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Where's Pat McCrory been in Charlotte's time of need? 

Mayor M-I-A on the campaign trail

Since the race for governor began, Charlotte has been hit with a plethora of problems. First, flooding buried parts of the city under water. Then the post-Hurricane Ike gas crisis. And now Wachovia's collapse.

Where has Mayor Pat McCrory been during all of this? Mostly on the campaign trail.

On Sept. 9, the day the rain started, McCrory was in Raleigh participating in his third debate with his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue.

When the Doral Apartments in east Charlotte flooded and displaced hundreds of residents, McCrory didn't issue a statement or call a press conference. But McCrory said that he was informed about the situation. "It happened in the dead of night, and I was 45 miles outside of the city," McCrory said. "But I was on the phone at six the next morning with the city manager [Curt Walton]."

McCrory said he was informed of what the fire department and police were doing to rescue people from the Doral and Cavalier apartments. When he asked the city manager if he needed to return, Walton told him no.

On Sept. 13, when Charlotte residents started to notice dry gas pumps, McCrory released a statement, in which he criticized Perdue but didn't specifically address what Charlotte residents should do. Days passed and gas supplies dwindled to nothing. McCrory held a press conference on Sept. 28 with Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Jennifer Roberts. "I could've declared a state of emergency," he said. "But you would have to have civil unrest."

McCrory said long lines at gas stations and some people losing their temper didn't warrant a call for a state of emergency. Charlotte City Councilman Warren Turner, a Democrat, agrees with the mayor's assessment.

"People have to realize that the state of North Carolina was not in a gas shortage," said Turner. "The governor would have declared certain actions. We as a city cannot govern how a private company distributes their gas. I think people need to be very aware of that. It's like me coming in there and telling someone how to run their clothing store."

McCrory said that even though long lines at gas stations continued, all of the gas that he said was coming to Charlotte came on the weekend of Sept. 26. "Every shipment did come, but the customer demand was higher. You can't just press a button and get oil and gas [through the coastal pipeline] from an area that had been devastated by a hurricane."

McCrory said he's still keeping his eye on the energy situation in the city, making calls to the U.S. Department of Energy every day.

This week, drivers have noticed more gas and shorter lines. At an Exxon station on Monroe Road, Kyle Parson said he hasn't had a problem finding gas. He hadn't paid attention to the city's response to the gas shortage because he believes local authorities simply follows orders from the federal government. "I know it's a lot of people out there struggling and going crazy to get gas," he said.

As if the gas shortage wasn't enough of a crisis for Charlotte, banking giant Wachovia collapsed and McCrory returned to the city to make calls to Citigroup with Uptown leaders. He said he put on his mayor hat to sell Citigroup on Charlotte and try to convince the company to save jobs in the Queen City. "It all happened so quickly," he said of the sale of one of the city's largest employers. "We're entering unknown territory that was never anticipated."

(Friday morning, Wachovia did an about-face and announced plans to merge instead with Wells Fargo. As of deadline, Wells Fargo and Citigroup were still battling for control of Wachovia.)

At the beginning of the race for governor, McCrory told Creative Loafing that he was giving up his Duke Energy job so that he could seek the state office and continue to run the city, a commitment he reiterated last week in a phone interview. "I haven't missed a vote or a meeting," he said.

But the perception with some Charlotteans is that McCrory has put city business on the back burner as he runs for governor. "[During the floods] I didn't even see him on TV. People, leaders, around here don't care, they only care about themselves," Beverly, who declined to give her last name, said when interviewed on an Uptown sidewalk.

McCrory emphatically denies the charge that he's not engaged. "I put my heart and soul in that office," he said of being mayor.

He also pledged to assist the new mayor of Charlotte if he wins in November. "Even if that means staying the heck out of the way," McCrory said with a laugh. "The next mayor has to adapt to change. We can't afford to just stand still."

And despite uncertainty around the country, McCrory is still high on the QC. "Charlotte is one of the most dynamic cities in the country," he said.

It almost makes you wonder why he wants to leave and head to Raleigh.

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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