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atlrvr

Where does Charlotte lead the country?

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Though there have been similar topics, I'm curious as to what Charlotte is doing that is better than maintaining the status quo, where is it excelling? What is it doing that is ground breaking? The only innovation I can think of, is the county was the first major city to employ a public GIS database. While that's impressive, there are far more important aspect in terms of long-term impacts.

To bring up a couple of points from some recent threads.

Boston is the first major city to require all new buildings over 50,000 sq. ft. to meet LEED certifications standards.

New York is the first city to ban trans fats from restaurants.

Charlotte doesn't require that gas-system thingy that Dubone mentioned.

Meck Co. is just now trying to get a smoking ban (and being stalled by the state).

Can Charlotte/Mecklenburg ever LEAD on an important health/environment/development issue, or will it always be content to watch everyone else, and then decide, "yeah, that makes sense, we should do that too".

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Charlotte excels at corporate and sports boosterism. If we could be that progressive in enviro/development issues we would not be Charlotte. We will always be a late adaptors to anything outside of the conservative sphere.

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Charlotte doesn't even lead at that. Pursuing sports, and publicly funded sports stadiums were happening in other cities long before it hit Charlotte. Charlotte was also among the last to get on the urban stadium bandwagon.

NC was one of the last to get the incentives that other states have been using for years to compete for and win major manufacturing plants. We finally get it after it is too late, and we now end up giving away the farm to compete with the other states, especially in the example of Dell. Charlotte certainly isn't leading in that regard.

This city and state are even building the heck out of urban loops in an era when the whole country is realizing the mistake they are, and the need to focus on transit and connectivity. Yet most of Charlotte's population point to 485 as though it is the only thing the city is doing right!

I think most of Charlotte's population is content with the suburban status quo and sprawl. They don't want Charlotte to even LAG when it comes to urbanizing with TOD, rail transit, denser zoning, etc. They certainly do not want Charlotte to lead in the area of environmental regulations or quality urban design. They mock even the attempts at these as an unnecessary sacrifice by the people who choose that life, or as a dangerous change of this city to be more like the expensive urban places they fled from.

We have an extremely weak tree ordinance. We have an extremely weak connectivity policy. We have a weak historic preservation code. We have a weak billboard ordinance, and a strong urban sign ordinance. We do not bother to even talk about forward reaching zoning standards like form-based zoning, even though the city is doing the right thing in very specific places with TOD zoning, (despite the efforts of Dilworth to undermine it). Forget about progressive environmental ordinances or health ordinances.

We can't even get the city itself to do it on their own projects! Where are the green roofs, the LEED certification on city structures? Costs even had LEED certification dropped from the Arts projects, and they aren't even trying for it on the NHOF!

For God's sake, our local utility is building a massive coal plant at the time that the entire country is finally starting to recognize that industrial generation of CO2 is contributing to major climate change! Meanwhile, that company's real estate division is building forward reaching developments in other cities, while it virtually turns a cold shoulder to an up-and-coming neighborhood, the city's first modern rail transit line, and the city as a whole (C and possibly the U-City development).

What does Charlotte lead in? Air pollution, sprawl-supporting policies, vehicle-miles traveled, vanity-centric retail, and mediocrity.

I'm happy to support any shift toward urbanism, transit-friendliness, pedestrian-friendliness, environmental health, adaptive reuse and preservation, sustainability, and urban aesthetics. This city has been abysmal on these fronts heretofore. Any attempts to just start in those positive directions have my support. However, I will not even pretend that this city leads in these regards.

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I think there are some positives.

  • The County did vote in a mass transit tax. This is something that most cities don't have and wish they did. The lack of such funding is why cities much larger than Charlotte are not much ahead when it comes to carrying people on transit. While we have some years to go to build a rail based system, we are headed in the right direction with this one.

  • Charlotte was one of the first, at least in the south, to start a city wide recycling program. There are still cities that don't have this yet the one here in Charlotte is closing in on being 2 decades old.

  • CMS at one time was considered one of the most progressive school systems in the country. It never went through the decay that plagued many systems after school integration as it remained fully integrated without incident for almost 25 years. Unfortunately this is an asset we are in the process of losing and the city/county/towns really need to focus on what to do about it.

But this is a pretty short list. I think the policies that are presented as "pro-business" are at the same time causing a lot of bad issues for the city. City leaders are generally short sighted and many times go after "world class" without even understanding what that means which usually translates to accepting any growth no matter how bad. It should also be noted that Charlotte also suffers from being in Western NC and by design doesn't get the support from state government that it should get. I place some of the blame on this on the Mecklenburg delegation which votes based on party dogma instead of what is good for the area.

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It is also the nation^s largest city named Charlotte.

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  • CMS at one time was considered one of the most progressive school systems in the country. It never went through the decay that plagued many systems after school integration as it remained fully integrated without incident for almost 25 years. Unfortunately this is an asset we are in the process of losing and the city/county/towns really need to focus on what to do about it.

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Doesn't Charlotte lead the country in Suzuki auto sales?

Hooray?

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In general, I don't think there is any problem with a city being middle of the road, and a follower of trends. However, the city at some point will need to find its identity.

Just like now, the city is basically trying to follow both trends of growth, sprawling to the outer reaches and urbanizing around mass transit. It attempts to be both a low tax location and a city investing its future. We'll survive for a while yet trying to be all things to all people, but at some point, the city must find its identity. Considering most that are looking for low government, low density living are moving out of Mecklenburg county now, hopefully it will allow the city and county to focus less on being a 'governs least' kind of place.

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