerly) Honorable Mayor of Charlotte having been arrested on bribery charges. This seems like an appropriate time to inquire, since I think I’m seeing it surface again as the guilty plea has come – this heavy-hearted lamentation by leaders in government and business that such a thing as public corruption could ever happen – here.

“If that news,” of the filing by prosecutors of a notice they’d reached a plea agreement with Patrick Cannon, “brings a conclusion to this sad matter and we can move ahead,” councilman Ed Driggs said, “then I would be very pleased.”

“I wish it would go away,” council member Claire Fallon said. “It made everybody think we’re all a bunch of crooks.”

No, not all a bunch of crooks, Ms. Fallon, but perhaps, some. And there will be no “conclusion,” Mr. Driggs, because the “sad matter” is actually that people are people and some people are scoundrels. Even in Charlotte. But the folks in charge don’t want us to think that.

Go-to good-guy and former mayor Richard Vinroot laid it on thick and juicy back on March 26, hours after Cannon was arrested, when he went on TV and somberly told us he had thought Charlotte was “incorruptible.” A public official taking bribes might happen elsewhere, Vinroot said, but “never in our city.” The new mayor, Dan Clodfelter, described the abject shock that a city official could be on the take by saying “the world seemed to have turned upside down.” Chamber of Commerce President Bob Morgan called the Cannon scandal “quite the aberration to the way of doing business in Charlotte.”

I’m not saying Charlotte is Chicago but are not all fallen? If you want to leave the Bible out of it, are not all human? Or is it that we’re all fallen and all human – except GuvCo and business-types in Charlotte, North Carolina? This is where the pure gather? Cue the laugh track. Temptation will arise wherever money and power mingle, and they do plenty of mingling Uptown.

It serves politicians and the Powers-that-Be equally well for the public to think Patrick Cannon was the lone cockroach crawling around Char-Meck GuvCo. That, as scurvy an insect as Cannon might have been, he was on his own. There’s no need to call an exterminator, or do much toughening of ethics laws, they want us to think. There’s no infestation.

Which brings me to my question.

When you walk in the kitchen in the middle of the night, flick on the light switch, and see a great big cockroach scurry under your sink – what’s the one thing you know for sure?

Keith Larson is the mid-morning host for WBT-AM (1110).
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