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Title: Oral History Interview with Isabella Cannon, June 27, 1989. Interview C-0062. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Cannon, Isabella, interviewee
Interview conducted by Nasstrom, Kathryn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 136 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-16, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Isabella Cannon, June 27, 1989. Interview C-0062. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0062)
Author: Kathryn Nasstrom
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Isabella Cannon, June 27, 1989. Interview C-0062. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0062)
Author: Isabella Cannon
Description: 169 Mb
Description: 45 p.
Note: Interview conducted on June 27, 1989, by Kathryn Nasstrom; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Kelly Bruce.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Isabella Cannon, June 27, 1989.
Interview C-0062. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Cannon, Isabella, interviewee


Interview Participants

    ISABELLA CANNON, interviewee
    KATHRYN NASSTROM, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
This is Kathryn Nasstrom interviewing Isabella Cannon for the Southern Oral History Program on June 27, 1989. On the phone, I mentioned to you my interest in women and politics in North Carolina, so the thing that first comes to mind is your time as mayor of Raleigh, but if we can, I'd like to look at the years before that and to talk about your political activities there. I know from a conversation I had with Vivian Irving that you were quite active in the civil rights movement in North Carolina.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Oh yes.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I'd like, now, to first talk about what sorts of activities and organizations you were involved with in terms of civil rights.
ISABELLA CANNON:
I was a very active member of the United Church of Christ, which was a leader in the civil rights movement. Do you have this? Is it all right?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I'm just adjusting the dials as we go along.
ISABELLA CANNON:
O.K. We were instrumental in bringing some of the real activists to Raleigh, including Martin Luther King. We had Norman Thomas, which was a shock to some people, Eleanor Roosevelt, and for several years, I was on the committee that helped to get speakers. I was also treasurer of that group, and we were leaders for the very first time in having dinners where black and white could sit down and eat together. We had a dinner every week, which created a great deal of concern among some areas in Raleigh. It also had a great deal of support, and the

Page 2
black community was very cooperative. We were an integral part of that great series the United Church had, which went on for some twenty-five years. It was a tremendous thing. The other thing that I was very active in was the marches. When we had marches downtown, particularly when we were trying to integrate the lunch rooms at Woolworth's, and I was a part of the marches and had absolutely no hesitation about being involved in that. And the marches were interesting in the fact that hand bags were examined, the men's shirt pockets were examined. If you had a fountain pen or a nail file, that was taken away from you because that could be considered a weapon. At that point, the Sir Walter Hotel was the gathering place for the legislators, and they stood out front, and there were some pretty bad comments about what we were doing. But it was an important thing that stands out very clearly in my mind as something very, very exciting. We had attendance at our church, and we had always great reaching out to the black community in this church, and, at one point, we had members who attended, with great detail, the black church of our denomination. We still have a great deal of cooperation between the two.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And what's the name of that black church?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Laodicea Church. We also had one member who went to the First Baptist Church. Now, there are two First Baptist Churches downtown, but she became a member for several years of the First Baptist Church which was primarily the black church. We've always cooperated with them. We have things that happen together. Our choirs work together; we have meetings together.

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At the moment, we have had, for the last several years, our choir director is black, and we have, I think, very little color consciousness in our group, and all of that stems from these years of cooperation with the civil rights movement. It was an important thing for us. It opened my eyes when I came to Raleigh from a small town, and that church opened my eyes to what could be done, not only in a civil rights movement, but in community activism. It was like a door opening. They were extremely important to me, not that they zeroed in on me, but the whole atmosphere was one in which your eyes were open, your ears were open, but you as a church and as a church member could become active in the community and could do things that were important in the community.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
What year was it that you arrived in Raleigh?
ISABELLA CANNON:
That was in the mid-thirties. It would have to be, oh, thirty-five probably, long about there.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Another interest of mine is in looking at the years before the 1960's in terms of civil rights, because I'm going to take it that the marches that you've been referring to and the integration activities were in the early 1960's.
ISABELLA CANNON:
That's right.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Do you recall any kinds of activities that you would consider to be related to civil rights before 1960, organizations that were talking about these issues that you were involved in, anything along those lines?
ISABELLA CANNON:
I seem to blur that in with the activities that the United Church did. I find that difficult to sort out. I think I

Page 4
would have to go back to some records and things to try to find out. I don't identify that separately. It merges together in my mind, that being the nursery for my activism, not only in the civil rights movement, but in other movements. Vivian Irving, whom you mentioned, I have a very special relationship with some of the women in the black community that is a very warm, wonderful, always an amazing thing to me. This is particularly the older women, but it's not necessarily confined to there. I can go into our grocery store, and some of the older black women will come up, and I don't know them, but they know me, and they give me a very warm hug. I went recently to the Wake County Health Department; I was getting some shots, getting ready to go to China and went to the window and was sent to another window and then looked up, and the women, these young women at the other window, were obviously talking about me and pointing to me and smiling, and there was a warmth there that spread that I wasn't aware that some of the younger women had. I have no idea what the background of that is. I have visited the black churches frequently. I've not been in the last year to any of them, and I have been in many of the homes, Vivian Irving's home I have been to. There has been in my life, I think, very little color awareness, partly because I did live in Liberia for a number of years, and frequently, I would be the only white person in a gathering of blacks—both American blacks and African blacks. So maybe that is a factor in it. I grew up, though, in Scotland, in an area where there were no blacks, I think there was nobody, but that doesn't necessarily mean you grow up without prejudice

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because I know one member of my family is extremely prejudiced. But apparently, I have been able to grow up and accept people without seeing racial colors. If there's some of that in me, I'm not aware of it. It may, indeed, be there, but I'm not really aware of it.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It seems, from what you've said so far, then that, in some ways, the inspiration for your interest in working for civil rights came from your church, and then some of these formative experiences in you earlier years travelling and that sort of thing.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Yes, that's right.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Do you trace any other, maybe the words is roots or wellsprings, for this kind of interest in civil rights?
ISABELLA CANNON:
I don't think so. I don't believe that I do. Maybe it would take some thinking to dig that out. I've lived such a long time, some of these things I forget. [Laughter]
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I would say just from my talking with other people, over and over, these churches that you've mentioned, that Vivian Irving mentioned, those certainly did seem to be a focal point for many people.
ISABELLA CANNON:
I think that they were. I think they were the leaders, and the United Church and, for instance, there were five of us who came together to form the RICH community, Raleigh's Integrated Housing. I don't remember what the "C" is for, but it was Church Housing, yes. We started this at Method with day care and with integrated housing, and we did a lot to support that financially when the church really didn't have financial

Page 6
stability, no financial resources, but individuals put their finances on the line. So I think the church has always been the nursery for this concern.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
If you would, I'd like you to speak a little bit about the people in the black community that you were involved with and that interaction and that relationship. Certainly Vivian Irving would be one, but if there are other people that, from the vantage point now, you look back on this period and recollect them as being important to you and the movement.
ISABELLA CANNON:
That gets difficult for me to bring, I'd need something to trigger my thinking on who some of them were. I'm not sure that I can help on this, couldn't say much about that. I've always been involved with the people at St. Augustine's and, to an extent, at Shaw University. I've been out and in the end there, and Dr. Robinson at St. Augustine's, but he comes later in my thinking there. Certainly Vivian's family was important to me, her mother, her father, her sister, all of them have been very important to me, but I'm not sure I can bring out some other names. I'm sorry.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
That's fine. The other thing, then, that I'm interested in too is the evolution of the civil rights movement over time. The activities that we've spoken of so far, I think, took place mostly in the early 1960's to maybe mid 1960's. How do you trace, in terms of your own involvement and your own activities, the civil rights movement into the late 60's and early 1970's?

