Watch out Atlanta and Georgia — we can see Charlotte and North Carolina coming up fast in our rearview mirror
By Guest Columnist JANICE L. MATHIS, vice president of legal affairs for the Rainbow Push Coalition in Atlanta
I confess to bias toward North Carolina. My mom went to North Carolina Agriculture & Technical University (A & T) at a time when higher education opportunities for African American women were miniscule.
My dad helped send Jesse Jackson to A & T. Watching ACC basketball was not a small factor in choosing Duke University. Research Triangle Park, former North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford, summers during high school at Bennett College all leave me favorably predisposed toward North Carolina.
But early on I also heard the siren song of Atlanta. Daddy went to graduate school at Atlanta University. We rode the train from Greenville to visit him. We stayed and ate at Paschal’s Motor Hotel and Restaurant. It was magical.
Greenville is half-way between Atlanta and Charlotte, just about the way my heart is torn between the two cities. It is not surprising that I agree with those who tout Charlotte’s rise as a national political power.
I joke with my elected official friends in Atlanta. “How can you scare a Georgia politician? Mention Charlotte.”
All humor is based on a whacked out version of the truth. North Carolina has embraced its HBCU’s (historically black colleges and universities). Nobody talks about consolidating A & T or Johnson C. Smith or North Carolina Central. North Carolina built the Research Triangle Park, linking and leveraging the power of North Carolina State, Duke and Chapel Hill.
North Carolina has terrible roads and great schools.
Georgia has great roads and terrible schools.
North Carolina has dedicated funding for mass transit. Last July, Georgians defeated the T-SPLOST — the regional transportation sales tax, delaying or perhaps killing realistic options for saner transportation across metro Atlanta.
Now Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx is the nominee to become secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation for President Barack Obama. The president also has tapped U.S. Rep. Mel Watt (D-North Carolina) to be his nominee as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
North Carolina is gaining clout and recognition because its voters reject knee-jerk reactions in favor of common sense bi-partisan solutions.
Watching the Opera Carolina perform in Charlotte before a very diverse audience, it is easy to see why the Queen City is becoming a political and economic power center in North Carolina and the Southeast. Borrowing a phrase from Atlanta’s past, Charlotte seems too busy to hate.
To move forward, perhaps Atlanta must look in its rear view mirror.
A few weeks ago, as civic leader Ingrid Saunders Jones gave the first of several swan songs of her storied career at the Coca-Cola Company, she advised a stellar crowd to be intentional about preserving what is exceptional about Atlanta.
I couldn’t agree more.