With two or three exceptions, Charlotte mayoral races are rarely exciting. Or, let's face it, particularly interesting. This discouraging state of affairs stems from the fact that anyone wanting consideration as a "serious" mayoral candidate here must toe the city power structure's banking/corporate line. Which is how we too often end up with mayoral candidates that evince all the appeal of a calculator in a suit. Moreover, it's how we wind up with little campaign time given to addressing some of the city's important issues that aren't on the corporate establishment's radar — such as any issue that doesn't affect the corporate establishment. This year, unfortunately, is no exception, which is why we cannot endorse either candidate for mayor. (We do, however, still — always — endorse voting; see Mike Cooper's column for more on why casting a ballot this year is more important than ever.)
The debates held so far by Democrat Patrick Cannon and Republican Edwin Peacock have been inauspicious affairs in which the same tired party lines, half-truths, vague slogans and partisan positions are repeated over and over until everyone's eyes glaze over. Despite the dispiriting debates, Peacock and Cannon are not without any positive qualities. In fact, here are some things we like about the mayoral candidates — and some things for you to consider when you cast your vote:
• Cannon, as an entrenched member of the Charlotte government/business establishment, would know which strings to pull and who to talk to in order to launch new city projects and smooth out wrinkles in existing ones. In any case, he is very familiar with small businesses and how the city can help them.
• Cannon had the political courage to tell voters in Ballantyne who griped about their supposedly excessive share of the city's tax burden, "You're paying for exactly what your house is worth; you're paying your fair share." It was refreshing to hear a local official remind McMansion owners that they're part of a city — one that has given them more public investment, particularly in infrastructure, than they seem aware of.
• Peacock opposed giving money to the Panthers for high-tech upgrades to their stadium, a position CL agreed with.
• Peacock opposed the passage of Amendment One, which banned same-sex marriages in North Carolina.
• Peacock says the mayor should play a more active role in supporting the public school system, such as working with business leaders to increase teacher pay — an excellent idea we hope the next mayor, whoever it is, will pursue.
At the same time, there are things we don't like about both candidates:
• Cannon's insider status could make him too cozy with the same old/same old, back-scratching methods of governing that too often bog down projects and stifle creative thinking.
• He criticizes Peacock for opposing former Mayor Anthony Foxx's capital improvement plan, but he opposed it himself, before City Manager Ron Carlee found a way to finance the streetcar project by patching together money from various sources.
• Cannon opposed Foxx's move to cut city payments to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority over CRVA chief Tim Newman's spendthrift gift-giving and exaggerated predictions for attendance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Last week's Observer report that Cannon has a sweetheart deal with CRVA for management of its parking lot near the NASCAR Hall has raised new questions about Cannon's ethics.
• Peacock told Ballantyne voters they need a mayor who can answer, "What's in it for me?" We find conservatism's current trend away from its former strong sense of community in favor of support for out-and-out selfishness disturbing, unviable and unrealistic. Potential mayors should not encourage it.
• At a meeting of local entrepreneurs, he told the assembled crowd, "I'll put Charlotte on the path" to helping entrepreneurs, apparently unaware that the city already does so through its small-business services.
• Peacock is opposed to the streetcar project, preferring that it be taken up with a regional transportation planning group. CL supports the streetcar as a development tool for the west and east sides, areas that need city help badly. And finally:
• Neither candidate has explained what, if anything, he would do to change, or at least ameliorate, the disgraceful fact that this city of bankers and high-rollers has some of the most intense, deep poverty in the state, according to the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.
An incredible 64,000 people are living in extreme poverty in Charlotte (at or below $11,500 a year for a family of four) — and yet next to nothing is heard about this abysmal state of affairs during the city's political campaigns. Organizations that feed the poor say the demand just keeps on growing, while the poverty rate in our public schools stands at 54 percent — and yet the poor in our city are lucky to even receive lip service from our government leaders. There are a number of think tanks ready and willing to share ideas about relieving urban poverty, and it behooves Charlotte's leaders to get off their self-satisfied rears and get in touch with those groups. The lack of focus on poverty in Charlotte by Peacock and Cannon is a moral failure on their part, and is another reason we cannot bring ourselves to endorse either of the two mayoral candidates.