Page 7
ISABELLA CANNON:
I'm not quite sure which area you're taking me. I'm not sure.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Yes, I'll try to put it another way. In my looking into how the civil rights movement evolved in different communities in North Carolina, in some cases, the issues changed as we went into the late 60's and early 1970's. Some things became less important and other things became more important. Different leaders might have emerged. Different organizations might have become more important in the later period of the movement. Do you have a recollection of that or, in your mind, does it all hang together in one aspect.
ISABELLA CANNON:
I'm going to need some help on going back into things to help trigger the thinking. I think if I got just a clue to trigger, I could come up with some of these things. One of the things that I do know that is important, but I can't put a date on it, was when Al Adams—he was very active in the Democratic Party and set up something extremely important, registration for voting in every library in Raleigh. Prior to that time, people had to go to a lot of trouble to get registered to vote, and this was a deterrent, particularly to the black community. It was a deterrent to anybody to have to hunt up a registrar, have to go at certain times. You could go at any time, every area had a registrar, and you could go there, but every library in Wake County—he was Wake County Chair of the Democratic Party—every library had somebody trained and the papers there to register. Well, this was an important thing in spreading the voting, taking it away from being so heavily white to bringing it into

Page 8
availability in the black community, and that, I think, was a really important step.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I think that does take us into the later period, sometime past '65.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Yes, I think so. I'm not doing well on going back into that period. I have to get something to trigger my thinking better. I'm sorry!
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
No, that's O.K. because this is your recollection of that time.
ISABELLA CANNON:
I think if I got the right trigger, I could come up with more things. I just have got to get the orientation, the trigger that would bring those, and I haven't hit on it yet.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
One thing I will ask you about, because other people I have interviewed have spoken about the school integration aspect, which would then have really been in the late 60's and early 70's, later than the sort of voter registration drives you've just described. Do you have a recollection of how your neighborhood or Raleigh in general responded to the court orders for desegregation.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Of course, there was a lot of opposition to it, but it always made sense to me, and I was not really involved with that. I'm more involved with the schools now than I had been, but I was not particularly involved with the schools, and of course, the problems became so difficult when the need for busing arose, and the opposition arose to busing, but busing was the only way that integration could be resolved. I live close to Oberlin, which was a wonderful black community that is disappearing, and one

Page 9
that I would like to see saved from total disappearance. But here on Oberlin Road where black churches and black schools and the children would go by in the buses past white schools and go much farther to go to the black schools, and I thought this was dreadful. I thought this was a very, very bad thing. There are good things about neighborhood schools. People can walk to school and don't have to depend on buses, but with our wide spread—I think this may be particularly apropos in the South—we are so spread out that your communities, you've almost got to have busing to bring in a mix. I suppose this is true in large cities, too, because people tend to, not necessarily be in ghettos, but they're in neighborhoods of like, either cultural backgrounds or it can be the nationalities or it could be the black neighborhoods. So I suppose busing is the only thing that could be done to resolve the problem, but it became and still is a problem for the schools. I see it, though, as disappearing. I'm out in the schools to a degree now, and I don't see, and this may be surface, because I'm not there all day, but I don't see the… I see an acceptance. I see black young women becoming the leaders and being elected President. Well, I don't think that could have happened ten years ago or fifteen years ago, and so while there are many steps yet to be taken, there is a movement forward into integration and acceptance of other people. There will always be cultural differences because you grow up in your own family and your own family background and your own cultural background, and this is something to be cherished. It should not be lost, but when people try to

Page 10
eliminate those cultural differences and the richness of the heritage, then I am disturbed. I want people to be able to live together, to be able to work together, to accept each other, without holding against them any differences. Acceptance of the differences is the important thing, and I think we're making some progress.
I'm not good at going back to where you're asking those early things. Somehow I need the trigger to get my thinking back on that. I could probably do it another time if I give some thought to it.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Well, if need be, we'll come back and do it at that point.
ISABELLA CANNON:
I had not thought about that sort of thing that I've got to dig it out of the layers of memory.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
That's fine. No problem. We can come back to it if we feel the need to.
Still, then, on this period before your decision to run for mayor, there's the civil rights movement, but I'm wondering if there are other activities or organizations that you were involved in that you would describe as being politically oriented during this period?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Again, I'd have to go back to the United Church. They opened up to me the importance of being a citizen and an involved citizen, and I began to get involved in the political things, particularly in the Democratic Party to attend precinct meetings, and in the early 70's, the revenue sharing mandated that the cities had to set up these neighborhood organizations, which in Raleigh we called Citizen's Advisory Councils, known as CAC's. This was a very good thing for me to become involved in. I had

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retired from N.C. State University in 1970, this was the early 70's. I was looking for things to be involved in. I was involved in many of the activities of the Democratic Party, so I began to get more deeply involved both in the precinct activities, but particularly in the CAC activities. The CAC activities were very direct, very straight forward citizen involvement: going down to City Hall saying these are things that we should be doing, these are things we should not be doing. So I began to get very deeply involved in the CAC's. We met monthly, and I became Vice Chair and became Chair of the CAC and was able to go down, I remember the first time I went down to City Hall. I was terrified at seeing these people sitting up there like a group of judges with all sorts of power, but I got over that and realized, again, they were people just like I, but the first time is very frightening. The thing that I remembered always while I was Mayor and would try to tell people, "Remember, we're your neighbors. We're just people like you." But it is terrifying if you're not a public speaker. I have been involved in public speaking all my life, so I was able to go down to City Hall as a vocal and sometimes vociferous advocate of things that citizens wanted and things that citizens could do. That became a very important part of my life.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It certainly seems that way in the sense that what I've picked up reading articles about you, and that sort of thing, is that those kinds of activities were your spring board into your running for Mayor.

