Patrick Cannon sworn in as Charlotte mayor, focuses on city’s economy

sharrison@charlotteobserver.comDecember 2, 2013 

  • Excerpts from Cannon’s speech “For too long Charlotte has been known as the ‘Great State of Mecklenburg.’ We should reject this notion and instead demonstrate that we are a Great City of Opportunity, part of the great State of North Carolina and that Charlotte is prepared to partner, not only with our county of Mecklenburg and the towns and cities within and around it, but also with our General Assembly and the entire state.” “In the words of Henry Ford, ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.’ ” “As I look forward toward the future, as your newly-elected mayor, my fundamental goal remains the same as those who preceded me...moving Charlotte forward with the same collaborative spirit that has always existed in this ‘can do’ and ‘will do’ city.” “Additionally, we must remember those who need to re-enter society’s economic mainstream. Whether it’s the ex-offender looking for a second chance or a military veteran returning from the battlefield, we must help their transitions back into society, providing them affordable housing, training, counseling and most importantly: jobs.”

Patrick Cannon was sworn in as Charlotte’s mayor Monday night, 20 years after he was first elected to the City Council at age 26.

Cannon, a Democrat, called on the city to come together and work to advance what he called a “can do” and “will do” city.

With his mother, wife and two children watching, Cannon said he would try to be a humble leader. He opened his speech by proclaiming, “God is good!,” and later cited a quote his mother posted in his home when he was in middle school: “You who think you know it all, are very annoying to those of us that already do.”

Cannon defeated Republican Edwin Peacock, a former council member, in last month’s election.

Besides Cannon’s swearing in, council members also voted 8-3 to make Michael Barnes the mayor pro tem, the honorary title Cannon previously held.

Barnes, an at-large member, received the most votes in the November election.

LaWana Mayfield, John Autry and David Howard voted against him. They did not nominate anyone else.

Mayfield said council members didn’t have to vote for Barnes just because he was the top vote-getter. She said other mayors pro tem hadn’t received the most votes.

Cannon’s speech offered some details about what he hopes to accomplish early in his term, with almost all of his specifics dealing with the economy and creating jobs.

He said the city must work to ensure that a minority hiring program, known as the Charlotte Business INClusion Program, is effective. Cannon and James Mitchell, whom Cannon defeated in the Democratic mayoral primary, pushed last year to add race- and gender-specific goals to the city’s hiring guidelines.

He called on the city to expand a grant program to help small businesses remake the facades of their businesses to improve their “curb appeal.” In an interview earlier Monday, Cannon said the long-standing program was helpful in improving Wilkinson Boulevard in District 3, which Cannon first represented as a council member in the early 1990s.

He also said he wants to streamline the permitting process for businesses, which today can mean separate trips to city and county offices. He said he wants to make the process “seamless ... consistent, efficient.”

Cannon’s swearing-in speech differed from Patsy Kinsey’s farewell speech as mayor last week, in which she emphasized her outreach to immigrants and the city’s gay and lesbian community.

In continuing his focus on creating jobs, Cannon said earlier in the day that he wants the city to review quickly whether the land around Charlotte Douglas International Airport is zoned correctly to take advantage of a new inter-modal facility set to open in 2014.

“That will allow us to compete with the Miamis of the country,” Cannon said, referring to Charlotte’s hopes of become an even larger transportation hub for goods coming through an expanded Panama Canal.

As mayor, Cannon will now lead the city’s efforts to keep control of Charlotte Douglas. The General Assembly in Raleigh had passed a bill transferring operational control to a 13-member commission. The Federal Aviation Administration and a Superior Court judge haven’t ruled who should run the airport.

The airport fight bruised relations with the GOP-dominated legislature. Cannon did not mention the battle with the legislature in his speech, and he invited former Mayor Richard Vinroot to the ceremony. Vinroot, an attorney for Robinson & Bradshaw, is representing the airport commission in its fight with the city.

In his speech, he said Charlotte has “for too long ... been known as the ‘Great State of Mecklenburg.’ We should reject this notion and instead demonstrate that we are a Great City of Opportunity, part of the Great State of North Carolina.”

However, Kinsey, who stepped down as mayor Monday, continued to strike a combative tone in her final remarks as mayor shortly before Cannon took the oath of office: “We stood firm and Charlotte Douglas is still under our control.”

Cannon will also have to lead a City Council that has five new members – Republicans Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith and Democrats Vi Lyles, Al Austin and Greg Phipps. And he will have to try to bring the returning members closer together, after they were often divided in the past two years over issues such as a streetcar extension.

Monday’s meeting marked the final meeting for five council members: Republicans Andy Dulin and Warren Cooksey and Democrats Billy Maddalon, Beth Pickering and James Mitchell.

Dulin and Cooksey didn’t run for re-election. Maddalon, who was appointed to fill Kinsey’s seat after she was elevated to mayor, stepped aside for Kinsey to return. Pickering lost her re-election bid.

Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church gave a closing prayer. Cannon sometimes attends Elevation Church.

Harrison: 704-358-5160

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