Monday, February 4, 2013

Put up your dukes! Stop meddling, guv!

Are they ready to rummmble? That's what some folks are saying given the recent tit-for-tat from two Charlotte political heavyweights.

In one corner is Governor, no Mayor, no Governor Pat McCrory. In the other corner is Mayor (with aspirations, some say, to be North Carolina's governor or perhaps U.S. House member in the not so distant future) Anthony Foxx.

The boxing gloves were donned last week when Gov. Pat made some comments to Charlotte city staffers that some took as meddling in city affairs and a veiled threat against the city  if officials continued to pursue a streetcar. At the end of a meeting with staffers about the city and state helping pay for renovations to Bank of America Stadium for the Carolina Panthers, McCrory said he told the staff that the city's pursuit of building the streetcar was "making my job harder" to keep state funding for the $1.1 billion Lynx Blue Line Extension. The state has pledged to spend $299 million on the light-rail extension, which is 25 percent of the construction costs. The money is set to be approved by the General Assembly in $25 million installments annually. He said if the city raises property taxes to build the streetcar, some may take it as a signal that Charlotte doesn't need help from the state. 

McCrory said Saturday he was only giving Charlotte officials "helpful advice" not issuing a threat. 

That's not implausible. The Great State of Mecklenburg, as we've been often derisively called by some of the honorables in the state capital, hasn't enjoyed great affection in the legislature. Even with some Mecklenburg lawmakers enjoying unprecedented power  - Mecklenburg's Thom Tillis is House speaker -  Charlotte has had a hard row to plow to get its urban needs addressed at the state level. 

Curiously, though, McCrory had no similar "helpful advice" to offer on the issue city staff members were actually discussing with him. He wouldn't discuss with us if lawmakers might have similar qualms about providing Charlotte with money if the city provided $125 million in local food and beverage tax dollars to the Panthers to upgrade their stadium. The City Council has asked the General Assembly to OK an increase in the tax to do so.

For their part, Foxx and other Democrats didn't think the streetcar was any of McCrory's business. It's a completely local decision, they said. He should focus on the pressing state issues - tax reform and health care for instance, they said.

Some of the rumblings between Foxx and McCrory is political theater. They're not best buds and both have political aspirations that go beyond the current offices they hold. There could be more face-offs in the future.

And Foxx wasn't backing down on his criticism of McCrory's remarks Monday. In his State of the City address he said again that McCrory inappropriately weighed in on local issues by suggesting Charlotte should not move forward with the streetcar as Foxx proposed in his capital plan. “Opposition to the streetcar is based on ‘smoke and mirrors,’” Foxx said. He suggested critics don’t support the project because of the type of neighborhoods and business corridors it would ultimately serve.

As we said last week, we've expressed skepticism about the streetcar. But we're dead certain that McCrory should have butted out of the issue. 

Maybe he was trying to be "helpful" but he's naive if he really believes a governor's "helpful advice" on how to spend local money wouldn't be viewed as the threat that many view it to be. 

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misswhit said...

Fannie, Do you think it is appropriate for Mayor Foxx to turn this into a racial issue?