Update (March 15, 2012, 5:25 p.m.): The Durham City Council voted unanimously, 6-0, today to oppose Amendment One. Charlotte, on the other hand, remains silent. The details from Protect NC…

Just like the video above states, the momentum against Amendment One, the proposed anti-LGBT, anti-family, anti-children, anti-business amendment to the North Carolina Constitution is growing. With each passing day, more and more North Carolinians — elected officials, business leaders and voters — are standing up against the amendment and the harms it will cause to the citizens and residents of the Tar Heel State.

Such was the case this week when the Town of Chapel Hill passed a resolution opposing the amendment, following in the footsteps of Greensboro and other municipalities. And, believe or not, Bank of America has spoken out, too…

Charlotte City Council

Activists in Charlotte have already spoken out and asked the Charlotte City Council and Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners to take similar steps and pass resolutions speaking out against Amendment One. Conversations are happening behind the scenes, but real action and real political courage have yet to take a firm hold in Charlotte.

Now, more pressure is being brought to bear as citizens ask

Mecklenburg County Commission

their elected representatives in Charlotte to, finally, take a stand that should have been taken a long, long time ago.

John Michael Watkins is a Charlotte native, a resident of Chapel Hill and a student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He’s taken to the premier progressive grassroots action site, Change.org, to encourage Charlotte’s city council and Mecklenburg County’s board of commissioners to take a stand against Amendment One.

I’ve signed the petitions asking Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to pass resolutions opposing Amendment One, and I encourage you to do the same. When citizens speak out, their elected representatives will listen. Click the links below to be taken to the two different petitions, affix your name and signature and ask Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to take a stand for what is right and what is just. If speaking out against Amendment One is good enough for Bank of America — one of Charlotte’s largest employers and most significant, national namesakes — then it is should be good enough for our elected representatives…

http://www.change.org/petitions/charlotte-city-council-pass-a-resolution-opposing-nc-amendment-one

http://www.change.org/petitions/mecklenburg-county-commission-pass-a-resolution-opposing-nc-amendment-one

In addition to signing the petitions, you might be interested in sending a personal note to your elected representatives. Their contact information is below, and be sure to check out this past post for a sample letter you can adapt when contacting them. As noted in that sample letter, be sure you ask the Charlotte City Council to also consider a public vote on an LGBT-inclusive employment non-discrimination ordinance, a measure that has yet to be taken up by the council despite repeated requests from citizens, city employees and activists over the years.

Charlotte City Council

Mayor Anthony R. Foxx
mayor@charlottenc.gov
704-336-2241

Mayor Pro Tem Patrick D. Cannon, At-Large
MayorProTemCannon@gmail.com
704-336-7400

Council Member Claire Green Fallon, At-Large
cfallon@charlottenc.gov
704-336-6105

Council Member David Howard, At-Large
info@davidhowardclt.com
704-336-4099

Council Member Beth Pickering, At-Large
bpickering@charlottenc.gov
704-336-5285

Council Member Patsy B. Kinsey, District 1
pkinsey@charlottenc.gov
704-336-3432 or 704-376-5367

Council Member James E. Mitchell, Jr., District 2
JamesDistrict2@aol.com
704-336-3424

Council Member LaWana Mayfield, District 3
councilwomanmayfield@gmail.com
704-336-3435

Council Member Michael D. Barnes, District 4
barnesdistrict4@aol.com
704-509-6141

Council Member John N. Autry, District 5
jautry@charlottenc.gov
704-336-2777

Council Member Andy Dulin, District 6
adulin1@carolina.rr.com
704-968-8776

Council Member Warren Cooksey, District 7
warren@warrencooksey.com
704-347-0420

Mecklenburg County Commission

Harold Cogdell, Jr., Chairman
Harold.cogdell@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov

Jim Pendergraph, Vice Chairman
jim.pendergraph@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov
704-336-2472

Jennifer Roberts, At-Large
jennifer.roberts@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov
704-336-2574

Karen Bentley, District 1
karen.bentley@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov
704-432-3997

Vilma Leake, District 2
vilma.leake@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov
704-336-2088

George Dunlap, District 3
george.dunlap@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov
704-336-4419

Dumont Clark, District 4
dumontclarke@mvalaw.com
704-331-1051

Neil Cooksey, District 5
neil.cooksey@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov
704-336-5400

Bill James, District 6
Wjames@carolina.rr.com
704-336-2573

Charlotte City Council

(Update, Feb. 13, 2012, 3:25 p.m.: As Charlotte remains silent on matters of LGBT equality, the New Jersey Senate pushes forward with a marriage equality bill and Washington state becomes the seventh to legalize equality in marriage for LGBT couples. Queen City, take note: The future is coming fast, and you’re being left in the dust.)

