|New mayor faces political, economic challenges|
|Published Wednesday, December 4, 2013 1:03 pm|
Patrick Cannon’s got a lot to deal with as Charlotte mayor.
|PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III|
|Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon takes the oath of office from Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Tyyawdi Hands (left) at the Government Center on Monday. Cannon’s wife Treena holds the Bible.|
Cannon, who was sworn in on Monday along with City Council, takes over the city’s highest-profile elected office at a time when Charlotte is wrestling with the state over control of public assets as well as funding of the controversial east-west streetcar. He’ll also get an immediate test in leading a Democratic-leaning city council that has three new members and a recent history of disagreeing with the mayor from their own party.
“I think of mayors who have come before me, each with different challenges and opportunities, but all with the same goal in mind – moving Charlotte toward its destiny,” Cannon said in his inaugural speech.
Here’s some of the immediate issues Cannon faces, in alphabetical order.
• Airport: Control of Charlotte Douglas International is still in limbo as the city’s lawsuit against the state is working its way through the courts. Short of dropping the case, somebody’s going to lose. If it’s Charlotte, how does the city respond to ceding control to a commission with a majority of members appointed by the mayor and council? If the city wins, control remains here. The Federal Aviation Administration has basically taken a pass on its preference.
• Business relationships: Business has long wielded power in Charlotte, and Cannon has said he’s putting a priority on improving the bonds between the city and its corporate leaders. The business community has taken a cautious approach to Cannon’s political stance, but as a moderate, he’s staking out a “common ground” approach as a business owner himself. Another key is implementation of the Business INClusion program City Council adopted earlier this year. The program’s goal is to breed competition in city contracting and procurement for small businesses, especially minority- and women-owned enterprises.
• Charlotte-Raleigh relationship: The links between city leaders and state lawmakers are frayed. Charlotte’s majority-Democratic city council and the Republican-leaning General Assembly don’t see eye-to-eye on much these days, which is why control of the airport is so contentious. Cannon has said he can patch things up with Raleigh, which is a tall task given the current economic climate.
“For too long, Charlotte has ben known as the ‘Great State of Mecklenburg,’” Cannon said. “We should reject this notion and instead, demonstrate that we are a Great City of Opportunity, part of the great state of North Carolina and that Charlotte is prepared to partner, not only with our county of Mecklenburg and the towns and cities within and around it, but also with our General Assembly and the entire state.”
• City Council: Democrats have a commanding 9-2 majority, but they aren’t necessarily alike in thinking. Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes, who won his first at-large race last month, is a fiscal conservative who has bumped heads with Democratic mayors in the past over taxes and the streetcar. Vi Alexander Lyles, a council newcomer who was elected at large, is a former assistant city manager with understanding of city bureaucracy. There’s a liberal element as well with Claire Fallon at large and Lawana Mayfield, and John Autry in districts 3 and 5.
As mayor, Cannon doesn’t get a vote on resolutions, but he has veto power.
• Economic development: Charlotte is showing signs of rebounding from the recession, but market diversification is a major concern. Cannon’s predecessors have leaned on remaking Charlotte into more than a banking hub – can he improve on their record by enticing new companies and innovators to move here?
“We must be entrepreneurial and inclusive,” Cannon said Monday. “Of course Charlotte’s large employers are economic drivers, but so are the small businesses and entrepreneurs willing to take risks and follow their dreams.”
• Streetcar: The CityLynx Gold Line split council before City Manager Ron Carlee developed a plan to pay for it without local taxes. The city is chasing federal dollars to extend the Gold Line from the Beatties Ford Road corridor in west Charlotte to Presbyterian Hospital in the east. Cannon opposed the project when former mayor Anthony Foxx proposed funding it through city money, then OK with Carlee’s federal spending plan. What happens if it fails to earn federal dollars?
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