By Bill Russell
On Nov. 5, voters in Mecklenburg County will consider approving $290 million for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and $210 million for Central Piedmont Community College. In Cornelius, voters there will also decide $20.4 million for transportation, parks and recreation, and town center bonds.
In addition to the county and Cornelius bonds, a political issue shaping this election which has gripped our community and region over the last several months is how do we fund the widening of I-77? The N.C. Department of Transportation plan would use HOT or toll lanes in partnership with a private company (P3 Partnership). While details are still being worked out, even those in local and state government wrestle with the notion of tolls.
Attending our local candidate forums, it is abundantly clear many elected and business leaders are torn between a practical reality – the need to widen our most critical transportation artery as soon as possible and declining revenues to fund those improvements. While we can debate whether there are adequate funds to create general-purpose lanes instead of high occupancy toll lanes, there can be no question that our past elected state and transportation leaders did a poor job of forecasting the future.
There are no fingers of blame here. Remember, those same leaders were elected by their constituents. So in essence, we have only ourselves to blame. In a very real sense, we are left with few alternatives as we pay dearly for not having planned adequately in the past for our current and future infrastructure needs.
On Nov. 5, we have an opportunity to invest in the future when voters go to the polls. The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce encourages our citizens to invest in public education and our community college system. A successful economy requires a capable and skilled workforce capable of operating and managing industries and businesses where we exercise a competitive advantage over other regions and states. Our public education and community college system is the foundation of our economic development efforts.
Cornelius citizens will have an additional opportunity to shape their future as they consider bonds which will make road improvements, sidewalk enhancements, finance improvements to town parks and redevelop the town center.
The recent toll debate has led to much second-guessing and a look back on what we might have done differently. I am reminded of a quote from Victor Hugo in “Les Miserables,” ”Nothing is more imminent than the impossible . . . what we must always foresee is the unforeseen.”
Let's all hope looking back from the days ahead, we don't regret the community and region we could have been simply because we didn't take time to be informed and take advantage of our right to vote on election day. Make an investment in our community and region and Vote Yes for the Bonds!
Bill Russell is the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, with approximately 1,000 business members in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville and greater Lake Norman region. For more information on the Bonds visit www.VoteYesforBonds.com.