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Charlotte Observer: Mayor Foxx Renews Call To Merge City, County Governments

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After his swearing in, Mayor Anthony Foxx high-fives son Zachary as daughter Hillary and his wife, Samara, stand by. Foxx also

After his swearing in, Mayor Anthony Foxx high-fives son Zachary as daughter Hillary and his wife, Samara, stand by. Foxx also spoke about attention to more youth programs. Photo: T. Ortega Gaines. Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said he will ask the City Council within a week to launch a study of how to fully merge city and county governments - an issue that the mayor doggedly pursued in his first term. In a speech Monday night during an oath of office ceremony, Foxx asked: "Why would we not examine ways to make local government work better, perhaps even less expensively, for the people who pay the bills?" The mayor spent much of his 10-minute speech pushing for local governments to work more closely, including a full merger of city and county government, which would create one elected body, one manager and one mayor or president. In his first term, Foxx got little traction on fully blending the city and county governments. But the new City Council could be more receptive to his proposal. On Monday night, the new council welcomed four new members, giving the Democrats a 9-2 majority for the first time since the city went to single-member districts in 1977. The previous council had an 8-3 Democratic super-majority. This new council could be called a "hyper-majority." Democrat John Autry replaces fellow Democrat Nancy Carter, who decided not to run again for her District 5 seat. Democrat LaWana Mayfield replaces Warren Turner, whom she defeated in the Democratic primary for District 3. Two of four at-large council members are also new. Democrat Jason Burgess, who was appointed to finish the last 18 months of his late mother Susan Burgess' term, did not run. Republican Edwin Peacock lost his bid for a third term in the November election. Two new Democrats take their seats: Claire Fallon and Beth Pickering. Both were propelled into office by Foxx's re-election effort against Republican Scott Stone. In his speech, Foxx said he hopes council members will approve a study group for consolidation. The group would give a yes or no recommendation, and possibly a plan to move forward if they recommend it. If the group recommends against consolidation, Foxx said the city would move forward with other ways to make government more efficient, by combining some city-county functions, such as permitting. "Either way, the citizens win because they will know we are leaving no stone unturned," Foxx said. In addition to consolidation, Foxx said the city should continue to work to help the city's children. He said the city should work to connect 4,000 children to "career paths and job training" through programs such as the mayor's Youth Employment Program and Discovery Place, which can expose students to science, technology and math. "If we're going to arrest 4,000 kids, let's put 4,000 kids on a pathway of success," Foxx said. Foxx also said the city would change its workforce development program. He said the city would expand the number of satellite offices to help the unemployed from 10 to 30 by July. Foxx also gave a list of some of his accomplishments, which included: Giving money to the county library system in 2010. Creating competition for city money used to fund afterschool programs. Landing the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Foxx noted that police officers and firefighters didn't receive the scheduled step pay increases this year. The city and Foxx have said the city's current pay plan for public safety employees is unaffordable in the long-term. Foxx on Monday said they deserve a pay plan that is "sustainable" and "rewards them ... for the dangers they face everyday." He said the city had lost 27,000 jobs during the term of a previous council, from 2007 to 2009, but that in the most recent term, the city "played our cards as well as they could be played." Foxx also recognized departing council members. He gave two awards - named for previous mayors Richard Vinroot and Harvey Gantt - to Carter and Peacock. Foxx said Carter is one of the city's "hardest-working public servants." He applauded Peacock's work on environmental issues, such as recycling and charging stations uptown for electric cars. Peacock was the last Republican to be elected citywide, in 2009. He said four years after first being elected, "I can honestly say I wouldn't change a thing. Thank you Charlotte for allowing me to serve you." Council members voted Patrick Cannon as mayor pro tem. Cannon, a Democrat, was the top vote-getter among at-large candidates. Copyright 2011 The Charlotte Observer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.