Eiselt: As I leave office, I see opportunities and regrets for Charlotte

·3 min read

Last week, I announced that I won’t be seeking a fourth term on the Charlotte City Council. As I reflect on the last six years, I have thought a lot about what I have accomplished, what I wish I had been able to do, and what still needs to change to make Charlotte a great city that everyone can be proud to call home. The past few years has been a time of enduring change in Charlotte. My first year serving on the council, 2016, may have been the most tumultuous year in our city’s history. The community was beginning to reckon with the Harvard Chetty study, which ranked Charlotte last for upward mobility, out of a list of 50 cities. That February, we passed the nondiscrimination ordinance, thrusting us into the international spotlight with the state debacle of HB2. Seven months later, a CMPD officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott and Charlotte erupted into nights of protest culminating with another life lost.

Through all of this, it was becoming clear that Charlotte was facing an identity crisis. The reality was sinking in that we were a tale of two cities, and we needed to take a hard look at who we were as a community. I believe Charlotte has begun to address the mistakes of the past and the systemic barriers that for too long have held people back from the economic and social prosperity to which only certain sectors of our city have historically had access. The recently announced $250mm Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative is a private-public partnership commitment to supporting education at Johnson C. Smith University, while bolstering black and minority-owned businesses throughout Corridors of Opportunity. This investment acknowledges the responsibility that government and the business sector has to correct past failures and provide opportunity to generations of marginalized people.

As the Mayor Pro Tem and an At-large representative, I have worked hard to help move us forward. In 2017, I initiated the Jumpstart Micro-grant, a community safety program to support grassroots organizers who work tirelessly to make Charlotte safer. That grew into a larger community safety grant program now managed by United Way. I was part of a council that raised our affordable housing bond from $15M to $50M. We passed the Strategic Energy Action Plan, which seeks to make Charlotte carbon-neutral by 2030. As chair of the Transportation, Planning and Environmental committee, I was actively engaged in passing the City’s first Comprehensive Vision Plan in 45 years. And most recently, I helped negotiate the unanimous passage of the long overdue nondiscrimination ordinance.

There have also been missed opportunities. In 2019, we committed to lowering the City’s property tax rate amid the County’s property revaluation. In hindsight, I should have fought to keep 2 cents on that tax rate to invest in our bus system. The average round-trip bus ride in Charlotte is three hours. That is a tremendous hardship to those that rely on bus service in their daily lives.

The biggest regret I have is that we as a council often could not work cohesively to have greater impact in the community. Good governance does not work when you have lone wolves who want to go at it alone, using divisive rhetoric toward their colleagues and staff. We need elected officials who will prioritize the needs of the community; people who can garner the support and the votes needed to pass transformative policies. Building a better future for all Charlotteans starts with compromise and humility. My hope is that future councils can work better together.

Charlotte has real momentum behind it. We live in a city to be reckoned with – one that’s nationally-recognized as a place of innovation and opportunity. It’s an honor to have earned the support of Charlotte’s voters to be a part of building a brighter future, and I can’t wait to see what else we can accomplish, together.

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