Friday, April 14, 2006

World Class -- What Would It Take?

Reader N.T. poses an interesting question:

I enjoy reading your blogs. Here's a good topic. What will it take to make Charlotte a "World Class City"? Charlotte is a great city with potential to become world class. City Leaders need a broader vision. They also need to prepare the city for the next 30 years, not five. Here are a few of my suggestions.

An education system that provides quality education for all students, in a comfortable environment, and with educators who are professional and qualified to teach all students. An education system that focuses more preparing students for a career and life, not just passing EOG tests.

Better roads and parking; a law and/or medical School; become a 24-hour city; a diverse leadership team; international facilities (schools, parks, banks, businesses) in prime areas such as uptown and South Park. World Class Cities embrace the world.

Once some pieces are in place the city will attract more businesses and cultural attractions.

What's your answer? Here's mine:

Charlotte should stop trying to be a "world-class city" and just try to be a great place to live.
A world-class city has layers of history that reveal themselves to visitors and residents. Charlotte isn't old enough yet, and too much of what could have become its first layers of history has been torn down. That's got to change.

A world-class city has enough people concentrated in the center to create not only the sense of excitement that good cities offer, but to create a market for stores, museums, businesses and all the other things that over time help create those layers of history.

In time, 50 or 100 years maybe, Charlotte might become a world-class city – if its leaders think long-term as well as short-term, if more of its residents support the arts (name a world-class city that doesn't have great art) and will invest public money in great parks and museums (name a world class city that doesn't have them), if its schools stay strong (because bad schools mean a dying center city), if its luck hold up, if the creek don't rise ...

Right now Charlotte's civic persona is so desperate to be "world-class" that it comes off like a teenaged boy who want so desperately to be popular that he runs for class president every year and tries out for all the teams. To want something that nakedly just works against attaining it.

So I think Charlotte should worry less about "world-class" and relax more.


Jimmy Mac said...

World Class is two words that Charlotte's leadership should refrain from using in discribing the present or future Charlotte.
I have lived in Charlotte for 15 years and I still can't find anything in this city to discribe it as world class.
Why don't we strive to make this a decent city just to live and play in.
If the newcomers enjoy what they see ,then the world class part will naturally occur.
Other wise then that Charlotte will continue to be the country town that it really is.

Anonymous said...

I think that's a good read. I do think that the the Charlotte leaders are putting some things in place right now, but I think they should also let things come naturally to. Instead of trying to measure up to Atlanta, New York and DC, continue to build off what you already have and let the other pieces fall into place, 1 step at a time! I don't think Charlotte is a backwards, hick town, but it's not world-class yet either, it will take time as the city evolves, just like it took Atlanta to get where it is now!

Anonymous said...

When this city realizes it will not be the next New York, Chicago or Boston but more of like the next Dallas, Phoenix or Atlanta, then we will take a big step forward. At least we aren't Birmingham or Shreveport (with all due respect to people from those towns). I can't believe we're still having this argument 20 years later.

When I moved away for a few years and mentioned to people that I was from Charlotte, most of them praised how the city was clean and modern, not to mention that we didn't have people stacked up all over each other. They also thought it was very cool I lived near NASCAR country (face it folks, this is our claim to fame).

As far as I'm concerned, we almost have all the components of what makes a metropolitan area. We have a 24-hour classical and a 24 hour jazz radio station, 50 bars and restaurants within walking distance downtown on any given night, eclectic neighborhoods such as Palza-Midwood and NoDa, two major league sports teams, two art film theaters plus a few other screens in the mainstream ones. A couple new museums and a more comprehensive public transportation system are on the way. I can only wish that some musicians would not bypass our city en route from Atlanta to Chapel Hill, and some more daring architecture would be pretty cool too, but I'll give it time, just like I have everything else. Bottom line, I can find something different to do here every day.

Finally, for those who worry about crime, taxes, schools, and other municipal policies, I hold nothing against you if you choose to live in one of our great suburbs. Just come down and visit often.

Anonymous said...

We need a community radio station in Charlotte, one that plays Reggae, World, Bluegrass, Indy music. If we want to be cultural, we need to go global, besides the culinary tours of the East side.

Anonymous said...

The person who posted the next to last post, you hit it right on the money. I think if people in Charlotte would appreciate what they already have, instead of trying so hard to be like Atlanta or New York, Charlotte would be better off. Charlotte already has some things in place to make it a great city, just continue to build off of that and build your own "character", and in time, Charlotte will truly be a "World-Class City."

Anonymous said...

