CHARLOTTE – Tariq Bokhari keeps a photo of homicide victim Darnell Harris above his bureau. It reminds him of one of the reasons he’s running for reelection for District 6 representative on Charlotte City Council.
Bokhari said he sees growing homicide rates in Charlotte as the city’s biggest issue, and he is committed to lobbying for criminal justice reforms to change the trends.
“I’ve been on the forefront of public safety,” Bokhari said. “I’ve been working a lot on coming up with the broader criminal justice system reforms that we need. We need to continue to work in CMS and make sure that conflict resolution, which is one of the top themes in that homicide rate that you see, continues to happen. Also, repeat violent criminal offenders being back on the streets… that’s a theme we’ve seen time and time again.”
Bokhari said his proudest accomplishment over the last two years is advocating for police officers and firefighters. He said he successfully led the charge to increase officers’ and firefighters’ pay for two years in a row.
“Obviously, pay is a big part of that, but the other angle I see it being as well is from a morale perspective,” Bokhari said. “It’s a new normal, it’s difficult to be a police officer these days, especially when colleagues of mine were saying things that probably hurt that morale even more. I felt an obligation over these last two years to step up and be a champion for them as much as possible.”
In his district, Bokhari wants to ensure smart growth and economic development. Bokhari said he has worked over the past two years to negotiate increased funding for his district’s infrastructure.
“We contribute over a quarter of the property tax base of our city and we get under 2% of capital investments back,” Bokhari said. “We need to do our part for the rest of the city, but we also need to make sure that we invest properly in our infrastructure to handle this growth so we’re not the part of town in 10 or 15 years from now that’s begging for help, because it could very easily be that situation.”
In addition to criminal justice reforms, smart growth and advocating for officers, Bokhari said he hopes to see his other projects and ideas through and keep them going. This includes the Workforce Investment Network, which helped with upward mobility, another issue at the forefront of his campaign.
He also said Mayor Vi Lyles selected him to co-chair the Intergovernmental Relations Committee.
“That she would trust me is another indicator of the fact that my accomplishments and my results have really been directed toward the betterment of our community and our city,” Bokhari said. “And in those roles, I have worked to repair our relationships in Raleigh that had really been stressed for several years before that, and I’ve worked in DC with our delegation and others lobbying for the legislation that will impact Charlotte the most.”
Bokhari said the issues he has fought for are important to all Charlotteans, regardless of their political party.
He knows more Democrats are moving into his district. Bokhari said he feels good about his campaign, but he has put more pressure on himself this election.
Bokhari is one of two Republican representatives on city council. He hopes to keep his seat in order to bring balance to the decision-making process in Charlotte.
“We’re never under the illusion that we think we’re going to win major votes in a super minority, but the topics and the counterarguments and the counterpoints that we bring up are very important to consider when shaping an ultimate outcome, and when we lose all of that, you see what’s happened on the county commission,” Bokhari said. “You’ve got a two-cent property tax increase that already happened in the last year, and now they’ve also went and raised another quarter-cent sales tax of which they have no plan on how to spend.”
Bokhari said while it may seem impossible for Democrats and Republicans to work together on a national level, he thinks it can be achieved locally.
An example of this, he said, is his podcast with his colleague Larken Egleston, who is a Democrat. The two record a podcast after every city council meeting to discuss the issues at hand and present both sides of the argument in a respectful manner. He believes voters, especially those registered as independent, appreciate this approach.
“I think focusing on the basics, yet doing so in a professional, bipartisan manner is what a lot of the independents expect and I think I’ve got a pretty good track record of that,” Bokhari said.