Posted on August 1, 2012 at 6:26 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After two fruitless years of trying to get the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to fully merge, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx is trying again, with the help of former mayor Richard Vinroot.
Foxx, a Democrat, and Vinroot, a Republican, are sending a letter to numerous business and political leaders, urging them to petition Mecklenburg Commissioners to study joining the two governments.
“The current climate of volatility at the state and federal level makes it more critical than ever for us to be as coordinated and cohesive as possible with your resources,” Foxx and Vinroot said in the letter.
The city and county already coordinate a number of services, including police, fire, parks and tax collection.
But Foxx has lobbied to take that so-called “functional” consolidation into full “political consolidation.”
Instead of two elected bodies, there would be one for the city and county. There would be one mayor of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. And there would be one manager, not two.
Foxx began pushing for political consolidation in the summer of 2010, when Mecklenburg County had a budget crisis that resulted in deep cuts to schools, parks and libraries.
The city of Charlotte, however, was in relative good financial health. Foxx successfully lobbied City Council members to give the county money, most notably more than $1 million for libraries.
In the aftermath of that budget fight, Foxx said that having one single budget, with one elected body, would help the region make smarter decisions with its money.
Though Foxx has lobbied for full consolidation, he’s had difficulty getting support from other elected officials.
In January, after he won a landslide reelection, the City Council endorsed his idea to create a committee to study consolidation – but only in a narrow 6-5 vote.
“I was surprised there was not stronger support in the City Council for it,” said Democratic County Commissioner Dumont Clarke. “It’s never had any real traction at the County Commission, really nothing has changed in the county commission in the space of 6 months.”
City Manager Curt Walton and County Manager Harry Jones have been cool to the idea as well.
Foxx and Vinroot’s letter is being sent to 25 local leaders, including former Bank of America chief executive Hugh McColl; Duke Energy chief executive Jim Rogers; real estate developer Johnny Harris; Johnson C. Smith University President Ron Carter; Joe Hallow of Bissell Hotels; and Catherine Bessant of Bank of America.
The mailing list includes a number of elected officials, though some weren’t included. Among those left off: The City Council’s two Republicans, Andy Dulin and Warren Cooksey, and Democrats Michael Barnes and Patrick Cannon, the Mayor pro tem.
Some county officials questioned why they weren’t included. Republican Bill James, who is opposed to consolidation, said in an email to city and county officials that he believed Foxx was being “sneaky” by sending the letter.
If the county were to sign off on exploring consolidation, the mayor’s office said a study would be funded by the Foundation for the Carolinas.
Several cities and counties nationwide have fully merged city and county governments, including Nashville, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla. STAFF WRITER CARMEN CUSIDO CONTRIBUTED
‘The current climate of volatility at the state and federal level makes it more critical than ever for us to be ... coordinated and cohesive...’