As we prepare to stick the fork in another year passed, we thought we’d take a look back on the events and people that made Raleigh…well, not great, exactly, but certainly colorful. What was cringeworthy? Who got their just desserts? What is residents’ preferred means of exacting retribution? Turns out, we have strong feelings about hot dogs, dodged a bullet from Amazon and favor hitting our enemies with a car. On December 31, as we watch the acorn drop, we’ll let auld acquaintance be forgot—but here’s your chance to bring it to mind just one last time.
“Surprise, we didn’t get Amazon!” quickly turned into “Yay, we didn’t get Amazon!” when news broke that the shipping giant would be locating its HQ2 not in Raleigh or the Triangle, but in the slightly larger markets of Washington, D.C. and New York. But, but…this was our chance to stick it to Charlotte as BEST CITY IN NC, and HQ2 was supposed to be looking at spaces downtown, and John Kane was planning on building a “Prime” corridor for the company’s real estate, and a deal with that other tech giant, Apple, was reportedly “imminent!!” Actually, we belatedly learned, local officials had had “no meaningful conversations” with Amazon since March. That, apparently, gave Raleighites enough time to have a good, hard think about realities such as our horrendous traffic situation, our inadequate at best, non-existent at worst transit infrastructure, our spiraling-out-of-control housing costs…and the 7 million gallons of sewage that, due to rain, spilled into local waterways, coinciding with the HQ2 announcement. Turns out, we probably can’t handle another 50,000 flushing toilets just yet, and, hey, at least we’re not Georgia, who sold its soul offering a state-funded academy to train Amazon employees, an exclusive lounge with free parking at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (the world’s busiest!) and more than $2 billion in publicly funded incentives, just to also be told “thanks, but nah.” Didn’t we just have a blue wave here in Wake? So aren’t we kinda socialist now, and therefore opposed to providing incentives like the $100 million-plus in tax breaks we reportedly were willing to cough up in order to declare ourselves, officially, the next Seattle? Sure, that Alexa apology sort of stung, but New York City’s subway system is falling apart while its taxpayers will be lining Jeff Bezos’ pockets with billions of dollars. Of course, it was a shock to learn that all those lists we’re perpetually topping are actually, functionally meaningless, but sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you win.
REGISTER OF PLEADS
It’s TFW when you steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds, stash the money in suitcases throughout your million dollar house and count on the boobs in county government to keep bumbling along none the wiser, because the cash-only office is operating under the auspices of the honor system. Former Wake County Register of Deeds Laura Riddick was sentenced to up to seven years in prison under a plea agreement that will also see her pay back $926,615 in restitution. The Republican, who was elected in 1996 and served in the position until she resigned in 2017, had a penchant for traveling, it was reported, with trips to swanky inns and resorts in Florida, Blowing Rock and the marginally exotic locale of Waynesville, NC. Riddick also paid for spa treatments, landscaping, clothes, credit cards and the mortgage on her aforementioned house, while periodically depositing large amounts of cash into her personal bank account. Citing abuse and financial struggles as a child, as well as an ongoing heart condition, Riddick’s lawyers told a Wake County judge that their client had developed a “compulsion to hoard money.” Riddick will be allowed out of prison on weekdays for work release. Three other employees were also charged with embezzling from the Register of Deeds office.
LAST CALL FOR DUANE HALL
It’s not 1952 (or even 2012) anymore and, thankfully, gross, high-profile men are being called out publicly for their bad behavior. In #ncpol’s very own brush with #metoo, veteran Democratic lawmaker Rep. Duane Hall of Wake County was shown the door by voters in his spring primary, after the left-leaning news outlet NC Policy Watch reported on a series of inappropriate sexual advances he was alleged to have made towards women colleagues. The charges included reports of lascivious innuendo and unwanted kissing, but Hall insisted on his innocence, even going so far as to accuse NC Policy Watch of fabricating the story to avenge a woman associated with the outlet with whom Hall had once had an ill-fated romantic relationship. Prominent state Democrats and Gov. Roy Cooper called on Hall to resign, but he clung onto his seat until he was ousted by Democratic challenger Allison Dahle in May. Dahle went on to win Hall’s seat in the November midterms, too, neatly tying up the matter with a big, red bow, and restoring our faith in…something.
SOME LIKE IT HOT DOG
Raleigh proved its seriousness as a hot dog town when Tasty 8’s closed its doors this spring. And by proving its seriousness as a hot dog town, we mean, of course, that not enough self-respecting Raleighites were willing to pay upwards of $5 for a gourmet hot dog when they could get the Snoopy’s Famous for $2.49 (and $1.25 on Tuesdays!), or the Roast Grill’s stripped down, chili-and-mustard-only version, an outright rejection of all the fancy toppings that Tasty 8’s held on high. Speaking of the Roast Grill, and to further prove Raleigh’s commitment to hot dogs, 433 generous locals collectively shelled out more than $20,000 on GoFundMe, to pay for the 1940 eatery’s flooring, plumbing and electrical repairs. Then, this fall, one Gregory Wilson of Cary ate 27 hot dogs in under an hour, besting the Roast Grill’s former previous record holder, who ate (wait for it) 26 hot dogs in under an hour. “They really are good hot dogs. The chili was awesome,” Wilson told WRAL. Sir, the city salutes you.
