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For Charlotte mayor: Mitchell, Peacock

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  • Endorsements: Council primaries
  • Answering to the voters

    We invited readers to submit questions for the Democratic candidates for mayor. We picked one and asked it of both Patrick Cannon and James “Smuggie” Mitchell.

    Q. Is Ballantyne important to your term as mayor? Why or why not?

    Geoffrey Curme, Charlotte

    Cannon: “Yes and here’s why. I live (near) the intersection of Marvin and Johnston Road. I’m 1.3 miles from Ballantyne Resort. I know the level of infrastructure that is not in place in a place that people feel like has everything and yet it does not. I can’t begin to tell you the number of kids I see riding bicycles along Providence Road West or Marvin Road that don’t have access to a decent sidewalk, don’t have access, if a lady is walking at night, to a well-lit area. Balance is important to me. (All areas are) just as important and I think you got to have somebody in office, the mayor’s office, that understands how important balance is.”

    Mitchell: “First thing, as mayor I will make sure that Ballantyne feels like they are the integral part of the city of Charlotte they are. Secondly, I will make sure I go to the Ballantyne breakfast. The people of Ballantyne want to make sure the mayor understands their pain. I would get there in my first 90 days as mayor and say, ‘what are you real issues out here?’ I will give Ballantyne citizens credit. They pay a lot of the property taxes. That’s why the (capital improvement plan) was so important – we have to build all of Charlotte so vacant land on the west side can come on the tax rolls, vacant land, Eastland Mall can come on the tax rolls. When you do that, Ballantyne will feel now that every part of the community is paying their fair share of property taxes.”



About 600 of Charlotte’s 516,118 registered voters – a little over one-tenth of one percent – have cast early ballots for next week’s primary election. We hope that paltry showing will change quickly as early voting expands to eight additional locations this week, because a lot rides on this fall’s campaigns: Charlotte will elect a new mayor to succeed Anthony Foxx and close to half of the City Council could turn over.

Today, the Observer editorial board kicks off its political endorsements with our recommendations for mayor. Every year, the editorial board gets to know the candidates, reviews their records, talks to people who know them well and does other research to determine who we think would make the most effective public officials.

We do this for two main reasons. First, it’s in our blood. We wake up every morning eager to weigh in on public affairs. There are few more fundamental questions in public life than who will represent the people in office. So commenting on who we believe would make the most valuable elected leaders comes naturally. Second, the typical voter doesn’t have the time or desire to research the dozens of candidates (a mere 54 for Charlotte and school board seats in this off-year) who fill the ballot. We have the desire, and we make the time.

Without further ado…

Mayor – Democrats

Four Democrats are on the ballot for the Sept. 10 primary, including two with extensive experience in local politics. We recommend James “Smuggie” Mitchell.

Mitchell has represented District 2, covering much of north and west Charlotte, on the City Council for the past 14 years. He chairs the economic development committee and established himself as a loyal lieutenant to former Mayor Foxx over the past four years.

In Charlotte’s form of government, the mayor has little official power. The city manager runs the day-to-day operations and the City Council sets policy. So the mayor’s effectiveness stems from his ability to work productively with the council and the manager, to articulate a vision and to persuade people to follow his lead. Without the confidence and trust of those around him, the Charlotte mayor can quickly lose relevance.

Mitchell has built trusting relationships with council members, city staff, the business community and other stakeholders over the years. He has earned their respect and could better craft coalitions to help the city continue to thrive. By being a team player, Mitchell can become a persuasive leader for the city.

Mitchell is a hard worker and most recently threw himself into two of the council’s bigger matters of the past term: Helping the Carolina Panthers renovate Bank of America stadium and moving the Charlotte Knights to uptown. His leadership was vital to each of those projects coming to fruition, developments that we think will enhance Charlotte.

In 2011, Mitchell served as president of the National League of Cities, a stint he and others say enriched his understanding of municipal government and built a network of connections nationwide.

We have some concern about Mitchell’s lack of fiscal conservatism. While we believe in smart investments to keep Charlotte moving forward, we also appreciate the need to be good stewards of every tax dollar. Mitchell supported much more generous approaches to the Panthers, Knights, streetcar and other projects than we did, and we hope the new City Council will include some new members who balance public investments with the burden on taxpayers.

Cannon was first elected to the City Council in 1993 at the age of 26. He currently serves as mayor pro tem, a role he touts frequently on the campaign trail. It is an entirely ceremonial one, however, and has little value as preparation for the top job. Cannon has a strong grasp of the details of city government, but has alienated a large number of his colleagues over the years with what they consider a less-than-selfless approach. He would have more difficulty winning the council’s support on initiatives he might push as mayor.

Both Cannon and Mitchell have their limitations, but Mitchell strikes us as the more likely to be aware of those limitations and willing to turn to others for guidance, a valuable trait.

The other two Democrats, Gary Dunn and Lucille Puckett, have not shown themselves to be serious candidates.

Mayor – Republicans

Former City Council member Edwin Peacock III faces a token challenge from perennial candidate David Michael Rice. Rice is not a serious contender and we recommend Peacock.

Peacock was an effective at-large council member for four years before his surprise ouster as part of a Democratic landslide in 2011. He lost a 10-way primary for the 9th congressional district last year after positioning himself as the only moderate in the Republican field. He typically puts problem-solving ahead of partisan politics, a trait this city could stand more of. He would represent the Republican Party well against Cannon or Mitchell.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

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