For years now we haven’t responded to the steady stream of pro-toll prose from the Lake Norman Citizen.

When they editorialized we should be “put in timeout” we said nothing. When they published our portraits with fake potty humor quotes as their April Fool’s “joke” we declined to step into their gutter. Even when they missed a fundamental point (“the contract ensures a speed of 45mph in the general purpose lanes”) we let others point out their mistake.

But when they splash a story on their front page in a naked attempt to steer a narrative, when that story quotes only one individual, and when that individual lives thirty miles away, we are compelled to respond.

As toll cancellation bill HB954 gains traction in Raleigh the timing of their story is blatantly transparent. They’ll deny it, of course: when Cornelius Commissioner Dave Gilroy emailed them today their self-deluded editor sent a blistering reply that “there is not one shred of credible evidence that can be offered to even remotely suggest the Citizen has a position on this subject.”

For starters, maybe that editor should read the preceding two paragraphs of this post. Maybe he should explain why he failed to cover the anti-toll rally of over two hundred people last month. Maybe he can tell us why they were AWOL from our town hall, attended by over 150 people.

The story (we refuse to call it an article) quotes CRTPO Chair and Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor. Matthews, for whatever reason, is “Charlotte lite” on CRTPO. The two towns are in lockstep. Taylor regurgitated- even amplified- the pro-toll talking points regarding contract cancellation.

If the contract is cancelled, he fears “there will be absolutely no work done on I-77 north of Charlotte in any our lifetimes.” He says I-77 south in Charlotte will eat up the $200 million corridor cap, leaving no money for LKN. What he doesn’t say is right-of-way acquisition on I-77 south isn’t scheduled to begin until 2024. Delay that six months and the corridor cap “problem” is solved. For that matter, legislative action can solve the problem. Clearly the I-77 toll lanes are an exceptional problem and can be dealt with through exceptive legislation.

How can his statement, one that is so deceptive and biased, even make it into print?

Taylor also trots out the “we asked for this eight years ago” meme. He conveniently ignores over a dozen anti-toll resolutions passed by every town and county. And he neglects to mention CRTPO- the organization he chairs- received over 750 comments against this project!

More than likely he doesn’t know the contract:

  • Puts taxpayers on the hook for 80% of the debt when Cintra defaults
  • Puts taxpayers on the hook to pay Cintra’s taxes if any taxpayer compensation results in a tax liability (except termination compensation)
  • Gives away our air rights
  • Mines the federal tax code so Cintra takes maximum advantage of depreciation tax deductions
  • Explicitly acknowledges the practice of deliberate over-charging by Cintra’s subsidiaries
  • Eliminates the practical possibility of ever widening I-77 with anything but more toll lanes

Yet Mayor Taylor has the gall to say “we asked for this”? And the Citizen dutifully reports his words as a “knowledgeable source.”

Unlike the Herald and Cornelius Today, the Citizen has never asked us any questions or requested an interview. As we mentioned earlier, they were AWOL from the largest grass roots rally the region has seen in decades, if ever. Yet regarding their competition their editor sneers:

As for bias, it can be found in the kind of  incendiary “stories” presented to the public by another individual in this market who regards himself to be a “journalist,” content designed not to inform, but to inflame. 

Then again, a statement like that should not be surprising coming from a publication that once used an anonymous column to complain about anonymous blog comments.

They bill themselves as “Your Town Your Newspaper”. The Citizen is neither.

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