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Friday, 06 October 2017 16:51

O’Neill had it right, ‘All politics is local’

Written by  Bill Russell

Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, the 47th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and perhaps one of the most influential members of the Congress, once said, “All politics is local.” He coined the phrase in a 1982 congressional campaign running against an attorney who was heavily financed with out-of-state campaign contributions.


What O’Neill referenced were the principles that a politician’s success is directly linked to his or her ability to understand fully and influence the issues of their constituents.

It began several weeks ago, and the month ahead will see a continuation of a flurry of campaigning for municipal offices and school board seats by incumbents wishing to retain their position and newcomers looking for an opportunity to serve. This year’s town board races are quite competitive, with perhaps the largest field ever seeking an opportunity to represent their communities.

The last local election could have been seen as a referendum on I-77, as tolls in the Lake Norman area figured prominently in the debate. There is no question that transportation — whether state roads or under local control — are critical in the minds of voters.

The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce has aggressively advocated for the cancellation of the Cintra contract and moving forward with general purpose lanes since we adopted a resolution calling for that action in June 2015.

At a recent trip to my dentist, he pointed out I-77 has significantly impacted his business, as his practice almost daily has to shuffle appointments for patients who are caught in traffic.

This election cycle, voters in Mecklenburg County will also decide the fate of a $922 million Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bond package. As I write this article, your Chamber board has not taken a position on the bond and may not.

As business leaders, we understand that education — public and private — is the foundation of our economic and business development. Our schools provide our workforce and the future generation who will inherit our communities tomorrow.

One of my favorite politicians of all time was Ronald Reagan. I met Reagan when I was national president of the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).
It is well documented that Speaker O’Neill and President Reagan were constantly at odds. O’Neill said Reagan was the most ignorant man who ever occupied the White House and “a cheerleader for selfishness.” In his memoirs, the Speaker was asked about the attacks on the President and how the two seemed to remain friends. O’Neill commented, “Before 6 p.m., it’s all politics.”

Reagan himself once quipped, “If you’re afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again.”

Our economy seems to be doing quite well and I believe our citizens are ready to get moving again. The businesses of Lake Norman have looked to the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce for 30 years to help create jobs and provide an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and business development.

The bottom line is, we cannot go back and change what was done yesterday, but we can create a brand new beginning — a change that begins with us, one person and one community at a time. It is the charge we have from our past and the responsibility we owe to the future.

Bill Russell is the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.

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