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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Charles M. Lowe, March 20, 1975. Interview B-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Why district consolidation gained momentum in Charlotte

Lowe tries to explain why the issue of district consolidation gained momentum in Charlotte. Charlotte residents saw that other communities had consolidated, and they saw the inefficiency of overlapping county and city responsibilities. In the long run, however, the issue failed. Lowe thinks that it will emerge again, and recalls a conversation with a law enforcement officer to illustrate the confusion Charlotte suffers without consolidation.

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

Was there any crisis, sort of, in government that sort of prompted the push towards consolidation? I remember reading in the Observer… The chamber had brought up the discussion of consolidation somewhere '62 or '63 somewhere program of work in there for that year. There were several comments in the paper from the mayor and other people that "This would be a nice…We want to work towards this. This is a good idea. But it will probably be ten or fifteen or twenty years before we actually get to it. Then, all of a sudden, sort of, in '67, '68, '69, there was a much increased interest. Then, there's the study commission and the charter commission. What…Did the water and sewer situation or anything along this line really prompt this?
I think there were a good many things. I think some other communities had done it. I think this was part of it. I think the fact that we'd put schools together was part of it. I think that we were studying, putting together and did later put together, the police departments. I think this was part of it. I think a few people who were thinking and being active in government in various ways, whether as elective candidates or on boards, saw that there's bound to be a certain amount of buck-passing where you have two bodies who are overlapping. I think they could see the difference in the planning, whether it be water and sewer, whether it be schools, whether it be police departments, or whether it be such things as even the dog pound. We've got two different dog pounds in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, and it gets right jackassy sometimes. You don't get this done until you do sit down and face it. It's very easy, for instance, somebody calls me up and talks to me from now until ten o'clock, and says, "Now, what can you do about my zoning?" I say, "I'm on the county commission. You're in the city. I don't have anything to do with it." Well, as far as I'm concerned, that's taken care of it, but, as far as they're concerned, they've wasted an hour and nothing's been accomplished. I think these were probably the things that triggered it. I don't really think it was wasted. Let me say that to you very strongly and very quickly. I think this was something necessary. It's kind of like you decide to have a good football team. Well, you hire a coach. You begin to recruit players. You begin to get a better schedule. That doesn't mean you have a winning season, but, in a few years, then, you hope to turn it around and have a winning program. I think this was something we had to go through. Maybe the next time or may be the following time, then, we will be successful, but this was just the first step on the ladder.
I see something here. You said you think it will be a while before they try again. Not long after the consolidation defeat, annexing all this territory out here. Is that almost, sort of, the same sort of thing. I mean, annex a great deal. Push the functional consolidation. Is this all sort of leading in the same direction?
Hopefully it will. Annexation is not the same thing as consolidation, though, because annexation takes care of the people who you've taken into the city, but it doesn't take care of the people who are outside the city, and it still doesn't do away with overlapping. For instance, I live in the city of Charlotte. I'm accountable one to the city of Charlette; two, I'm accountable to the Mecklenburg County commissioners. Well, if we had consolidated government, there would be one group. I would be taxed for services in regard to what services I actually received, whether I lived in the city, whether I lived in the perimeter, or whether I lived out in a rural area or one of the small towns. The thing that was very difficult to get over, and it's still difficult to get over to people in the perimeter, to people in the rural areas and the small towns…They think the city of Charlette is going to come out there and gobble them up. They don't realize they would have exactly the same relationship to consolidated government that they now have to the county commission. This is a difficult point to get across to them. When I was chairman of the county commissioners, the mayor of Davidson would call me and say, "We don't have a very good police force. We want you to do something more about police up here." I would say, "Under consolidation, we can do more." And, he'd say, "Oh, I don't want consolidation. I just want you to give us some money so we can have a better police force." We never really quite had a meeting of the minds because his mind was closed. He was asking for something that he didn't really understand what he was asking for. If he had understood it, he would have been for it instead of against it. It's like I went up, and I won't call the gentleman's name, but I went up to Davidson one time to speak on the United Appeal, and he said "We don't want anything out of Charlotte." I listened to him for a while, and I said, "Sir, when you get ready to raise money, where do you come to?" And he said, "To Charlotte." I said, "Sir, isn't it fair? Isn't it a two-way street? Can't we come to you? And, we're going to give you more than we're going to get from you." And, he said, "On that basis, I'm interested." I think that's really what we've get to explain to these people. They're going to get more than they give. When they understand that, then I think they will be willing to accept it.