Serving at the helm of the city as it prepares to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, it appears that Mayor Anthony Foxx is hitting his stride. Creative Loafing caught up with him just after the Queen City's youngest head honcho learned that Charlotte won the bid. Check out what he had to say about landing the DNC, his first year in office and where we go from here as a city.
Creative Loafing: What were you thinking the minute you found out that Charlotte won the DNC?
Mayor Anthony Foxx: I was very excited for the city. The DNC effort is the culmination of a lot of city-building that has happened over many years. From the airport expansion to the added infrastructure to the city, the great people of Charlotte have embraced this effort all the way through. My thoughts were all positive. I also thought about my own family — five generations of people going back to 1860 in Carthage, N.C., where I can even go today to see where my great grandmother was sold on an auction block. This state has come so far — from the auction block to the mayor's office of the largest city in the state. It is an amazing story, and it is wonderful to know that this story will be told to the world for the first time.
What will the DNC bring to the Charlotte community?
The level of national and international recognition is going to be incredible. It won't just start the week of the convention — it has already started. I've already heard of international companies that have begun scoping out hotels and locations. I think there will be a direct economic impact from hotels, restaurants and travel-related businesses. There will also be a secondary benefit that will be much longer term, which will be the opportunity to introduce our city and state to the world. The public relations will last for decades. If we tried to buy airtime in comparison to the type of exposure the DNC will bring, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
How will you ensure that people from all walks of life have access to the jobs and opportunities that this convention will create?
One goal I have for this event is for it to be the most inclusive large-scale event our city has ever hosted. As we start working to envision the DNC in a much more fleshed-out way, that will be the focus of the effort: making sure that we are inclusive in the opportunities, not exclusive, especially as it relates to small businesses. We've got to partner with the Democratic National Committee on how we execute this vision, and inclusion will be a major topic.
Reflecting on your first year in office, what have been your hits?
I think we've done an incredible amount of work in the last year as a City Council. We just had our retreat last week, and we were asked by a facilitator to list our accomplishments. That took up five pages, single-spaced. That's a testament to this Council. Most cities can't issue bonds. Charlotte is still able to issue bonds. We've increased our investment in affordable housing. We brought the county and faith institutions into solving homelessness. We've worked with small businesses, developing a small business strategic plan. We have taken a group of leaders to D.C. to talk about how to get small businesses growing again. We've introduced a CMS investment task force and launched a $55 million campaign to help the West Charlotte corridor.
What about your misses?
Last year was a nuts-and-bolts year. We approved a couple of dozen major policy initiatives that improved the structure of our local government, how we work with other partners on issues involving transportation and the environment. We need to continue to work on how we best support our children in an economy that is devastating many parents. We have less money in our pockets and yet our children need us to invest in them.
What's in the future?
More jobs I hope. I'm really honored and humbled to be able to spend part of my life working to make the city better. I want everyone in the city to have the same optimism and feeling of good will throughout my time here.