Jennifer Roberts was sworn in as Charlotte mayor on Monday night, Dec. 7 in front of a packed house and among great fanfare. Both balconies were full as people watched Roberts become the city’s fifth mayor in less than three years.
“I’m truly honored and humbled for the support of so many of you here tonight, and for the support of this community and for the opportunity to serve this great city of Charlotte,” Roberts said in her speech, immediately following the swearing in.
“We live in a community that is blessed. Not only must we give back individually, but as a community that is fortunate, we have a special responsibility to ensure together that no one is left behind,” Roberts continued. “Charlotte’s history is that of a progressive community. One that welcomes and values all of its people. And we’re a city with a reputation of getting things done.”
“Long before I announced for mayor, I heard from people throughout the community about things our city does well and things that we can do better,” she said. “My job is to work with this council to fulfill Charlotte’s vision and take our city to the next great level. As I travel the city and listen to people of all walks of life, what I hear most clearly is the importance of opportunity that is open to all. I ran for mayor of Charlotte to work with you to create a city with 21st century opportunities for all people, and to expand those opportunities to every corner of our city.”
Among her listed top priorities were “youth, neighborhoods, workers.”
As for Charlotte’s younger population, Roberts stressed the need for more mentoring, after-school programs, more youth employment and diversion away from the criminal justice system.
Roberts also said that she wants to spread opportunity to all of the city’s neighborhoods, including its oft neglected sectors. She promised action on Eastland Mall this term, as well as an update to the 2030 transportation plan, to “renew our commitment to serving all parts of our city, including the North and the South. All of Charlotte must have quality access to transportation options, and that includes safe walking and biking paths,” the new mayor said.
She also called for more mixed use and mixed income projects, as well as more affordable housing options overall.
While Roberts noted that, “We have been through a cycle of historically low crime” she was also quick to point out that “the trend is shifting. Not just here, but across the country, in the wrong direction.”
“I will make it a budget priority this year to assess the resource needs of public safety in a prudent manner and in a way that ensures the quality of life we treasure,” Roberts added.
Further, Roberts pledged to work “aggressively” to both attract new companies to Charlotte and retain those already here, with a special focus on “small, women and minority owned businesses,” saying they are “the backbone of our economy” and that they “create most of the new jobs in our city.”
Mayor Roberts reconfirms support for LGBT rights and a Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance
Roberts carved out time in her speech to recommit support to the Charlotte LGBT community.
“I will work with council to ensure non-discrimination for our LGBT community,” Roberts said, presumably referring to the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance that failed to pass last time out but is expected to have a more successful outcome this time around, should it come up for vote, which is expected.
Roberts also mentioned that she will be speaking to the LGBT Chamber of Commerce during her first day in office, Tuesday, Dec. 8.
“In the evening, I will address the LGBT Chamber of Commerce to reinforce my commitment to make Charlotte a fair and accepting city where all people are deserving of equal treatment under the law,” Roberts said.
She has a busy first day, which also includes ride-alongs with both city sanitation workers and the CMPD, visiting with small businesses on Beatties Ford Road, visiting an after-school program and attending a tree lighting honoring victims of domestic violence at police headquarters.
Clodfelter and two council members exit
Dan Clodfelter was appointed mayor in 2014, following Patrick Cannon’s arrest, and lost in his mayoral bid to Roberts. Also exiting the scene are two at-large council members, Michael Barnes and David Howard, both of whom voted against the full LGBT non-discrimination ordinance back in March. All three gave brief outgoing remarks.
Vi Lyles elected mayor pro-tem, with one objecting
Vi Lyles was appointed mayor pro-tem, despite not getting the majority of the votes which is how that position has traditionally been decided.
Top vote getter Julie Eiselt said she supported Lyles, who campaigned for the position, becoming pro-tem. Eiselt cited her reasoning as a desire to focus on learning the “duties of office” as she begins her first term.
Republican council member objected to the breaking of tradition, saying, “To me, this feels like a backroom deal, and I won’t support it. It breaks trust.” He nominated Democratic council member Patsy Kinsey.
Mayor pro-tem conducts meetings when the mayor is unable to attend.
LaWana Mayfield thanks TurnOUT Charlotte
Two openly gay city council members returned to their seats this year: Al Austin and LaWana Mayfield. Mayfield took time out to thank the TurnOUT Charlotte initiative, which worked to help get pro-LGBT candidates elected.
“Thank you to TurnOUT Charlotte, which was a collaboration of Equality North Carolina, Mecklenburg Political Action Committee and the Human Rights Campaign,” Mayfield said. “Because of your work and everything that you all did on the local level for a number of candidates, for being engaged and for proving that ‘out’ can win.”
Fight For $15 activists in attendance with signs
Fight For $15 demonstrators were present at the meeting, holding signs but remaining quiet throughout the event. They were there to call on Roberts to stay true to her campaign promise of raising the minimum wage of city employees up from $13 an hour to $15 an hour.
While Roberts did not directly address this in her speech, she did speak to poverty and income inequality more broadly.
“We cannot endure as a city of haves and have nots,” Roberts said. “At the core of the American Dream is the ideal that everyone will be given the opportunity to work hard and achieve their goals in life no matter where they come from or who they are.”