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LOCAL HERO


Dale Mullenix, Urban Ministry

Dale Mullenix is executive director of the Urban Ministry Center, staffed by some of the hardest working people in the city. Mullenix’s beliefs lead him to help those whom Jesus called “the least of these,” and he puts that faith into practice 24/7. The Center, on North College Street in the Old Seabord Train Station, provides a variety of services for the homeless. Mullenix and Co., with the help of over 350 volunteers, run a soup kitchen that serves free lunches 365 days a year. They also provide showers, laundry facilities, clothing, drug and alcohol treatment referrals; offer counseling on obtaining I.D.s or how to apply for jobs, and food referrals through Loaves and Fishes; provide transportation for job interviews, medical or social service agency appointments, as well as bus passes for those just starting a new job. They even have a county housing specialist at the Center to help with housing needs. In addition, the Center offers daily worship services for those who wish to participate, and they coordinate the successful Room In the Inn program which provides shelter at a slew of churches during the winter months. We salute the valuable, hard work and the compassion so evident in the entire staff, and we honor Dale Mullenix for his ongoing, steadfast leadership — and for giving Charlotte a good reason to think of itself as a compassionate city.

LOCAL ZERO

LOCAL ZERO Bill James
(Radok)

County Commissioner Bill James

Some people, like our Local Hero Dale Mullenix, practice their faith by helping others. And then some, like County Commissioner Bill James, feel it’s their job to beat other people over the head with their beliefs. We’ve gotten used to James’ usual showy bitterness, but during the past few months, he seemed to finally go off the deep end, his usual snarling, Bible-thumping backwardness gradually morphing into hatemongering rants. Not satisfied with declaring that urban blacks live “in a moral sewer,” he topped himself during the Commission’s discrimination-against-gays debate, when his invective gave off a distinct whiff of mania. Speaking, as usual, on behalf of God, James attacked Democratic Commissioners, Parks Helms in particular, as hellbound apostates, and gave the community its political quote of the year: “A man’s rear end is not the place for another man’s private parts.” In addition, James repeatedly referred to gays as “homos” during that meeting and in e-mails. These days, using that term in public debate is the equivalent of some 1960s Southern pol opposing a civil rights law by calling its beneficiaries “niggers.” Any self-respecting community would feel shamed and toss this guy out on his ear.

BEST ACTIVISTS
Catawba Lands Conservancy

This nonprofit land trust has served as an admirable example of environmental stewardship since its 1991 founding. Working to protect land in six area counties, the conservancy has boasted several successes. Most recently, it dedicated its first public access trail in Lincoln County. All total, it has protected 5,400 acres of land in 14 years through voluntary efforts. And the organization’s efforts have paid off p.r.-wise, too: More than 86 percent of Mecklenburg residents in a randomly sampled survey said setting aside significant natural land now for the future is somewhat or highly important.

BEST NEW SLOGAN FOR CHARLOTTE
“Stamping Out Pollen By Cutting Down Trees”

BEST MEMBER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT

BEST MEMBER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT Pat Mumford
(Radok)

City Councilman Pat Mumford

Mumford is winning the respect of both sides of the aisle and turning into a politician to watch. For a Republican, Mumford’s passion for housing for the poor is a bit unusual, especially given that he’s not likely to get their votes at the ballot box. Mumford was part of a partnership that will give low-income people more access to Wachovia housing loans and was a key player in city initiatives that will help build low-income housing and in getting the federal Hope VI Grant for the Piedmont Courts redevelopment.

WORST MEMBER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
School Board Member George Dunlap

If Dunlap wishes to continue as a school board member in charge of educating this county’s kids, we’d recommend he sit in on a few grammar and spelling lessons. The semi-incoherent rants he e-mailed Creative Loafing about how certain staff members here would likely burn in hell were enough to stand a copy editor’s hair on end.