My post on Friday recounting the exchange between Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, a Q&A panel audience member and me and Mayfield’s insistence that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh” caught the ire of a couple of my readers.

In particular, “Hunter” cut right to the chase (certainly, in a more forceful way than I would have):

Mayfield’s statement is utter bullshit.

The Charlotte City Council takes positions on state legislative matters all the time. Cities have legislative agendas, and Charlotte is no exception.

Shame on Mayfield for daring this speak such obvious lies.

Anyone with even a single iota of knowledge on how local government works knows that city councils and other local governing bodies (e.g. county commissions, transportation commissions, etc.) take public positions on state and federal matters on a regular basis. That usually happens yearly when, as Hunter points out, local governments adopt their state and federal legislative agendas.

The City of Charlotte is no exception. The council’s Governmental Affairs Committee meets regularly in order to discuss, debate and propose the city’s annual state and federal legislative agenda. They even publish a calendar outlining the timing of their deliberations and subsequent approval by city staff and city council.

The city’s 2012 state legislative agenda has yet to be finalized and I couldn’t find a copy of its proposed contents on the city’s and county’s website. I did, however, find the proposed 2011 state legislative agenda, complete with a full 22 pages of in-depth public policy position statements on items ranging from public safety and criminal justice to infrastructure, taxing and budgeting needs.

Perhaps I should have posted more about this on Friday; I just figured the existence of legislative agendas was a no-brainer. Hunter’s comment reminded me, perhaps, that’s not true, despite the fact that so many current council members and candidates certainly knew what a legislative agenda was during campaign season.

Mayfield

Back at the old day job, we spearheaded an initiative to get council candidates on-the-record responses to four issues of importance to local LGBT citizens and residents.

The fourth question in our candidate questionnaire asked:

Would you support the adoption by city council of a legislative agenda that includes items to (a) seek legislative approval to extend public accommodations and public housing ordinances to include both sexual orientation and gender identity, (b) oppose the state’s 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a statute which bans recognition of same-sex marriages, and (c) oppose any attempt to pass a state constitutional amendment that would ban recognition of same-sex marriages, civil unions, domestic partnerships and other legal arrangements?

Mayfield’s answer at the time:

Yes I would support A, B and C. I believe that by building relationships and commitments among the Council members we can ensure enough support to sustain a yes vote.

That doesn’t square so easily with Mayfield’s response at the Thursday evening panel, when she argued, “Charlotte City Council has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh.”

Mayfield also said (emphasis added):

As far as taking a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh, it has never been the policy of the Charlotte City Council to make a statement one way or another. We really focus on what’s happening in the City of Charlotte. We do not step outside of our realm too often. If it’s going to benefit the city, that’s our focus.

And, that bears a more in-depth response than the one I offered on Thursday evening, when I said, “It might have been something that came out of Raleigh, but it is something that will affect Charlotte. It will affect all the LGBT people who live in Charlotte — people who are represented by the people on city council and who will be affected by the amendment.”

A few of many ways the amendment impacts Charlotte and why it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council:

  • The amendment would bar the extension of health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of city employees. The city doesn’t currently offer these benefits, but, as mentioned by Mayfield, the issue is currently being discussed and considered by council members and city staff. If the city truly desires to one day offer these benefits to LGBT employees’ families, then taking a position on the amendment and its ban on domestic partner benefits is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could mean the end of domestic violence protection for individuals, both gay and straight, in unmarried relationships. The city-county’s joint police department would have to explore new ways to combat and control domestic violence between unmarried partners. How would the police department ensure the safety of a person being battered and abused by an unmarried partner? How much authority would they have to remove the abuser from the household if law prohibits the recognition of their relationship? The city oversees and administers the police department, therefore it is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could invalidate joint child-custody and visitation arrangements between unmarried couples. Though the county primarily oversees the social services and children’s welfare programs here, if the city has any stake at all in the preservation of healthy homes and families, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • Studies have found that LGBT people in states with anti-LGBT constitutional amendments face increased mental health problems. According to anti-amendment organizers, one such study found that LGBT people reported increases in mood disorder (36.6% increase), generalized anxiety disorder (248.2% increase), alcohol use disorder (41.9% increase), and psychiatric comorbidity (36.3% increase). Again, the county primarily provides health services to the public, but if the city has any stake in protecting, preserving and promoting a healthy population and workforce, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.
  • The amendment could result in a chilling effect in businesses currently located in North Carolina and those thinking of moving here. North Carolina is home to 15 Fortune 500 companies. The five largest — Charlotte’s Bank of America, Lowe’s and Duke Energy, and Winston-Salem’s Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer protections to LGB  employees. With the exception of Lowe’s and Duke Energy, all offer protections to transgender workings. And, four — Bank of America, Duke Energy, Reynolds American and BB&T — each offer domestic partner benefits in addition to some some 50 other private companies across the state. Research of the “creative class” by Richard Florida has found that more and more workers within “creative” professional fields highly value respect, tolerance, inclusion and diversity. Such values are respected even among straight workers, who seek to know that a diversity of viewpoints, life experiences and people will be honored at their workplaces. According to anti-amendment organizers, the creative class workers were more than 2.5 times more likely to move to Massachusetts in the three years following marriage equality there than in the three years prior. What kind of message will this amendment send to current and potential employees and businesses in North Carolina? Will the amendment cause some citizens, along with their tax income and personal economic activity, to flee the state? Will some employees of major companies like Bank of America request to be moved to the company’s already-large presence in places like Boston or New York City (where marriage equality is recognized)? Will young entrepreneurs — the backbone of our small business economy — find it harder to recruit and retain highly-skilled and highly-valuable employees? Will companies themselves — those like Bank of America — find it easier to do business in less hostile places? According to the city council’s own 2012 Strategic Focus Area Plan for Economic Development, Charlotte seeks to “be the most prosperous and livable city for all citizens through quality economic development.” If the amendment holds any potential harm for economic development and growth, then this is a question of concern for the city and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council.

