“How do we solve all those issues if we have a rural mentality where things are static?”


Search this page at City Lab for the word “parks,” and you won’t find it. Yes, Charlotte is a much larger city than ours, but its mayor obviously has more important things to talk about.

Just try to imagine Jeff Gahan in a discussion with Charlotte’s mayor. You simply can’t. As proof, just one question and answer is enough.

‘Just Let Charlotte Be Charlotte’, Ronald Brownstein

Mayor Jennifer Roberts on urban growth, tolerance, poverty, and why rural areas and cities need different rules: America isn’t “one-size-fits-all.”

BROWNSTEIN: Research we’ve done at The Atlantic has looked at big cities across the country: We find an enormous gap in the share of white versus African American versus Hispanic kids who are in schools where most of their classes qualify as poor or low-income. The concentration of economic poverty here in Charlotte is: 23 percent of white kids are in schools where a majority of the students qualify as poor or low-income, 77 percent of African American kids are in such schools, and 80 percent of Hispanic kids are. Can changes inside the four walls of a school overcome that? Or if you have that level of concentrated poverty, are you unlikely to get the results that you want?

ROBERTS: It has to “both and.” And in Charlotte, we have this can-do attitude: We know the odds can be stacked against you, but we believe that if you get the right number of organizations and groups together and focus on a problem and put some real collaborative effort into it, then we can improve it. Statistics are challenging when you have high concentrations of poverty, so what are we doing? We’re looking at our housing policy. We’re constrained by our state in many ways, but we have some tools—for instance, inclusionary housing, trying to get more workforce and subsidized housing in some areas of town. So we want to work with the private sector to help that happen. We’re looking to rewrite our zoning ordinance, which is one tool we have for trying to get that mixed-use development. How do we work incrementally to bring about some of those changes so that we get more of our students in diverse settings?