BEHIND THE NEWS: Ghost towns coming?

May 14, 2009 5:07:26 PM PDT
Empty stores are one thing. Empty car lots are quite another. Nothing can make an area look like a ghost town faster than businesses shuttering. And today's announcement by Chrysler that it would close nearly 25% of its 3,200 dealerships across the country has a ghost-town feel to it.

In Manhattan, car dealerships are jammed into multi-story buildings. But in most parts of the country, car lots are just that - lots. Wide-open spaces lined with shiny new automobiles.

The problem of course is that these days the lots are always filled. With cars, not people.

And so Chrysler, recipient of taxpayer bailouts, a new partnership with Fiat and a freshly filed bankruptcy, is going to close nearly 800 dealerships by June. All those lots, gone. All those cars, what? Will the dealers have to eat their inventories? Will Chrysler buy back the cars? The details aren't yet known.

But the lots will be emptied, one way or the other. And all those events and organizations sponsored and supported by local car dealerships will be affected as well. Think Little League teams with so-and-so's car dealership as their sponsor.

Talk about trickle down.

The bad news for GM dealers will happen Friday. The automaker, once the biggest company in the world (remember the old saying, "What's good for GM is good for America"?), is going to shut 2,400 of its 6,246 dealers- more drastic in terms of numbers and percentage than Chrysler.

Many of the dealerships now with a black X over their doors are in the tri-state. And we'll have reaction from their workers and customers, tonight at 11.

There's a big change starting tomorrow for anyone who travels by air. And anyone who uses a different name than the one on their government-issued ID, listen up.

The crackdown on matching ID's by the Transportation Security Administration enters a new phase. The name on the reservation/boarding pass will have to match the name on the ID.

This affects millions of people - such as women who use their maiden and married names, reserving a flight under one and having a government-issued ID under the other.

It affects me. I book my travel under the name I use - Bill. But my legal name is William. It's not been a big deal in the New York area, but last month I went to Mexico and it wasn't easy trying to explain to folks who didn't know me that Bill is a nickname for William. And the person holding the ticket (Bill) and the person holding the passport (William) were one and the same.

This is a first-phase effort, and so small discrepancies won't matter, like using or not using your middle name or initial.

It all makes sense, given that the government wants to keep tabs of folks on their terrorist watch list. But it could be something of a logistical pain for folks who travel. Jen Maxfield -- whose real name is Jennifer and who would be affected by all this -- has the story tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we're taking a closer look at maternity leaves during the recession. More new moms are now cutting back their allotted time off after their babies are born, fearing their jobs might not be there when they return. It's a sad commentary, but a harsh reality for many. Stacey Sager has our story.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Scott Clark with the night's sports (it's "Scott Clark Day" in Limo, Ohio, Scott's hometown, for his work fighting addiction and alcoholism), and Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast. You can also see Lee's "Blog or Bust" by CLICKING HERE.

I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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