Elections

Voters say ‘no’ to 4-year terms for Mecklenburg County commissioners

Mecklenburg County Commissioners Bill James (left) and George Dunlap both support extending board terms from two to four years. Dunlap introduced the idea in June.
Mecklenburg County Commissioners Bill James (left) and George Dunlap both support extending board terms from two to four years. Dunlap introduced the idea in June. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Voters on Tuesday rejected doubling the length of time Mecklenburg County commissioners can serve on the nine-member board.

With all precincts reporting, results showed only 34 percent of voters were in favor of the proposal, while nearly 66 percent of voters opposed it.

“There was no real gallant effort to get out and lobby people one way or the other,” said Democratic Commissioner George Dunlap, who championed the idea back in June. “Maybe the next time, there will be a sincere effort” to push the proposal.

Commissioners voted 7-2 in July to ask voters to increase the number of years they serve on the board from two years to four.

It was the third time commissioners have put the question on the ballot. The first two times, in 1985 and 1992, voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea.

Dunlap promoted the idea as a way to bring Mecklenburg County in step with the rest of the state.

Mecklenburg is the only county in North Carolina with an entire board of county commissioners serving two-year terms. Elsewhere, commissioners serve a mix of two- and four-year terms.

Board members who supported the proposal said it would help them achieve goals they set in office without having to gear up for an election so soon.

Opponents said the public had a right to evaluate their performance as often as possible.

The proposal drew criticism from some community advocates who felt commissioners were not “education-friendly” when they failed to fund pay raises for CMS teachers.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators said it was disappointed with commissioners it endorsed in the last election because they had not fulfilled promises they made on the campaign trail.

Others, such as the Black Political Caucus, came out in favor of the measure.

At-large Commissioner Pat Cotham, who opposed the measure, said she wasn’t surprised voters decided against giving commissioners two extra years in office.

“I think the voters want to keep us on a shorter leash and I think that’s a good thing,” she said. “If we’re not doing a good job, they can right the ship.”

Jonathan McFadden: 704-358-6045, @JmcfaddenObsGov

Results

Yes 34.02%

No 65.98%

(195 of 195 precincts reporting)

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