Page 12
ISABELLA CANNON:
That's right, and they still are terribly important to me. Our CAC in this area is not, at the moment, very active, but I have been instrumental in forming and being very active in some other neighborhood organizations. I organized in the neighborhood here—I wasn't the only one, there were several of us—organized the University Park Homeowners Association because we have a very vulnerable area close to N.C. State University, and we're feeling the tremendous impact from the growth of N.C. State University and the effect it was having on our lives. Later, when the new Chancellor came, I was able to talk to some of the people on the, some of the Deans and the faculty at N.C. State and to help get established to bring before the new Chancellor the need for a liaison committee between the neighborhood and the University, which is somewhat less active than it was, but has also had an impact on Hillsborough Street. Our University Park Homeowners Association has been extremely active, and we will, indeed, this fall, once more, have a candidate's forum, which is usually the most highly-attended, the best-attended forum, of any of the political activities in the city. So these were avenues besides the CAC and, of course, I am also, was two years ago, Chairman [unknown] Chair again of the CAC, and I am precinct Chair for this area and have been for the last several years and that puts me on the Wake County Executive Committee and sends me to meetings and district meetings and so on like that, so those political activities do tend to ripple out.

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KATHRYN NASSTROM:
What were some key issues for the CAC that you were involved in before you ran for Mayor? What things stand out in your mind from this vantage point as having been key issues?
ISABELLA CANNON:
These things tend to blur. It's very difficult for me to put a date on some of them, particularly zoning issues. The efforts here in the neighborhood, again, with the impact of N. C. State's growth and the fact that N. C. State did not provide housing, nor eating places, nor parking, and the fact that people were buying beautiful old homes they had paid maybe five thousand dollars for, and somebody came along and offered them fifty, and they're elderly and [they said], "Oh my!" you know, and turning them into undesirable residences. Hillsborough Street began to change from being a beautiful street with trees and a median and lovely homes into a rather shabby street with fast food places, and our constant efforts to try to keep it from deteriorating to that extent. Now, we're trying to bring it back, and there has been some progress, but it's still a continuing problem, but to identify it, I don't know how to put dates on these things. I don't know how to do it prior to being Mayor. I think I would have to go to some of my records to identify that.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It might also be that they spread out over this whole period, and I may be asking you to make delineations that just might not be there.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Yes, they're not easy for me to make. I think I could do that by going to my files. I think that by looking at my files, I could identify them in time periods, but so many of the issues tend to repeat: the zoning issues. We had a meeting last

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night, and we discussed a forum that had just been held on, which was incorrectly named a forum on the homeless. It was actually the merchants bothered about vagrants on Hillsborough Street and where do they sleep, where do they eat? People get, particularly students, giving them money, and this week they will have another forum on parking. Parking becomes a problem, and we've had some very bitter battles recently on parking, which we have lost. The University is building a 1200 parking deck. One of our most active developers is building a hotel and parking spaces, and last night, again, another parking space, and so parking becomes one of the problems here. But to identify in 1989 or '87 or '67 or '70, I'd have to go to records to look at that.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Well, it's important too that, because those records exist in your files at the Southern Historical Collection, so then what's interesting now is, in your recollection, it's a continuum of interests and activities.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Yes, it is a continuum.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I would like though, and I gather from what we were talking about before, that if we move now into talking about your time as Mayor, there are key issues that you recall in those years as being important to your activities.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Oh yes.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So would you take a moment to outline what those are and describe them?
ISABELLA CANNON:
I ran on a platform I'm very proud of. We were trying to, and I guess this ties in with some of your earlier questions, you see, I need the trigger to bring me to the earlier thinking.

Page 15
We were so upset, we in the neighborhood, and neighborhood-oriented people, not just this neighborhood but all over Raleigh, about the explosive growth of Raleigh, which was not controlled. Any developer, anybody wanting to make money, anybody wanting to re-zone, could go down to City Hall, and the City Code was not being helpful. It was out-of-date. It was not being helpful in controlling the growth of Raleigh, not stopping the growth. I was sometimes tagged with saying I wanted to stop the growth. I never took that position. I wanted to guide and control the growth, and the former Mayor, whom I ran against, was a developer and very opposed to anything that would control the growth of Raleigh; however, the Council had established a long range comprehensive plan committee. The Chair of that committee is a neighbor of mine, an architect, Jim Quinn, who for reasons, financial reasons and business reasons, decided he had to resign from the Council. The Council took so much time, and he was an independent architect, needed the time for his business. He was Chair of that long range comprehensive plan committee, so he resigned, so the Mayor took the opportunity of just not doing anything more with that long range comprehensive plan. Well, to me, it was a burning issue, and one of the things on my platform, one of the important things on my platform, was that if I were elected Mayor, I would develop this long range comprehensive plan which was to guide the growth of Raleigh for the next twenty years. I'm very proud of the fact that when I was elected Mayor, I then established a committee to work on that long range comprehensive plan, and for one year, 1978, we met every two

Page 16
weeks, worked on that. On that committee were four from the Raleigh CAC. Let me explain. There were eighteen Citizen Advisory Councils, and then an umbrella organization called the Raleigh Citizen's Advisory Council, so we had four very intelligent, very knowledgeable people from the Raleigh Citizen's Advisory Council. We had four from the developers' organization, which still has never gotten the identity—it's PROD—Progress Toward Raleigh's Orderly Development, I saw it misnamed in this morning's paper—but PROD had four very activist developers totally opposed to anything that was going to be done. We had the city staff, we had three from the city staff, and then we had a City Council committee, on which I placed myself, but placed Smedes York as being one of the more knowledgeable developers and an active member of the City Council, knowing the business community, and made him Chair of the committee.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I'm sorry. What was his name?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Smedes York, who then succeeded me as Mayor, is still very active in the community, a very wealthy family, big developers, an old Raleigh family. So he had the background, the knowledge, young, active, and on the City Council, and also an active developer. We met for a year. It was like lightning bolts between the two gropus. Oh, the difficulty of the meetings was incredible. We did come through with a plan, which is still quoted as if it were the Bible—Raleigh's long range comprehensive plan. It was rough; it was general. We could not bring it down to details or we would have gotten no document whatever. When I gave it to the City Council, that was in early

Page 17
'79, I said, "The implementation of this depends on the decisions that you, the City Council members, make," and quite frequently they have set aside the guidelines. They now have been, for the last several years, in the process of refining the long range comprehensive plan. It was very general, so it has been refined in various districts. For instance, this district I'm in is the University district. We spent many, many hours, many meetings trying to refine it for this area, and one or two things came out of it, out of our district that have been important in Raleigh. One called for the policy boundary line. It's particularly easy to identify on Hillsborough Street because we made a boundary line in back of the shops so commercial development could not go into the residential area. That policy boundary line is a specific part of the new lower intensive comprehensive plan. There is a very active committee meeting now. They're meeting this morning on the comprehensive plan, and they are doing a tremendous overhaul of the plan, but it has been one of the important things that has happened in Raleigh, and I'm very proud of the part that I had in that. There are some other things, oh, would you like to ask more about that?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
You mentioned that through all the political wrangling about it, what came out…
ISABELLA CANNON:
It was immense.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
… During your term as Mayor was a general plan and yet it's still in some ways being used now.
ISABELLA CANNON:
My favorite quote about it is [that], "It's quoted like the Bible, and then people do like they do with the Bible. They

