A taste of Charlotte, NC politics

I often get emails from conservative readers living in blue states telling me how nice it must be to live in a red state. While I’ll admit that it’s nice, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the city I live in is solidly blue.

I don’t blog about what goes on in my home city much, but wanted to give everyone an idea of what politics in Charlotte is like. Harry Jones (the County Manager) proposed a $1.34 billlion budget for the next fiscal year which included $289 million for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools operations and 1.2 percent tax rate cut. Last Wednesday, the Democrat-controlled Mecklenburg County Commission tentatively approved the County Manager’s budget, and added $15.5 million to the CMS budget. Here’s more via the Charlotte Observer:

During the four-hour meeting, the board took a series of straw votes on the budget. In most cases, the Democrats voted to give more money to social service programs while the Republicans abstained from voting.

Jones has proposed a $1.34 billion budget that includes $289 million for CMS operations and a 1.2 percent tax rate cut.

At the beginning of the meeting, Republican Jim Puckett proposed a 3-cent tax rate cut, which was quickly voted down by the Democratic majority.

By the end, the Democrats had increased spending to virtually eliminate the tax cut.

Isn’t that something? Out of the goodness of their liberal hearts, Democrats on the County Commission approved a tax cut, and then turned right around and spent it.

It doesn’t get any better as far as the Charlotte City Council is concerned, either. Today marks the five year anniversary of the day that Charlotte voters surprisingly rejected a $342 million bond package deal that the city wanted to use on sports and cultural projects, including a new uptown arena. The new uptown arena was not a popular idea here in Charlotte, and 57% of voters let that be known with their nay votes, in effect saying “you won’t use our money to build another arena” (Charlotte already had a beautiful Coliseum built for the then-Charlotte Hornets in the late 80’s that everyone loved).

So you’d think that the voters rejecting public money being used on a new uptown arena would be the final word right? Wrong. The city of Charlotte, thanks to a concerted push by Republican (RINO) Mayor Pat McCrory, got its arena anyway. With 65% of the funds coming from tax money. Former City Councilman Don Reid, a solid conservative I met many years ago, talks about it in an interview published in today’s Observer:

Q.. Immediately after the vote, city leaders said they did not intend to build an arena against the voter’s wishes. Are you surprised it happened anyway?

DR: Not really. I’m shocked that it happened and sad that it happened, but not surprised. The power structure in uptown controls the big issues … I think it was a horrible message to send to the people of Charlotte, that their voice means nothing on an issue like this.


Q. What do you think is the long-term effect of city leaders building an arena after voters defeated the bonds?

DR: It has done more to dampen the trust for government than any other one single event that’s happened in Charlotte.

We have a problem in this city and around the country of small election turnouts and people not being interested in local government. They think their efforts are futile. I think building the arena destroyed the credibility of the government and some people on the council.

Q. After the vote, you called the referendum’s defeat the biggest upset in Charlotte’s political history. Do you still believe that?

DR: Yes. The arena package had a lot of money and powerful people leading the charge. We had very little money. I was so pleasantly surprised when the (vote) went down in flames. It was gratifying because I felt it was the right thing to do and 57 percent of Charlotte agreed. For a single issue in the middle of summer, we had as many people turn out as turn out to vote for mayor and city council in many elections. It was a true reflection of how citizens felt.

Yep – a feeling that city ‘leaders’ here ignored. I remember discussing the bond issue at the time with some friends, telling them that even though the bond package was defeated, I knew that Charlotte was still going to find a way to fund the new arena using public money.

I should note that not many people I talk to like the new arena. I’ve been there and didn’t enjoy my experience at all. It’s too cramped, in a bad location, and not as big as the old one. It’s more flashy, though, so I guess that’s what matters the most.

I understand that sometimes politicians are not always going to vote for things we agree with, but if they put an issue up for vote and the voters reject it, turning around and doing exactly what they voted for you not to do doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in city ‘leadership’ that voices of its citizens will be heard. Why ask for the voter’s voice if you’re not going to listen to it? Because they want you to think they’re listening, that’s why.

What are politics like in your neck of the woods?

Hat tip: Jeff Taylor at Meck Deck

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