Dear Commissioner Cogdell,
Today, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners will reorganize their body and elect a new chair and vice chair. For five years, Commission Chairman Jennifer Roberts has held her post, an honor traditionally granted those who receive the highest number of votes. Like last year, you’ve indicated an interest in challenging Roberts for her seat.
Unfortunately, you have gone about your quest for the chairmanship by partnering with Republican members of the board — many of whom have shown themselves to be unfriendly and even hostile to LGBT citizens and other residents of Mecklenburg County.
I find your behavior shameful and embarrassing.
In particular, I’m stunned and saddened by your apparent willingness to partner with Republican County Commissioner Bill James, a man who has time and time again embarrassed both the board as a body and the people of Mecklenburg County as a whole. James has incessantly preached exclusion and bigotry. He has compared LGBT people to sexual predators and pedophiles. He has likened us to an infestation in need of extermination. He has said African-American people live in a “moral sewer.” And, in his most shocking lack of respect and propriety to date, James has used an anti-gay slur when speaking to one of your colleagues about her dead son.
Even you have acknowledged that James’ language and behavior has gone too far.
Just last year, you drafted a resolution for the board declaring “public support for community values that embrace and promote equality, diversity, tolerance and inclusion,” and that stood “united in firm opposition to inflammatory speech that may cause bullying, intimidation, harassment, persecution or discriminatory treatment of any individual.”
As a friend to progressive causes and the LGBT community, you have often spoken out on behalf of those who have no voice and who often come under the hateful microscope of James’ ire. But, your partnership with James and other Republicans — who have said similar disrespectful, though less inflammatory, remarks about LGBT people — is a slap in the face of LGBT Charlotteans and Mecklenburg County residents who have come to know you and support you for the fair, tolerant, open-minded and fair-minded person you have painted yourself to be.
Perhaps LGBT Charlotteans would do well to think about their support of you. Perhaps you are not the person we thought you were. Perhaps future support and endorsements should be withheld.
A second option is still available to you. There’s still time for you to quell your personal ambition and save yourself, this county and its LGBT people and other minorities from the political gamesmanship that will land you in bed with James’ bigotry and the often just-as-misguided anti-LGBT beliefs of other Republican board members.
Your own principles, my esteemed friend, should trump political ambition — for the good of your own honor and respect, and for the good of this county and its citizens.
Matt Comer, editor