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Charlotte mayor could send message to GOP

RNC Charlotte 2020-4

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles speaks during a news conference for the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte in October.

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Monday, June 3, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence came to Charlotte this week for a 2020 Republican National Convention kickoff event. The visit was a reminder of the discomfort many feel in this progressive city about the 2020 RNC — an uneasiness so deep that Mayor Vi Lyles said last summer that she wouldn’t give a welcoming speech at the convention.

We think she should. Here’s what she could say:

As the mayor of this beautiful city, I’d like to welcome the Republican National Convention to Charlotte. We’re a Southern city, so we know a little about how to host a party. By the time you leave, I think you’ll understand why 100 people a day decide that they want to stay in Charlotte a lot longer than a week.

But today I want to ask you a question: Why are you here?

We think there are a lot of good reasons. The RNC chose Charlotte because we’re a growing city, a vibrant city with much to do and see. Like many cities, that growth and vibrancy is rooted in our diversity. Charlotte is a city of different faiths, different ethnicities and, yes, different ways of looking at life. It’s something we welcome.

Do you?

One of the things I cherish about Charlotte is its blend of immigrants, old and new, who help our economy, add to our worldview and simply make this place more interesting. You’ll experience that richness in ways big and small during your time here, including where you eat. This is not just a town of meat-and-threes, but a city where descendents of Greece and the Caribbean, of Africa and South America bring their food, work ethic and culture to the rest of us.

But these days, your party and your president don’t seem very interested in those contributions. The GOP’s policies, including those involving legal immigrants, seek to exclude many of the people we embrace and value as neighbors.

Similarly, your party and your president have advocated for policies and laws that would treat members of the LGBTQ community as something lesser. In our city, they are not only welcome, but vital, and we believe they should be protected from the pain of public discrimination.

So I ask again: Why are you here?

You could have gone to one of the many lovely rural communities that share Republican values, but you didn’t. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that our light rail line makes Charlotte pretty easy to navigate for a big city, or that our greenways and green space offer different ways to enjoy Charlotte’s beauty. We believe that to do great things, you need public investment in infrastructure and industry and, critically, in education. I’m pleased to say that many corporate CEOs who call Charlotte home agree with those principles. It’s possible to be both pro-business and pro-people.

Make no mistake, Charlotte is far from a perfect city. We struggle with crime, with inequity in schools and uneven economic opportunity. But we strive to understand the roots of our flaws, and we want to take on the hard work to correct them. Most importantly, we believe that everyone has a role in doing so, and that everyone benefits.

I know many of you here today might feel differently, and that’s OK. If you ever have the pleasure of attending one of our City Council meetings, you’d see that our diverse voices often don’t agree. We’re a city that grapples with where we’ve been and where we’re going. But we know we don’t want to go backward, and we don’t fear all the colors of change.

So ask yourself: Why are you here, this week, in Charlotte? The food, the culture, the energy — so many of the things you find appealing about our city are rooted in the people and principles you fight against. I don’t expect a week here to change your mind, but I hope that as we welcome you to our city, you can welcome us, too. Our future, together, will be better for it.

The Charlotte Observer

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