BEST POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGIST
County Commissioner Wilhelmenia Rembert

During the impassioned debate about a non-discrimination policy for gays, Rembert alluded to Bill James’ insistent, negative focus on homosexuals, saying that someone so fixated on others’ sexual habits could be coping with some unresolved issues: “I suggest seeking services, seeking counseling, seeking help.” To quote Mr. James’ favorite reading material, “Amen.”

GUTSIEST PUBLIC OFFICIAL
County Commission Chairman Parks Helms

In a county teeming with anti-tax sentiment and homophobes, what did Parks Helms decide to do in his latest term as Chairman of the County Commission? Why, pass anti-discrimination legislation for gays employed by the county, and propose a tax increase, what else?

MOST ETHICALLY CONFLICTED MEMBER OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
School Board Member And Rhino Times Publisher Larry Gauvreau

Gauvreau was criticized when he revealed details of a closed-door meeting to one of his own reporters, but the real shame is that board members don’t let the public know more about what’s really going on. Still, it’s not hard to realize Gauvreau’s got a serious conflict of interest when his paper’s thumping his foes in its news pages — even after you get past the not-so-subtle headlines that would make Goebbels blush and the gratuitous front-page shots of half-drunk blondes.

BIGGEST WASTE OF TAX MONEY
$60,000 For Public Art...
...at a maintenance facility in the middle of nowhere.

MOST UNDERRATED ATTRACTION
Lake Dee Dee Harris

The city may have turned down Dee Dee Harris’ request for help in plunking down a Saks store in the giant hole she’d dug at Park Road and Quail Hollow, but it turned out OK for everyone. She left that massive crater alone, which was a stroke of genius because now after a couple of days of rain, we’re treated to a wonderful, eye-pleasing new lake just waiting for families to picnic nearby and swim in. Maybe the city will spring for some benches and picnic tables. Be sure to bring mosquito repellant.

BEST USE FOR THIRD WARD LAND RESERVED FOR A CITY PARK
A City Park

Specifically, Romare Bearden Park.

WORST PLACE FOR A BLIND DATE
Rest Rooms At Park Road Park

Best avoid the park, lest you run into people dipping into the moral sewer to conduct a little research.

BEST PLACE FOR A NEW BASEBALL STADIUM
Southend

Downtown desperately needs a real park, and no, concrete-laden Marshall Park doesn’t count. The city will be much better off building the great park that’s been planned in Third Ward and follow that with a state of the art AAA baseball park outside the Belk Freeway. In that location, there’d be room to do it right, and the view of the city during night games would be an attraction in and of itself.

BEST EVENT TO REPLACE CITYFEST LIVE
Bankaroo Festival

BEST IMPERSONATION OF INCOMPETENCE
The ASC And The “Arts Bundle”

During the never-ending City Council discussions of a “bundled” proposal for several new downtown venues and upgrades, the ASC managed to flub the process (granted, in the face of opposition and delays from our philistine mayor). Local arts’ good old days when Michael Marsicano built strong political and business partnerships for the ASC are past. When he left, the group lost prestige and public support when it backed an unpopular proposal for a downtown arena. Worse, under new leader Lee Keesler, the group has seemed in denial of the need to regain popular support — that is, in addition to the usual schmoozing of “leaders” behind the scenes. Overall, we support the ASC’s request for city funding, but they’re certainly not making it easy.

BEST IMPERSONATION OF A HICK
Mayor Pat McCrory

Mayor McCrory changed into Mayor Jethro Bodine when he stalled funding for downtown arts projects, and then publicly ridiculed a number of artworks chosen for new light rail stations. At one point, he actually used the old “a third grader could do that” argument, the hallmark of hickdom worldwide. In the process, any pretense of being “world class” — a city preoccupation since the Gantt administration — was pretty much tossed in the toilet. And needless to say, if anyone in the coveted “creative class” was paying attention, McCrory has driven them away.

MOST IN NEED OF A VOTE OF NO-CONFIDENCE
Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board

Need we say more?

