· The Charlotte Way
· Transit (Blue Line Extension, Gold Line, Transit Funding Working Group)
· Community Investment Plan
· Economic Development
· Kinsey Legacy
· The Way Forward
The Charlotte Way
Good evening. Since tonight marks the final meeting of this Council and my final one as Mayor, let me begin by saying thank you to my colleagues on Council for appointing me to serve as Mayor during this period. It has been a singular honor to serve this Council and our City.
Thank you also to all the City staff for your invaluable support and counsel during my time as Mayor. And thank you to the citizens of Charlotte for the chance to serve you.
I wanted to say a few words about this past year and what our City has accomplished during it. But first, I wanted to talk a bit about the “Charlotte Way.”
As many of you know, I’m a lifelong Charlottean. I grew up in Plaza Midwood and went to the old Central High School, before it became part of Central Piedmont Community College. I raised three children here and served 4 years on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, before serving 10 years as a City Councilman for District 1. And I look forward to returning to my District 1 seat in just a few days.
During my lifetime, Charlotte has added half a million residents. It has grown from the 70th largest city in the U.S. to the 17th. It has become America’s second-biggest banking center. And its airport has grown to become the sixth-busiest in the country.
These things didn’t happen by mistake. They happened in large part because of past community leaders who subscribed to the Charlotte Way.
To me, the Charlotte Way means simply that our community accomplishes more when we work together than when we work alone. When our government, business, religious, and neighborhood leaders work in tandem, we get things done. When our decision-making process takes different opinions and perspectives into account, the best ideas emerge. And when we set our sights on a common goal, we achieve it.
In reflecting on what this Council has accomplished over the past year, you can see the Charlotte Way at work. And while not every project bears its imprint, it’s clear that the Charlotte Way moves our City forward.
Blue Line Extension
One of our City’s biggest achievements in 2013, was the Blue Line Extension—which we broke ground on in July. The extension will include 11 stations along a 9.3-mile stretch from Uptown to UNC-Charlotte. It will help Charlotteans get to work and get to class. And when it begins service in 2017, it will double the size of our light rail system.
Just as the original Blue Line has helped generate $1.4 billion of new development in South End, the Blue Line Extension is expected to help spur 5.1 million square feet of development along its path to UNC-Charlotte.
The Blue Line Extension showcases the Charlotte Way at its best—with all branches of government at the federal, state, and local levels working together in conjunction with UNC-Charlotte and the business community to improve our transit system. It is a testament to how much we can achieve when we work together.
The Council’s decision to go ahead with the second, 2.5-mile phase of the CityLYNX Gold Line marked another significant step forward for our transit system in 2013.
Under the plan, the City will put up half the project’s cost and will work to secure the rest through grants and loans from the federal government. To this end, City staff has begun work to apply for a “Small Starts” grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The second phase of the Gold Line will run from French Street on the West Side to Sunnyside Avenue on the East Side, and help to revitalize both neighborhoods. The first phase, which we broke ground on this year, will run from Time Warner Cable Arena to Novant Presbyterian Hospital and is on track to open in 2015.
Together, the two phases of the project are estimated to help generate 2.2 million square feet of development along the east-west corridor the line will serve.
Both the Blue Line Extension and the Gold Line will help create jobs and foster economic development in Charlotte. They will provide our citizens with transit options, contribute to a healthy environment, and help manage the City’s rapid population growth.
Transit Funding Working Group
While the Blue Line Extension and the Gold Line mark important steps forward in completing our transit vision, we must continue to build out the entire system. That includes ultimately extending the Gold Line from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to the former Eastland Mall site; constructing the Red Line commuter rail from Center City to Lake Norman; and building the Silver Line of bus rapid transit from Uptown to Matthews.
To address the funding challenges we face in building out the system, former Mayor Anthony Foxx urged the formation of the Transit Funding Working Group with the Metropolitan Transit Commission in January. This group brings together a cross-section of community leaders, developers, and state legislators. The members represent different political views and come from different fields, but they are working together toward a common goal that they all know must be addressed.
