Peter St. Onge

The Charlotte Observer last week noted their slate of 36 different awards and honors from the N.C. Press Association. Among them was columnist Peter St. Onge, who was honored with awards for three columns on LGBT issues — two in the serious columns category and one in the lighter columns category.

The first serious column honor included one on his gay brother and his impending marriage in New York. A snippet:

This week, N.C. legislators dug in harder on keeping the wedding day away from gays, approving a constitutional amendment outlawing homosexual marriage that will go before voters next May. Our state already has a law against gay marriage, of course, but a consititutional amendment is harder to change than a simple law. Gay marriage opponents know it’s their best chance at defending an institution they believe is under attack.

That’s a word – attack – that sneaks often into this gay marriage debate. And also this word: agenda. It’s how those who fear homosexuality separate gays from the rest of us, by painting them as “others,” as an occupying force that wants to diminish the things we hold important.

St. Onge was also honored for his serious column on the Mecklenburg County Commission’s inadequate response to Commissioner Bill James’ “sexual predator” comments. The kicker:

What did politeness accomplish Tuesday night? We got a thoughtfully worded resolution that opposed, in principle, speech that could hurt others. We also saw several members of Charlotte’s gay community speak eloquently on the issue and remind everyone, with their presence, that there’s pain at the other end of the arrows people fling.

Lastly, St. Onge’s lighter column on Wells Fargo’s rainbow lights show on its Uptown Duke Energy Building on National Coming Out Day in October 2010 also received a nod. In it, St. Onge recounted Wells Fargo’s fumbling over questions about who requested and decided to “light the Southern city’s evening sky with a 48-story stamp of approval for a gay and lesbian event.”

Congratulations, Peter! And, thank you. Charlotte is much better place because of your outspokenness and word wizardry.

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Crisis hits Charlotte’s wealthy

The Charlotte Observer says the financial crisis has finally begun to strike at Charlotte’s wealth.

Bank job losses and stock declines are making the once booming Charlotte a town of uncertainty. The above-average per capita income ($65,700 in 2007, compared to national average of $50,230) is in threat as the unemployment rate continues to rise. Right now it is at 8.3 percent, the highest the city’s seen in years.

The largest personal decline:

Bank of America’s biggest individual shareholders are C.D. and Meredith Spangler, a Charlotte couple who own 32million shares within their family and other entities.

C.D. Spangler, a businessman, investor and philanthropist who is a mainstay on Forbes magazine’s annual billionaire list, gained his first shares in the bank in 1982 when he sold a small community bank to Bank of America’s predecessor. Meredith Spangler is a current board member.

Their stake was worth $210million as of Friday, down from $850 million in September. The Spanglers’ dividend this year will likely be around $1.3 million, down from $76.8million in 2007.

The paper says the current decline in Charlotte’s banking industry will have an effect on other businesses. The Observer spends the most ink on luxury services:

That could especially hurt businesses that cater to the wealthy, such as La Concierge, a personal assistant service, said Lashawnda Becoats, who started the company in 2006.

At the time, Charlotte seemed full of executives willing to pay someone to shop for groceries or pick up dry cleaning. Now, many of those executives are running their own errands, she said.

“People don’t have any disposable income anymore,” said Becoats, 37, whose service has four regular clients. “People are still living, but people are really cutting back.”

[…snip…]

Even Becoats, the personal assistant, has hope – after all, there will always be people who don’t feel the pain of a recession, she said.

“For the average person, we’re on the forefront of losing our job, but when I’m out shopping, I still see women in mink coats, and there are still people who will go into Louis Vuitton and spend $2,000 on a bag,” she said. “I know the economy will change, and I know I’ll get more clients. I just don’t know when.”

Meantime, wealth management firms continue fielding calls from worried investors.

“It is concerns about the general economy and how the downturn is going to affect retirement,” said Larry Carroll of Carroll Financial Associates Inc. “People realize that things that are bad for Bank of America and Wachovia are bad for Charlotte.”

With the way Americans love to rack up debt on credit cards, I doubt we’ll see South Park Mall empty any time soon.