With the Charlotte City Council deadlocked over whether to build 2.5 miles of a streetcar line, Mayor Anthony Foxx invited Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to speak to council members Thursday about his decision to support a new east-west streetcar in Atlanta.
Reed told council members that they should support spending $119 million to extend the citys streetcar, saying it would pay off with new economic investment.
People who want to use the economy as a reason not to invest will be proven wrong, Reed said. He added that everywhere people have done streetcars, capital has followed.
Reed, a Democrat, also talked about another controversy that Charlotte and Atlanta share: whether to contribute financially in building or renovating stadiums for their NFL teams.
In Atlanta, the Falcons want to build a $1.2 billion stadium with a retractable roof. Reed said the city is considering spending more than $200 million in public money for the stadium, with the team spending $860 million.
The new stadium would replace the Georgia Dome, which opened in the early 1990s.
In Charlotte, the Carolina Panthers have proposed spending $250 million to renovate Bank of America Stadium, which opened in 1996. The city has been asked to contribute $125 million.
Reed said the city should support the Panthers financially.
No mayor who has played the stadium game has won, said Reed, who became Atlantas mayor in 2010.
Thursdays retreat was the first time city officials have spoken in public about the Panthers deal. In a news conference, Foxx said he is concerned about losing the team to another city.
Our biggest problem is poaching, said Foxx, a Democrat. There are cities without teams who are building stadiums.
Council members are mostly unified in supporting the Panthers. To help pay for the citys contribution, they voted 7-2 in closed session to ask the legislature about increasing the restaurant and bar tax from 1 percent to 2 percent.
But its unclear whether Reeds pep talk can break the deadlock on the streetcar.
Atlanta is planning an east-west streetcar to connect downtown with the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site to the east. He said it will revitalize Auburn Avenue, which was the historic business district for the citys African-American community.
Foxx has said the streetcar could rejuvenate Beatties Ford Road and Central Avenue in Charlotte.
Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon, who is wary of using property taxes for the streetcar, asked Reed whether property taxes are being used to build Atlantas streetcar.
Reed said Atlanta used a number of ways to fund the citys $47 million share, including sale of property and cash reserves. He said no property taxes were used.
Council member John Autry a streetcar supporter asked Reed to restate the anticipated economic impact from the streetcar line.
Reed said that the city of Charlotte is in a unique position because of Foxxs relationship with the Obama administration.
The president knows your mayor, and he trusts him, Reed said. You are uniquely positioned because of how the president feels about Charlotte and how he feels about your mayor.
After Reeds speech, council members discussed at great length the pros and cons of the streetcar. Supporters such as Patsy Kinsey, David Howard and James Mitchell said the communities that it will serve cant wait and need economic development immediately.
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