Dysfunction Junction Has No Function

And that's why Charlotte and Mecklenburg County governments need to merge, already
Robinson Bradshaw & Hinson

A talented video editor with time on his hands and an eye and ear for the absurd — looking at you, Mr. Deftly Inane — could assemble an illustrative mash reel from a pair of public gatherings from last night, happening almost simultaneously and within a mile of each other.

At the Halton Theater at CPCC, you had five former Charlotte mayors (and the current one, Anthony Foxx, via prerecorded video), talking in lofty terms about the regrettable absence of civility in our politics, the need for a community's leaders to build relationships, the difficulties in Charlotte's present and future that make such cooperation imperative.

And over at the Government Center, you had the constituent members of Mecklenburg County's governing body basically calling each other poopy-heads. ("Dysfunction 101," commissioner Karen Bentley calls it, although surely our commissioners have moved beyond mere freshman-level dysfunction.)

The comparison was pretty glaring to some of the saner public officials in the QC, and it naturally led to a too-brief discussion of the most obvious solution: city-county consolidation.

I know. It keeps coming up. There's a reason for that: It makes sense. But people like their turf, especially the good citizens of Ballantyne and environs, whose homes and habits are paranoia realized. It was nice to see former Mayor Richard Vinroot issue a genteel bitch-slap to them from the stage at CPCC last night. He said they need to understand that their prosperity didn't just sprout from the ground down there; they're taking advantage of their proximity to the largest city in the Carolinas and the 17th-largest in the United States. They won't, of course. But he's right.

(Speaking of Richard Vinroot, I hope whomever becomes Charlotte's next mayor makes this guy a significant, public part of something; a city commission on responsible growth, or a task force on neighborhood development, whatever. He's informed, wise, and authoritative, and he clearly cares deeply about the city and region. Vinroot also was the last person in Charlotte who held the formal power to tell Pat McCrory what to do. He played for Dean Smith, too. What's not to love? Whatever happened to Republicans like him?)

Of course consolidation wouldn't solve everything. But it'd make local government far more manageable. In Charlotte, it's a labyrinth (just spend some quality time with the bramble patch that is CharMeck.org), which doesn't help the civic-minded citizens who want to lead but encounter an impenetrable mess when they knock on the front door of their government(s). Consolidation would cut down on wasted time and effort on large-scale civic projects as well — and you know more of those are coming as Charlotte develops further.

The county is getting a new manager this year. The city already has a new manager, Ron Carlee, who happens to be an expert at local government structure and efficiency. They should start working on a specific plan to fully merge Charlotte and Mecklenburg County government and set a timetable for implementation.

Consolidation has been discussed — and discussed, and discussed — for far too long. It's time our elected officials follow the advice of the Twitter hashtag from the mayors' forum last night: #solvingtogether.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest