Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

The voice which will not be silenced

Russell thoughts 1On January 2, 1996, I was hired as President of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, then known as the North Mecklenburg Chamber.  The Chamber at the time was working aggressively to bring a new High School to the area.  Our region was seeing dramatic growth, yet the schools were overcrowded and the CMS leadership in Charlotte relied on bussing North Mecklenburg children to schools in Charlotte as the answer.

While local elected officials and business leaders lobbied our School Board, the real change came about because parents and citizens said enough is enough. A successful lawsuit brought by local parents challenged the status quo and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools were forced through the courts to stop using kids as pawns in their student assignment policies.

The North Mecklenburg Education Committee, Chamber of Commerce, FUME, and Town elected leadership worked together to bring new schools to North Meck. There are several significant individuals who played a key role from the county commissioners and school board representatives of District #1 to the parents and citizens who simply stood up to the bad policies impacting our children.

It’s funny how in twenty years some things have changed and some things have not. Once again, we see North Mecklenburg getting short changed – this time in the form of transportation improvements. Our elected leadership in Charlotte still holds the trump cards in a high stakes game which has dire consequences for the quality of life and commerce at the lake for the next 50 years.

Only…it is no game.  This nightmare is for real and the stakes are the legacy we leave for the generations to come.

Just as parents took the lead in an education lawsuit almost two decades ago, local citizens have banded together to stop the HOT lanes.  Widen I77 has a court date set for January 8th as they contest NCDOT’s contract with the Spanish firm Cintra.  Just over $100,000 has been raised by Widen I77 through fundraisers and local citizen contributions.I77 Traffic Jam

Running on a different path, the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) will take up the issue again January 20th and could decide to ask NCDOT to cancel the contract with HOT lanes at the lake. Currently, the City of Charlotte controls 46% of the vote. There is a touch of irony that once again an individual, who does not reside in North Mecklenburg, could decide the future of a region for decades to come.

All that said, just as it was almost two decades ago when I arrived at the chamber, it will not be the influential “Power Players” that wakes the lake and with it…the state.

It will not be a Governor, Senator, State Legislator, or town board who stops the madness.  It will be the grassroots.  The mom who takes to the road everyday with her kids, the store owner trying to carve out a living, the young person just out of college, citizens, and parents – just everyday people who have been pushed way too far.

It will be one voice amplified thousands of times in a voice too loud to be silenced. A voice which will not be ignored until the will of the people prevail over the power of the few. And a voice which grows, louder, and louder, and louder each day.

But make no mistake, what started as a ripple in the waters of a lake will wash across this state, leaving change in its wake.

Bill Russell

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Transportation & Road Improvement, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Proposed Superstreet for Cornelius (NC) May Not Be Such A Super Idea”

Russell thoughts 1“Left turns are bad!” That is the foundation of the “Superstreet” concept which the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has recommended for Cornelius between Jetton Road and Sam Furr Road. With a Superstreet design, instead of waiting for oncoming traffic to clear to make a left, or using a traditional traffic signals, all vehicles are re-routed to dedicated left lanes. These vehicles then make U-turns at a designated distance and circle back to reach a planned destination.

I am convinced that it is not a street that makes a town or a region super. But rather, it is the people and the businesses who bring life and passion to that community that make it so.

For over 10 years, town staff, elected officials, citizens, and local business leaders have examined transportation plans for West Catawba Avenue. The Superstreet design was first suggested to the town by NCDOT when the first part of this road was widened in 2005. At that time, Cornelius town officials and the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce lobbied NCDOT for a hybrid version of the Superstreet design. We insisted on adding traditional intersections with left hand turns to foster economic and business vitality. Over the recommendations of NCDOT, more left turn lanes were also added (five in total).

During the last few months, the town has encouraged the businesses and residents of our community to weigh in on the most recent Superstreet recommendation by the NCDOT. Planning sessions have examined drawings and computer simulations showing how the Superstreet concept would work. There seems to be no doubt that the recommended Superstreet design can move greater volumes of traffic more efficiently, safely, and quickly through Cornelius.

That said, I am not convinced this traffic pattern is in the best interest of our community. Recently Commissioner Jim Duke pointed out that the Superstreet design does not fit the character of Cornelius. Others have suggested that the section of West Catawba Avenue, from Jetton Road to Sam Furr Road, does not yet have a distinct character. It is important to consider that what exists today is not what will be there tomorrow. Business and residential development continues to evolve and there is so much potential for the future.superstreet

While Hwy 115 serves as a main street for Cornelius and Davidson, West Catawba Avenue is “Main Street Lake Norman.”  It is the main artery pulsating through the heart of the Lake Norman region.  Just as Cornelius town and business leaders fought for the consensus and compromise a decade ago to protect the economic vitality of West Catawba Avenue during its initial expansion, it is imperative for the future of Cornelius and the Lake Norman region that we do so again today.

You cannot load character into a computer simulation. It cannot be drawn into a blueprint, nor does it show up in traffic counts. But you can see it in the faces and feel it in the hearts of the people who live and work here.  It’s what makes our lake towns more than super and the reason we call Lake Norman home.

W.E.” Bill” Russell, CCE IOM

President and CEO

Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

June 26, 2015 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment