CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mayor Anthony Foxx gave his annual State of the City address on Monday morning, addressing a variety of local topics including controversial transit projects and other infrastructure needs.
The mayor, a Democrat, also included a brief mention of the gay community, following in the footsteps of President Barack Obama, who became the first president to address the LGBT community in an inaugural address.
“As your mayor, I serve the most diverse citizenry in our history — Republicans, Independents and Democrats, the young and old, Hispanics and Asians, blacks and whites, the rich, poor and middle-class, straight and gay, people from every walk of life you can imagine,” Foxx said according to prepared remarks later released to media. “My charge — our charge as a Charlotte City Council — is to ensure that every man, woman and child has a chance to succeed, to fulfill what their talents and abilities can lead them to accomplish.”
Representatives of the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee (MeckPAC) said they were encouraged by the mayor’s remarks.
“Mayor Foxx recognizes what comprises a diverse community and he recognizes that the gay community (including the transgender community) is part of that diversity,” MeckPAC Chair Scott Bishop said via email.
Committee member Larry Ferri also said Foxx’s comments were “another indication that our community is strong and is visible and there’s more and more understanding and acceptance of us.”
The City of Charlotte has taken recent steps to become more LGBT inclusive. In 2010, now-retired City Manager Curt Walton added sexual orientation to the city’s non-discrimination policy. In December, before his retirement, he also added protections for transgender workers. The City Council also approved a budget last year including health and other benefits for same-sex partners of city employees.
Bishop said Foxx “consistently has an ear for the LGBT community and encourages us to advance change for the community in Charlotte.” He said the mayor fully supported anti-discrimination efforts and the addition of domestic partner benefits.
Despite the recent progress, the City Council has yet to hold an affirmative public vote on any single matter of LGBT equality or inclusion. The last time the City Council itself publicly considered a stand-alone LGBT measure was in November 1992, when it voted down a proposal to amend its public accommodations ordinance.
Foxx spent the majority of address speaking on important issues currently facing the city, including the city’s challenges in the face of recent economic downturns as well as its successes. Foxx cited the city’s high bond rating, low crime rates and his administration’s and the Council’s efforts to save costs.
Foxx also addressed continued negotiations over public transit projects.
“As our annexation power runs out and the revenue growth that comes along with it, we will find ourselves losing population and economic growth if we cannot transform our economically challenged areas,” Foxx said. “I remain convinced that transit is a game-changer for Charlotte. Transit is a game-changer.”
Foxx has been locked in a battle with some City Council members over a proposed streetcar project spanning an east-west route from Presbyterian Hospital to Johnson C. Smith University. The project was included in a proposed capital improvement plan which was ultimately rejected. Consideration of the plan, which would invest funds in needed infrastructure improvements across the city, has been postponed.
He addressed the controversy in his address today, specifically noting former Charlotte Mayor and current Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent statements that the project might endanger state funding for the LYNX Blue Line Lightrail to the University City area.
“I appreciate Governor McCrory’s longstanding position against it,” Foxx said. “Since last summer, many business leaders and even City Council members have parroted his sentiments. I have shown charts and graphs and empirical evidence of the transformational power of this project — the single biggest job creator of the entire $926 million package.”
Foxx added, “With all due respect, the opposition is not about economic impact. Every city in America that has done a modern streetcar has seen a positive economic return. With all due respect, it is not about whether to use property taxes for transit. Since 1998, we have used property taxes for transit. Last year, we increased the use of property taxes for transit to make the Blue Line Extension work. In future years, the Red Line Commuter Rail project funding would use property taxes. There has not been an iota of opposition to these projects. But the streetcar is different. Why?”
Foxx said the city must remain united toward progress if it will succeed.
“My fellow citizens, our future is on the line,” the mayor said. “We would rather not have to make the choices in front of us. But indecision will not move us forward. Our city is strong – and getting stronger — but we remain in danger of being crushed under the weight of our own success. Charlotte is a great city — one that remains full of infinite possibilities. We are all in this together. One Charlotte, One Future.”