Meeker could bring new era in politics

September 12, 2013 

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PAUL MAGANN — n&o file

Charles Meeker’s 10 years as mayor of Raleigh were marked with growth, downtown revitalization, better unity among different parts of the city after years of division and honest, efficient government. Because of Meeker’s record, his recent acknowledgment that he’s considering a race for governor in 2016 will be taken seriously.

Meeker would bring some valuable things to the race, win or lose. He is not flamboyant, but he is a tremendous student of the issues. In his decade in charge, he demonstrated an ability to accomplish things, whether it was big projects such as the Convention Center and the reopening of Fayetteville Street or drawing North Raleigh into the mainstream and giving that part of the city the attention it deserved.

Meeker worked diligently to include residents across socioeconomic lines when it came to making decisions, and he kept contentiousness on the City Council to a minimum, no easy feat. He moved easily in all neighborhoods, and he was open to suggestions from residents whether he was on a run or eating lunch downtown.

In a Meeker campaign, slings and arrows would be kept to a minimum. Not only did Meeker not engage in that kind of politics, he also didn’t respond to those who did. And he always focused on issues, which caused some people to think he lacked magnetism. But Meeker’s tenure followed those of Tom Fetzer and Paul Coble, Republicans who politicized the office. Meeker won because people in Raleigh were weary of that and wanted someone who focused on management.

Meeker’s opponents in the Democratic primary – and with Republican Gov. Pat McCrory looking pretty weak at this point, there are likely to be several – will be challenged to demonstrate their knowledge of the issues and to keep things serious. That would be valuable, and appreciated, after a period of harsh partisanship and inflammatory rhetoric designed to divide the people rather than bring them together.

That may be a way to win elections, but it makes governing very difficult, if not impossible. The former mayor, and other candidates both Democratic and Republican, could usher in a new constructive era in state politics. They might just discover the people are ready for a change.

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