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There you have it, Raleigh: Another year in the books and 2019 was quite the eventful one. Along with a fairly acrimonious city election that a paltry few of us actually bothered to vote in, we had our share of controversies ranging from the inane and annoying to the offensive, outright racist and blatantly corrupt. Did we behave better in 2019 than we did in 2018? Hmm. Not really. And we certainly continued to drive poorly—worse, you might even say, than in years prior. So here it is again, our year-end roundup of who did what. Once the acorn drops, we’ll forget that auld acquaintance; but before then, bring it to mind with us just one more time.
Bye Bye Bob and the Showgram
He said some pretty awful things over the years and, finally, his past caught up with him: This summer, local radio host Bob Dumas—a longtime personality on G105’s popular morning show—was let go. We won’t miss Dumas’ casual racism, his offensive comments about rape victims, his calls to drivers to throw Yoo-hoo bottles out their car windows at bicyclists. We’re sure the folks at G105 won’t miss the suspensions or the fines and legal trouble that Dumas wrought upon the station intermittently, though they might miss the ratings. All told, if there’s one thing about Dumas’ legacy that deserves to live on, it’s his annual fundraiser, Bob’s Buddies. Dumas was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2007 and Bob’s Buddies benefits the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
Billionaires Being Bad
This year we learned that the Triangle has its very own set of comic book villains. In April, federal prosecutors charged insurance tycoon and owner of at least one multimillion dollar luxury mansion in north Raleigh, Greg Lindberg, with attempting to bribe the state’s Insurance Commissioner, Mike Causey. The billionaire along with co-conspirators including former congressman and state GOP chairman Robin Hayes are alleged to have illegally funneled nearly $2 million to Causey’s campaign. In return, they thought Causey agreed to oust a senior deputy whom Lindberg said was unfairly regulating his firm, Global Bankers Insurance Group. Causey alerted the FBI and wore a wire. Hayes told federal agents he had never spoken to Causey about Lindberg’s company and later pleaded guilty to lying. As it happens, Lindberg, whose case goes to trial in February, has quite the résumé when it comes to unseemly extracurricular activities. This fall, The Wall Street Journal reported that Lindberg paid dozens of “surveillance operatives” to put GPS tracking devices on vehicles belonging to women he wanted to date, to compile dossiers for Lindberg on the women and to work to ensure that none of the women ever accidentally met one another (who says romance is dead, right ladies?). You’d be incorrect to think that Lindberg’s ties to local politics begin and end with Hayes. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who is challenging Gov. Roy Cooper for his seat next year, has received nearly $2.4 million in donations from Lindberg via two political committees that support Forest’s campaign. Despite the bad press and general air of corruption surrounding Lindberg, Forest hasn’t, so far, urged the groups to give those millions back. Sounds like Raleigh has a swamp in need of draining.
Voters Be Shopping
The New York-based grocery chain Wegmans opened its first location in Raleigh in October, just around the time that Raleigh residents were (supposed to be) voting in the election for mayor and Raleigh City Council. And, as a local reporter pointed out on Twitter, 30,000 people showed up to shop at Wegmans the day it opened; on the first day of early voting, fewer than 10,000 residents cast ballots. In total, 54,969 people in Raleigh Districts A-E ended up doing their civic duty this year, some 15 percent of the total electorate; with the average voter’s age being 54 years old, the youth decidedly did not #voteRaleigh. That being said, have you been to Wegmans yet? The wine and cheese selection really is something!
The Comments Are Closed
Go to WRAL’s website to see the “Best of the Triangle;” scroll down to the comments section to see the worst. It’s an old joke in these parts but it had enough truth to it (plus bigots, bots, spewers of conspiracy theories and the like) for WRAL.com to finally end commenting on its news stories this year. We looked on reddit.com/r/raleigh to guage the local reaction to this move and found it to be generally positive. Comments were an “unmoderated cesspool” wrote one redditor, full of “ranting psychos” and “boomers with too much time on their hands” wrote others. “This kind of self-awareness from WRAL is pretty refreshing, actually,” wrote another observer. A redditor by the name of GettinNaughty summed it up best: “Man, that guy whose profile picture is him wearing hunting sunglasses in his truck is going to be so disappointed.” Indeed. Though we’re sure Sunglasses Guy has already taken his game to Facebook.