THE RIGHT HAND KNOWETH NOT WHAT THE LEFT HAND IS DOING AWARD
City Councilwoman Susan Burgess

She wants a back to basics budget — and tens of millions of additional dollars for arts funding. She beats up her colleagues for coming up with a budget that cut school crossing guards, all the while forgetting that the budget she proposed also cut school crossing guards.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A RELIGIOUS NUT
Flip Benham And His Operation Save America Crew

Whether it’s in front of a high school, strip club or medical center, Benham is sure to cause a ruckus. His performances include belting out through a bullhorn vitriolic fire and brimstone Bible verses to innocent bystanders and displaying giant posters of aborted fetuses to high school kids. Offensive and clueless, sure, but you’ve got to admit, the man can put on a show.

THE YO-YO AWARD
State And Local Officials Who Keep Playing Games With The Widening Of I-485 In South Charlotte

City, county and state officials are apparently under the impression that people who live in the north of the county never drive on roads in the south of the county and vice-versa. The battle over whether the state should widen one part of I-485 first or finish another grew into a childish playground style brawl between grown adults who could benefit from a spanking.

THE DADGUM IT, WHUPPED AGIN AWARD
Elmwood Cemetery Confederates

City Manager Pam Syfert tried to put an end to discord over the Confederate battle flag flying at Elmwood Cemetery by banning all flags except the official ones of the US and NC. Defenders of “Southern heritage,” meaning of course “white Southern heritage,” griped about the move until everybody got tired of hearing about it.

BEST EXAMPLE OF CORPORATE INDIFFERENCE TO PUBLIC GOOD
Duke Power

This past June, a federal appeals court ruled in Duke Energy’s favor, indicating the company didn’t break the law in updating their coal-fired power plants without adding new pollution controls. A company spokesperson said they were “happy” about the ruling. We’re guessing that young kids, the elderly and asthma patients are likewise “happy” on bad ozone days when it’s unhealthy just to step outside.

BEST PLACE TO GET TIED UP AND WHIPPED BY A DOMINATRIX
Jeff’s Bucket Shop On Monday Nights

Got a hankering for a little pain with your pleasure? Then head on over to Jeff’s Bucket Shop on Montford Drive for Mistress LunaSea’s Fun, Freaky People parties. There, you can see everything from fetish performers and kinky karaoke to guys walking on broken glass. And if you’re lucky, Mistress LunaSea might just pull you up on stage and work you over with her electric zapper and flogger.
1601 Montford Drive. 704-525-0425.

BEST PLACE FOR A NEW SENSATION
Serenity Health Care

Where colonic therapist Bobbie Pallante does her thing, squirting warm water up people’s butts. If it’s good enough for celebrities like Janet Jackson, Oprah and Matt Damon, then you too should open yourself up to the cleansing and purifying wonders of colonic therapy. Pallante has been cleansing people’s insides in Charlotte since 2000, and she always has room for one more.
6901 Idlewild Road. 704-713-7145.

BEST PLACE TO FIND YOUR INNER GEEK
NetPlay Café

This gaming center off Pineville-Matthews Road allows people to “frag” (i.e., kill) the guy next to him or a player across the globe via a plethora of video game systems. The gaming center is ironically located next to Bally’s Fitness — never before have pimply, pale, chain-smoking gamers crossed paths with toned and tan fitness buffs with such frequency.
8700 Pineville-Matthews Road, Suite 360. 704-319-9094.

BEST LOCAL ATHLETE
Emeka Okafor, Charlotte Bobcats

Rookie of the Year right here in Charlotte. Oh, that’s right. All the other NBA cities can suck it. George Shinn, too.

THE “IF YOU HAVE TO ASK” AWARD
The Charlotte City Committee

This group of young “rising leaders” (i.e., bankers with sensible hairdos) hired another committee in the hopes of helping make Charlotte “cool.” Sure, Charlotte is relatively clean and safe with great weather and a healthy economy, but it’s not the kind of city to which young hipsters are likely to move. To help remedy this, the Charlotte City Committee — using classic Charlotte thinking — hired another committee which revealed that Charlotte needs more “strolling corridors” with eclectic shops, restaurants and bars clustered together, and to preserve more of its historic buildings. In a word: Duh.