Page 18
do what they want to." [Laughter] That's not totally true, that's a flip remark.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Are you pleased or disappointed with how it's evolved over time because, I would say then, it's been ten years since you all produced it? [Clock chimes in background] We'll let the clock go out.
ISABELLA CANNON:
It's the clock that my father gave to my mother for their New Year's gift in 1902.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It's beautiful. I should say now, with ten years of it being in place and people using it, are you satisfied with it?
ISABELLA CANNON:
No.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
What are your disappointments?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Well, I have seen violations of it. They establish one thing and then—for instance, shopping centers were supposed to be a minimum of a mile apart. The Council tends to find reasons not to do that. There are too many shopping centers. We have gone out very far, and we've had a lot of input by developers on the Council that they can go out and buy land. No one on the Council put it that a possible extension of the important thing—sewer and water. You can't build a shopping center, a hotel without having that. They've gone out, and they've spread out too far. The Councils have let them spread out. We are too scattered all over the map, and when people talk about mass transportation, this is one of the problems of it. So, there have been some things that have deeply disappointed me. There have been some things that have been good. The zoning does not just breeze through the Council. They have set up a plan.

Page 19
There's a Planning Commission in the City Council albeit appointed through large political influence, but all of these with the power to say, "Yes, this zoning should go through. This should not go through." Not one of them are accountable to the public. They're accountable only very indirectly; this gets lost to the Council member that really plugged, wanting them in there. So it gets heavily loaded with developers, and I don't mean that all developers are bad or all neighborhood people are good. Both of them have their faults, but the plan has been too loosely interpreted at too many times, and we have, I think, too many shopping centers and too many violations of neighborhoods. At the same time, everybody who gets elected to the City Council always says that they're going to be a neighborhood representative, and then we get things that are in dreadful violation of neighborhood. This particular comprehensive plan committee, headed up by Norma Burns, who's an intelligent, perceptive architect, and who is not going to run again—she will be a real loss to the Council—they are doing some very good things in trying to set up neighborhood conservation areas. We're trying to get one in this area, but again, the little technical differences. They said it had to be a minimum of fifteen acres. We have a wonderful area that's thirteen acres. "Oh no! You can't do that." Why not? I mean, who set it up arbitrarily, but this comprehensive planning committee that is now working is doing a wonderful job. It's too detailed; there are too many meetings, and citizens don't go. They get worn out, unless you're willing, this morning, to be down there at eight

Page 20
thirty and to stay all day and to repeatedly go, over and over. It's too difficult for citizens to keep up with the things, so I have some pluses, but a lot of minuses on that.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
In hindsight, what's that phrase, "When you have twenty-twenty hindsight," after the fact, you know what you would have done differently.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Yes.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Do you think, in setting up the original plan in '78-79, you could have done something different, or do you feel that was the best you could have done?
ISABELLA CANNON:
No, that was the only thing we could do. If you could just visualize the immensity of the anger between the two groups, to get anything produced and to be able to get a document is important. I'm very, very pleased with what we did. It wasn't perfect, but it was a good beginning.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So it's been more the implementation that has been what concerns you?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Oh yes. As I said to the Council, as I said a few days ago, "The implementation of this depends on the decisions that you, the City Council members, make." And sometimes their decisions have been too much influenced by money growth. I'm upset, now here's one great thing that was recently done, a study of the Umstead Park area. Protection of that, I thought, was going to be good. This week, this City Council, saying they're neighborhood-oriented, is going to permit sixty percent of the area adjacent to it be built up and run over, and our environmentalists are just shocked. This is a gem; we need to

Page 21
preserve it. There's another gem we have lost. That was the Methodist orphanage property, high above the city, beautiful. It could have been an equivalent of Central Park. No, it was sold off. There's housing, some of it, I think, very tacky housing. They high-priced it, but tacky, and this could have been one of the gems of the city of Raleigh, and we have lots of Parks money, but we didn't do that. So there are pluses and minuses. I'm upset at the plans of N.C. State University for the Centennial Campus, and the fact that they got that gorgeous property over there. Again, if we let the Methodist property go, here is a gem here that could have been utilized. It's O.K. that they're doing extensive, I hope good planning, for the centennial campus, but it's going to be a whole city there, with the difficulty of coming through our neighborhood as an exit for the traffic. We're trying to get them to put it through Western Boulevard. One of the things last night at our meeting was the danger that's going to be to another street to bring more of that traffic into Hillsborough Street, which cannot take it. So there are flaws. There are good things. There are flaws in many of them. But I suppose, I don't know how you can do it better. What citizens don't realize, and this will be increasingly true this fall, as it is every two years, if we get thirty percent voting for the election of City Council members, we're doing well. Every citizen can say, "I like this. I don't like it." People are always telling me I don't like this. I said, "Have you called your City Council member?" "Well." I say, "Wait a minute. I'll give you the number." But, there is a hesitance for some reason

Page 22
about bothering them, but that's what they're elected for, to be bothered. They're not elected to be comfortable, comfortably forgotten. The demands on the City Council members are too much, however. It's almost about a thirty hour a week job, and this is one reason we're losing Norma Burns, who has her own architectural firm, a distinguished architect, winning many prizes, but she's torn between that and her job and her family.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Too many things to try to manage all at once.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Well, there isn't that much time, and the demands of citizens are great, rightly so, but it is difficult for somebody to be a business person having a job and be a City Council member and give any time to family. I was able to give so much time because I have no family. I could be down at City Hall in the morning at eight o'clock and stay until midnight. It was all right.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Which I know you did. [Laughter]
ISABELLA CANNON:
That's right. And the police would be so wonderful to me. They said, "Do you want somebody to meet you at your house and see you get in safely?" And I'd say yes, and they were wonderful to me. There were also some other accomplishments, but go ahead. You may want to ask more about this.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Actually, I do, but I'm going to check our tape here.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 23
ISABELLA CANNON:
Among the things that I am very pleased to have been influential in was bringing our city charter in compliance with the state of North Carolina. Those who are technicians, those who study municipalities, know that this was probably the most important thing that I did. There was opposition in the previous Council by one person, by the Mayor. The Council went to the legislative delegation, though, of course, the Legislature is the one that has to say "yes" or "no" that the city's charter is in compliance, and when they went to the delegation, to the Wake County delegation, the Mayor objected. The other Council members were all for it. We spent a lot of money. We spent about $25,000 on legal fees, getting all the kinks worked out, and the proper documents prepared. So, of course, the Legislature turned it down unless it was totally unanimous, and particularly with the Mayor objecting. So this was one thing that I did. The groundwork had been done. I can really claim very little credit except the thinking that we needed to do it and saying, "O.K. [unknown], we have got to do it," and taking it to the Legislature. Some of the people who know municipal government said, "Nothing else you do will ever be as important as that, but it means nothing to the average citizen."
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And I'll show my ignorance as an average citizen. Why is it an important decision?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Well, nothing that you're doing is legal. You don't have a driver's license, if you don't register your property, you see. All of the things that relate to the state and the

