Monday, October 15, 2018

Davidson provides cautionary tale for Charlotte on 4-Year Terms

Charlotte City Council is roiling the political landscape in the Queen City with serious discussion of changing from two year terms to 4 year terms for its elected officials.  In recent days, both current and former electeds have come out both for and against the idea in Charlotte Observer op-eds and on social media.

This is an issue near and dear to aShortChronicle from back when tiny Davidson was considering the same thing in 2010 and 2012.  Long-time readers will know this idea of longer terms for electeds was one of the driving stories in the early days of this blog.  In fact the first stories consolidated into a dedicated "Chronicle" page were on this topic.  You can find them here at the Davidson 4-Year Terms Chronicle.

If you were to read through those old posts about Davidson as well as the current online arguments going on in Charlotte, you see many similar reasons for and against the idea.  Proponents like being elected officials but don't like campaigning.  They see 4-year staggered terms as providing "stability" Opponents think 4-year terms reduce accountability and see making such a change without a referendum as undemocratic.

When these debates are in the heat of battle all of these arguments are just speculation.  The idea of stability sounds good.  The idea of small-d democracy sounds good.  Nobody really knows who is right.

Yes, Charlotte is exponentially bigger than Davidson.  Yes, Charlotte is less politically diverse than Davidson with the makeup of its current Board being in near solid lockdown by Democrats.  However, Davidson does provide a pretty clear example of why 2 year terms is a good idea and Charlotte residents should fight to keep them.

When Davidson Commissioners were considering a unilateral change to 4 year staggered terms without going to voters, the idea failed because of strong citizen pushback.  There was no way of knowing at the time, but the defeat of this powergrab by Town Hall would have positive consequences years down the road.

In the years after keeping 2 year terms Davidson's future Board promoted a series of unpopular ideas.  These included the failed Catalyst Project, the failed Beaty Street RFP, the controversial Griffith Street Hotel now mired in the courts, the idea of massive spending for a new Town Hall without voter input, and the Rural Area Plan mass rezoning, among others.

Stopping that line of thinking and the constant controversy it caused required a wholesale changing of the guard.  In 2017, on the back of the Save Davidson movement that wholesale change occurred when 5 of 6 elected officials were changed in a single election cycle.

In the 10 months since the new Board has been sworn into office, there has been a noticeable change of tone coming out of Town Hall.  There is noticeably less swirl.  There is noticeably better decisionmaking.  That would not have been possible under 4 year staggered terms.  At most, only 3 officials could have been turned over under that scheme, and the Town would still be swirling.

That is the cautionary tale the voters of Charlotte should consider before laying down and accepting what their leaders are proposing.  Even if you like how Charlotte runs now, there might come a time when things change.  It is better to have the option of making change and not needing it, than to need that option and not have it.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Lingle Hut Day is Saturday, 10/13...Help restore a piece of Davidson history

At its September 25th Board of Commissioners meeting, Davidson declared October 13th as "Lingle Hut Day" in town.  This proclamation supports the ongoing fundraising efforts to raise money for the restoration of the historic building on Watson Street at Reeves Temple AME Zion Church.  See the proclamation below.

aShortChronicle previously told readers about the project where church members and local volunteers are hard at work planning to restore the site which had previousmy served as a gathering place in the Westside community.  The initial phase of the effort needs $20,000 primarily to fix the foundation of the building, and to date more than half of that sum has been raised.  Volunteers have been selling engraved bricks at the Farmers Market for the effort among other donations, but this Saturday, 10/13 will be the biggest push yet with a Carnival at the Church.

Plan on hitting the Farmers Market then heading over to Watson Street.  It will be a great way to support the community, and in this case, literal community building efforts.