A disgruntled former employee drove her Honda Accord EX-L into a Massage Envy in north Raleigh (she was charged with assault with a deadly weapon). A woman crashed her white sedan onto the sidewalk patio of Lilly’s Pizza (charged with DWI). And a teen without a license was speeding in a stolen car in a residential neighborhood on Milburnie Road. He ran a stop sign, T-boned another vehicle and launched his car up a utility pole, leaving it dangling from some power lines (you can’t make this up). Raleigh, it seems, has a driving problem, or at least a judgment one. And, this year, it felt like not a week went by when we didn’t hear about yet another poor pedestrian or cyclist getting hit by a car. So while most of us aren’t out there driving into buildings on purpose, in 2020, let’s all resolve to slow down, put our phones away and stay focused when we’re behind the wheel.
She lost her re-election bid by 70 percent but that didn’t stop her from taking to social media afterwards to complain about…Well, a number of things. In a thousand-word diatribe presented as a letter to the opinions editor at the N&O and posted to her District E Facebook page, council member Stef Mendell slammed the newspaper’s elections coverage as well as Saige Martin, the candidate who won in District D, and what she describes as the N&O’s failure to investigate claims that Martin made about himself while campaigning. (Mendell also defended her record on council against claims her own opponent, David Knight, launched about her, which, frankly, would carry more weight were those comments not lost in the pile-on against Martin, now the council’s youngest and one of its first openly gay members). All of us have a right to defend ourselves, to criticize elected officials and those running for political office—it’s the American way. But there’s also a way to lose gracefully. This ain’t it.
A Side of Racism
Time was when the very worst people among us would take pains to hide the very worst parts of themselves, only to let those parts emerge in similarly horrible company and not in the public trappings of polite society, such as, say, in the Bonefish Grill at North Hills. And when the horrible people got caught saying or doing horrible things, they generally used to apologize and make themselves scarce. Sadly, that time is not now, anymore. This summer, a video of Nancy Goodman, 71, a white woman shouting a racist slur at a group of black women in the Bonefish Grill in North Hills went viral. And when a WRAL reporter confronted Goodman about her behavior, she doubled down and said she’d behave the same way again. Later, Goodman apologized on Facebook to her friends, family and the other people in the restaurant—but not to the group of women she offended and not for saying what she said. What’s changed in the cultural discourse that has emboldened people to believe that overt racist behavior is A-ok these days? We have an idea.
Greatest Hits: City of Raleigh PR Faux Pas
There were some doozies this year, folks, including war games, gross negligence and a trash can dumpster fire. In chronological order:
City officials allowed the U.S. Army to conduct an overnight training exercise at the abandoned Capital Plaza Hotel on Capital Boulevard in March. Helicopter noise and simulated sounds of gunfire and explosions were loud, setting off nearby car alarms and traumatizing local souls who freaked out, called 911, rounded up their own munitions and took to social media fearing a terrorist attack or declaration of war. Fliers were distributed and the neighbors were warned, the city said in its defense. But the city manager later said he would not approve of military training exercises in residential areas again—the right move, surely.
The city paid $30,000 to pilot cutting-edge Scandinavian trash bin technology only to abandon the program after it emerged that city officials never consulted with a nearby business, the M&F Bank, and some bank customers complained about the smell. M&F Bank is the only black-owned bank in North Carolina and leaders in the African American community voiced dismay about not being invited to join discussions about placement of the trash bins. So the city dug up the trash cans (known as Moloks) it had already installed underground at the corner of Wilmington and Hargett streets, damaged a few in the process, and planned to put them somewhere else. That was back in August and we haven’t heard anything further. Moloks, maybe 2020 will be your year.
In the fall, the N&O reported on video footage from 2016 of an elderly man falling down a non-moving escalator during the Raleigh Home Show at the convention center downtown. The man was seriously injured and spent eight days in the hospital following the accident. City of Raleigh employees had failed to barricade the escalator to prevent people from using it and failed to report the incident to state authorities; the convention center’s director at the time told the city’s risk management division that video of the accident didn’t exist. But it did! Video footage from 2018 shows non-moving escalators again without barricades; the city was fined $1,200 and forced to admit liability. Friends, be careful out there.
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