When it comes to the furor over North Carolina’s House Bill 2, the Charlotte Chamber has tried to play the role of behind-the-scenes conciliator between pro-LGBT city officials and conservative lawmakers in Raleigh.
But after a proposed compromise came to light over the weekend, the chamber is now aggressively calling publicly for the City Council to accept the deal, which would require it to repeal its anti-discrimination ordinance in exchange for somewhat murky assurances that lawmakers would reciprocate by repealing some -- but not all -- of HB2. Chamber head Bob Morgan made that clear in a new op-ed piece.
Critics are responding by jumping all over the chamber today ahead of the council’s meeting this evening. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT activist group, accuses state officials and the chamber of “bullying” pro-LGBT council members. The left-leaning activist group Progress NC Action blasted the chamber for using “laughable logic” in pressuring the council to repeal its ordinance without firm assurances that lawmakers will reciprocate.
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Dan Roselli, co-founder of the Packard Place startup incubator in uptown Charlotte, sent the Observer’s editorial board this letter in response to Morgan:
Bob, I must respectfully disagree my friend.
HB2 is the most regressive piece of legislation stripping American's Civil Rights in the last 50 years of American history in my opinion and that of many civil rights scholars.
I understand it is this type of 'aggressive tone' you are trying to mitigate in your message. Basically 'it's the economy stupid' to both the City Council and the GOP legislature. I get it and your push on that is right for the Chamber and the right message for all NC business owners. I don't disagree with this message, just your recommended action steps.
To ask the City Council to unilaterally take the first step with no promises of any action and definitive understanding of what action the NC GOP will take is unwise and ill advised and I will encourage our City Council members to reject that advice. A comprehensive solution is in order and only that will move us forward.
The NC GOP legislators needs to reach a universal compromise with the other side and everyone needs to move off DEFCON 1 because HB is destroying our State. The City Council resolution was not destroying our city or State. HB2 is destroying our State. We need to be clear on this fact.
Mike Clement, founder of Strait Insights, a Charlotte-based communications firm, sent in this letter:
There can be no compromise when it comes to discrimination. Any brokered deal or compromise is reprehensible if it takes away the intent of the ordinance city council so courageously passed. The pain being caused in North Carolina is being caused by a group of legislators from gerrymandered districts and our Governor. These men have created the harm. Our council stood for justice. They should stand tall in their decision.
Yes, there is short-term economic loss. No change comes without pain. The enlightened world, nearly 200 CEOs, convention leads, artists, the world’s media and the majority of Charlotte citizens who dually elected this council stand with them, not HB2. The council should not disappoint them or cause them to regret their personal and corporate decisions with a lack of resolve.
The Charlotte Chamber’s call for appeasement demonstrates a lack of leadership. It is the fundamental role of a chamber of commerce to attract and retain industries and those who would come to our city.
Instead of calling for compromise, they should do their job and work to ensure that companies, artists and people who would move here embrace Charlotte as a progressive city that condemns HB2. They have failed to make this message clear. Penalize North Carolina until HB2 is repealed but reward municipalities who condemn HB2.
It seems odd the chamber leadership is worried about low wage hospitality workers. HB2 includes provisions limiting a worker’s right to sue and prohibits passage of local minimum wage standards. The chamber endorsed these provisions when it noted repeal of HB2 would not be productive.
Real leaders endure pain to do right. Some have suggested that the civil rights issues of the past do not compare with the civil rights issues of the present. Oppression and discrimination is oppression and discrimination, no matter who it impacts or the forms it takes. The leaders of the last great civil rights movement knew what it took to endure pain for justice. Our city council should stand tall and remain true to their principles. If they falter, they will damage the brand of Charlotte, just as HB2 itself has damaged North Carolina.
When this fight is done, one more remains. Charlotte, Raleigh and other metropolitan cities can no longer be beholden to the small minds of gerrymandered legislators from districts who solely wish to wield power vs build a vibrant future for North Carolina. If not, we will have another HB2 or another airport grab. This is the state of our politics today. It must change. Perhaps the Chamber can focus there.
This is what is truly hurting the economy of North Carolina.