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Cornelius News

I-77 battle shifts to November elections; does Marine Commission vote matter?




June 23. By Dave Yochum. Republicans are taking stock after HB954 went down in the NC Senate earlier this week. Democrats are making the most of it and it looks like NC Rep. John Bradford may have an opponent in the fall in District 98 if her petition drive succeeds, while Rep. Charles Jeter will face a Democrat who graduated with honors from Harvard.

Chaz Beasley, Jeter’s opponent in District 92, said the failure of House Bill 954 in the North Carolina General Assembly is a Republican failure.

The Republican caucus in the NC Senate decided not to send the bill, which would have cancelled the I-77 toll contract, to the floor for a vote. It passed handily in the House, with backing from Bradford and Jeter.

“I’m extremely disappointed that our representatives in Raleigh failed to clean up the mess that they created. Our community can’t afford these tolls,” Beasley, an attorney, said in a press release. Jeter supported the toll project but had an epiphany when Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain was soundly defeated last November by John Aneralla, a long-time toll opponent.

“If representatives like Charles Jeter had done the right thing years ago, rather than waiting until the last possible moment to join the fight, this debacle could have been avoided,” Beasley said.

“If representatives like Charles Jeter had done the right thing years ago, rather than waiting until the last possible moment to join the fight, this debacle could have been avoided”

– Chaz Beasley, candidate for District 92

Jane Campbell, a retired Navy captain from Davidson, appears likely to gain enough signatures to get her name on the November ballot to run against Bradford in 92. The deadline for signatures is tomorrow.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett, a Republican, said the fight against the tolls is hardly over, despite the failure in Raleigh. Another petition drive is under way to put former Rep. Robert Brawley on the ballot in Iredell to go up against NC Rep. John Fraley, who has supported the toll plan.

“The good news is at the end of this week, the petition drive [for Brawley] will be done…the pressure goes on the two gubernatorial candidates this fall and once again we let people know about out mistrust and displeasure via the ballot box. We now just have to decide the next cards to play. We will look back over the last three years, evaluate who got in our way. Who gave their all…and who we trust going forward,” Puckett said.

The Republican party in North Mecklenburg appears to be split between a P3 faction—in favor of the current toll plan as the only way to widen I-77 any time soon—and the anti-toll forces.

In Cornelius, the Republican dominated Town Board voted 5-0 to censure a Republican mayor in December. In June they also voted 5-0 to ask him to resign, and 5-0 in favor of a resolution of no confidence.

“I and a small band of people were fighting this three years ago when most of our elected officials said it was a waste of time, we change their minds, the minds of the majority of the house , and continue to work on  the leadership or what passes for leadership in Raleigh,” Puckett said. “We will just move from one battlefield to another.”

The next battle in the I-77 fight might amount to a skirmish on the Inland Sea. The Lake Norman Marine Commission will look at a permit for the NCDOT/Cintra plan to widen I-77 across the causeway north of Exit 30.

It may be just a ripple for what’s turned into a 50-year, $650 million widening plan between Lake Norman and Charlotte, says Bill Russell, CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber.

“I’d love to sit here and say they will do the right thing…this thing appears to be bigger than any local municipality or organization. But when the chamber, the citizens, the local governments all say ‘no, no, no’ this thing is bigger than the Marine Commission could ever stop,” the veteran business leader said.