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Charlotte Area

Charlotte Council To Approve Chiquita Incentives Tonight

After all the yellow bow-ties and "We're bananas for Chiquita" fanfare of the last two weeks, it's pretty clear the Charlotte City Council will tonight formally approve the unusually generous incentives deal it offered the company.

During a closed session in September, the council supported the deal in a preliminary vote of seven to three. But four new council members were not in that meeting and could shift tonight's tally a bit.

Newcomer and Democrat Claire Fallon, for example, has serious misgivings about the council's unprecedented decision to pay Chiquita $875,000 cash for relocating expenses in addition to the more standard $250,000 tax incentive.

But, Fallon says she'll put her concerns aside because of the benefits Chiquita brings to the city.

"The benefit to Charlotte is branding - it will bring other businesses to Charlotte because such a major business is here," says Fallon. "It'll bring high-end jobs and imagine eventually middle-jobs, which we need desperately."

Fallon also has misgivings about Chiquita's past record of paying protection money to terrorist groups when it grew bananas in Colombia. That was a concern Republican Warren Cooksey noted in the closed council session. He voted against the incentives, along with Edwin Peacock and Democrat Patsy Kinsey. Peacock is no longer on the council, but neither are Democrats Jason Burgess and Nancy Carter, who both voted for the incentives.

Carter's replacement - Democrat John Autry - says he'll follow her lead.

"I don't see any reason why I should try to gum up the works on this," says Autry. "I wasn't in any of those meetings. I think it's my responsibility (to my district) and to my predecessor to move this deal on down the line."

A transcript of that closed meeting in September shows many council members were squeamish about meeting Chiquita's demands, but unwilling to let the promise of 400 high paying jobs - and regional bragging rights - slip through their fingers.