Why district consolidation gained momentum in Charlotte
Lowe tries to explain why the issue of district consolidation gained momentum in Charlotte. Charlotte residents saw that other communities had consolidated, and they saw the inefficiency of overlapping county and city responsibilities. In the long run, however, the issue failed. Lowe thinks that it will emerge again, and recalls a conversation with a law enforcement officer to illustrate the confusion Charlotte suffers without consolidation.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Charles M. Lowe, March 20, 1975. Interview B-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
Was there any crisis, sort of, in government that sort of prompted the
push towards consolidation? I remember reading in the
Observer… The chamber had brought up the discussion
of consolidation somewhere '62 or '63 somewhere
program of work in there for that year. There were several comments in
the paper from the mayor and other people that "This
would be a nice…We want to work towards
this. This is a good idea. But it will probably be ten or fifteen or
twenty years before we actually get to it. Then, all of a sudden, sort
of, in '67, '68, '69, there was a much
increased interest. Then, there's the study commission and
the charter commission. What…Did the water and sewer
situation or anything along this line really prompt this?
I think there were a good many things. I think some other communities had
done it. I think this was part of it. I think the fact that
we'd put schools together was part of it. I think that we
were studying, putting together and did later put together, the police
departments. I think this was part of it. I think a few people who were
thinking and being active in government in various ways, whether as
elective candidates or on boards, saw that there's bound to
be a certain amount of buck-passing where you have two bodies who are
overlapping. I think they could see the difference in the planning,
whether it be water and sewer, whether it be schools, whether it be
police departments, or whether it be such things as even the dog pound.
We've got two different dog pounds in Charlotte and
Mecklenburg County, and it gets right jackassy sometimes. You
don't get this done until you do sit down and face it.
It's very easy, for instance, somebody calls me up and talks
to me from now until ten o'clock, and says, "Now,
what can you do about my zoning?" I say,
"I'm on the county commission. You're in
the city. I don't have anything to do with it."
Well, as far as I'm concerned, that's taken care
of it, but, as far as they're concerned, they've
wasted an hour and nothing's been accomplished. I think these
were probably the things that triggered it. I don't really
think it was wasted. Let me say that to you very strongly and very
quickly. I think this was something necessary. It's kind of
like you decide to have a good football team. Well, you hire a coach.
You begin to recruit players. You begin to get a better schedule. That
doesn't mean you have a winning season, but, in a few years,
then, you hope to turn it around and have a winning program. I think
this was something we had to go through. Maybe the
next time or may be the following time, then, we will be successful, but
this was just the first step on the ladder.
I see something here. You said you think it will be a while before they
try again. Not long after the consolidation defeat, annexing all this
territory out here. Is that almost, sort of, the same sort of thing. I
mean, annex a great deal. Push the functional consolidation. Is this all
sort of leading in the same direction?
Hopefully it will. Annexation is not the same thing as consolidation,
though, because annexation takes care of the people who
you've taken into the city, but it doesn't take
care of the people who are outside the city, and it still
doesn't do away with overlapping. For instance, I live in the
city of Charlotte. I'm accountable one to the city of
Charlette; two, I'm accountable to the Mecklenburg County
commissioners. Well, if we had consolidated government, there would be
one group. I would be taxed for services in regard to what services I
actually received, whether I lived in the city, whether I lived in the
perimeter, or whether I lived out in a rural area or one of the small
towns. The thing that was very difficult to get over, and
it's still difficult to get over to people in the perimeter,
to people in the rural areas and the small towns…They think
the city of Charlette is going to come out there and gobble them up.
They don't realize they would have exactly the same
relationship to consolidated government that they now have to the county
commission. This is a difficult point to get across to them. When I was
chairman of the county commissioners, the mayor of Davidson would call
me and say, "We don't have a very good police force.
We want you to do something more about police up here." I would
say, "Under consolidation, we can do more." And,
he'd say, "Oh, I don't want
consolidation. I just want you to give us some money so we can have a
better police force." We never really quite had a meeting of
the minds because his mind was closed. He was asking for something that
he didn't really understand what he was
asking for. If he had understood it, he would have been for it instead
of against it. It's like I went up, and I won't
call the gentleman's name, but I went up to Davidson one time
to speak on the United Appeal, and he said "We don't
want anything out of Charlotte." I listened to him for a while,
and I said, "Sir, when you get ready to raise money, where do
you come to?" And he said, "To Charlotte." I
said, "Sir, isn't it fair? Isn't it a
two-way street? Can't we come to you? And, we're
going to give you more than we're going to get from
you." And, he said, "On that basis, I'm
interested." I think that's really what
we've get to explain to these people. They're
going to get more than they give. When they understand that, then I
think they will be willing to accept it.