Consensus: Somewhere Between Nipples and Streetcars

Governing takes too much time. Except when it doesn't.
Uberculture via Flickr
A streetcar. A fancy one.

Consider these two scenarios:

1. At this moment, Charlotte City Council is less harmonious than a silverware drawer you’ve just turned upside down. At their retreat last week, James Mitchell accused Claire Fallon of taking her anti-streetcar feelings to the media instead of talking them out with her fellow councilmembers. Fallon disagreed, saying she’d been asked by the media to clarify her feelings. That led to this exchange, as reported by the Charlotte Business Journal:

FALLON: Are you calling me a liar?
MITCHELL: Yes.

But wait. There’s more. Andy Dulin asked David Howard to stop interrupting him and to show some respect. LaWana Mayfield called Fallon extremely rude. Finally, mayor Anthony Foxx hopped in. “We’re supposed to be big kids,” he said.

They’re arguing over big issues. The streetcar. The budget. A future where Charlotte can’t annex its way into raising the money it needs to do the stuff it wants to do. So yeah, things aren’t getting done lickety split.

2. There’s a bill making the rounds at the General Assembly that would let people carry concealed weapons in restaurants. There’s a bill to get rid of 12 judges and a bunch of people on a bunch of administrative boards. There’s a bill that would make it a crime for women to go topless. I’ll admit, I don’t read the text of a lot of bills, but that last one mentions nipples. Twice.

There is harmony at the general assembly now, because Republicans control both houses and have a Republican as the chief executive. So things that were vetoed in the past are probably going to become law, especially now that everyone is seeing red. People, namely Democrats, are complaining. The GOP’s last big hurdle to getting their stuff passed, a Democratic governor, is now gone. Hide your nipples ladies. The General Assembly is coming.

For the sake of this argument, I’m not really interested in who wins or loses, or what things mean politically. I’ll leave that part to Greg Lacour over on his blog. (Greg is very smart and sometimes says stuff to me like “Hey, did you hear about the Omnibus Nantucket Amendment? The hell is that all about, am I right?” And I just nod and say “Yeah man,” and take another sip of beer and wait for him to speak of things I’ve heard about before, like ferrets or something.)

No, I’m talking about this want for things to be not too easy or not too hard but somewhere in the middle, where we can say things like “this really had bipartisan support” and “it was hard, but in the end, it was worth it.” But compromise is boring. It doesn’t make for a good story.

And right now, buddy, we got stories. On the city level, we’re stymied. On the state level, we’re unclogged. In Charlotte, city council is so worried about making the wrong decision that they’re having trouble making any decision. In Raleigh, Republicans are so happy to be making any decisions that they’re making a whole lot of them.

Put another way: the general assembly is doing 75 in a 55 MPH zone, blasting Creed. City council is doing 30 in that same zone, because nobody in the car knows if Apple Maps is taking them the right way. Can’t we just do the speed limit? That’s probably the best way. I mean, I guess.

(Yawn.)

This is serious stuff. It always is. Even the smallest course correction can have huge consequences. Laws are important. They can disenfranchise. They can create opportunity. When it comes to making them, the destination is more important than the journey. Right? Or is it the other way around? Can we have a streetcar? Can we have nipples? Can we have both? These are tough decisions, People In Charge. Forget the story. Take your time. But not too long.