Charlotte will elect a new mayor this fall. In fact early voting for the primary begins next week. Here's my take on the position as appeared in the Charlotte Observer last month. In spite of the fact that I speak of the next Charlotte mayor, the same character and courage from every mayor in the state would make us a much, much better place.
"This November Charlotte will elect a new Charlotte mayor. While expectations will be high, we must be mindful that many issues we face are controlled outside City Council chambers. This new mayor won’t be a messiah or magician, but the job does come with a built-in legitimacy of speech, with “street cred.” When the mayor talks, we listen. Perhaps not always in agreement, but we do listen and are often influenced to action. What we need is a mayor who will use this position to connect us to one another, to illuminate our common wants and needs, to lead us in honest public conversation about important matters that affect every one of us – a mayor who will speak for us to outside power, with passion and resonance.
The Observer’s recent poll cited the public’s take on our most challenging issues. Job creation was primary. Yet on the eve of this mayoral election, powers in Washington are working to enact another foreign trade alliance, the Trans Pacific partnership. N.C. employment ranks have been devastated by previous such agreements – think NAFTA and CAFTA. Would it not make sense for the citizens of Charlotte to have civil, non-partisan discussion about how this will affect us?
We’ve known the pain that results when a large employer such as Wachovia disappears overnight. Five years afterward we know how and why, where the blame lies. Yet discussions about how banks and the financial industry operate take place in Washington. We in Charlotte are stakeholders in multiple ways. Why should our community be denied a voice in how Wall Street and the financial community are managed?
Our public schools are buffeted by big business, large corporations, wealthy individuals, and especially the N.C. General Assembly. Decade after decade too many children don’t learn to read, write, do simple math, to reason, to communicate effectively. They go into the world without tools, unable to find meaningful employment or to become active citizens. Despite our best local intentions, we’re at the mercy of a powerful cabal driving a menu of large classes, elimination of pre-school and teaching assistants, charter schools, low teacher pay, and endless standard testing. As a community should we not have a voice in growing our young people to be productive and involved?
As living beings we require constant renewal of oxygen. Even when only marginally so, toxic oxygen affects the health of each of us. Children once went to school without asthma inhalers in their book bags. Today it’s commonplace. Why is our air toxic? What does that mean to our health? How can that condition be mitigated? Though causes are determined beyond our local government jurisdiction – in corporate boardrooms and legislatures – should we not have open, non-partisan discussion about the safety of the air we breathe?
It’s worth our while to note that these issues affect everyone. Cancer doesn’t assail Democrats while stroke picks on Republicans. Wachovia’s crash didn’t destroy the savings of liberals while the AIG meltdown took the assets of conservatives!
So imagine the power 700,000 of us living together in a community can have, if we’d recognize that we’re in this together, more alike than different? That jobs given away in Washington belong to us, not to them. That we’re the ones living with mercury in our air and arsenic in our water. That our public schools must function so the creativity and passion of our next generation can flourish.
We’re not deaf and dumb subjects of a despotic ruler. This is OUR country. Our voice deserves – nay demands – to be heard. And not in the context of a political party, a religion, a radical minority, a talk show host or comedian. Not through the lens of big business, the ultra wealthy, the N.C. General Assembly or the dysfunctional Congress in Washington. At a time when so many work so feverishly to exploit our differences, let’s hire a mayor whose promise is to connect and lead us, a mayor with courage and heart to help us to collectively push back against those who put financial gain or political triumph ahead of our best interests."