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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Bathroom banter does damage to state’s business brand

Congratulations to N.C. Reps. Chuck McGrady and Charles Jeter and N.C. Senators Fletcher Hartsell, Tom Apodaca and Tamara Barringer. They are the only Republican lawmakers standing up to the panderers who pressed for today’s special session at the N.C. General Assembly on the pretense of protecting people who use Charlotte bathrooms.

Congratulations also to Gov. Pat McCrory for not pressing for the session, even if he personally disagrees with the Charlotte City Council’s decision related to discrimination issues.

North Carolina’s advantages economically are so strong that this kind of legislative silliness won’t have a long-term effect. But such pandering does short-term damage to our brand as a welcoming, progressive business-oriented state.

My experience of more than 30 years in North Carolina suggests virtually all of the businesses and entities that are creating new jobs and opportunities here tend to be led by people who abhor discrimination. Why would they want to expand in a state that doesn’t show respect for all people?

The special session also points to the bitter partisanship blocking the state’s progress. Republicans know their chances of winning a majority in the city councils of North Carolina’s biggest cities are waning as fast as the opportunity for Democrats to win a majority of the General Assembly because of the 2010 gerrymandering.

But North Carolina’s charter limits the power of local entities, while granting overarching power to state government. It was written at a time when rural interests dominated the state. Rural interests remain vital — our state’s two most powerful lawmakers live in relatively small towns that increasingly rely economically on the big cities about 40-50 miles away. Sadly, more than two-thirds of our state’s growth is occurring in the three metro areas, rather than a more even division that would be healthier. Bathroom banter does nothing to attack that problem.

The state charter enables people who may have too little time on their hands, or who need a winning issue for their present or future campaigns, to make bizarre comments about how Charlotte’s new law is “radical” and a “public safety issue.” It also may give them a chance to add considerably more important legislation that further blocks local control, such as capping the minimum wage statewide. That is a vital issue that needs serious debate and not be treated as an afterthought.

People who are afraid of visiting a Charlotte bathroom should do the obvious: Stay out of Charlotte bathrooms. Certainly there are plenty of available privies for the fearful in Kings Mountain, Eden and other places around the state represented by folks who don’t like Charlotte City Council decisions. (The council voted 7-4 for the nondiscrimination ordinance.)

My friend Ed Hinson, a veteran Charlotte lawyer, noted some issues that might be worthy of a special session — and matter to businesses — in a letter to The Charlotte Observer this week:

“If our teachers were among the lowest paid in the nation; if our poorest citizens could not afford a decent place to live despite a building boom; if many of our educated young people were burdened by oppressive debt; if a speedy travel lane reserved only for motorists who could afford it was being added to a congested highway, would our political leaders call a special session of the legislature to address these problems?”

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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