LOCAL BOY OR GIRL MADE GOOD
Leon Rippy

HBO’s latest reason to pay $20 extra per month for cable features one of Charlotte’s own in Mr. Rippy. A character actor for years in such films as Stargate, The Patriot and The Alamo, this spawn of the Queen City theater scene now slings guns and censor-shocking language in Deadwood with the likes of Brad Dourif, Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine. On the show, Rippy says lines like, “Those that doubt me... suck cock by choice.” We wonder if he was trained for dialogue like that with his first paid acting gig — reenacting that doomed venture to Roanoke Island in the ongoing The Lost Colony show on NC’s coast.

LOCAL BOY OR GIRL MADE BAD
Mayor Pat McCrory

McCrory schmoozed and schmoozed national GOP leaders in hopes of getting a federal job. When he couldn’t even deliver his own city for Bush, his chances were shot to hell. Well-deserved, too — how many dumbasses do we need in Washington, anyway? (See also “Best Impersonation of a Hick,” above.)

CHARLOTTE’S SEXIEST MAN
Emeka Okafor

One of our critics stood next to Okafor in line at Einstein’s one morning — it was awesome. Heat was practically radiating off his 6’10” body, attracting all eyes, male and female. Since joining the Bobcats, Okafor’s handsome face and athletic bod have been gracing everything around town from charity benefits to billboards. Naturally, the height helps him stand out in a crowd, but the big eyes, wide smile and what he looks like running down the court really make him this city’s sexiest man. By the way, he bought a bagel and some milk, which evidently does indeed do a body very, very good.

CHARLOTTE’S SEXIEST WOMAN
Donna Scott

Besides being a looker herself, Donna Scott produced The Body Chronicles this year in an effort to help all other women feel sexy. How appropriate that she be voted Charlotte’s Sexiest Woman in our Naked version, as Scott and her compatriots took to the stage January 18-23 presenting female beauty in all its forms, combating eating disorders and low self-esteem. If all women could hear that message and believe in their sexiness, Charlotte would be teeming with the urge to get naked.

BEST HOTEL
The Westin Charlotte

It’s been open two years and is celebrating by winning our Best Hotel award for the second time. Guests to Charlotte’s latest skyline addition rave about the Heavenly Beds, Heavenly Showers, tasty room service and chill bar in the lobby. They’ve also got some great deals for weekend nights when the visiting bankers are gone, sometimes as low as $99 a night.
601 College Street. 704-375-2600.

BEST MUSEUM
Levine Museum Of The New South

Thought out, well organized, provocative, unflinching. That’s what this museum is made of — and it wasn’t always this good. What’s changed? Since re-opening in 2001, the Levine’s New South has had the chance to produce their own home grown brew, including Purses, Platforms and Power and We’re Still Here: American Indians in the South. These shows mirror our communal lives and expose our character — the good, the bad and the don’t let sleeping dogs lie.
200 East Seventh Street. 704-333-1887.

BEST PLACE TO LIVE IN CHARLOTTE
Dilworth

Drive around this neighborhood and you’ll see a good number of establishments on this elite list. Only natural, then, that the area housing so many of the best restaurants, shops and other premiere places in Charlotte should likewise be voted the best place to live. Proximity to uptown for those who don suits daily, walking distance to Southend’s budding funkiness and a quick drive to most other locales help push it up a few notches, but it’s the range of residences (apartments to duplexes to condos to starter homes and way up) and delicious food that really set Dilworth apart.

