Monday, November 26, 2012

Come hear your Congress member assess the 'Cliff'

The election is over. The Thanksgiving table’s been cleared. But, believe me, this is no time to nap.

Your government has worked itself into a national crisis. Call it a fiscal cliff. Call it a wall of fire. Or simply call it a train wreck.

Just know that it is coming on Jan. 1 if the president and Congress do not find some way to defuse a time-bomb that would again derail the economy.

“A recession would begin in the first half of 2013, reducing economic growth by about 0.5%,” predicts Forbes magazine. “Unemployment would increase. The jobless rate would rise to 9.1% by Dec. 2013.”

If that’s so, why are we here? The short answer is government gridlock. And it doesn’t end with this crisis. Congress is gridlocked on the next moves for Medicare. Immigration. Social Security. Even passage of a farm bill.

On Sunday, Observer reporter Tim Funk explained the root causes of this paralysis and, just as important, what can be done about it.

Now, you are invited to a public forum on Friday, Nov. 30, at UNC Charlotte. Come hear current and former members of Congress suggest ways the nation can move forward
despite its political differences.

For this special report, Tim talked to people who should know: retired Senate Majority leader Bob Dole and his wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole; Erskine Bowles, chief of staff under President Bill Clinton and co-chair of the Bowles-Simpson Commission on shrinking the federal deficit; members of Congress who now represent our region; congressional scholars; and journalists who cover Capitol Hill.

Nearly all agree that Congress is in a ditch.

“It’s the most dysfunctional in our lifetime,” says Norm Ornstein, author of “Congress Inside Out,” a column for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. “Maybe not quite as bad as during the Civil War, the War of 1812 or the 1890s. But these are not great periods to compare yourself to.”

These interviews also unearthed potential solutions to the problem. Some can help right away. Others will take time.

All of them ultimately will require the support of the American people. If you want to be part of that, I urge you to join us for the forum at 7 p.m. on Friday in the auditorium of UNCC’s uptown campus building at 320 E. 9th St.

Expected participants include at least three current members of Congress from our region: Rep. Patrick McHenry, Rep. Mel Watt, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney. They will be joined by two former members, Jim Martin and John Spratt, as well as Kimrey Rhinehart, a former top aide to Sen. Richard Burr.

The Observer is presenting the forum in partnership with PNC Bank, the event’s underwriter. The evening’s moderator will be WCNC-TV’s Sonja Gantt. UNC Charlotte is the forum’s host and venue sponsor.

Admission is free, but seating is limited. Here is the link to register in advance.

Moving America forward will not be easy. But it won’t be possible at all unless its people make clear that this is their No. 1 priority.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Free to you: Wednesday's late, late election edition

Because the presidential election went very late, some of you missed the most up to date version of today's newspaper. This was particularly disappointing for many, since a printed newspaper can be a prized keepsake on historic days.

So here are two ways we want to help.

In the A-section of all of Thursday's print editions, we will reprint the final front page as it appeared in today's paper.

And through Thursday, we are offering free access to that final edition in an electronic form. It's our E-edition and it is a replica of the printed paper.

Here is the front page that rolled off our presses between 2:30 a.m. and 3 a.m. today. About a third of our readers got this version.

Here is how to read and save this edition in electronic form today at no charge.

If you are using a PC, link here.

If you are using a tablet other than an iPad, link here:

If you are an iPad user, simply download the app for our E-edition in the Apple store at no charge and it will give you free access today.

To print a copy of your E-edition, go to the upper-right-hand corner of the page of the electronic paper and click on the icon depicting a printer.

To create a copy of the E-edition that you can store on your computer, again go to the upper-right-hand corner and look for the "application link" icon just to the right of the printer icon. Pull down the menu for that icon and click on "Download newspaper PDF."

Once you have your PDF on your computer, it's yours to keep in whatever form you'd like.

Presidential elections are an important part of our history. Even amid the toughest of deadlines, we want your printed Observer to capture that for you.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This week, we bring you the election and more

You could easily guess one reason Wednesday’s Charlotte Observer will be special. We’ll have expansive coverage of local, state and national elections.

Here’s another: Wednesday marks the debut of ShopTalk, a new Observer feature focusing on the world of small business. More on that in a moment.

First, here’s some of what we have for you in the run-up to Election Day.

Did you vote early? You are among millions in the state who are reshaping the dynamics of elections. See today’s 1A story analyzing early-voting trends and their potential impact across the state.

Today’s Big Picture section offers context. With polls suggesting a virtual tie in the presidential race, we explain how the Electoral College could come into play. Also don’t miss a breakout of key congressional races to watch and seven burning questions that the election will answer.

If you have yet to vote, go to, where you can make your own sample ballot by simply typing in your address. You will also find background on the candidates and other helpful voter information.

Need encouragement just to vote? On Monday, we complete our profiles of people who are so enthusiastic that they are working to turn out people like you. Read what inspires them.

On Tuesday, Election Day, we’ll offer last-minute tips for voters still going to the polls. On, you’ll find frequent updates on turnout and other developments as they unfold.

Tuesday night, you can check the returns for yourself, minute-by-minute, as they accumulate on Dozens of Observer journalists will also report live on races from commissioner to president. They include the reporting team of Jim Morrill and Tim Funk, veteran political observers who began following these contests more than a year ago.

On Wednesday, all of our reporting, photos and graphics will fill 15 extra pages in a special election edition of our printed paper.

A unique feature of the Wednesday paper will be our expanded use of full-color graphics. We’ve planned 10 in all. At a glance, we hope to show you how every N.C. county voted for governor and president. In Mecklenburg, we will break down results for your precinct. Other graphics will detail congressional races and voter turnout.

Now, a preview of ShopTalk, our new Wednesday feature that will be devoted to advice and insights for small business.

Whether you run a small business, or are merely thinking about starting one, we think you will find this to be very useful reading.

Every week, we’ll ask small-business owners who are succeeding to share their experiences, as well as their secrets. This Wednesday, for example, learn how Olive Stewart convinced Whole Foods to stock its shelves with her homemade marinades and seasonings.

Other features include an Ask the Experts column, a calendar of networking opportunities and columnists with advice on everything from time management to having a spouse as business partner.

Nearly one of every five jobs in North Carolina is tied to small business. We are pleased to expand our own coverage of this sector through our underwriting program.

The underwriter, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, pays for the cost of these pages. The Observer’s newsroom independently produces the content and maintains sole editorial responsibility.

Our editor for ShopTalk is Celeste Smith, a member of our business news team who has 18 years of experience at the Observer. The section’s reporter is Caroline McMillan, a Charlotte native who covers the region’s small-business scene.

Smith and McMillan have already been in touch with many in our business community. They look forward to hearing from you.

Reach Rick Thames at or 704-358-5001.