In response to “Charlotte City Council members want to serve ... themselves” (Oct. 10 Kenny Smith Opinion):
It’s no secret I support four-year staggered terms. I’ve been talking about it publicly to community and neighborhood leaders for three years. My Republican friends have said they might consider it with term limits. So, let’s talk!
Raleigh and Charlotte are the only NC cities of size that have two-year terms. Our mayor along with the mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, are the only large-city mayors who serve for two years, along with their councils. In fact, there are very few US cities over a half million people that have two-year terms for the council.
While Charlotte transforms itself into being a world-class city, there are some that just don’t want change. They seem committed to the status quo, perhaps because it has worked just fine for them. That’s no way to move forward. We are a city of changing demographics, growing at breakneck speed.
We have big challenges before us and ahead of us. We need the continuity of elected officials who understand and can execute the best policy decisions to handle these challenges. The policies we deliberate now will have implications that will affect generations to come: Where should we place affordable housing? Where and how do we invest in mass transit and rapid transit bus lines? How should we master-plan a city and update the entire zoning code ordinance to match it? All these discussions come to a virtual halt in the eight months that the full council is running for office, every other year. We are working on serious issues around affordable housing and mass transit that require continuity of at least some council leadership.
I think my personal experience is a compelling one. However perspectives of stakeholders and residents should be considered. That’s why this topic was sent to committee — to start the conversation. The committee (whose meetings are open to the public and are recorded on Facebook) may decide to send it to the full council for debate, or to recommend a series of town halls. Or they might propose we do nothing until after the 2020 census is completed. Either way, the notion of a vote is premature when we don’t know what we’re voting on.
To suggest this was a backroom deal is political nonsense. Perhaps Kenny Smith is accustomed to the way his party operates in the NC General Assembly. Back-room deals have been the GOP leadership’s de rigueur strategy to secure power: From stripping power from the governor to rigging the judiciary and crafting self-serving constitutional amendments, through legislation drafted in the dead of night, and presented to the full assembly only hours before the vote. The City Council does not operate this way.
The people should participate in the political process. Political discourse is the American way. Let’s have the discussion without assuming malice, and with open minds and ears, ready to support what is good for a city whose landscape has little resemblance to the Charlotte of the ‘70s (the last time council structure was changed). We need our policymakers to have the time to invest in understanding these changes so they can make good decisions. If we truly want to be the city of the future, that offers opportunity to all, we must be willing to change with the times.
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