Pat McCrory, Master Politician

...As if you didn't already know that. But two instances this week offer a glimpse of the political skills that have allowed McCrory to win a record-setting six mayoral elections (he's gunning for number seven this fall).

First, he masterfully handled an Observer reporter's questions for a story on public art along the almost-ready South transit line. If you recall, a couple years ago when he got a look at the early renderings, McCrory was quite the critic of pretty much all of the public art projects along the line. And eventually, a number of those projects were cut, reportedly for budgetary reasons.

Now, some of those art projects, most notably Thomas Sayre's Furrow (the big dirt disks along South Boulevard), are showing up. Furrow, by the same artist who did the much-derided "giant onion rings" at the corner of Wendover and Randolph, is already taking some heat from the they-call-that-art? crowd. But now that detractors have managed to get a measure to repeal the transit tax onto the November ballot, the future of light rail, which McCrory is banking on to be perhaps his greatest legacy, is in doubt. So you won't find him criticizing anything having to do with light rail these days. His comment? "They're much better than the ones we eliminated due to budget cuts." Well-played, Mr. Mayor. He doesn't say that he likes them, and he makes it known he cut the budget. He followed with, "If we'd kept some of the more abstract and expensive art it would get a much larger outcry," hammering home the subtle point.

Earlier today, he was at it again. At a press conference for the groundbreaking of an interpretative history center for Charlotte Trolley, which will be right along the light rail line at Camden and South Tryon, the mayor said a few words. "We cannot give up now," he told the small crowd, which included several television cameras. "The fight is always going to be on in preserving our history and preparing for our future. Let's never give up the fight." This guy is good. He was ostensibly talking about the now-twenty-year-old battle to bring back the trolley, but he managed to group that in with the battle to save light rail. He made them one and the same. And who wouldn't be for preserving Charlotte's history (excluding real-estate developers, of course)? Again, well-played.

He also, very subtly–and I admit that I could be reading too much into this–left open the possibility that actual trolley service may not come back. Restoring regular trolley service does not seem to have been a priority of CATS. Indeed, Ron Tober was not hired to make sure the trolley stayed on track. He was hired to get light rail running. With each passing year, it seems less likely that the trolley will every run regularly again. The guess here is that it ends up resigned to run odd hours on weekends only, essentially serving as a tourist/family attraction. Maybe that's OK. Maybe the trolley served its purpose by jumpstarting a lot of development and helping pave the way for light rail. But in a city that easily discards history, it'd be a shame if the trolley was marginalized so. (See what I did there? In the middle of making one point, I veered off and at least attempted to make another. The Internet is great.)

So in the span of a couple days, McCrory managed to support the transit tax without giving credibility to its opposers, stayed in the good graces of the arts crowd, and made nice with the preservationist crowd. This guy is really good. 

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