The Charlotte City Council is closer now to passing a city-wide capital budget than they have been since the body surprisingly shot down the measure last June. Two plans, endorsed last Wednesday, are on the table, though both exclude a controversial streetcar project running from Presbyterian Hospital to Johnson C. Smith University.
Citizens and residents, many of whom live in the neighborhoods and areas that will be dramatically affected by the capital plan, were left sitting on the sidelines for months while Council moved quickly and efficiently to give $144 million to the Carolina Panthers a $1 billion company owned by a millionaire employing several millionaires. Now, it seems, the needs of citizens might finally get their chance at a play.
Council has come under fire — from citizens, from civic groups, from the restaurant lobby and, even, from this newspaper — for their missteps over the past several months and their severely misplaced priorities. The perception they repeatedly cast into the community was one of local government far too willing to operate in the shadows of secrecy and one utterly beholden to moneyed access and privilege.
As City Council moves forward with continued consideration of a capital plan, they have a chance, once and for all, to prove their leadership. They can continue to ignore the needs of a growing, challenged city while seeking millions for a wealthy, private corporation. Or, they can vote to quickly and efficiently see that the needs of a far greater number of citizens and residents are met by approving the capital plan. Continued delay on the plan will only perpetuate a public perception of their own making that local government in this city works best for the few and not at all for the many.