His favorite part of city council meetings, judging by the enthusiasm he displays, is the awards and recognition section, where he gets to recognize and chit-chat with everyone from volunteers to a seemingly endless number of Boy Scout troops that've made their way through the council chambers over the years.
If the last decade in government is any indication, McCrory is not a man who will go down in history for his decision-making ability. Sure, he's taken a few tough stances. In the past two years, he overrode a council vote to force the city to mandate that developers build sidewalks, angering the most lucrative pool of political donors in Charlotte. He vetoed a "living wage bill," again angering the black community and the moderate white Democrats whose tendency to cross party lines and vote for him has kept him in office. But he was criticized in many quarters for a lack of leadership on the arena referendum issue, which in the end was most forcefully guided not by elected officials, but by city staff.
At the same time, McCrory's gift for schmoozing has helped win approval from the state for a half-cent sales tax for mass transit, for a recent grant to help counties in the region form a plan to combat environmental problems. He also takes credit for lobbying for grants that helped return brownfields to the tax rolls.
Its no surprise that McCrory said he considers sales and marketing to be a major function of the mayor's office, particularly given the state of the local, state and national economy and its impact on Charlotte's ability to recruit and retain businesses.
"We can't put so much reliance on just the banks and utilities anymore," said McCrory
McCrory says a lot of what he does is informal, and doesn't make it into the media. He claims he's talked several companies on the verge of departing into remaining in the city, but says he can't divulge which ones they are. He says he has also been working with USAirways to get jobs back after job cuts.
"I still have confidence they will make it, but right now I don't know and I don't think anyone knows for sure," said McCrory. "But I think Charlotte will still be a major employment center for airlines."
McCrory touts the many formal and informal breakfasts he has had with Charlotte's small and large business owners over the past two years as part of his multi-faceted approach to keeping businesses in Charlotte and thus retaining jobs. It's not sexy stuff, but it works. In monthly and bi-monthly morning jam sessions, which are also attended by the city manager, McCrory says he listens to the gripes of business owners invited by the mayor's office to attend breakfasts at the Morehead Inn and the Duke Mansion.
"We take notes," McCrory said. "I can't tell you how many Charlotte companies we have met with. We may be talking to the next Bill Gates, and if so we need them to stay in Charlotte."
These meetings aren't always pleasant.
Many times, McCrory says, the city is costing businesses money or making their jobs more difficult because of certain ordinances, procedures and regulations. McCrory says that what can be changed by city staff immediately usually is.
Ella Scarborough Ella Scarborough is at her best when she's in the pulpit. During the mayor's race two years ago, she crashed a service at an African-American church of the Baptist persuasion and, though the minister hadn't yet finished his sermon, was at the pulpit before she had spent five minutes inside the church. She'd been out driving, she told the Sunday congregation, and Jesus had told her to turn her car around and attend that particular sermon. In a booming voice that required no microphone amplification, Scarborough proceeded to trash the mayor, city hall and city council for about 10 minutes before the minister, who had turned the mike over to her, retook control of the service.
That's Scarborough for you. Since she was elected to the Charlotte city council over a decade ago, she's styled herself as an advocate of little people. And she sounds better and better on the stump each time she runs. Since she left the council to run for the US Senate in 1998, she's been defeated in that Democratic primary, and in a race against McCrory two years ago, when she lost by 22 percent.
Meet Scarborough in person, and like McCrory, you can't help but like her. Spend time talking to her about her campaign, and if you let down your guard, she'll have you fired up. But ask her for specifics and you're likely to be disappointed.
The former president of the League of Municipalities, Scarborough has criticized McCrory for his lack of interest in the environment. Yet when asked by Creative Loafing what she would do about the environment, her replies included lobbying the league, which in turn lobbies the legislature, for clean air and water. For what, when and at what cost, Scarborough could not say.
Scarborough's campaign has largely consisted of a list of complaints. Her son, an entertainer, had to move away to find employment because the Arts & Science Council has too tight a lock on arts funding and excludes some legitimate groups. Airfares were so high at one point that she had to drive to Greensboro and fly out of there to see him rather than flying out of Charlotte. The mayor mishandled the arena issue. The mayor is overly influenced by the developers who contribute to his campaign. The developers are cutting down too many trees.
But what Scarborough, 55, would do to change all this remains unclear, or unknown. And as to the accusations she's hurled at McCrory, well, she's had a hard time proving those as well. When asked at a WTVI-42 debate, for instance, which campaign donations by which donors have influenced which decisions by council and thus McCrory, Scarborough couldn't give an answer much more specific than "the arena."
Though she's done a much better job on the stump this time around, she'll have to do better if she wants to beat McCrory.