Northeast Charlotte will benefit from more than $1.3 billion in public investments, and Democrat Michael Barnes doesn’t mind taking credit.
“Anything that I have fought for, spoken for or fought against is part of my service record,” he says.
After four terms representing District 4 in the fast-growing northeast, Barnes is running for one of the City Council’s four at-large seats. He’s the only district incumbent trying to make the jump.
Though he led the ticket in last month’s Democratic primary, the 42-year-old lawyer hasn’t been afraid to be a party maverick.
In 2012, for example, he opposed then-Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx’s proposed capital budget, which included a proposed streetcar. Barnes offered an alternative. Gone was $119 million for the streetcar. His plan passed, only to be vetoed by Foxx.
“I do support the streetcar because it’s part of the 2030 (transportation) plan,” he says. “I was concerned and continue to be concerned about how we’re going to fund it.”
That year Barnes was also one of four votes against the city giving $8 million toward the Charlotte Knights’ new uptown ballpark. And last month, he voted against giving the parent company of Carowinds incentives that could total $922,000. Both measures passed 7-4.
But Barnes likes to talk about what he’s done for District 4.
Speaking to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast forum last week, he touted the $1.3 billion in public investment he says he helped bring to the district. That includes the $1.1 billion light-rail extension, which will run from uptown to the UNC Charlotte area.
He says he also helped bring the area thousands of jobs when companies such as Electrolux, Areva and Siemens located to northeast Charlotte. And he talks about his support for more police in the current city budget, which he and other supporters say will create 18,000 jobs and have a $2 billion economic impact.
While other council members might also claim some credit for the investments, university area advocates say Barnes has been an effective advocate for the district.
“Michael has brought a great deal of focus and energy to supporting the University City area,” says Bill Leonard, chairman of University City Partners. “He was very helpful in all of the transportation upgrades, and he has been instrumental in working on zoning improvements that will improve the livability of University City.”
If elected, Barnes says he’d try to further diversify the economy through efforts such as the Applied Innovation Corridor, a project designed to bring jobs to neglected neighborhoods and industrial areas bound by interstates 77 and 85. The city has approved $28 million for enhancements such as roads, sidewalks and intersection improvements.
Barnes says he would also focus on public safety and the environment.
In 2010 he ran for Mecklenburg County district attorney, losing to Republican Andrew Murray. Barnes appears to be keeping the door open to a rematch. Asked whether he’d run in 2014, he says, “likely not.”
But, he adds, “I lost by four points in a tea party year. Next year will be the year of Democrats.”
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