Consolidation lost in Charlotte because of a lack of emotional investment
Democrats are more likely to favor city-county consolidation than Republicans, Lowe argues, because consolidation weakens the power of wealthy white voters. But neither side felt particularly strongly about the issue, Lowe thinks. It is not the kind of issue voters can decide on without careful study, so most people remain uninterested. The issue lost in Charlotte, Lowe thinks, because of this lack of emotional investment.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Charles M. Lowe, March 20, 1975. Interview B-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
The reason why I was asking about the party is…One thing
I'm interested in as far as the consolidation effort
…I'm wondering if there were partisan reasons,
maybe, either for supporting or for opposing. Was one party more likely
to support than the other?
Yes. The Democrats were more likely to be for consolidation than the
Republicans. The Republicans did not want district representation. They
did not want blacks. They wanted things to be at large, in the way of
election. They wanted to feel that their party could get a majority.
That the white, influential, well-educated would be a majority.
Consequently, they were not for it. That's not really what
defeated this. What defeated this was two things. One, school system had
had quite a blow, and everybody was in a turmoil about this. The second
thing, if you study consolidation over the country, I don't
know anywhere it has succeeded the first time. Consolidation
is something that you have got to study and understand and
appreciate because, when it all boils down, it's two things.
It's better planning, and, while the tax rate rises, it
doesn't rise as rapidly. Most people want something more
simple, more directly related to them. They want to see more of what
they are going to get out of it. They want their notions in it more.
This was a thing of reasoning. You don't have as many
reasoning people as you do emotional people. This was the real problem.
There was nobody really pushing it except a few enlightened people and a
few people on the Chamber of Commerce. The blacks were for it but not
too strongly. The rural people were against it. The affluent white
didn't see where they were going to get anything out of it.
The school board members were against it. The Republicans were against
it. And, the Democrats were lukewarm. So we were lucky to get any vote
If so many different groups were either opposed or lukewarm, what got the
idea started in the first place? I mean, the idea had been kicking
around for a number of years.
Well, the chamber had been pushing this idea since about 1962. It does
make sense, consolidation. I mean, the buckpassing does stop. You do do
better planning. There's no question about it, and
there's no question but what, while the tax rate increases,
it does not increase as fast. These are things that most people are not
concerned about. Most people are concerned about their garbage, their
sidewalks, their tax rates, where their kids go to school. These sort of
things, what we call bread-and-butter or gut issues, and the high
issues? That doesn't really concern them. Really, the chamber
and the thinking people, which were in the minority, were pushing it.
They got it on the ballot and got it going, but we just had too few of
Some people, in looking at consolidation, see it, to an extent, as sort
of an urban or civic imperialism. The city seeking to control more area,
to control more people. Could that…Would the
chamber leaders have been interested in that? I mean, seeing
a lot of white people moving out into the suburbs beyond the city
limits, seeing their voting strength in city elections and rferenda
declining because of that?
Not really. I think just the opposite is true. I think we could have sold
consolidation had we gone about it the wrong way. I think if we had told
the people "Look, if you don't have consolidation,
you're going to have another Atlanta in Charlotte.
It's going to be predominantly black. The whites are going to
move out. You're going to have a decaying tax base, and
you're really going to be in trouble. Consolidation is really
the only answer how to get a handle on this thing, and have the whites
where they want to be, and maybe where they should be, overall. In the
driver's seat." But, we didn't choose to
take that route. We tried to sell it on the democratic route of
everybody getting fair representation, the whites, the blacks, the men,
the women, the rural, and the city. Of doing it right. Well, they
didn't buy this. I talked to one of the opponents afterwards,
and he said, "Lord, if you had told me what you're
now telling me, I would have voted for it." But, we just
didn't want to sell it on that basis. We didn't
think that was the proper approach.