ATLANTA -- The new mayor of Charlotte, N.C., last week urged citizens in the surrounding six-county region to help the city finance its capital projects.
"We are now a functionally integrated region of at least six counties: Gaston, Iredell, Cabarrus, Union, York, and Mecklenburg, whose citizens ... fly out of the same airport, attend events in the same airport, attend events in the same coliseum, and mostly work and shop and spend their days in Charlotte," Mr. Vinroot said in his inauguration speech last Monday.
"Accordingly, all citizens of this ... area, not just Charlotte tax-payers, must take responsibility for building those good things," he said.
The former city councilman did not say how this burden should be shared, making no mention of a commuter tax or a personal income tax, devices that other cities have used to force out-of-town commuters to fund infrastructure facilities.
But he did say he would push the idea of regionalism with state as well as local officials. "I intend to be outspoken in espousing that new reality to our neighboring counties and urban jurisdictions, and their elected officials at all levels," he said.
Mr. Vinroot also renewed his call for outright consolidation of Charlotte and adjoining Mecklenburg County.
"I firmly believe political consolidation is necessary, not only so that we might more effectively govern ourselves, but also so that we may effectively lead our emerging urban region," he said.
Mr. Vinroot has argued for a merger of the city and Mecklenburg County as a city council member, but as mayor he is apt to be in a much stronger position to affect a process that supporters have urged for more than two decades. In 1971, voters defeated a consolidation referendum and in 1985 a study commission decided not to present another proposal to the voters.
In May, city and county officials approved combining the police department under the city manager's authority and the parks department under the county. Staff members are working to iron out details, subject to final approval, that would allow th plan to become effective July 1, 1992. Mr. Vinroot is seeking to speed up that process.
Officials in Charlotte and its surrounding cities and counties expressed mixed feelings about pursuing regionalism.
"Getting surrounding counties to help Charlotte with big building projects is an interesting idea, and may very well free up money that can be used in other areas," said Don Reid, a newly elected councilman in Charlotte, on Friday. "But the question is how do you get the money, and I don't think a commuter tax is the answer."
Kathy Combs, finance director of the city of Concord, which is about 20 miles northeast of Charlotte in Cabarrus County, said local governments outside of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County will be wary of paying for building projects in that city.
"I doubt that you will see a great deal of enthusiasm," she said. "We are facing our own needs right now in terms of infrastructure.
Mr. Vinroot's renewed call for consolidation of Charlotte and Mecklenburg evoked strong support from some officials, but others said they have difficulties with the concept.
"It's a great deal, and I will be supportive," said Cyndee Patterson, a city councilwoman. Mr. Reid agreed that consolidation is a intriguing concept, but he said he doubts its practicality for Charlotte.
"I will support anything that results in greater efficiency and saves money, but I haven't been convinced yet that there are real dollars-and-cents benefits," he said.