This is the Charlotte Way in action.
This spring, the Group concluded that the system has a $5 billion funding gap and suggested several solutions for closing it—including federal loans, special taxing districts, and public-private partnerships. And in June, the group’s co-chairs—Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain and City Councilman David Howard—took part in infrastructure financing meetings at the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago. As a follow-up to those meetings, Charlotte will host a conference in March 2014 to examine ways to drive private investment into public infrastructure projects.
As cities across the country are forced to identify new ways to fund their regional infrastructure, Charlotte is leading the way through collaborative and intentional dialogue with community partners.
Once again, the Charlotte Way is at work.
Community Investment Plan
In addition to the Blue Line Extension and the Gold Line, this Council made another critical down payment on the future of our City with the adoption of our Community Investment Plan or CIP. This $816 million bond package—the most far-reaching capital program in Charlotte’s history—contains funding for a number of critical projects across our City, including:
- 6 new police stations, and a joint police and fire communications center;
- A cross Charlotte multi-use trail from Pineville to the Cabarrus County line;
- $60 million to support an affordable housing strategy that includes housing stock rehabilitation, land-banking programs, and rental subsidies;
- $133 million for roads, bridges, sidewalks, and traffic control projects;
- And $120 million for targeted neighborhood improvement investments across the City.
The plan also includes a series of investments in three specific corridors:
- $166 million in the Northeast—including establishment of an Applied Innovation Corridor from Center City to UNC-Charlotte;
- $92 million in the East and Southeast—including redevelopment of the historic Charlotte Coliseum area into an amateur sports complex;
- And $44 million in the West for two road improvement projects that support the intermodal facility and other economic development opportunities around our airport.
Together, the investments in the CIP are estimated to create more than 18,000 jobs and have a $2.2 billion impact on our City. They will help improve our residents’ safety, strengthen our neighborhoods, and boost our economy. They will provide Charlotteans with additional exercise and mobility options, improve the flow of people and goods within our City, and bolster our hospitality industry. They will pay dividends for our community and our residents for years to come.
The first of the four bond referenda that will be used to fund the Community Investment Plan will be on the ballot next fall, and I would urge all of Charlotte to support it.
As we worked to create jobs in Charlotte through transit projects and the CIP, this Council helped foster economic development in our community through other policies in 2013 as well.
- We provided business incentive grants to five companies that have proposed to create more than 1,800 new jobs in Charlotte—including 1,300 from MetLife alone.
- We reached agreement on stadium renovations with the Carolina Panthers—who now have a 7-game winning streak—and protected the 5,000 jobs and $600 million in annual economic impact the team generates for our region.
- We voted to restore the Carolina Theatre, further strengthening our Uptown entertainment scene.
- We adopted the Charlotte Business INClusion Policy to ensure minority-owned firms, women-owned firms, and small businesses have opportunities to compete for City business.
- And we provided Charlotte’s young people with 4,300 career experiences—including more than 300 paid internships and 500 summer jobs—through the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program.
In addition to creating jobs, we also made a significant hire of our own when we brought in Ron Carlee as our new City Manager.
2013 was also the year that our community grappled with an attempt by the General Assembly to remove Charlotte Douglas International Airport from City control. That move followed nearly eight decades of successful management by City leaders to grow Charlotte’s airport into the sixth-busiest in America, one of the lowest-cost airports in the country, and a $12-billion-a-year economic engine for our community.
While the fight to retain control of our airport is far from over, we can take some comfort in the fact that today—nine months after legislation to change its governance was filed in Raleigh—Charlotte Douglas remains a City department.
And while we continue to vigorously challenge the State’s legislation in court, we can also take solace in the fact that Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle and his team have continued to operate Charlotte Douglas as one of the best airports in the nation. Not only have Brent and his team ensured that the legal proceedings have had zero impact on the travelling public—they have forged ahead with critical airport upgrades and expansions. This has not gone unnoticed by US Airways, whose executives have expressed full confidence in Brent and said the airline’s relationship with the City and airport have never been better.
