Local & State Voices

In Charlotte, an activist government that’s forgetting its role

The role of local government has again been tested by the Charlotte City Council. As Charlotte continues her sprint to the hard-political left, council members weighed in on the most polarizing social issue in our country — abortion. The city council should avoid inserting itself into social policy. If social activism is your passion, run for state government.

The city council functions like a property management firm: Its primary responsibilities are public safety, transportation, infrastructure and land-use policy. This isn’t just my opinion; in North Carolina, local governments possess only the powers granted to them by the General Assembly. In fact, they are expressly stated in the city charter. I believe the intent was to keep local government focused on delivering services that only a municipality can provide efficiently.

The council’s flirtation with the abortion issue began in mid-2017, when several council members spearheaded an effort to place “No Parking” signs in front of an abortion clinic on Latrobe Drive. The stated reason was safety, but the clear intent was to prevent pro-life organizations from gathering near the premises, while other areas of the city that desperately needed assistance with parking issues were ignored. I strongly opposed this action and urged the city manager not to follow through with the proposal, arguing that local government should not choose sides in the abortion debate.

The last time the Charlotte City Council entered the social wars with the bathroom vote, it ended badly. Instead we should focus on delivering the necessary services Charlotteans need for day-to-day life. It is my belief that the threat of a lawsuit (not my persuasive argument) caused the city to re-evaluate its position.

The progressive Democratic base is on the march; therefore, in a competitive primary season with several members being challenged this year, the council took up the abortion issue once again. This time it was under the guise of a noise ordinance. A much-needed policy that would reduce construction noise, limit trash removal at all hours of the night, and change the way the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department measures noise amplification was hijacked when language targeting pro-life protesters was inserted. It was the creation of buffer zones and the addition of two words — “medical facilities” — into a sentence outlining where amplification is allowed that weaponized an otherwise sound policy. The body steered outside its lane and square into the social wars again by taking aim at pro-life supporters. I often said on the campaign trail if council members or the mayor are doing their jobs right you won’t know their political party. This vote shed light on party affiliation.

The meeting resulted in further embarrassment for our city. Four pro-abortion activists rushed the dais and jumped on it while holding a large sign and screaming rantings of the far left. The meeting was halted while these yahoos were afforded the “courtesy” to continue shouting for several minutes. Would the body have been so forgiving if it had been pro-life supporters causing the ruckus? To my knowledge, this was the first time the safety boundary between citizens and elected officials was breached in a manner that could have resulted in serious injury. Continued social activism at the government center will result in more of these occurrences. Let’s get back to focusing on how we can best deliver services to 890,000 Charlotteans.

Kenny Smith is a former Charlotte City Council member. Email: kennysmithclt@gmail.com