So, above and beyond the fact that it is utterly false to say that Charlotte “has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh,” it is also false to say that Charlotte, inherently, has no interest in the potential approval on May 8 of this anti-LGBT, anti-family, anti-personal freedom and anti-business constitutional amendment. The interest is wide and varied, far beyond the simple impact on the personal lives of LGBT Charlotteans. The amendment could affect local government and its employees, local law enforcement, the health and well-being of local families and children and the economic well-being of our entire city, region and state.

This amendment is, without a doubt, a major question of concern for this city and its people and, therefore, deserves attention from our city council. Like Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Durham and Greensboro, the Charlotte City Council should consider and pass a resolution opposing the amendment and its potential harms to our fair city and this great state.

I encourage you to click over to the previous post on this subject, scroll to the bottom and find the contact information for Charlotte City Council. Send them an email or call them, asking them to take up a resolution opposing this amendment.

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Crisis hits Charlotte’s wealthy

The Charlotte Observer says the financial crisis has finally begun to strike at Charlotte’s wealth.

Bank job losses and stock declines are making the once booming Charlotte a town of uncertainty. The above-average per capita income ($65,700 in 2007, compared to national average of $50,230) is in threat as the unemployment rate continues to rise. Right now it is at 8.3 percent, the highest the city’s seen in years.

The largest personal decline:

Bank of America’s biggest individual shareholders are C.D. and Meredith Spangler, a Charlotte couple who own 32million shares within their family and other entities.

C.D. Spangler, a businessman, investor and philanthropist who is a mainstay on Forbes magazine’s annual billionaire list, gained his first shares in the bank in 1982 when he sold a small community bank to Bank of America’s predecessor. Meredith Spangler is a current board member.

Their stake was worth $210million as of Friday, down from $850 million in September. The Spanglers’ dividend this year will likely be around $1.3 million, down from $76.8million in 2007.

The paper says the current decline in Charlotte’s banking industry will have an effect on other businesses. The Observer spends the most ink on luxury services:

That could especially hurt businesses that cater to the wealthy, such as La Concierge, a personal assistant service, said Lashawnda Becoats, who started the company in 2006.

At the time, Charlotte seemed full of executives willing to pay someone to shop for groceries or pick up dry cleaning. Now, many of those executives are running their own errands, she said.

“People don’t have any disposable income anymore,” said Becoats, 37, whose service has four regular clients. “People are still living, but people are really cutting back.”

[…snip…]

Even Becoats, the personal assistant, has hope – after all, there will always be people who don’t feel the pain of a recession, she said.

“For the average person, we’re on the forefront of losing our job, but when I’m out shopping, I still see women in mink coats, and there are still people who will go into Louis Vuitton and spend $2,000 on a bag,” she said. “I know the economy will change, and I know I’ll get more clients. I just don’t know when.”

Meantime, wealth management firms continue fielding calls from worried investors.

“It is concerns about the general economy and how the downturn is going to affect retirement,” said Larry Carroll of Carroll Financial Associates Inc. “People realize that things that are bad for Bank of America and Wachovia are bad for Charlotte.”

With the way Americans love to rack up debt on credit cards, I doubt we’ll see South Park Mall empty any time soon.