I’m happy that US Airways and American Airlines have settled their lawsuit with the Justice Department, and look forward to continuing to work with the airlines’ leadership to grow and expand our airport. Under the New American system, Charlotte is slated to become the second-busiest hub—a move that would provide our residents and businesses with additional travel options, enhance our region’s ability to attract corporate headquarters, and strengthen our local economy.
Finally, on the issue of the airport, I want to commend this Council for the unified stance it has maintained against this legislation from the outset. We stood together, we stood firm, and today the airport remains under our control. The next Mayor and Council must also stand united as we continue our challenge in court.
In closing tonight, I’d like to say a few things specifically about my time as Mayor.
While my time in this office was limited, I endeavored to make the most of the chance it gave me to strengthen our community. To that end, I was proud to be the first Charlotte mayor to issue a “Charlotte Pride Weekend” proclamation and proud to participate in Charlotte’s first LGBT Pride Parade in 19 years. I became the first Charlotte mayor to join the “Mayors for Freedom to Marry” movement. And I held a meeting with MeckPAC, the State Department, and others to discuss Charlotte’s sister-city relationship with Voronezh in the wake of anti-gay violence there.
Ensuring that all of Charlotte’s residents feel at home in our City is the Charlotte Way.
While improving the lives of our LGBT residents, we must also work to improve the lives of our immigrant and multicultural residents. And I look forward to Council’s adoption tonight of a resolution sponsored by Councilman Howard and I that will create an inter-agency task force to examine immigration issues in Charlotte. This Task Force will report out its findings to the Council within one year of its first meeting and look for ways to help immigrants better integrate into Charlotte’s education system, neighborhoods, and businesses.
This is the Charlotte Way.
Finally, in September, I was pleased to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public art ordinance by announcing a new partnership between the City, the Public Art Commission, and the Arts and Science Council to promote public art in our neighborhoods. Since passage of the ordinance—which sets aside 1 percent of eligible capital improvement funds for public art projects—more than 80 artists and 70 works of art have been commissioned. And under the “Neighborhoods in Creative pARTnership” program, the City is pledging $118,000 to help fund five public art grants that neighborhoods throughout Charlotte can compete to win.
Working together with neighborhoods, government, and nonprofits to promote public art—this is the Charlotte Way.
The Way Forward
Tonight, I’ve touched on many priorities I hope the next Mayor and Council will embrace.
I hope we will continue to build out our regional transit system and look for innovative ways to fund it. I hope we will support the Community Investment Plan through its first bond cycle. I hope we will continue to support wise business relocations and expansions, the Business INClusion policy, and the Mayor’s Youth Employment Program.
I hope we will exhaust every legal option available in our challenge to the State’s airport legislation. I hope we will lend our full support to Brent Cagle as he works to move our airport forward, and collaborate closely with the leadership of US Airways and American Airlines to grow the airport under the New American system.
I hope we will continue working to improve the lives of our LGBT and immigrant residents. And I hope we will not lose sight of the importance of public art to our community.
Above all else, however, I hope we will strive to follow the Charlotte Way. To favor collaboration over division; inclusion over exclusion; partnership over separation.
I hope we will think always of the community’s needs as a whole; remember our core responsibilities; and serve as prudent stewards of taxpayer money in today’s era of diminishing resources.
I hope we do everything in our power to blaze a bold path for our community’s future and continue to build Charlotte into one of the world’s truly great cities.
As a member of the incoming Council, you have my word that I will do my utmost to uphold the Charlotte Way and work with my colleagues to support all the policies I’ve addressed tonight.
Thank you, again, to my colleagues on Council for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading our City during this period; to all the City staff for your incredible support during my time in the Mayor’s office; and to the citizens of Charlotte for granting me the opportunity to serve you.
It’s been an honor.