Scott Stone, the Republican challenger in Charlotte's mayoral race, isn't a politician. He's never held office in the city, but he doesn't think that's a reason not to vote for him. So why should anyone vote for Stone, especially when Charlotte's current mayor, Anthony Foxx, hasn't had many — if any — public gaffes or an outcry to unseat him? Creative Loafing recently caught up with Stone, and he explained his reasons for running and how he is different from Foxx.
Creative Loafing: Why did you decide to run?
Scott Stone: [Charlotte has] 11.2 percent unemployment. We have 42,000 people without jobs. [Foxx] is not unlikable. He's not confrontational and that, deep down, is the problem. He has not been a strong leader. Pat McCrory, whether you like him or not, he took a stand on issues. He would say, "I think this is wrong. I think this is right. Here's where I want to go, and this is what we should do." I don't see the current mayor showing a lot of leadership. When's the last time he suggested something controversial to turn around our economy? What's the last controversial thing he proposed? I think he is trying too hard to be inoffensive. That would work out OK if we had 5 percent unemployment, but we don't. We need somebody willing to challenge the status quo.
What are three things you feel the current mayor is not doing, and how will you address those issues if you win?
Well, they all kind of go around jobs and the economy. Jobs and the economy in general are the topics that I don't think he's doing effectively and he's not leading. Let me give you some examples: We're not fundamentally competitive with our peer cities. I realize that we're going to have challenges because of the national economy. However, we're worse than the national average in unemployment. We're worse than the state average. We [have] the highest unemployment rate for any city in the state. [According to statistics from Employment Security Commission, Charlotte has the third highest rate of unemployment of the state's metropolitan areas.] That's just not how Charlotte has been in the past, nor how Charlotte should be. We take 40 percent more in property taxes in Charlotte than if we lived in Raleigh. So, we're not competitive. We need to have a plan for how we're going to turn our economy around. The mayor has no plan. He has no ideas. What he does is he'll talk about things that have already happened or he'll talk about statistics and try to spin them as to how he was responsible for its success. He will say that he has created 12,000 jobs since he's been mayor. What those are, are 12,000 announced jobs by the Chamber. [The Charlotte Chamber says in 2009, 15,542 jobs were announced; 10,781 in 2010.] If you look at the numbers, it is a lot lower number of jobs announced than in the past decade. We lost 4,000 jobs just [in June]. The numbers don't work. Another thing that he claimed was his shining moment after his first year in office was the small business strategic plan. But he had nothing to do with that, and I know because I'm the one who wrote it. I was the chairman of the business advisory committee, and I was the one who pitched it to Council ... that plan is something he takes credit for but has nothing to do with.
You don't have any political experience; does that work in your favor?
The fact that I'm not someone who is a sitting political office holder, someone who's been in politics for the last 10 years, I think is a plus because I come at from a different perspective and a fresh perspective. I come at [the office of mayor] from a business background. When you're in elected office for a certain amount of time, you get used to how it's done, instead of looking at how it could be done. But I have interacted with every city department, whether it's planning, zoning, engineering, property management, storm water services, all of these have been clients of mine ... I've worked with. And I've been very involved in economic development for the last 12 years here. I probably have more experience in a broader area of things than most elected officials.
As a Republican mayor, how would you balance your party and hosting the 2012 Democratic National Convention?
On Nov. 9, the day after I'm elected, I'm going to make a series of phone calls. My first set of phone calls will be to the guys who run deals at the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the Charlotte Chamber and the CRVA to talk about what conventions are being targeted. I want to know what deals are out there and what conventions are being targeted. One of my next set of calls is going to be to the head of the DNC, and I'm going to say I'm looking forward to working with her and having the DNC here. And I'm here to be a great host, and I want them to have such a great time that they will want to have their convention here every four years. That's the host I'll be. Now, I am concerned about a few things. I'm concerned about the contract that we signed. Mayor Foxx is a lawyer; I can't imagine that he ever read this contract. There are some things in there that concern me and one of them being the clause that says "union labor shall be used." Given that we're a right-to-work state and [N.C. has] one of the lowest percentages of unions of any state in the country and this city has very few unions, how are we going to use union labor and use local labor at the same time? Only one or two things can happen: Union labor is going to be shipped in from out of town, which is bad — or unions are going to try and force local employees and companies to unionize. And that to me is one more thing that makes us less competitive.
The general election is Nov. 8. Primary elections take place on Sept. 13.