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Editorial: Darts and laurels: Past crime fair game

Dart to the the strangeness swirling around Democratic county commission candidate Laura Lyerly. An embezzlement charge in her past has come to light, and it’s not clear if the prayer-for-judgment she received counts as a felony conviction or not. If so, that would disqualify her as a candidate. Lyerly alluded to the crime during a forum last fall, when she ran unsuccessfully for Salisbury City Council. As a 19-year-old employee at Kmart, she said, she “took things that did not belong to me.” She knew it was wrong, she said. Then her emotions evidently took over and she did not elaborate. She failed to mention the embezzlement charge or how it was settled. Supporters argue that critics should let this misdeed ride ó after all, the crime happened 10 years ago when she was a young college student. It would be nice to get a fuller explanation from Lyerly before making that judgment, but she has proved elusive. She appears at forums but seldom returns phone calls and frankly is hard to find. Politically, a criminal charge is fair game. Legally, the state won’t rule on Lyerly’s candidacy until someone files a formal challenge. The outcome of all this is unpredictable. One thing is certain, though: Lyerly owes the public an explanation.
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Laurels to Watauga County commissioners for rescuing Tweetsie Railroad from near-derailment. The popular Old West theme park between Blowing Rock and Boone sits on 300 acres, not all of which it owns. Some property owners were threatening to end their leases with Tweetsie and cash in some other way. To prevent that, the county OK’d land purchases and promotional support of around $4 million, in exchange for Tweetsie’s promise to stay where it is and spend $13 million on improvements. Watauga has more than a sentimental attachment to Tweetsie; the park is estimated to have a $27 million annual economic impact. It is the county’s sixth-largest employer, even though it has only 26 full-time jobs. The park employs more than 300 people during its peak season. Ownership issues have still to be settled, but tourists can count on finding the Wild West in the North Carolina mountains for at least a few more years.
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Dart to the fact that U.S. consumers probably cannot estimate how high fuel prices may go. Certainly, $3.81 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline exceeds their wildest imaginations. The silver lining in this OPEC-induced cloud is consumers’ turn to alternate modes of transportation ó and not just more fuel-efficient personal vehicles. Bus ridership is up 7 percent in Salisbury and is likely to grow. Other cities are experiencing the same trend. Americans may finally embrace public transportation as fully as Europeans, who have paid high gasoline prices for decades. Luckily for area residents, Salisbury has a full-fledged bus system in place and the county has Rowan Express, a van system that may soon connect Salisbury to Kannapolis. Minibuses and full-size buses may be in its future. Necessity ó in the form of high gasoline prices ó is the mother of re-invention.

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