Voters will be making some significant decisions Tuesday for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. They will replace at least two members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, decide the makeup of the next Charlotte City Council, and give a thumbs up or down to a controversial sales tax increase for the arts and parks.
Here’s a recap of our recommendations for contested races and the sales tax proposal. The full reasoning behind each recommendation can be found at charlotteobserver.com.
Mayor — Charlotte
Vi Lyles has helped Charlotte repair our city’s fractured relationship with Republican lawmakers in Raleigh, and she’s strengthened the city’s relationship with its business community. She deserves another term.
Charlotte City Council - at large
Voters will choose four candidates. We strongly recommend three Democrats. Julie Eiselt is a collaborator who thoughtfully dives deep into issues the council faces. James Mitchell provides the council with a valuable economic development background. Braxton Winston has been a strong voice who is willing to make the council and city consider uncomfortable issues.
Democrat Malcolm Graham has had a hand in many of his district’s success stories. His familiarity with the district and city government will help him immediately.
Democrat Renee Perkins Johnson has experience navigating city government as the CEO of a company that provides services to survivors of brain trauma and other injuries. She also would bring significant experience in affordable housing solutions.
Voters face a difficult choice between first-term incumbent Republican Tariq Bokhari and Democratic challenger Gina Navarrete. Both bring thoughtfulness and a strong grasp of policy and issues, but Bokhari offers one of two conservative voices on a council dominated by Democrats. That’s good for the council. We give him a slight nod.
CMS Board of Education — at-large
Thirteen candidates are on the ballot this fall for three at-large spots on the school board. That’s an uncommonly large field, one that’s both an opportunity for voters and a message to those currently on the bumbling and secretive board.
Among the first time candidates, we recommend Jennifer De La Jara and Lenora Sanders Shipp. De La Jara has an exemplary grasp of the issues facing CMS and urban school systems, and her experience with the growing Latino community is something the board could sorely use. Shipp, a former administrator and teacher, knows the issues facing CMS from the ground up and has a record of improving student performance.
Incumbent Elyse Dashew presents a unique challenge for voters. She is the most qualified at-large candidate and among the county’s most astute and respected public officials. Dashew has, however, been a willing participant in the secrecy of the current school board that has led to several bad board decisions. She has promised to be a collaborative and more transparent leader if she becomes school board chair, which is likely. Voters should give her the chance.
Sales tax increase
There should be little doubt that a robust arts scene and parks system are vital to our thriving city and county. There also is little question that arts organizations in Charlotte are threatened by private fundraising issues, and that our parks need more public money to reach their potential. But a sales tax increase is the wrong way to do the right thing. It would disproportionately burden low-income families. It would limit the city’s and county’s capacity to tackle critical issues like transportation and housing. And neither this board of commissioners nor any future board is required to spend the new revenue as it promised. We recommend voting no.