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SCUTTLEBUTT

by YES! Weekly staff

Gas stations investigated for gouging

Democratic NC Attorney General Roy Cooper, fending off a challenge from Republican Bob Crumley, issued more than a dozen subpoenas to gas stations alleged to have charged more than $5.35 per gallon in the wake of market disruptions caused by Hurricane Ike. Some gas stations reportedly charged as much as $5.99 per gallon. Three Guilford County gas stations were served by the sheriff’s office: Grand Central Express on Surrett Drive in High Point, Irving Park BP on North Elm Street in Greensboro and Big Boys Market on West Market Street, also in Greensboro. Gov. Mike Easley invoked the state’s price gouging law on Sept. 12, which prohibits “charging unreasonably excessive prices in times of crisis.” The subpoenas require the gas stations to produce information about the cost of fuel and the selling price from July 1 to the present. The gas stations have until Sept. 29 to turn over the documents. Winston-Salem-based Beroth Oil Co. also received a subpoena following consumer complaints about its Four Brothers gas station in Yadkinville. “There’s no excuse for ripping off consumers who are already hurting from high gas prices,” Cooper said. “Gouging for greed will not be tolerated in North Carolina.”

Watt takes aim at McCain

With the Democratic nominee for president still struggling to gain traction with white working-class voters and to solidify its promise to make North Carolina competitive, the Obama campaign brought out the party artillery on Sept. 16, lining up withering statements from Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation on Republican nominee John McCain’s posture on the economy. Among them was Rep. Mel Watt, who represents the 12th Congressional District stretching from Greensboro to Charlotte. “Several weeks ago when John McCain said that ‘the fundamentals of the economy are strong,’ I thought it might have been an accidental slip of the tongue on a day things were going well for him personally or politically,” Watt said. “But when he repeated the comment again yesterday after the federal government had taken over Fannie and Freddie, after gas prices had increased over $1 per gallon ins some places in less than a day, after Lehman Brothers had announced plans for bankruptcy or liquidation and as the stock market was dropping over 500 points, I can’t find any excuse for that.”

Greensboro to purchase Canada Dry building, Coliseum Inn

The city of Greensboro announced an agreement to buy the mothballed Canada Dry bottling plant and the Coliseum Inn, home to many long-term guests who are borderline homeless, on Sept. 19. The city will pay Susan Robinson, wife of News & Record Editor John Robinson, and her brothers W. Hardy Spence and Royall Spence II $3.2 million for the property. Khan A. Khan, owner of the Coliseum Inn, will receive $2.1 million. A announcement by the city described the land deal as “a bold effort to provide economic development and nuisance abatement along the High Point Road corridor,” while noting that the Canada Dry building could be used for storage and parking for the next-door Greensboro Coliseum, and the Coliseum Inn would be added to the city’s land bank. Long term guests, many of them intermittently homeless, have described the hotel as a place of close-knit community. Some of the guests are widely acknowledged to be prostitutes, people with mental disabilities, the working poor and children. The hotel has had an inordinate number of calls for service to the Greensboro Police Department for narcotics violations. Housing & Community Development Director Andy Scott told YES! Weekly last month that the city has a policy of paying to relocate residents displaced by the city, but city council would have to take action to extend the policy to hotel guests. Mayor Yvonne Johnson said she was committed to making sure that guests have a suitable place to go before the city razes the hotel. Miller tackles Bush’s secret legal opinions

Rep. Brad Miller, the Democrat who represents the 13 th Congressional District, introduced legislation on Sept. 17 that would require the attorney general to notify Congress when the Justice Department issues a legal opinion that the president is not bound by a federal statute. In a press statement, Miller’s office said the bill “responds to the Bush administration’s practice of relying on secret legal opinions” written by the Justice Department “to justify ignoring the laws passed by Congress,” including a “March 2003 John Yoo memo justifying the use of torture.” Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) introduced an identical bill in the Senate. “We can’t allow another administration to operate in secret the way the Bush administration has,” Miller said. “Democracy dies behind closed doors and Congress must throw the doors open and keep them open. The Constitution give Congress the duty to check the president’s use of power, and we can’t check what we don’t know about.”

Here’s your airport money

Seven weeks ahead of an election in which he faces a challenge from Democrat Teresa Sue Bratton, Republican Rep. Howard Coble announced a total of $12.5 million in federal funding for airports in the 6 Continued on page 25 th Congressional District. Introducing Coble at a rally in High Point on Sunday, Guilford County Republican Party Chairman Bill Wright said, “In the past, we might have taken him for granted. We can’t do that this year. He’s got a formidable challenger this time. There’s this thing called change in the air.” While the reform minded Republican presidential ticket of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin has telegraphed its opposition to earmarks, fellow GOP-er Coble has not been shy about bringing federal dollars into his district. Coble’s office announced Piedmont Triad International Airport will receive a total of $6.5 million to extend Taxiway D to serve regular air

trafficand accommodate the new runway being built for the FedEx cargo hubscheduled to open next year. Five million dollars will go to theBurlington-Alamance Regional Airport to connect it with the new HondaAero facility. And $1.1 million will be handed to the Moore Countyairport for land and easement acquisition, and obstruction removal.Coble noted in a press release that as a member of the House AviationSubcommittee he works closely with local airport officials “to providethem with support from Washington.”

Slightly tipsy and resolution happy

Just in case you wondered whether Rep. Howard Coble stillwanted the job of representing the 6th District, the congressmanintroduced a resolution on Sept. 16 “to commemorate the 75 thanniversary of the end of prohibition against alcohol against alcoholconsumption in the United States.” Youmay ask whether Coble, who is described by his flaks as “someone whohas been known to appreciate a beer or a glass of wine on occasion,” isold enough to remember prohibition. That’s debatable. Congressratified the 21st Amendment, repealing prohibition, in 1933; Coble wasborn in ’31. The feel-good resolution gives everybody credit byrecognizing “state lawmakers, regulators, law enforcement officers, thepublic health community, and industry members for creating a workable,legal and successful system of alcoholic beverage regulation,distribution and sale.” Also a staunch supporter of the tobaccoindustry, Coble was quick to note that beer and wine wholesalers in thedistrict “provide quality jobs to many of my constituents.”

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