Jennifer Roberts Sworn In As Mayor, Lays Out Ambitious Agenda
Jennifer Roberts begins her Tuesday with a busy official schedule to go along with her new official title. She was sworn in as mayor of Charlotte at a ceremony Monday night.
Her first official act, swearing in the members of the new Charlotte City Council. And Roberts' relationship with them will determine the fate of a long list of initiatives laid out Monday night.
When Roberts first took charge Monday night everyone was singing from the same page. But that was the handy work of Manley Roberts, Charlotte’s new first husband. The task ahead for Mayor Jennifer Roberts is likely much more difficult than conducting a choir.
She laid out her priorities in a speech after taking the oath of office. "There are several areas that demand our attention," she said, "Our youth, our neighborhoods, our workers."
On youth, she stressed the need for more mentoring partnerships with businesses. More programs to keep at risk kids active and not involved in crime. Roberts, who campaigned heavily on improving education in Charlotte even though the mayor plays no role in public education, said she would convene a summit on what happens after class is let out, "to focus our community on how we can ensure that all of our children have access to quality afterschool programs."
On workers, Roberts pledged to bring equal pay for male and female city workers. She said she would help build small and minority owned businesses and work with the city council to expand LGBT protections in Charlotte.
And on neighborhoods, Roberts stressed the key to all neighborhoods is a feeling of safety. With Charlotte’s violent crime rate on the rise Roberts promised she would, "make it a budget priority this year to assess the resources needs of public safety in a prudent manner and in a way that ensures the quality of life that we treasure." Translation – more cops on city streets.
And for east Charlotte, where Robert’s grew up, she said this, "we will see action on Eastland Mall this term." The site of the former mall is owned by the city which has been trying to redevelop it for years.
And there was more throughout the 16 minute speech.
"It’s ambitious." That’s Councilman Greg Phipps describing the platform. Then he chuckled a bit. Phipps is chair of the city’s budget committee which explains the laugh. "You know, there’s going to be a lot of demands on the budget so it’s going to be interesting." Because he adds, no one wants another tax increase.
And what about Eastland mall? Former and now new council member James “Smuggie” Mitchell ran, in part, by saying he was sorry for the past development mistakes at the site. Now he says, "we need a real plan with real dollars that can make a real difference at Eastland Mall." Which means he isn’t jumping at the chance to vote for a plan just because it’s brought forward by the mayor.
Roberts has already ruffled feathers with talk of changing committee assignments and chairs. Councilman Greg Phipps acknowledges the mayor’s honeymoon period with the council may have ended before it began. But he adds, "hopefully, we won't get into a spate of inaction based on personalities because we’ve got a lot of work to do."
Jennifer Roberts did handily win the mayor’s office. But that mandate doesn’t necessarily carry over to the council, which holds the real power in city government.