Councilman Driggs reinstates Friday gatherings
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Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2014

Councilman Driggs reinstates Friday gatherings

  • Want to Go?

    Attend the meeting hosted by Ed Driggs at 7:30 a.m. every Friday at Gallery Restaurant at the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge. To join the meeting’s mailing list, email ed@eddriggs.com

After several weeks of hiatus following the departure of longstanding City Councilman Warren Cooksey, the Friday morning coffee meeting at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge has resumed, with new District 7 City Councilman Ed Driggs leading.

During the hourlong meeting, the councilman talks about the following Monday’s City Council agenda.

At times, the conversation may veer toward state and federal politics.

Cooksey hosted his last meeting in late November, and attendees bid him farewell by signing one of his campaign signs. The meeting went dormant for several weeks, until Feb. 21, when Driggs hosted his first meeting.

“I let some time go by so I could get my bearings, and once I decided I was ready, I picked up where Warren left off,” Driggs said.

Cooksey started the Friday morning discussions in March 2008, just months after being elected to the council. Cooksey said he was inspired by former Councilman Don Reid, who served in the 1990s and regularly hosted an agenda review meeting Thursdays.

“I attended his meetings, and it taught me tremendous things about the rhythm and pattern of how council business actually works,” Cooksey said. “It was an homage to Don’s, as well as for my own benefit.”

The meetings have three benefits, one for attendees and two for council members, Cooksey said.

For attendees, “it provides a regular venue for folks to keep tabs on what their city council is doing and, more specifically, their city council member,” Cooksey said.

For the councilmen, it offers an opportunity to prepare for the following week’s meeting. It also gives external feedback on agenda items, Cooksey said.

“It’s very easy to get caught up in a bubble of information that’s just agenda-centered,” Cooksey said. “This provides more insight.”

Cooksey said that when he was leading the meeting, the roughly 15-20 attendees fell into two categories: those who regularly attended because they wanted to know what was going on and enjoyed the fellowship; and others who showed up only when they had a particular issue to discuss.

“I think Warren Cooksey was a better councilman because he heard the different views of people who showed up, from both sides of the aisle,”said Larry Huelsman, who serves on the executive board of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Driggs said he would like to tweak the format of the meeting, such as featuring a theme each week or having more guest speakers. He said he wants to broaden the appeal so attendance increases beyond the regular audience.

“I’m hoping people recognize it as an opportunity to talk about issues that are on their mind,” he said.

Driggs said that although the meeting has had a reputation for being a gathering place for longtime conservatives, he hopes people with other party affiliations also will feel comfortable attending.

“I think it’s a good thing if there’s a place where conservatives can talk but no one should feel excluded,” he said. “And I won’t tolerate any unfriendly behavior toward people who may have different views than the majority in the room.”

Dennis Harris, a Montibello resident who lives in District 6, said the Friday morning meetings set a good example for other council members.

“It would be wonderful if every council person in Charlotte conducted this type of meeting,” he said. “It creates positive relationships between the group in attendance and the council person.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero

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