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Mayor, Community Leaders Deal With Fallout Of Budget Vote

Mayor Foxx making a final plea to the city council for approval of the 8 percent tax hike on May 25, 2012. Photo: Julie Rose.

Mayor Foxx making a final plea to the city council for approval of the 8 percent tax hike on May 25, 2012. Photo: Julie Rose. In the aftermath of a surprise city council move to ditch plans for a tax increase and infrastructure improvement package, elected officials and community leaders are adjusting their plans for the future and trying to shape the discussion. The city council's sudden decision to scrap the infrastructure package and tax hike had the feel of a kid who realizes he can't win the game, so he takes his ball and goes home. Mayor Anthony Foxx helped push the council's vote by vetoing a smaller tax increase and infrastructure package that was supported by six of the council's 11 members. As Foxx sees it, he was protecting taxpayers from wasting money on a scaled-back plan that wouldn't pay off. "The goal of raising taxes ought to be very clear, and you ought to have reasonably good chances of meeting that target," said Foxx in a briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon. Furthermore, the mayor says a sharply divided council would have been hard-pressed to rally voters in support of the infrastructure bonds. "So I'd rather we get our ducks in a row and spend the next several months working on something that we can gain a broader consensus over, so that when we go to voters, we're as together as we can be," said Foxx. He hopes council will be there within a year, which means city council members may be in the tough position of raising taxes while seeking re-election. Foxx says communicating the value of the projects will be crucial. Mary Hopper thinks that's part of what went wrong this time around. She directs University City Partners. Nearly a quarter of the $926 million package would have gone into roads, sidewalks and bridges in northeast Charlotte. "I guess what I'm feeling today personally is sort of a regret," says Hopper. "Maybe I should have been more forceful in saying, 'Let me explain the exact impact.'" Hopper says the council's decision is a setback for University City, but not insurmountable. Tom Murray takes a similar view. He's CEO of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, which stood to get $45 million from the tax increase to redevelop Bojangles Coliseum and the surrounding area into a venue for amateur sports. "My thinking is that we'll get another shot at it," says Murray. "I think there was a lot of support for that project among the council, but there was a bigger issue about whether this was the right time for this type of capital improvement plan." The conversation now shifts to whether 2013 is the right time.