Democrat David Howard networks on a national, even international scale.
• In 2009, a week after kicking off his first City Council campaign, he toured Europe as a fellow with The German Marshall Fund.
• Last month, he joined other members of the BMW Foundation’s Young Leaders program at a forum in Beijing. Last year he attended a similar forum in Berlin.
• And this past summer he attended a two-day meeting in Chicago of the Clinton Global Initiative, looking for solutions to the Charlotte region’s transportation needs.
“We know the future of this community is global, and we need to make connections wherever we can,” says Howard, 43. “Relationship-building is a huge part of doing business internationally.”
Howard, running for a third term as an at-large council member, hopes to leverage his experience and relationships to bring jobs as part of what he calls a long-term vision. Charlotte, he says, “has got to be a global city.”
A former planning commission chairman, Howard is a vice president of The Housing Partnership, which develops affordable housing.
On the council, he was an ally of former Mayor Anthony Foxx. He supported Foxx’s pet project, a streetcar. In 2010, Howard even defended it in an op-ed for the Observer, saying objections to the project “really aren’t so different from concerns expressed about the Lynx light rail early on.”
In 2012, some council Democrats broke from Foxx over the streetcar, joining Republicans in rejecting his proposed $926 million capital plan. After Foxx vetoed their alternative budget, which included no streetcar money, Howard offered another plan: scrapping the entire budget.
He said the council needed a plan everybody could support. Critics, including fellow Democratic council member Michael Barnes, called that irresponsible, and said a delay would only raise the cost of road and other projects.
In June, he joined Barnes and other Democrats in supporting an $816 million capital plan.
Howard, a Charlotte native, says he knew by the time he was 9 he’d run for office. He was addicted to the news and followed the career of Charlotte’s most prominent African-American politician.
“I wanted to be Harvey Gantt,” he says.
He pursued opportunities to get involved. In 2003, after the killing of his godmother’s daughter, he helped start the group “Mothers of Murdered Offspring.” Kelly Alexander Jr., now a state lawmaker, helped teach him how to write a grant proposal. In 1998 he became a fellow of the N.C. Institute of Political Leadership.
“David has an insatiable desire to learn, to take in new information,” former City Council member Betty Chafin Rash says. “For a local elected official, he has a global perspective.”
Howard hopes to use that perspective to bring ideas and jobs to Charlotte. Among other things, he would expand the Sister Cities program with an emphasis on fostering relationships among businesses.
He says Charlotte’s emergence after the publicity of the 2012 Democratic National Convention can help lure international investment.
“Let’s embrace this international thing,” he says. “Let’s figure out how to leverage it and make Charlotte better.”
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