Republican, Democratic Council Members Team Up For Podcast
There's been lots of talk about the wave of young members joining the Charlotte City Council. They're already veering away from business as usual - when it comes to communicating with constituents. First, at-large member Braxton Winston live-streamed citizen comments from his seat at the dais. Now, two other new members - a Republican and a Democrat - are producing a post-meeting podcast.
Tariq Bokhari and Larken Egleston call their podcast R&D in the QC. Their theme music is a tune from Rage Against the Machine, clearly a sign of their intentions for both the podcast – and the council.
The plan is this: After every Monday night meeting, they'll run up to Bokhari's closet-sized office on the 15th floor of the Government Center and hash over the the week's issues. It'll ready Tuesday morning - and it'll be "commute-sized," according to Egleston.
"We're making it 15 to 20 minutes so you can download it while you're getting ready for work and listen to it on your way in to work, and have a recap, be ready to talk with your colleagues at the office about whatever happened the night before at the city council meeting," Egleston says.
Egleston said they hope to reach people who may not pay attention to the council.
"I think one of the big things that a lot of us newcomers were wanting to do is try to find ways to engage more people in the process of local government, engage younger people in something that they might view as otherwise a boring topic," he said.
Egleston is 35, and a Democrat. He was elected November 7 to the seat in District 1, near uptown. Bokhari is a 37-year-old Republican who took over the District 6 seat around Southpark. Despite their political differences, they bonded on the campaign trail, in part over their beards, Bokhari said.
"The beards themselves are what truly united us in the beginning," he said. "After a couple different debating points over a few drinks we realized that there were many things we agreed on. And we were like, 'You know this dialogue we're just having one on one. Wouldn't this be great to you know open up the curtain and have it with others and let them engage.'"
Their first edition Dec. 19 followed the council's monthly zoning meeting. That night's hot topic was whether to lengthen council terms and make it a full-time job. Bokhari debated with a guest, fellow newcomer and Democrat Braxton Winston.
BOKHARI: … but I'm willing to compromise on something like four years, but … .
WINSTON: … and let me be clear, is that by law we cannot vote to give ourselves a raise. It would have to be for the next council, so whether I'm elected or not, I believe we should have a full-time government.
The discussion was lively and unscripted, and respectful - exactly how Egleston and Bokhari want to keep it. Bokhari said they know there will be disagreements - on how to solve the city's economic mobility problems, for example, or on social issues.
"I think we've all made an agreement that we're going to we're going to approach this professionally, we're going to have fun with it, but we're going to speak from the heart. And then we're not going to take it personally, we're going to continue the friendship afterwards as best as we can," Bokhari said.
They hope to be an example of how to debate productively across the political divide.