For all of Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt’s achievements in seven years on City Council, she’s also leaving with frustrations.
Officially, the Mayor Pro Tem’s job is to fill in for the mayor. But a big part of Eiselt’s role has been to build consensus, something that’s become increasingly challenging as there’s less face-to-face interaction between council members.
- “It’s a difficult work environment right now,” she told me in a recent interview.
- She said that COVID-19 is partly to blame, but also because the current council members are younger and more involved in work and personal life.
What’s happening: Eiselt November 2009 – AnnouncedShe was not running for reelection. But because of Multiple delays in the election date, she’ll wind up serving longer than expected.
Why it mattersEiselt, 60, was elected in 2015, and is one of the longest-serving members of council.Eiselt worked under two very different mayors, and seen the council shift from an average age of 61 to what was once heralded as the “first majority-millennial city council” in a major city nationwide.
- Charlotte has experienced tremendous growth in that time. However, Keith Lamont Scott’s police killing caused a worsening housing shortage, displacement, and a pandemic that disproportionately affected residents of color.
- Council has introduced reforms to try and address many of these issues. The last few years were dominated by in-fighting. It culminated with the introduction of single-family zone changes in thePlan 2040.
That’s why I sat down with Eiselt earlier this month to get her take on how council dynamics have changed, her achievements and where the city is headed.
Her journey: Eiselt, a Milwaukee native, has worked in manufacturing and banking. She has lived in London and Miami as a result. She moved to Charlotte in 1998 with her husband Tom and their three children.
Her experience in infrastructure makes her a champion for transportation improvements.
Eiselt said she’s proud of:
- Planning efforts such as the 2040 plan or any subsequent Revampling of development rulesThe vote is scheduled for July.
- Police reform. There’s a perception that Democrat-run cities don’t get along with their police departments, she said, but Charlotte’s City Council works directly with the police department while still holding them accountable. She noted that Charlotte saw a decline last year in homicides, which was not the case with other cities.
- Local changes Arts and Culture Fundingmodel.
- The successful push for greater Affordable housing bond.
Her personal safety is the main concern. A man attempted to kidnap her at gunpoint in 2007. This led her to form Neighbors for Safer Charlotte. She was inspired by her advocacy work to run for public office.
Still,She claims that her decision to not run for another term was influenced by the deterioration in the relationships between council members.
- “Generally, when you’re sitting at a table with someone, or you’re face-to-face, you’re gonna try negotiating or understanding each other before communications break down,” she said.
- “And being remote, and just, you know, the way this has evolved, we don’t know each other as well.”
There’s a bigger problemShe said that council members are still part time, making it difficult to devote the time necessary to address issues in a large city like Charlotte.
- Though she hopes council doesn’t have to switch to full-time, she said that current structure is outdated given how much the city has grown.
- “We’re at a point in our city where a council member can’t just be a side gig,” she said.
Transit: Eiselt said she’s fed up with the lack of progress on making buses more frequent and reliable.
- CATS estimates that the average travel time by bus is 90 minutes. For all of the plans to build flashy new rail lines, Eiselt can’t understand why the city won’t fix what we already have.
- She said that Charlotte will not make significant progress on transit unless it invests in it. Dead-last rankingEconomic mobility
These numbers: Charlotte residents spend 22% of their incomeTransit, according to the nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology. That’s the second largest expense after housing, as Axios’ Katie Peralta Soloff reported.
Eiselt wished she had fought harder for the city’s reduction of its property tax rate following the last revaluation.
- She claimed that CATS, the local transit agency, could have been covered by an additional two pennies in the tax rate. The cost of buying the buses would be another $100 million. But that’s much lower than the billions required for light rail.
- “People will isolate that comment and say I want to increase taxes, right?” she said. “But nobody’s willing to have the bigger conversation of the fact that there is a dollar amount assigned to you because you sit in traffic every day.”
What’s next:Eiselt said it’s dangerous to have elected officials in office for too long. She believes it’s time to move on, and make space for others.
- She didn’t rule out the possibility of returning to politics, though, if the right opportunity comes up.
- She intends to continue her involvement with public policy, particularly in transportation, for now.