What does Charlotte need to be "world-class"? Given the state of most of the world's leading cities, the better question is "What does Charlotte need to do to improve liveability?"

Low taxes.
Good schools.
Good roads.
Much more friendly to small business.

Pretty simple.

Jimmy Mac said...

I'm still trying to figure out why folks in Charlotte want to be "World Class"?
I don't find my life boring because folks from New York and other larger active cities consider Charlotte the perfect place to live,just ask all of my new neighbors from up north.
Why can't all of you " World Class City" proponets get a life and then see if you really want the headaches,that come with a
"World Class City".
If you think traffic and crime is bad today wait until you get your
" World Class City" status.
Some people need to slow down and smell the coffee!

Mike said...

Charlotte's biggest obstacle is learning to embrace all different kinds of people and it's lack of support for the arts (for a city it's size). The first part has a lot to do with the religious fanatics here (these people misrepresent their religions and the city), for example:

Rick said...


Wishing you and Robert Mapplethorp a happy Easter holiday. I can only believe that his is the type of art you like.

Anonymous said...

rick's comments are exactly why I hate this city...

Anonymous said...

Rick is a hick!

And some people do enjoy Robert Mapplethorpe's artwork. :-P

Rick said...


Your post was right on the mark - this time.

The only things I'd tweak are using public money for art and museums. (Those things should be MOSTLY private money as the arena and NASCAR HOF should have been.) Also, the schools need to improve - not "stay strong".

However, as you can see, many of your supporters would add "close down all the chuches" as well.

Anonymous said...

Another problem that is an embarrassment to the city and a drain of taxpayers money is pet overpopulation that overwhelms Animal Control. Over 15,000/year are put down at AC. We know that most of the animals come from low-income neighborhoods. The city should fund mobile spay neuter clinics to go into these areas and help pet owners. By spending a little upfront, the city would save money in the future. In a 7 yr study done in NH, every $1 spent on spay neuter programs SAVED $3.15 in AC costs. Effective neutering programs save money while saving lives. Everyone benefits, most of all the companions who have come to be our best friends.
Please spay-neuter your pets. And if you are looking for a new friend, check animal control or a rescue group before going to a breeder.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

Nothing spells 'small town redneck' more than all the civic leaders sitting around trying figure out how to impress other cities.

Slash the tax rate, deconsolidate the schools, fix the roads, arrest the criminals, and focus on making Charlotte a great place to live and it will be a world class city.

Mayors and city councils are always worried about 'out-gimmicking' other cities to become world class.

They are more worried about visitors than residents (lets face it, if you LIVE here, they got you already, so who cares what you want?).

Leave more money in the average citizens pocket, and they will spend it on what they think is important.

Ever wonder why these silly local theatres never make it and need taxpayer money, but Lowes Motor Speedway is filled to the rim.

Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

"Ever wonder why these silly local theatres never make it and need taxpayer money, but Lowes Motor Speedway is filled to the rim."

Now that's a redneck comment...

I am not Mary Newsom said...

>>but Lowes Motor Speedway is filled to the rim."

Now that's a redneck comment... >>

No, that's called 'reality'. You should check it out.

You can find everything under the sun to do here.

It IS a world class city.

Stop looking for the next shiny toy at the taxpayers expense.

And stop trying to imitate run down, old-world cities like New York.

Charlotte has everything a big city should have and nice weather to boot.

People in New York wish they had it this good.

Anonymous said...

Calling Charlotte the NASCAR City will set the World Class status back 50 years or so. What an embarrasment.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Paul and I live in South Charlotte (you know, Ballantyne, not Meyers Park).

I would like Ballantyne to be a world class suburb. I would like a network of bike paths, an outdoor music theatre, maybe some lakes, a couple of more golf courses (preferably with one PGA event per year), and some upscale restaurants.

I do not think this will cost more than $500 million for the whole project, and clearly all the folks in Ballantyne would benefit from this.

Unfortunately I am a little light on cash to make this all happen.

What I am pleading to Charlotte City Council is that they enact a new tax on all rich people who live in Meyers Park, Dilworth, and Uptown to help pay for this.

Since we all seem to be in agreement that taxes paying for noble causes like arts and entertainment are worthy, I am certain you will all be on board for this.

Please enact a large tax on the masses to help us reinvigorate the Ballantyne area.


Thank you for your support.

Rick said...

Hey Mary,

You got your wish from a couple of weeks ago regarding McMansions...

From today's Observer:

It appears that most of the City Council shares your level of respect for property rights.

I'm guessing the Historic District designation also saves Hermitage Court from the scourge of being used as Section 8 housing - sarcasm intended.