MY DAMN PHONE’S NOT WORKING
Who among us hasn’t, on occasion, really wanted to stick it to our failcompany of a telecommunications provider in the most dramatic manner conceivable? This summer, a Raleigh man took it there when he plowed his 2006 Volkswagen Jetta into the Verizon Wireless at North Hills, after showing up, broken phone in hand, only to find that the store had closed at the unreasonably early hour of 8 p.m. Six employees in the building were unharmed, and the man, Charles Michael Hager, 74, had kicked out the store’s glass door before charging into it with his vehicle. He backed out halfway, got out of the car and stood around in the parking lot “yelling and throwing stuff” for a while, per reports, presumably waiting to be arrested. His damn phone wasn’t working, he said. That’ll teach ‘em.
The Chick-Fil-A on Fayetteville Street announced its closing recently, and people lost their minds. Disregard that the restaurant was the size of a shoebox, about half as clean and kept fewer hours than the post office. Who cares that there’s more than a dozen other Chick-Fil-A locations within a 15-mile radius. Did we forget that there’s so many better places to get fried chicken downtown than at Chick-Fil-A (remember Beasley’s, anyone? Mecca? Clyde Cooper’s? Even Bojangle’s uses seasoning). But when it comes to the friendly fast food franchise with the right-wing agenda, we just can’t quit that delicious chicken. Lines formed out the door in the downtown Chick-Fil-A’s final days, comprised of folks who’d do anything for just one more hit, for old time’s sake, no matter how unhealthy, how many times they’d already been there that week, or how guilty it made them feel for betraying their friends in the LGBT community. Chick-Fil-A’s a heckuva drug, someone wise once said. Probably someone from Raleigh.
SCOOT, SCOOT Y’ALL
Well, the electric scooters happened, and in those first heady, glorious summer months, we jammed the streets (and sidewalks) with them like broken heroes on a last chance power drive, fully expecting, any day, for the Birds and Limes to be ripped away from us as suddenly and mysteriously as they had appeared. But the scooters weren’t impounded or banished as in other cities. Instead, in a rare display of acting with some sort of a sense of urgency, the City Council rallied to get scooter regulations into place. The good news is, the scooters are allowed to stay. The other news is the number of scooters permitted to operate in Raleigh is capped, and each individual scooter incurs a onetime, $300 fee to the company that’s in charge of it. Maybe now we can think about getting some scooter docks, so they’re not littering the roadsides, greenways and parking lots from downtown to Brier Creek. Just as soon as we sort out bike share, backyard cottages and Airbnb.
WHEN U ONLY KNOW WHITE PEOPLE
The photogenic doctors at a local dental practice dabbled in a little cultural appropriation this spring, with an ad for free whitening—teeth whitening!—that portrayed them dressed in traditional Scottish, Japanese and Native American garb. (The dentists are white). The ad cleared at least one tier of editorial scrutiny to run in the May/June issue of a local lifestyle magazine, whereupon the chief of staff to NC First Lady Kristin Cooper saw it and tweeted out her disapproval. The ad quickly went viral, with outlets from Fox News to the Washington Post to everyone you know on Facebook and Twitter weighing in. To their credit, the dentists quickly apologized, calling the ad, in hindsight, “ignorant and offensive.” Our favorite reaction to this episode of local inanity came from the always funny Facebook page Fuquay-Varina Memes, with a simple, poignant, emoji-filled bit of incisive caption-as-commentary: “When you only know white people.”
North Carolina Republicans have ruled the state with an iron fist since at least 2010, so they’ve been overdue for a bad year and some comeuppance for egregious missteps, like HB2. They finally lost their supermajorities in both the state House and Senate chambers due to blue waves in urban counties including Wake and Mecklenburg. What’s more, they played themselves when they decided to abolish judicial primaries and make state judge’s races partisan. Instead of splitting the vote among Democratic candidates running for a seat on the state Supreme Court as they’d hoped to do, the opposite scenario occurred when Raleigh attorney Chris Anglin changed his party affiliation from to D to R at the last minute and filed to run alongside incumbent justice Republican Barbara Jackson. No other Democrat challenged the eventual winner, Anita Earls, and Dems will now hold a 5-2 majority on the court. Progressives can’t even savor that schadenfreude too heartily, though. Thanks to gerrymandering, Republicans still managed to hold on to 10 of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House seats, despite winning only 50.3 percent of total votes in the state for Congressional candidates.
Local Big Brother star and CrossFit franchise owner Christmas Abbott was charged with felony criminal mischief after turning herself in to authorities in Florida in November. The arrest stemmed from an August incident where Abbott, several months pregnant at the time according to a colorful report from the celebrity news website TMZ, “drove to a Tampa gym to confront her baby daddy’s alleged side chick.” Police say Abbott hurled a cup of coffee, called the other woman a “pathetic home-wrecking little slut” and repeatedly rammed her Mercedes SUV into the woman’s Honda sedan in the parking lot. “The responding officer says Abbott continued to scream at the side chick while he tried calming her down,” TMZ helpfully notes. The officer declined to charge Abbott at the scene because she was so far along in her pregnancy. Abbott gave birth to a baby boy, Loyal, in October. Our congrats on the baby go to Christmas, and we wish her a happier New Year.