Governor-elect Beverly Perdue and her cronies at the state capital must have had a good laugh as the election results rolled in. I know I did. Perdue smacked Charlotte voters hard two weeks ago when she ran commercials across the state -- basically everywhere but the Charlotte and Raleigh television markets -- mocking her opponent, Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, for wanting to spend state money in Charlotte.
The ads were a slap in the faces of Charlotte voters. They were also part of a clear calculation on Perdue's part that she could win by promising Charlotte-funded goodies to the rest of the state at our expense. That's been standard operating procedure for decades at the state legislature, which is controlled by rural Democrats.
The attitude in Raleigh has long been that Charlotte can afford to pay all the state's bills, plus the tab for the stuff that the state is supposed to fund in Charlotte. This same attitude was practically a campaign theme for Perdue.
Despite her best efforts to keep her anti-Charlotte commercials out of the Charlotte market, local news stations picked them up anyway and ran them again and again.
Yet amazingly, unfathomably, she won in the Charlotte area, barely beating out McCrory. The signal this sent to the down east cabal that runs the state was a powerful one. Screw Charlotte, win anyway. The repercussions will be felt for a long time, and they won't be pleasant.
For years, Charlotte motorists were forced to navigate the sudden curves of Interstate 277 in the dark. Newcomers and visitors regularly found the experience so harrowing they'd call city hall to complain, not realizing the state was to blame. It took more than a decade of begging and pleading by city officials and Mayor Pat McCrory to finally get state government to agree to fix the lights, which it was responsible for maintaining.
Piles of trash, meanwhile, litter state-owned roads and exit ramps around Charlotte. Sometimes, when it gets really bad along I-277, it looks like it rained garbage. The state is responsible for that mess, too, a situation you won't find in other North Carolina cities. Our urban roads, meanwhile, were recently ranked the third most congested in the nation in a national study. That too is the product of deliberate state neglect.
Charlotte can't seem to get Interstate 485 completed, and work that was scheduled to begin 20 years ago on Independence Boulevard still remains unfunded. Meanwhile, in Fayetteville, a $300 million interstate project sailed through the state funding process. It will carry 9,000 automobiles, fewer than Charlotte's Scaleybark Road carries, The Charlotte Observer recently reported. According to the same Observer article, there is no other instance of a loop being built for so few people anywhere along the East Coast.
Charlotte also has 20 percent of the state's crime, but gets just seven percent of the state's criminal justice funding. It's a pattern that, when combined with the fact that North Carolina has the highest state tax rates in the Southeast, is making it harder and harder for Charlotte to compete for business.
All this comes during a time when the banks, our twin economic engines, are faltering. Meanwhile, state politicians have doled out $60 million in cash incentives to Bridgestone and Goodyear tire plants in Fayetteville and Wilson in exchange for employing a couple thousand workers.
Last Tuesday, all that could have changed. Instead, state politicians learned they can starve Charlotte for state funding and still get elected anyway with Charlotte's help. They will commence doing so immediately with more fervor than in the past. A proposal is currently floating around the state capital to strip thousands of miles of state roads from the state maintenance rolls in urban areas like Charlotte. The plan is to dump what will likely add up to a large amount of the maintenance costs on Charlotte taxpayers. Given the election results, it will now no doubt go forward, as politicians will anticipate no fallout from voters.
That will likely leave Charlotte with hundreds of expensive new miles of former state roads and interstates to maintain during a time when city leaders aren't keeping up with the maintenance to current city roads. It will cost us tens of millions to hundreds of millions over the next decade. We can expect a similar attitude from state leaders toward other state responsibilities here.
Perdue counts among her mentors those who have been long been the architects of these policies.
It's going to be a long four years.