Friday, August 30, 2013

Foxx: 'Everybody got behind' streetcar?

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote a blog this week commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a "Dream" speech. The former Charlotte mayor wrote about the role transportation has played in the Civil Rights movement, including Rosa Park's celebrated bus ride in Montgomery.

He went on to tout the Obama administration's investments in transportation infrastructure.

But in commemorating history, did Foxx rewrite it? Here's part of his blog:
"And when I was Mayor of Charlotte, I fought to bring a streetcar system to our city.  The whole community got behind it. That streetcar is the first effort in Charlotte’s recent history to connect a poor part of the city with modern transit."

The proposed streetcar - dubbed the "Gold Line" - certainly has its proponents. But to say the whole community got behind it seems to forget resistance from some on the city council, and not just the Republicans. Even some Democrats were reluctant to support it. That was one reason Foxx's proposed capital plan didn't pass the first time around.

After some initial bumps, the streetcar is on track.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Black Caucus endorses Patrick Cannon

Democrat Patrick Cannon has gotten a big boost in his mayoral campaign, winning the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus.

Caucus endorsements are usually important, especially in a Democratic primary. They're distributed at polls and at sites for early voting, which starts Thursday for the Sept. 10 primary.

And in Charlotte, 63 percent of registered Democrats are African American.

The caucus tapped Cannon over James Mitchell, a fellow city council member and fellow African American. They're the leaders in a field that also includes Lucille Puckett and Gary Dunn.

The caucus also endorsed other Democrats:

-- At-large: Vi Alexander Lyles, David Howard, Michael Barnes and Beth Pickering.
-- District 1: Patsy Kinsey.
-- District 2: Al Austin.
-- District 4: Wil Russell.
-- District 5: John Autry.

UPDATE 1:45 pm: An earlier posting noted that incumbent Democrat LaWana Mayfield wasn't endorsed. The caucus lists only primary endorsements. She's the only incumbent without a primary.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

A chance for airport diplomacy?

On Monday, former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx will be in Atlanta for one of his first public speeches since becoming U.S. Transportation Secretary. There he'll speak to a transportation "summit" sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Among the 40 lawmakers from around the country at the summit will be state Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican who co-chairs the N.C. House Transportation Committee. He also shepherded Gov. Pat McCrory's transportation initiative, the Strategic Mobility Forumula, through the General Assembly.

Brawley and Foxx have been on opposite sides of the Charlotte airport battle. Brawley introduced a bill to create an airport authority. When Republican leaders switched course at the 11th hour and passed a bill for an airport commission, he voted for that. Before going to Washington, Foxx fought hard to keep the airport in city hands.

Now the matter is in the hands of the FAA, which will decide whether a commission can operate the airport. The FAA is part of the transportation department.

So will Brawley hold a summit of his own with Foxx?

"If the opportunity presents itself, I'd certainly want to discuss issues with the secretary," Brawley says.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A congressional district - and campaigns - in limbo

U.S. Rep. Mel Watt is spending the August recess doing what he does every year: "Trading Places" with constituents in his 12th Congressional District. On Wednesday he worked as a postal carrier, pharmacy technician and quality control inspector in the Triad.

But the job he really wants is in Washington. The Charlotte Democrat is waiting for Senate confirmation as head of the Housing Finance Agency.

But Watt's confirmation appears to be in limbo, as do the campaigns of several would be successors.

Politico ran a story today that says some Capitol Hill Democrats worry about Watt's confirmation. He made it out of the Senate Banking Committee on a party line vote. But Senate Democratic leaders didn't push hard for hhis confirmation before the month-long recess started last week. He needs 60 votes to overcome any Republican filibuster.

While Watt waits, so do at least a half-dozen people interested in his seat. Several already have filed papers with the Federal Election Commission.

“The only thing you can do is run your campaign and be ready when it's time to be ready,” says state Rep. Marcus Brandon, a two-term Democrat from High Point.

Sen. Malcolm Graham is in the same boat. He's already lined up a shadow team of consultants.

"Obviously we’ve got a team that's ready in the dugout, ready to come out and play if there's a resignation," he says.

If Watt were to be confirmed when Congress returns in September, it's unclear when a special election would be held. The longer it takes to actually have a vacancy, the more difficult it will be to prepare ballots by November.