Who's paying? Friends, businesses

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory made it a point to explain publicly this week who was paying for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a $190 million city project under way uptown.

That's great. Citizens need that kind of information. The trouble is, he got it wrong.

After a spirited City Council discussion of adding on $32 million extra for Hollywood exhibits and extra construction costs, Mayor McCrory tried to set the record straight.

“I want to note that the hospitality industry is paying for this project,” he said, referring to a 2-cent hotel occupancy tax devoted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Really? We thought visitors to Charlotte were the ones paying that tax. That would mean they're the ones paying for the project. Mr. Mayor makes it sound as though hotels are handing over their own profits out of the goodness of their hearts.

Friends who come for football games pay that tax. Members of families who gather for reunions pay it, too. It also comes out of the pockets of businesses who send employees here to attend conferences.

Let's give credit where credit is due, Mr. Mayor.

Didn't anyone see this coming? Yes, quite a few

Author Ron Suskind wrote on the New York Times Op Ed page the other day about a 2002 meeting at the White House when Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill tried to convince the Bush administration that the financial industry needed fundamental restructuring to avoid meaningless ways of valuing companies and avoid a coming meltdown. Among their recommendations was making chief executive officers of companies accountable for their actions and subject them to fines or other penalties for recklessness, malfeasance or negligence. But Securities and Exchange Commission Harvey Pitt complained that a new agency to monitor CEO performance might diminish his agency's power. The next day, when Mr. O'Neill described the proposal to leaders of the nation's top 10 financial services companies, the corporate execs bristled. The Wall Street Journal reported that one top executive told Mr. O'Neill he would “'rather resign' than be held accountable for ‘what's going on in my company.'”

With leadership like that, the wonder is this mess didn't hit the country years earlier.

How soon will gas prices start coming down? Huh?

A recent Elon University Poll finds that more than two-thirds of North Carolinians support drilling for gas and oil off the N.C. coast – even as close as three miles offshore. Republicans successfully convinced many Americans that a 26-year-old moratorium on offshore drilling was depressing fuel supplies and causing the gas prices to rice precipitously in recent years. Democrats in Congress who wanted to press for a comprehensive energy policy promoting alternatives to carbon fuels resisted, but caved in the other day and agreed that the moratorium would lapse.

That may make for a lot of unhappy motorists who expected a quicker result from lifting the moratorium, the poll indicates. Nearly half the respondents said they believed that gasoline prices would come down within 10 years – and 14 percent of respondents believe gas prices will drop immediately.

That would be nice. But a federal study released last year projected that it might be more than 20 years before offshore drilling produces any significant fuels – and even then there won't be much impact on prices. Let's hope that study is wrong – but let's not be surprised if it's right.