BEST PLACE TO GET BACK TO NATURE
Historic Latta Plantation

If you don’t have time to take a whole day trip to the mountains (see Best Day Trip), Latta Plantation’s a superb substitute. It’s one of the few Mecklenburg sources of a horseback trail ride and provides ample spots for picnicking. To find out how our predecessors lived before you had to make a special effort to get back to nature, the plantation house is equipped with guides to take you through a day in the life of a 19th-century farm.
Latta Plantation, 5225 Sample Road. 704-875-2312.

BEST FESTIVAL
Yiasou! Greek Festival

Really, what’s not to like about dancing in a circle while holding hands and singing in Greek, all surrounded by the most sugary desserts to ever come out of Europe? For one weekend every fall, all of those wonderful things plus authentic Greek dinner, drink and art are in abundance on East Boulevard at the Greek Orthodox Church. One highlight is the tour of the church’s stunning cathedral with its radiant stained glass windows. It’s recommended that you allow ample time to find a place to park within the neighborhood, though, because a large — and diverse — crowd looks forward to this every year. Other festivals that received votes: Ciao, Italia!, Art & Soul and Festival of India.

BEST PLACE FOR A FAMILY OUTING
Children’s Theatre of Charlotte

Not too much time left to visit this Charlotte staple at its longtime home on Morehead, but we can all look forward to the grand opening of its union with the children’s library at ImaginOn this fall. To expand your little ones’ minds, take them to any of the Children’s Theatre’s renowned performances instead of plopping them in front of the Teletubbies. In the past year, the talented cast has brought a range of favorites to life, from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to Fahrenheit 451; the 2005 season will include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Other vote-getters included Freedom Park, Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden and Lake Norman.
1017 East Morehead Street. 704-376-5745.

BEST PLACE TO PEOPLE-WATCH
Corner of Trade & Tryon

You might think it’s just bankers hanging around this hub of commerce, but check it out at varying hours of the day and enjoy observing some of the diversity in this very city. Sure, the bankers glued to their Blackberries are funny enough to watch as they scurry about, hurrying to grab a sandwich on their lunch break between crunching numbers, but before and after hours bring different breeds. Early morning construction workers getting coffee before heading over to work on the arena, socialites exiting the latest touring musical at the Blumenthal, 20- and 30-somethings stumbling out of clubs at closing time and trying to catch one of few cabs — it just might be the crossroads of Charlotte.

BEST PLACE TO MEET PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT CULTURES
Central Avenue

Newcomer Pura Vida has only enhanced the cultural amalgam on Central Avenue with its Central American art and knickknacks. Chinese restaurants, Mexican taquerias and a Romanian bakery are other highlights along this one street that’s packed full of global goodies.

BEST KEPT SECRET
Not Everyone In Town Works For A Bank

BEST DAY TRIP
Grandfather Mountain

A privately owned conservation effort open with the express purpose to educate and thrill everyone about nature’s beauty — what’s not to love? Grandfather Mountain is about 100 miles away, and an ideal way to spend an afternoon. Hiking, wildlife habitats and a nature museum all capture our own area’s God-given beauty and make you thankful to live near the Appalachians. Runners-up were Chimney Rock and the Spoleto Festival.

BEST DISC GOLF COURSE
Renaissance Park

God, it’s hard, but who doesn’t enjoy a challenge? You’re guaranteed some mud on your feet from tackling this disc golf course, which garners compliments from the Professional Disc Golf Association for its great terrain variation and many fast greens. Seven, count ‘em, seven par four holes. Even if you play an awful round, console yourself with the knowledge that you just got a kick-ass workout.
1536 Tyvola Road.

BEST PLACE TO SKATEBOARD
Historic Southend On Gallery Crawl Night

BEST PLACE TO ROLLERBLADE
Freedom Park

The paved loop goes around the pond, over a bridge and past the amphitheater. Along the way, you’ll pass kids learning to ride bikes, families fishing and perhaps a few folks being ticketed for feeding the rampant geese. As long as you can avoid the fowl feces strewn along the way, it’s the best place for some in-line skating.
1900 East Boulevard. 704-336-2884.

 
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