When Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx dives into discussions on everything from a nearly $1 billion proposed spending plan to the de-annexation of Ballantyne at Thursday night’s town hall forum, it will be just the latest example of the area’s two main advocacy groups at work.
The Ballantyne Breakfast Club and Ballantyne chapter of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce – two separate groups that often find themselves working together – have become vital tools for residents and businesses in a part of Charlotte that’s seen rapid growth and the creation of a culture very much it’s own. In many ways, Ballantyne feels like it’s a town all to itself – and many wish for it to be that way. But with city, county and state governments making decisions daily that affect home and business owners, the breakfast club and chamber chapter have taken on the role of informer, working to create venues where taxpayers and tax spenders come together for serious dialogue.
“We started in 2001 with the thought that, because the area was new and emerging, there would be a need for some type of community forum where information could be shared to keep the community aware of what’s going on,” said Ray Eschert, club founder.
The club’s first meetings focused on the development of Ballantyne, area schools and school assignment issues. But soon came dynamic growth and the establishment of the Ballantyne Village shopping center and later the need for expanded roads and answers to traffic congestion woes.
Now, the club holds at least six meetings a year, starting with the priorities meeting early in the year that always includes members from city, county and state government and representatives from area governmental departments. The event gives residents a free-for-all chance to discuss whatever concerns they have with whatever politician or government official they need to meet. Meetings each year also include a look at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools – with new superintendent Heath Morrison stopping by recently – and the fall candidates forum and chili cook-off that gives voters one of the best chances they’ll get to meet most of the candidates running for local office.
“I think it’s very important,” Eschert said of the various meetings. “Because much like what the Chamber of Commerce tries to do with the business community, the club provides that for the residential base. It’s a unique format that we have, so much so that we’ve had other people from other areas approach and say they wish they could do something like that in their areas.
“It’s not a filtered dialogue, not a community newsletter … here you have the opportunity to speak directly with the people in charge.”
Foxx’s town hall discussion, hosted by the club and chamber, is Thursday night, Nov. 8, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Ballantyne Hotel, 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy. There will be time for questions following the mayor’s presentation.