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cooperation between the state and the city. We are a part of the state of North Carolina. We're more than a part; we're the capital, and we needed to be in compliance with the regulations of the state of North Carolina.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
How long had Raleigh been out of compliance?
ISABELLA CANNON:
I really don't know how long we'd been out of compliance. It became a factor in my awareness when I was going down to City Hall so much, and then when it was turned down, I was really outraged. Another thing I started, and that we consistently keep complaining about, is that the City Code is not kept up-to-date. One of the things I said to the City Manager, who sets up the agenda for the Council meetings is that we need, especially our workshop meetings, that we needed to—it's not just the public meetings that the Council has, but they have workshop meetings—that we needed to get on with this revision of the City Code. The City Code actually changes every time the Council meets. Every time there's a new ordinance, there's a change, but there were a great many things that were out of actual usage, and it's so boring, it's so detailed, and the Council started, and it would be like a group working on bylaws. They'd pick at every word, and the time went by, and we got maybe one or two things, and there were big thick notebooks full of these things. So, for a while, the City Manager would put it on the last item, when everybody was tired, and I said "Uh uh. You're putting this on the first item when we are fresh, and we will work on it." Well, they worked too long on it. They got fed up with it, so finally [we] just did sort of a sweeping

Page 25
revision, let some committee work on it and let the City Manager work on it, but this was a serious attempt. There has not been a really serious attempt on the City Code, but the City Code constantly changes, and it affects the daily lives. It does everything from the taxes you pay, where you live, the zoning, how fast you drive, parking meters, anything is affected by it. That was an important thing; however, there are several other things. Is it all right if I take a little detail on this?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Please do.
ISABELLA CANNON:
O.K. One of my big problems was CETA, and I'm not sure that I want to go into too much detail on that. You have immense records on CETA, but CETA was one of the most controversial things and caused me more problems than anything, and it, too, is forgotten now by citizens. You say, "CETA" and they have no idea what you're talking of. It was the Comprehensive Employment Training Act, and the man who was in charge of it simply never brought any of the stuff to the City Council. Yet I, as Mayor, was signing millions and millions and millions of dollars worth of contracts and felt responsibility. I did not know enough about it. It was very complex. The CETA regulations changed almost weekly between Washington and Atlanta, so I finally had a real confrontation with the City Manager and with the Head of CETA, that every contract had to be brought before the City Council and approved by them because they involved city responsibility, city money, and this was done with a real battle. I'm not sure that I need to go into that. It was pretty bad, and there were a lot of personal things that happened to me that were

Page 26
not very good. I had, should I talk a little bit about some of the personal problems I had, or is that not?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I think so. I'd encourage you to because I think of your note that I saw in one of the files to the effect that a lot of the clippings didn't really get at the nuances of the situation, and I think it would be good to document some of those.
ISABELLA CANNON:
I would probably need to look at some of those to refresh my memory on them, but I was not part of the "good old boy" network. The Council members as a whole knew each other, and we'd get to a Council meeting, and they'd go off for lunch or they'd go off to a meeting, and I would be alone. There was one other woman on the Council, a very wonderful woman, Miriam Block, who continued on the Council for many years and has been a very, very fine friend of mine. Frequently, Miriam—she was also a neighborhood-oriented type person—frequently Miriam would support me in the voting. Often the vote was six to two. The Mayor must vote, incidentally. Everybody must vote, unless they're excused for some reason. If somebody had property that was involved in a decision, they could ask to be excused, but if they were going to be away from the City, could not be present, they could ask to be excused. Otherwise, their vote was registered as a "yes" vote, and so, their vote was counted, unless they were excused. So, frequently, the votes would go, particularly on zoning cases and neighborhood things, would go, frequently, six to two, but often seven to one. Sometimes Miriam did not go along with my thinking. She was an immense support to

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me in many, many ways. Some of the small things that were daily irritations, I was not part of the Council's background structure. I suffered from lack of knowledge. I had to do an immense amount of studying. I did studying here, Sunday mornings. I'd sometimes have four to six hundred pages of stuff that I was studying. It would have been easier for me as Mayor if I had been on the Council because I had so much to learn, but the Council, the administrative structure of the city was pretty upset at having a woman who was not part of that "good old boy" network. One of the most visible evidences of that would be that news releases would be given to the newspapers, and I would not get them. Some of the reporters were very, very fond of me, very cooperative. They tell me now it used to be fun to go down to City Council when I was Mayor and that it wasn't as much fun after that because I had good rapport with many of the reporters. That doesn't mean they were easier on me, but we just could talk to each other. A reporter would come into my office. "Mayor Cannon, I'd like your comment on this recent release." "What release? I haven't seen it?" "Well, I've just gotten it from one office or another," normally the City Manager's office. So I'd call or I'd ask, and I'd go along sometimes so angry I'd go barrelling down the hall, and say, "Why have I not seen this release?" "Oh, you didn't get it? Oh, there's a mistake. It's on its way to you." Well, it happened too often for that to be. One funny, silly little thing about being Mayor: it was never intended by the city that a small female should be Mayor. The Mayor's chair was a huge chair for a six foot male or six feet

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four male, and the City Council table behind which we sat was fairly high, so the Mayor's chair could be rolled up so that I could be seen. At that point, if I were sitting there for a meeting that maybe went on four to six hours, I was sitting with my feet dangling, which was totally uncomfortable. If they rolled me down, you couldn't see me, and I had to be seen to preside, and I pretty much was a stickler for Robers Rules of Order. In fact, I got someone to scrutinize what I was doing, the head of the national organization on that. I had him come in and make sure I was handling the technicalities of the meeting correctly. I had to be seen, so if you rolled me down, I couldn't be seen. If you rolled me up, my feet were dangling. So finally, we had gotten a stool. I was still sitting perched on the edge of the chair so that finally I had to get a big old cushion in the back of me, just a silly little thing.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
But from how you tell it, very symbolic.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Yes, it was totally that you never expected a small, five foot female, or male for that matter, to be the Mayor. Among the things I did, and you're particularly interested in some of the things that relate to women, were the first female fire fighters. I had a real battle with the administration on that. We were taking in people as beginning fire fighters, and there was no intermediate step for them between that and becoming a driver. When a position as a driver, and very few of those, when a position as a driver became vacant, you'd have maybe forty, fifty, sixty people and only one could be chosen. There was urgent, and we'd lose a lot of those that we had spent money