Multi-layered, historic, world class city here we come!

Anonymous said...

Calling Charlotte the NASCAR City will set the World Class status back 50 years or so. What an embarrasment.

This has got to be by far the most elitist statement I've ever come across. First of all, do you not know that Nascar is the 2nd most popular sport behind the NFL, so it seems to me that there are other folks besides those trailer-park rednecks that are watching Nascar, and I'm not even a fan of Nascar, but I do know the popularity of the sport. And you know what, I know a lot of black folks who are totally into Nascar just as much as white folks. To say that the NHOF is going to cast a black eye on Charlotte is a very ignorant, elitist statement, if anything, I think this Hall of Fame Museum will give Charlotte a positive image and it will draw a lot of people to visit Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

Could somebody please give me a definition of "world-class"?

But before you type please remember: there is a world outside the US!

Anonymous said...

>>It appears that most of the City Council shares your level of respect for property rights.>>

Property 'rights'?

You mean the right for one citizen to get big government to tell ANOTHER citizen what they can and cannot do with THEIR property.

That's the OPPOSITE of property rights.

In this great big city of a million plus people, our city council is spending time making ruls on what color people can paint their foundation???

People always get roped into supporting noble causes that they perceive as having no immediate impact on them.

Amazing that city council has time to pander to a few whiners in myers park, but not the time to figure out how to get the police more cops on the streets.

What idiots.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

>>Multi-layered, historic, world class city here we come! >>

Poor Rick.

So desperate to be in the 'in crowd'.

He exemplifies the problem with people like Newsom. Always looking over the fence at Atlanta, New York, etc. and wishing we were more like them.

Like a small spoiled child, always focused on what he DOES NOT have instead of what he has.

Always dreaming of something bigger and better.

BTW, Charlotte is as white as wonder bread.

You can open up as many art musuems, preserve as many historic districts, and create as many 'Elizabeths' as you want. The underlying population is SNOW WHITE.

I kills me when all these people want to 'act urban' by riding trains and promoting 'multi culturalism', when it is all just lilly white.

It is kind of like when guys who are accountants Monday through Friday put on black leather an buy a Harley and pretend they are in a biker gang.


Rick said...

Anon and "i am not"

Did you guys not get the sarcasm or notice that I disagree with almost everything Mary says? Or, more likely, you were just too blinded by your own right-wing irrationality to read beyond the literal words. (Note: try to do it here)

I'm usually called out for being to "mean" or being called a "hick" for saying the "world class" crowd comes off as needy wannabees.

Obviously Mary tends to favor "historic" layers over property rights and that's how the City Council voted as well - thus the sarcasm.

Mary has in the past written about expanding Section 8 into other parts of the city, but this Historic District designation more than likely prevents that from happening here - thus the sarcasm.

What you've just shown is that you are incapable of reading other people's comments instead of just indulging your own ranting.

I am not Mary Newsom said...

Rick, you are correct. Like most poster, I am also in love with the sound of my own voice.

I apologize for overlooking your much appreciated sarcasm toward the Newsomistas.

Frank Burns said...

City council's emphasis on Charlotte becoming a world class city is destructive to the suburbs of Charlotte. There is too much emphasis on the downtown when the suburbs, in particular east Charlotte is suffering. The city council is building expensive new art museums downtown. Why can't they locate them in East Charlotte? It would be a great economic stimulus to East Charlotte to have the museums. I'm sure they can be put in East Charlotte at a whole lot less cost. We are blessed with many closed down big box stores. When are we going to stop the bleeding of our tax dollars going to the downtown? It will only happen when we get city council members who are independent thinkers and are not behaving as puppets for the banks.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte could be "world class" if it promoted an influx of more business, lower taxes, incentives for workers and businesses to move here, etc.
Unfortunately, socialists such as those at the Charlotte Observer are hellbent on doing the exact opposite of what encourages prosperity, and like all socialists, believe that everything grows for "free", as if on trees, and can be had by higher taxation.
Take the "art museum" example-- why every "world class" city has a museum, right? Go build an empty shell of a building with no art collection to house in it in the first place-- art that would have been donated by rich fat cats who socialists taxed to death and discouraged from moving here in the first place? The solution: get some NEA-subsidized socialist art that nobody likes except socialists who think no town is complete without the new age secular cathedral known as a "museum". The art itself is irrelvant-- though the rip-off Frank Gehry design can be easily bilked from the taxpayers.
"World class" cities at some point in their history were not derailed by the Zero Sum economics of Marxists, and as such it may be too late for Charlotte.

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