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Our recommendations for 2013 races, bonds

We’re having difficulty imagining why eligible voters might choose not to cast a ballot today in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Despite what tends to be a lower turnout election, with no presidential or U.S. House and Senate races, a lot is at stake.

By day’s end, Charlotte voters will elect a new mayor for just the second time in 18 years. They will help determine the direction of a City Council that decides how much you pay in city taxes – and how that tax revenue is spent on items big and small.

Just as critically, voters will shape a school board and district at a turbulent time for public education, but one that brings opportunity for innovations and improvements.

It’s a full, important ballot for citizens to consider. The Observer editorial board has researched the races and interviewed candidates. Here’s a recap of our recommendations (more detail can be found at www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion):

Mayor

Democrat Patrick Cannon and Republican Edwin Peacock face off to replace interim mayor Patsy Kinsey, who took over for the departing Anthony Foxx in July.

We recommend Peacock, who has demonstrated his centrist stripes over the years. His fiscal conservatism would be a moderating influence on a heavily Democratic City Council, yet he understands that for Charlotte to continue to thrive, we need to invest in our future.

Cannon, who has nearly two decades in public office, has struggled to build coalitions and relationships with some City Council members and city staff. Those struggles have stemmed from Cannon not earning the trust of many of his colleagues, including in his own party. Two recent incidents make us pause, as well: Last week, Cannon wrongly said he recused himself from closed door meetings with the Panthers, and last month he incorrectly said he was the top vote-getter in the last four at-large City Council elections.

We have faith in Peacock’s integrity and ability to make decisions based on what’s best for Charlotte.

City Council at-large

Four Democrats, four Republicans and a Libertarian are running for four available at-large seats on a council that currently has a 9-2 Democratic majority. Four stand out: Democrats Michael Barnes, David Howard and Vi Alexander Lyles, and Republican Ken Harris.

Barnes, who currently represents District 4, brings a sharp, analytical perspective to city issues, and he is willing to make decisions unpopular with his Democratic colleagues.

Howard has earned the respect of colleagues by being a hard worker behind the scenes to get important council business done.

Lyles blends practical experience as an assistant city manager and city budget director with a keen vision for Charlotte’s potential.

Harris is a moderate Republican who believes in investing in all Charlotte communities. He would bring a needed fiscal conservatism yet work collaboratively with a Democratic majority.

City Council districts

The Council already has three district seats decided – Democrat Patsy Kinsey in District 1, Democrat John Autry in District 5 and Republican Kenny Smith in District 6 all won primaries and are unopposed Tuesday. Our picks for the other seats:

In District 2, Democrat Alvin (Al) Austin brings wide-ranging skills, previous leadership roles, and a deep grasp of the issues facing Charlotte and his district.

In District 3, incumbent Democrat Lawana Mayfield has been a quick learner and an active and enthusiastic contributor in her first term.

In District 4, Democrat Greg Phipps and independent Michael Zytkow both are capable of representing constituents well. We recommend Phipps, who brings significant experience in serving Charlotte.

In District 7, Republican Ed Driggs has a calm temperament and thoughtfulness that will help him work with Democratic colleagues while holding true to his conservative principles.

CMS school board

Five of six districts will elect a representative Tuesday in nonpartisan races. District 3 incumbent Joyce Waddell is running unopposed. Our recommendations for the other races:

In District 1, Rhonda Lennon has been a strong advocate for her constituents and has worked for the betterment of the whole system.

In District 2, Richard McElrath continues to provide a voice for teachers and students and keeps the board mindful of the impact of unstable neighborhoods on education.

In District 4, Tom Tate has been a steady, reasonable force on a once-dysfunctional board. He’s a strong advocate for a district that is home to several schools with high poverty levels.

In District 5, Eric Davis is a creative thinker and hard worker who’s a leading force behind the board’s cohesiveness. He’s been an asset to the board since his first day on the job.

In District 6, Bolyn McClung will serve as an able replacement for departing member Amelia Stinson-Wesley. McClung would bring a depth of knowledge about a broad array of education issues.

Education bonds

Mecklenburg County voters should approve a $290 million bonds issue for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. It's a 17-project package that helps provide relief from overcrowding, enhances career and technical education offerings at several high schools and creates new STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) magnet schools in east and south Charlotte.

Voters also should approve a forward-thinking bonds proposal for Central Piedmont Community College. The $210 million package will help CPCC expand its footprint and increase science and technology space that's critical to train students for jobs in emerging industries.

CPCC's bonds also will help create space for two new CMS middle colleges on CPCC campuses – a replication of the popular Cato Middle College High program that allows CMS students to get a jump on college and job training.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this editorial said Tim Morgan was “departing” from District 6. He is an at-large CMS school board member.

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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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