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training, so there was real need for an intermediate step—Fire Fighter, One, and so, I started a battle for that. There had to be some way to utilize these people that they could go as an intermediate step and still be retaining, still get the benefit of the training we had spent money on. Well, the administration insisted that these people have emergency medical training. I said, "Do the captains have emergency medical training? Do the drivers have emergency medical training?" "No, just that group." I said, "You cannot put it just for that one group. If they're going to have it, every group must have it." So we now have all the fire fighters in emergency medical training. We now have the first responder thing. If I call in with a heart attack, whoever is closest, the fire fighters or the ambulance, comes. So, you can have a heart attack, and the fire engine is coming, if they were highly trained. This was an important step forward, and it retained many people that we would have lost who kept on working. Now, at this point, I saw the need to get women involved in fire fighting, and I ran into tremendous opposition on that. The fire fighters who go on twenty-four hours, spend twenty-four hours in the fire station, which means there was a dormitory room and all were sleeping in there. Here became a problem with women sleeping in there. Some of the greatest opposition I had was from the wives of fire fighters. "I don't want my husband sleeping in there with a bunch of women!" So, I said, "O.K. What we'll do, we'll put little cubicles along there with a curtain on them, and the women can sleep in there." Then, the fire fighters said, "Well, if women can have it, why can't we?"

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But their diction primarily was "Women are too slight in stature. They cannot handle a limp body, getting somebody out of a six story window." I said, "Have you never heard of judo and karate? Of course we can do it." So we got women fire fighters. They are, I think, primarily used in office positions, but made the point that we can use women in that. We were beginning to use women in the police force, and I was extremely supportive of that, and some of the women have served purposes that men could never serve, being decoys when you have people that are prostitutes and pimps and so on like that. And some of them have some dreadful experience, some hairy experiences, but women, we have women detectives, we have women officers in the police force. But I gave them a lot of support on that. One other thing.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Well, actually, I found this interesting, the affirmative action in city government programs, and am I right in concluding from what you've said that if you hadn't been there pushing for these things, then the status quo would have remained the same?
ISABELLA CANNON:
There would have been some [change]. I added some impetus. Immediately after I went in, I went into office in December, and in January, affirmative action came back at us. We were out of compliance. If we didn't get in compliance, it was going to cost us some fourteen million dollars. Immediately, we set up mechanisms, albeit with a lot of opposition to it, but here was this money. We had to get in compliance. We were just dreadfully out of compliance with the affirmative action, and the

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revenue sharing depended on the affirmative action, so that was one of the most difficult things and one of the things I had not really had the background. I had to do an awful lot of work on that and had to rely on the very competent people. I have said some critical things of the City Manager, but the City Manager was a professional and was able to pull some of that together in a tremendously good way. We were given quite a long time, and we did get in compliance. We still do not have in our city government good affirmative action. We have only one department that has a woman head [of the department]. We have now one Assistant City Manager, but we have very few, we don't have enough women as heads of departments. This happens to be true, of course, through places like N.C. State University, and you get what I call the "A Train," the "Assistant," the "Acting," the "Associate." So we are still not giving full credit to the abilities of women. There are many women now in city government, some of them in good positions, some of them like inspectors and so on, but still the bulk of the work and the administrative positions are held by men. So I gave some impetus to it. I cannot take the full credit for it. I happened to think up the things, particularly the things about the fire fighters. I had to give added help to the police officers.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Does it take someone in the position, say, of the Mayor or the City Manager to very actively be going after affirmative action, otherwise it gets stuck in this middle ground?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Yes. It has to be more the Mayor than the City Manager. The City Council employs three people: the Clerk, who

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is a woman and a fantastic person, the City Attorney, and the City Manager. Those are the only three people that the City Council employs or can hire or fire. The City Council sets policy. The City Manager, of course, implements the policy. These creative things, primarily, have to come from the Mayor or from the Council members. It can come as a consensus from the Council, but Mayor, being in the visible position, it usually has to come there. But implementation and the details, of course, are handled by the professionals. We have some fine professionals in the City Manager's office. We have now a City Manager and three Assistants, one of those being a woman, one being black. You've got that sort of representation.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Is it possible to answer this question, very general, of what would it take to get women, and then you were mentioning blacks too, past the "A Train" into these very top level positions? Is that too general a question or do you have a sense of what it would take to accomplish this?
ISABELLA CANNON:
No, I think it's a question that most of us wrestle with in many areas. For instance, N. C. State, the federal government came down on N. C. State. They looked at the salary levels and saw that the levels are incredibly poor. The differentiation between women and men, not at only N.C. State, at Chapel Hill. It's even worse at Chapel Hill. The number of women who are heads of departments, we can go farther to our University system. There is not a woman head. There has been a woman at the one that you'd associate women more with, the one at Winston Salem, but there has been only one woman head at

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Charlotte, and she didn't last very long there as head. Our community college system, I don't know the numbers on that, if there are any women. For a while, there were no women. Now, I have talked to Bob Scott who is the former Governor, and he pointed out to me that this has to come from the local community. I know that Neil McLeod was head of the community college down at Martin College, but she was too liberal for the area, so the local community has a great deal to do on that. To go back to your question, perhaps more aggressiveness on the part of women, though if they're too aggressive then they're "pushy women" quote unquote. Women are coming along in the pipeline, coming up the pipeline towards the head positions. They're not getting all the support they should get on it. It's too slow. I don't know of any women bank presidents in North Carolina. There may be. There's a heck of a lot of assistant vice presidents at [unknown] places. Perhaps that's the pipeline. Perhaps lack of trust, perhaps women haven't been in the business world long enough to establish the trust that needs to be established to give women confidence to be president of a bank, president of Wachovia, First Union, or NCNB. I don't see that happening any time soon. I get the Board of Directors annual reports. There are very few women. Occasionally, Juanita Kreps gets in, but it's the exception. I don't know. I look at the fact that I am the only woman Mayor of Raleigh in almost 200 years of history. Unless a woman declares this year, I will go onto the 200 as being the only woman who has ever offered herself. You see, it's not just that the citizenry can elect a woman—a woman has to offer

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herself. It never occurred to me as anything historic when I did it. I was just a furious, angry citizen, and I wanted to see something done. I was not running as a female or as an older citizen. I was just running as somebody mad about what was happening, and I felt like I could do something about it. So the identification as a woman or an older citizen was not there in my thinking at that time. In fact, nobody knew how old I was, not because I was ashamed of it, but because I never thought of it, and when it came out that I was seventy-three, it was a total shock to people. "I didn't know you were that old!" The newspaper, every time they put my name down, they put my age beside it. Women have got to take more leadership roles. They do run. Wilma Woodard has run and has been defeated. She's won, and she's been defeated. We have women running for the Legislature, some of them winning and some of them losing. We have now, at the moment, four women on the City Council, which is a good indication of the interest in women in the position, and we've got a lot of women who are going to be running this fall for, certainly, I know a number that are going to be running for the at-large position, two at-large positions. Women need, themselves, to have more confidence in themselves, be longer in the pipeline, be longer in the business community, be more active in the political community. Places like N.C. State, I don't know why there aren't more women, and at Chapel Hill, more women heads of departments. We have just had a woman who was a Nobel Prize winner. I saw President Friday's interview of the male Nobel prize winner, and no mention of the co-winner who was the woman.

