Mayor Anthony Foxx says the city needs to focus on getting the streetcar and nearly $1 billion capital budget plan approved in order to create more economic opportunities and see Charlotte grow in the future. He spoke at the City Council chamber on Monday morning in an annual state of the city address.
Mayor Foxx says 2012 was the hardest year of his public life because he says he's been working to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. He titled his speech, "One Charlotte, One Future" in an effort to unite the city.
"I've been trying to say to our community that we can't live in an era of which we are two cities," Foxx says. "We've got to live together, but we've got to build the infrastructure to do that."
That's where Foxx says the streetcar comes in. A planned two-and-a-half mile section is estimated to cost about $120 million. When completed, the track would be 10 miles and connect east and west Charlotte. Most importantly, Foxx, says it would spur economic development.
"As we've run out of places to annex, we must reinvent our city and if we want new population to come into our city, we've got to prepare for it," Foxx says. "Without projects in the ground, we will experience the same sucking sound of sprawl that has driven investment and population away from cities all across the South."
Foxx also addressed comments recently made by Governor Pat McCrory. The governor suggested that state money for the light-rail extension to UNC Charlotte could be at risk if lawmakers see Charlotte has money to spend on the streetcar.
McCrory has said he meant it as advice, Foxx's message to McCrory was basically to keep the message to himself.
"I welcome any kind of conversation with [McCrory]," Foxx says. "This issue about how our city grows has been a long-standing one. And I simply have a different opinion, going back to our time on city council, about what these parts of our city mean to the whole. I’ve got charts that’ll show you the dramatic depreciation of property values in East and West Charlotte. And I don’t see the street car as just an infrastructure project. I see it as a vital connection, a permanent connection of our East and West corridors to our rail transit system."