Charlotte’s troubles in Raleigh

Bill Brawley
Bill Brawley

As senior chairman of the N.C. House Finance Committee, Bill Brawley wields plenty of power in Raleigh.

But to hear the Matthews Republican tell it last week, the business and political elite in Charlotte aren’t exactly showing him the love.

I ran into him Friday at the Charlotte Chamber’s transportation summit, where he was among an array of politicians and business leaders looking for ways to get more infrastructure projects going.

A tough job, he told me as he munched on an apple in the hallway during a break. Especially when it comes to squeezing help for Democrat-dominated Charlotte out of the rural Republicans running the legislature.

“Being Charlotte’s friend, as a Republican,” he said, “is a thankless and dangerous task.”

A tad melodramatic? Maybe. But Charlotte’s backers have been complaining loudly in recent months about unfriendly legislation on everything from business taxes to sales taxes to the still-in-limbo extension of the tax cap on jet fuel sales – a measure ardently desired by one of the most important corporations doing business in the city, American Airlines.

It’s probably not an easy task for Mecklenburg’s GOP lawmakers, walking the line between state party priorities and local needs.

Brawley told me he looks out for the city’s interests – approving state spending for the Blue Line light rail system, for instance.

But Charlotte’s troubles in Raleigh, he said, are self-inflicted wounds.

Charlotte keeps demanding big-ticket items for itself, he says, rather than framing such requests as part of broader statewide infrastructure packages.

So what does the city need to do? Mount a charm offensive in Raleigh?

“No, what you need to do is rejoin North Carolina,” he said.

He’s talked to local leaders about this, but “it’s to the point where I almost feel like I’m just whining.”

I respect his point of view, which appears sincerely held. But short of electing a majority-Republican city council, there’s not much the city can do. And that’s not happening anytime soon.

Given the bold GOP power grabs against Charlotte and other big cities recently, it was surprising to find that a powerful House committee leader feels it’s Charlotte that needs to play nicer.

Add the fact that that legislator was raised in Charlotte himself, and you understand how tough the city’s path is in Raleigh these days.

Eric: 704-358-5145 or @ericfraz on Twitter.