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Useful Disagreements

by Jennifer Roberts

December 5,2006

Our greatest achievements as a community are a result of individuals putting aside their personal ambitions and self interests in favor of working together as equals in pursuit of a better future. I will continue to reach across the aisle and across the dais and seek solutions for our community that include different viewpoints and voices. But others, too, must be willing to listen and work together as well. Collaboration is a two-way street.

Political debate is a necessary part of any successful democracy and it is how we ensure all sides of an issue are addressed and all voices are heard. However, these disagreements must be useful. Attempting to divide people and groups for purely political gain is not helpful and has no place in building a stronger community. Democracy is hard work and will only succeed as long as everyone has an equal say.

For government to best fulfill its purpose, I believe we must find ways where compromise is possible if not always desirable. As governmental officials, we must work together, united on behalf of a stronger and better community.

By working together, we can support sustainable development that provides benefits to all groups in our community without endangering the health and safety of future generations. The need for cooperation is greatest in education. This includes our public school system as well as pre-school education, our community college system, workforce development, our libraries, and many other community partners.

We must restore trust within our diverse district as well as keep lines of communication open among all participants. I believe that we all have a role to play in the education and preparation of our youth and our workers. All of our children and residents must have the opportunity to be competitive in the global economy of the future.

Mecklenburg County is fortunate to have had a long line of leaders from our neighborhoods, churches, social organizations and business community who have put this community first, ahead of their own self-interests and ahead of their personal political viewpoint and ambitions.

As a result, our local economy continues to be strong and growing and our county government continues to earn numerous awards for efficiency and fiscal responsibility. We enjoy a AAA bond rating and are a destination place for businesses and families alike. I will continue this public service tradition and will add a healthy dose of open and accountable leadership. Whether we are investing in new classrooms or creating jobs, all deals will be done in full view of the public, with full public participation.

On a more personal note, I have been asked often about the origins of my political viewpoints. I believe we all learn from the examples of those who went before us and I am indebted to female political trailblazers such as Ruth Easterling and Shirley Chisholm. In that regard, I include a quote from Shirley Chisholm, the first female African American member of Congress, about the role of women in politics and the importance of different points of view.

“When there are no longer children going to bed hungry in this rich nation, I may be ready to go back to teaching. When there is a great school for every child, I may be ready. When longer tolerate prejudice against minorities, and when the laws against unfair housing and unfair employment practices are enforced instead of evaded, then there may be nothing more for me to do in politics. But until that happens—and we all know it will not be this year or next—what we need is more women in politics, because we have a very special contribution to make. It is women who can bring empathy, tolerance, insight, patience, and persistence to government—the qualities we naturally have or have had to develop because of our suppression…The women of a nation mold its morals, its religion, and its politics by the lives that they live. At present, our country needs women’s idealism and determination, perhaps more in politics than anywhere else.”

These past two years have been both exciting and challenging and I look forward to working with you all in continuing to make Mecklenburg County a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

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