As a member of the Raleigh City Council for two terms, Nancy McFarlane was known for a quiet studiousness about the issues, for working behind the scenes and for being a strong supporter of Mayor Charles Meeker, who served in the job for 10 years and drove the city forward on a host of fronts. Meeker didnt raise his voice, but made it clear where he stood.
As mayor, McFarlane, an independent business owner, is showing her own signs of forceful leadership. Certainly that was the case Monday when she visited with News & Observer staff. She covered a range of topics, but saved her strongest emphasis for the issue of regional transit. Its one that has long divided the city and county politically, with transit proponents struggling like someone having to push a red wagon full of groceries up a steep hill.
Loading more groceries on that cart lately has been Paul Coble, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, who has refused to support putting a transit tax referendum on the ballot this year. He says its because hes reluctant to add a tax of any kind in tough times. A half-cent increase in the sales tax is proposed to help fund a plan improving mobility in Wake and more closely knitting it with other parts of the Triangle.
McFarlane knows that better transit choices expanded bus routes initially, with rail projects in the future are important to maintaining a vibrant business climate, coping with traffic and shaping intelligent land use. Transit, she said, is the one thing that is fundamental to what we have become. But, she says, partisanship has stood in the way of progress. (McFarlane is an independent; Coble is a Republican.)
Local government is not well served by harsh partisanship, no matter the issue. McFarlane has the council and most of Wakes mayors behind her in favoring a transit referendum. Hers is a common-sense position that the commissioners would do well to heed.