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The Long Way

by Winn Maddrey

December 8,2009

We’ve come a long way. And we’re not there yet.

As the year comes to an end, I have been reflecting on some of the changes that this community has seen since the summer of 2008. I noticed the reference to the arrival of the “Firebird” sculpture (cited in the recent November issue of Charlotte ViewPoint) as indicative of a new direction, a phoenix, if you will. I wanted to take that thought and go down a slightly different path.

Our destination, now more uncertain that at any point in our past, seems like a multi-path maze. We’ve been over a number of difficult topics in the past fourteen or so months. And yet, I think that life is beginning to return to what we might be able to deem “the new normal”, whatever that means. With that in mind, I tried to think about lessons learned and some ideas that have stuck with me, good and bad, over recent months. Sorry to pull out a list, but I think there are some nuggets that might appeal.

Here are some ideas worth championing with the uncertainty that we as Charlotteans face. I apologize upfront to anyone that I may have left out; I’m a husband and a parent and so my worldview can be limited on many levels.

Ideas worth embracing:

Pecha Kucha Charlotte (or This is a fascinating exercise, with an evening of short (under seven minutes) presentations on random issues in Charlotte. Held quarterly, the next one has yet to be scheduled. In terms of a diverse, community conversation, Manoj P. Kesavan, deserves kudos for mixing it up and bringing the conversation to the table.

Anthony Foxx, our new mayor. Charlotte was destined to have a new mayor who would begin to put his own imprint on the city’s future. Pat McCrory helped move this city forward and he deserves both credit and thanks for his hard work. I wish Anthony Foxx (disclosure: we attended college together) the best of luck for moving us in the right direction for even more growth. Also, many thanks to John Lassiter for his service; we all hope that his commitment to the public good will continue into the future.

A new type of leadership. I have been reading a lot recently about how the next generation of leadership has not stepped up. I disagree with this assertion. I would contend that the leadership style that exists today echoes much of what I witness in the greater community – opt-in/opt-out modes of engagement. When people are interested, they step up, when not interested, they take a pass. I think the city’s leadership has evolved from a smoke filled backroom, filled with a small set of players to a progressive dinner that moves across communities. They are there, it’s just that these leaders do it differently.

Charlotte Chamber’s Annual Meeting Video. This is a nice way to tell the story of our community telling the story that has not yet been told!

Ideas worth squashing:

Low voter turnout. Last November, our community came out and voted. Regardless of outcome(s), with all that our government is doing in Washington, Raleigh and Charlotte, every vote does make a difference. The under 30 crowd in November 2009 had a 94% no-show rate. To me, that’s terrible.

Red tape in government. I have been following the government bailout and the initiatives involved as I try to pursue these own initiatives in my own professional life. The process and effort that is required to try and run down this path does not necessarily help small businesses.

Code words in “dialogue”. My wife and I recently were involved in a school rezoning process. During this process, I saw where words like discipline, academic achievement and others were used as tools and code words to raise the specter of a school run amok. There is a broader story here, but suffice it to say that much of the community dialogue left a great deal to be desired in terms of focusing on solutions – and conversations – that address the system as a whole.

There are many more things that need fixing. I am just glad Charlotte’s on the mend.

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