As we are all painfully aware, a huge election is barreling our way, including races for president, governor and U.S. Senate. The most overlooked elections and of parallel importance are races this November for N.C. House and Senate. Why? By law, North Carolina’s legislature controls Charlotte’s agenda for its wants and needs. Speaker of the House Tim Moore, who represents Cleveland County, and Senate leader Phil Berger, who represents Guilford and Rockingham counties, control the passing of all bills submitted to the legislature. The state is in control in North Carolina, not cities or counties. North Carolina is what is called a Dillon Sate, not a home rule state.
Here is Charlotte’s problem: For decades we have been bestowed the negative moniker by the rest of the state – “The Great State of Mecklenburg.” There has existed a deep-seated envy of Charlotte because our city is perceived as possessing all the glitz and the glory – seven Fortune 500 companies, two major-league sports teams and an unparalleled vibrant economy.
It doesn’t benefit our cause that the City of Charlotte has taken the state legislature for granted and in some cases has publicly reviled lawmakers. These actions have tended to impede the goodwill we need from the state. Furthermore, business leadership in Charlotte appears to be reluctant to openly support legislative or even local candidates for office for fear of reprisals. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Duke Energy as well as other corporations have a national presence, and their focus cannot be Charlotte.
I have a solution: Charlotte’s corporate leadership (perhaps facilitated by Bob Morgan and the Charlotte Chamber) should set up a 501(c)(4) PAC and call it something like Charlotte Forward. This PAC must be registered with the state, and the beauty of a 501(c)(4) is that donors may remain anonymous. A board could be set up and the PAC could select candidates it wishes to support.
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I’m certain Phil Berger and Tim Moore would be more accessible to Charlotte and amenable to our needs if there is concrete evidence of major Charlotte support for their reelection campaigns. Each of them and their caucuses would be more likely to push agendas and bills benefiting the growth and vitality of Charlotte. This is imperative, unless Charlotte wants to remain on the short end of the stick legislatively.
Elections for state legislators are in November. There is still adequate time for a PAC to be established. What say you, Charlotte business leadership? Time is a wasting. The next legislative elections are not until 2018.
Lynn Wheeler, president of Wheeler Communication Group, is a former Mayor Pro Tem who served on the Charlotte City Council for 14 years.