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N.C. Opinions: Greensboro

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A Charlotte launching pad

From an editorial Thursday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:

Suddenly, the Charlotte mayor’s office looks like a launching pad to bigger jobs.

Last November, former Mayor Pat McCrory was elected governor in his second try. Now his successor, Anthony Foxx, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It hasn’t always been so for Charlotte mayors. Harvey Gantt, Eddie Knox, Sue Myrick and Richard Vinroot failed to win statewide elections.

What McCrory and Foxx have in common, however, are transportation-related achievements. McCrory pushed to establish North Carolina’s first light-rail line. Foxx is extending it, while trying to advance a streetcar project. Both championed airport expansion. To make progress on such complex and expensive undertakings requires strong leadership skills.

In their new jobs, McCrory and Foxx face similar challenges. In North Carolina and nationally, infrastructure needs are running ahead of resources. But infrastructure is strongly linked to economic development. Moving people and goods is essential to a strong economy and to vibrant cities. McCrory’s election and Foxx’s nomination make the point that cities matter.

The mayor also raised his own visibility and seems likely to run for higher office someday. Elizabeth Dole was elected to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina after building her credentials with Cabinet posts under President Ronald Reagan, including transportation secretary.

The secretary isn’t expected to send more federal funding to his home state, although Foxx’s understanding of North Carolina’s needs is a plus. While he and McCrory have differences, they should be able to continue a working relationship.

Foxx’s appointment comes at an interesting time in regard to one issue: the legislature’s drive to transfer ownership of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport from the city to a regional authority. As mayor, Foxx adamantly opposes that action. While the city is almost helpless to stop it, the Federal Aviation Administration can. Under Transportation Secretary Foxx, the FAA likely would take a long look at the Charlotte airport transfer.

But Foxx is taking on responsibilities beyond local politics. His new job is to keep America moving by road, rail, water and air. We hope Charlotte has been a good proving ground and he’s ready for the fast lane.

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