|Photo of Third Street station courtesy Charlotte Area Transit System|
(See update at end, 6:30 p.m.)Ex-CATS chief Ron Tober sends along a link to a nice little video about the Lynx Blue Line and South End. It praises the way the light rail line brings neighborhoods together, helps people move about the city without cars and builds for the future.
The film (apparently made by Siemens, hence the talking heads from that company) quotes many Charlotte notables, including Charlotte Planning Director Debra Campbell, Duke Energy's North Carolina president Brett Carter, UNC Charlotte Dean of Arts + Architecture Ken Lambla, UNCC profs David Walters and Jose Gamez, Levine Museum historian Tom Hanchett ...
... and former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.
This is worth pointing out because McCrory, a seven-term mayor who is all but certainly running again for N.C. governor in 2012, has been a strong transit supporter. He has a national reputation for being a strong transit supporter. That much isn't really news for politics buffs. But here's a new wrinkle. His Republican Party in North Carolina now appears dominated by anti-transit conservatives.
During the recent General Assembly session, state legislators from Mecklenburg County made several stabs at outright killing any more state funding (and thus, any more federal funding) for Charlotte's light rail system, as well as trying to off the state's long-planned high-speed passenger rail between Charlotte and Raleigh. Last spring, McCrory said he had made calls to Republican legislative leaders about transit, but wouldn't say what he talked about.
This all leaves Mayor Pat with a dilemma. He can continue to tout his accomplishments as a moderate, pro-transit mayor, which will help him with independents and with any Democrats who have cooled on Gov. Bev Perdue. But that would definitely rile the people now in control of the state Republican Party, not to mention many legislators. Or he can play to his right and somehow distance himself from Charlotte's nationally praised light rail system, one of his most praiseworthy achievements.
I note that on this video, McCrory doesn't say anything that might be pulled out and used as a pro-transit film clip by enemies on the right, who kicked him around a lot when he was mayor, calling him a RINO (Republican in Name Only), or even a socialist, for supporting mass transit. On the film he says innocuous things, that cities should look to the future, and this "infrastructure" is a good investment.
(Update and rewrite, 6:25 p.m.) McCrory just phoned me back and was pointed in saying he supports mass transit "where it works." If the transportation experts and federal funding formulas say it would work in a certain place, McCrory said, then he's for it. He said he just asks, "What will the numbers look like?"
This is all consistent with his remarks as mayor. But, I asked him, a lot of N.C. Republicans oppose mass transit, so how will he handle that in his campaign? "I'll handle it exactly the same way I handled it as mayor," he said. Some Republicans won't like his answers, he said, and neither will some Democrats.
I've been wondering how McCrory, who is a deft politician, will handle this GOP-hates-transit dilemma. He's on the record now – at least with Naked City Blog – on mass transit. It will be in interesting political show to see how his campaign plays out on this particular issue.