January 20, 2023 7:00am

Race, Mass Transit, The Next Panthers Coach Is...

Three different questions offer insight into the hearts and minds of Mecklenburg County residents

Photo of Ken Garfield
Charlotte, NC Correspondent

Three very different questions offer insight into the minds and hearts of folks in and around Mecklenburg County. We generally are pleased with the state of racial progress. We consider taking the bus or light rail to work. We hope the Panthers’ interim coach gets the gig.

Each month Power Poll emails questions for you to answer. Some focus on local matters, others on issues beyond Mecklenburg. All inspire you to think more deeply about the world around us. Want to participate? Email to be considered for the list (free of charge). That gets you to longtime Charlotte writer/editor Ken Garfield, keeper of the Charlotte Power Poll. You have from Tuesday to Thursday to take the poll. Then on Friday, you can read Ken’s story reporting and analyzing the results.

So join the party. Express your opinion. See what your neighbors are thinking. Help build community consensus. The more people who participate in Power Poll, the more valuable it is.

Here’s Power Poll No. 8.

Question No. 1.

Power Poll respondents view the current state of race more positively than African-Americans across our land.

Forty-eight percent of Power Pollers say we are a more harmonious society compared to 33 percent who say we are less harmonious. Your Power Poll scribe visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta over the MLK weekend. The old photos will break your heart. The belief that we have come a long way is understandable given our shameful history of lynchings and the like. Or perhaps the positive response reflects our city’s generally optimistic spirit. Nationally, African-Americans not so much. A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that a meager 19 percent of black adults say the country has made a lot of racial progress.

One thing we can all agree on: In pursuit of equal opportunity, there is work to be done

Question No. 2

This one surprised us. Cynics might have predicted that most respondents would say there is nothing CATS can do to get them out of their car or SUV and onto a bus or train. Instead, only 38 percent said that. On the other hand, 44 percent said faster, more convenient service would inspire them to take mass transit.

This Power Poll result offers hope for the City of Charlotte as it invests in light rail, buses, sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways. By 2040, the city wants half of all trips to be taken in something other than a car.

Let’s hear from Power Poll participant David Scholl, who represents District 2 on Stallings Town Council and takes the long view: “It seems that critics of public transit only look at short-term utilization. It is frustrating that none look down the track 20 to 50 years out. How do the critics plan on moving a rapidly growing regional population?”

Question No. 3.

A whopping 73 percent want interim coach Steve Wilks to get the job permanently. He went 6-6 as the interim, commanded respect from players and seems likely to stay awhile. Can we say the same thing about one of those assistant coaches around the league who are the flavor of the month? Or former Saints coach Sean Payton, who would break the bank to come here?

See you in February for the next Power Poll. Tell your friends and neighbors about us. Be well. Work for good.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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