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Why, why did President Friday not do that? I need to contact him and say, "Why? Why did you ignore the woman who was the co-winner?" So, again, our society is still dragging our feet. Their perception of women as leaders and as trustworthy has not yet come. And I got defeated when I ran again. The citizens who had supported me did not realize that I needed continuing support. Here was the all-American young man—athletic, good looking, family background. He defeated me very narrowly, by about 1000 votes, and only, I think, by the fact that he was able to persuade the Council to change the election from November to October.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
How did that happen?
ISABELLA CANNON:
He just persuaded the Council to do that. If I'd had that month, I would have won, but see, now, our election is this October. It's always October now. There was a lot of rhetoric about that, that if you had a run-off in November, it ran it too late into the, too close to the City Council. They take office the first Tuesday in December. A lot of rhetoric there on that, but basically, if I had had that month, I would have won because I did not work at being a candidate that summer. It suddenly dawned on me, was I going to run? I didn't know if I was going to run again. Being Mayor had its wonderful moments, but it had a lot of rough moments. I really suffered. I had no idea of the personal attacks I would have on me, including from some of the older community. "Why don't you stay home where an old lady like you belongs?" I'm not an old lady! I don't care what age I am, I'm not an old lady. I was not prepared for some of that. Some

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of that I suffered intensely through. There were many times that I thought, "I cannot keep on with this job." I was giving everything I had. I had no gains that I could make under being Mayor. I owned my little house; I didn't have a job. My whole house was paid for. I didn't have anything that I could gain. In fact, it cost me a great deal, financially, as well as other ways, to be Mayor. But I was so dedicated and then to have the set backs that I had, and sometimes the personal attacks were very, very difficult for me. One of the things about being alone is you don't have a support system. I have a marvelous support system that sometimes I didn't realize I could tap, but I did not decide until very late to run again and didn't get my campaign well organized. There was enough money to do a great organization on the other side. Let me go back to something else. One of the things I'm very proud of that I did as Mayor, and again this difficult for people to think about. Fayetteville Street was a disaster when I went in—boarded windows, so few stores, nothing; it was dead. It was terrible. We needed a hotel. We have a Civic Center, which was not paying its way and which is still not paying its way. That's not necessarily the function of a Civic Center, but we needed to be able to get conventions there. We needed a hotel to be able to make the Civic Center a vital part of the downtown. So we approached hotels, and I have great appreciation for Earl Barden, who is first vice president of First Union. He carried the bulk of the load on that, but approaching different hotel chains to see if we could get a hotel in downtown Raleigh and being turned down. The

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Raddison finally said that they would consider it under three provisions: one, that we would condemn the property, which was pretty difficult because there were businesses there, condemn the property where the hotel would be; two, to give a parking deck, and that both Miriam Block and I had a very difficult time with because that parking deck was not a good thing for the city of Raleigh. The city of Raleigh carried too much of the financial load on that. And the third thing was to get liquor by the drink. We did not have liquor by the drink. If you went somewhere and wanted alcohol, you brown bagged, and it was illegal to have an open bottle in the car, so slug it down, get rid of it, be drunk or run the risk of having an illegal open bottle in the car. But the ([unknown]) convention had to have a bar, and I went around campaigning for that and people said, "What's a nice lady like you doing campaigning for liquor by the drink?" [Laughter] We got it, and we got the hotel. The hotel has had its ups and downs, but it anchored Fayetteville Street, and we have a thriving business community down there. That's another good thing that we did. Let me see, what were some of the other things that I did. We put money, one million dollars into renovating Memorial Auditorium, and the way that the seating part looks now was from the city of Raleigh, not from the state of North Carolina, not from Wake County, but from Raleigh. I was very proud of that, when we cut the ribbon and re-dedicated that. They're now, of course, redoing it again. Can you cut it now and let me go get a drink. [Interruption] Our municipal building was lacking. It wasn't big enough. We needed to do

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some things, and we needed a new municipal building or an addition. Well, we bought and owned the property next door where the old Carolina Hotel was, beloved, beautiful old hotel. And we did buy that and tore it down and that's where the new municipal building is. So I went through all of the maneuvering and the buying and getting it torn down. That and the Andrew Johnson downtown tended to be a place where some of our homeless would gather, and we've torn both of those down, which has had an effect on the dispersal throughout other parts of the city of some of the homeless. Oh, and I did a lot with helping with the ground breaking of where the Carriage House is now. That was one of the early housing projects for the elderly. Also, early on, and I think this was a mistake, an immense amount of pressure and an immense amount of work [was spent] on making the Sir Walter into a subsidized retirement home. I think that was a mistake. I was caught up in it, and the council did approve that. That should have been expensive, beautiful apartments for young lawyers and young couples downtown and that sort of thing instead of subsidized housing for the elderly. Because the elderly were terrified to go out into that barren Fayetteville Street. They didn't want to go out. It was not a happy place for them to live.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So that when you call it a mistake, in having the location placed there, is that right?
ISABELLA CANNON:
And using that beautiful building. It should have been used in a different way. But perhaps that was what the times called for at that point. So I don't carry too heavy a load of

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guilt on that. But I feel that was not one of the good decisions that we made early on. I was faced with that at the very beginning as mayor. Again, with the affirmative action thing which was a high pressure thing, this immense pressure on the Sir Walter, the immense pressures of the CETA things. All of these were things that I had to do a tremendous amount of work on. I was not as soaked in them as I should have been, and I had to do an awful lot of work on those, which made my early days extremely difficult for me. I was just overwhelmed with the work and things I needed to know. CETA, particularly, was so overwhelming. I'd have stacks two feet high of contracts in my office. I couldn't read them. There was not enough time in the day, so I contacted some of the people that were very knowledgeable, and that created some of the tension between the city manager and the head of CETA and the people that I contacted. And that later ended up with some very bad suits by these people. I don't mean bad suits, very difficult suits, by these people against the city, which they lost and also lost their jobs. So there were a lot of ramifications about CETA that I'm not particularly anxious to put down on the tape. I don't really want to get into personalities and names there. They're there, but I think better for some other time than this. I don't feel comfortable about going into that.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
The thing that's running through my mind is that we started out talking about the accomplishments, especially with the comprehensive plan and the things that were pleasing to you

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in your term as mayor, and then over time these things evolved into some of the more difficult aspects of it?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Well, usually you talk about the good things, you see, and usually a reporter or interviewer is not going to be that much in depth. And naturally you want to talk about the good stuff.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Oh, absolutely. But I wonder too then if you would think about, if the comprehensive plan was the thing that pleased you the most as you look back on it, what things or if there's one thing, stand out as the most disappointing to you?
ISABELLA CANNON:
Well, I think the comprehensive plan is both the best and the most disappointing. Very few things in life are totally, one hundred percent black or white. And I think the comprehensive plan is really something I'm so proud of, but the implementation of it has been oh, so disappointing to me, and the proliferation of things like developments and shopping centers and that sort of thing. We have far too many and too little control on those, things like the Umstead Park and the recent impact on that, which I was not involved in. I shouldn't count that as part of my [term]. I had nothing to do with that. I really think that the Sir Walter is a mistake that we made. I don't see in looking back that I could have done other than go along with it, because the immense pressures and the need for the housing versus that the place was closed. It was not operating. You see it was just sitting there, and it was difficult to see the future on that. I had anxiety about it when it was going through the council, but I wish that had been a different

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decision. One thing that bothered me then that bothers me now, I do not know how this could be changed. It has gotten worse. The city council versus the citizens, the city council is geared against the citizens. Not intentionally. This recent council is a prime example, the last two councils. They tend to talk and talk about something, refer it to a committee, the committee meets and meets and meets and meets. One example, I'm opposed to using city money, still am opposed to using city money, for a baseball stadium. If it was a commercial enterprise I've got no problem. I didn't want to use city money for it. I went to five meetings, discuss it and postpone it, discuss it and postpone it, of the committee that was studying this. Well, that meant that every week I had to drop everything and go down there. Now, if you're employed, if you're a busy housewife, if you're in a job where you can't get off from it, or even if you're in a job where you are an attorney or an architect where you're making the money and are responsible for it, how can you keep going to five meetings? I then missed the one where they made the decision, you see. So there are so many committee meetings, there is so much referral of things to committees, so many cases go first for a hearing, which is a joint hearing between the council and the planning commission, then it goes to the planning commission. It has subcommittees. The planning commission meets. It has subcommittee meetings. Then it comes back to the planning commission. Then it goes to the council, and then it may be acted on or it may, if there's opposition, be referred again to another committee, to one that is a standing committee. So the

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system is difficult for Joe Blow or Susie Q to get down there and be faithful on it. I don't know how that could be changed. It bothered me when I was mayor. It has gotten worse. [unknown] are more involved, and I remember the city manager saying to me about one lady, "I just wish she would get employed, running the city would be so much easier if she weren't down here all the time."
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Meaning a citizen that was often coming down.
ISABELLA CANNON:
That was coming in and opposing, particularly talking about housing projects. It's a lot easier to govern a city if you don't have a lot of citizen input. If the manager and the council and the mayor can say, "Okay, this is what we're going to do," and they do it, but if you get citizens and citizen meetings, a hundred people gathering and vociferous. I've gone down, quite recently, to city hall where the whole city council chamber, and the citizens had misunderstood what it was, and cried, "Communist," and "This is not Russia." And it is not easy to control a meeting, I don't mean control, but to handle a meeting and have it be productive. The council is under pressure, too, to respond. There are more requests for council members to attend citizen meetings, more times to meet in the council. You've got greater involvement of both city members and council members. I don't know what the answer is, but it is geared, it is very difficult for citizens.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And I imagine it is specially troublesome to you, given your commitments, your reason for running for mayor in the first place was to turn these things back to the citizens.

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ISABELLA CANNON:
I go down now and I'll be upset. I went down recently to a hearing, gosh, what was it about, and the place was full. And I knew, I looked at people, I saw people who were opposed to what was being said. I had not planned to speak. I finally got up and spoke. I was the only one who spoke on that side. It was this meeting where they had all this yelling about communism, so I went there. It was misunderstood by the citizens, but it was not right that all of those, afterwards I said, "Why didn't you speak? Why didn't you get up and speak?" Oh, Isabella, "You said ([unknown])." But if I hadn't gotten up… Why was I just the one? There is sometimes a reluctance on the part of those who are committed to get up one more time and speak.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
What was the issue, do you recall, that was being discussed?
ISABELLA CANNON:
If I'm not mistaken, I think it was the one, which was very touchy, about the expansion of churches and control of churches in the neighborhood. Where I live there are thirteen churches. We have constant battles with them of buying property which removes it from the city rolls, the tax rolls, the county rolls, and either tearing it down for the parking lot, and it's almost impossible to fight a church on a parking lot. And we had some areas around here that are just horrible. There are just nice homes, nice neighbors that have gone. But the churches were down there saying, "Oh, they can't control us." Part of this proposed ordinance was to say that they could go only to a certain height and they thought that included steeples. It did

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not include steeples. But churches must obey city regulations as to zoning and parking lots and that sort of thing, and the churches say, "No," they're not going to do it. And this is emotional. And I feel very strongly about it. I have a parking lot right out the back here which is a constant problem to the neighborhood because it was filled in with branches and trees and now it's a haven for rats. And a parking lot is not a nice thing to have next door to you, trash and mess and not a people type of thing. Up the street here, a very nice church has bought a house at one end of a block, a house at the other end of the block, the owner of the middle house is holding out against them, and they want to tear down that and make it a dead, sterile, empty parking lot. This is not a neighborly thing to do. They want parking. I proposed to them they can park down at the corner of Hillsborough in the parking lot owned by the city and walk two blocks. "No." [unknown] You propose to the churches, park at the shopping center and have a bus go backwards and forwards. "No." Everybody wants to park right there. And those are not neighborhood churches anymore. We studied the zip codes. They were started as neighborhood churches which is fine, but they're now going three or four thousand members and that coming in. And the police will not give them tickets on Sunday. They can park in my drive-way and block me, or pull into my drive-way and then you can't get out. They're not abiding by other regulations, and that was a hot one. I've gotten called an evil person, a representative of the devil. So when I got up at this particular time, I said, "I am an active member of Community United Church

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of Christ. I go to church regularly. I am an active member of my church." [Laughter] And then said what I needed to say about it. I wasn't willing to be categorized as… I got categorized anyway. There were some pretty bad things said.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
This is an interesting example of what you've been talking about all along, going up right now to the present day.
ISABELLA CANNON:
But I get up. I am not scared of anybody. I don't feel that anybody can hurt me. Somebody might hurt me physically, but I mean, I am not afraid to get up and say what I have to say. And normally I get supportive responses. I did that night. But I was upset that nobody else got up and spoke. I carried the load. Are you running out of time? We haven't gotten to half the things you wanted to talk about.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
But I think, as I said at the beginning, we got to the most important things.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Do you think we have?
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
So thanks very much for taking this time.
ISABELLA CANNON:
Well, I feel like some things there we did not approach. You wanted to talk more about the women's issues.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
But I think when you talked about your reasons for running and that sort of thing, we covered all that.
ISABELLA CANNON:
I am involved with a lot of women's groups now.
END OF INTERVIEW