Charlotte mayor circulates letter calling for city-county government merger
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CHARLOTTE - Mayor Anthony Foxx wants business and political leaders to get behind a study of a possible merger between city and county governments.
In a letter to more than two dozen business and political heavyweights, Foxx and former mayor Richard Vinroot say now is the time to study a merger between the city and Mecklenburg County.
“In this era of incredible growth, Charlotte-Mecklenburg must respond to the increased demand for local government services,” the pair writes. “Therefore, it is essential that we explore ways to create a more navigable, comprehensive and accountable local government.”
The letter asks business and political leaders, such as Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers and former Gov. Jim Hunt, to lobby county commissioners to support a study of consolidation.
"I think they could make better, more cohesive decisions because only one body's making them," Vinroot said in an interview.
Talk of a consolidated Charlotte-Mecklenburg government is nothing new. Vinroot supported the idea when he was mayor in the early 1990s.
"It made sense to me then, and does now that we would have one voice at the center of our metropolitan area," he said.
The talk about consolidation comes at the same time as some South Charlotte residents consider breaking away from the city, turning the Ballantyne area into its own community.
Jay Privette, who is one of the leaders of that effort, said he is “very, very concerned” about the mayors' letter.
"It really ties in with a lot of other moves the city of Charlotte has made in trying to spread its influence throughout the county," he said.
Consolidation can be a complicated process with a long list of things to consider – everything from trash service to political power.
"Each of those decisions can create opposition," said Frayda Bluestein, a professor of government at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Experts say consolidation has never worked in North Carolina because of that opposition. Plus, any decision requires legislative approval.
"The adjustment of boundaries – whether you call it de-annexation, consolidation or splintering off of certain areas – that has always been something they've had the authority to do,” Bluestein said.
Consolidating local governments also would require voters' approval in the form of a referendum.