A low point for Charlotte

From an editorial Friday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:

When the Charlotte Observer endorsed Republican Edwin Peacock for mayor last year, it noted that Democratic candidate Patrick Cannon “has not earned the trust of many of his colleagues after nearly two decades in city government.”

Good call. Unfortunately, voters did not heed the advice, electing Cannon to Charlotte’s highest office.

Now, Cannon has taken the city to one of its lowest points. After a four-year federal investigation, he was charged Wednesday with soliciting and accepting bribes to influence city actions in favor of his benefactors. He resigned that evening.

The criminal complaint by the Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t prove Cannon’s guilt. He’ll get his day in court. But if the allegations are true, Cannon put his office up for sale. Just as troubling, he implied that he could use others in city government to help deliver on his promises. Was that true? Who would go along with the mayor’s corrupt bargains? There may be more that needs to be learned.

It all adds up to almost tragic news for the state’s largest city which has earned a national reputation for its dynamic urban culture and open-for-business attitude. Suddenly, it’s tainted by a corruption scandal complete with $20,000 in cash delivered to the mayor’s office.

This is not in character for Charlotte, whose accomplished mayors – including John Belk, Harvey Gantt, Sue Myrick, Richard Vinroot, Pat McCrory and Anthony Foxx – helped the city become a premier banking center, develop an exciting “uptown,” attract major-league sports teams, build dazzling arts centers, operate one of the world’s busiest airports, launch a light-rail system and host a national political convention.

The city promoted its national profile with its “Charlotte USA” marketing tag, transcending its Carolinas identity. But it is a vital economic engine for its state and region – so much so that any threat to that status should worry all North Carolinians.

Charlotte leaders must clean the stain left by Cannon’s alleged misdeeds and regain the public’s trust. Any wider impropriety must be dealt with. One rotten politician is a disgrace. More than one indicates there’s a culture of corruption. Charlotte can’t afford that, and neither can North Carolina.