Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cap City rising

When I was growing up in Greensboro in the ’50s and early ’60s, the state’s biggest cities were Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Greensboro would soon pass Winston as No. 2, and Raleigh was still down the list – an Eastern Piedmont town that wasn’t even connected to the rest of the world by an interstate highway yet.

But after the Research Triangle Park started rolling and IBM moved its research facilities there and other tech companies followed, everything changed. Steady growth began bringing new families, transforming the sleepy little town of Cary into one of the most prosperous in the state, driving Raleigh into second place among the state’s cities and threatening to push the total population of Wake County past Mecklenburg.

This rapid growth still amazes me. We moved to Raleigh in 1977 when I became Raleigh correspondent for the Greensboro Daily News. We thought we might stay a couple of years. We found a nice place in North Raleigh just outside a partially completed beltline, not quite out to the edge of town but up that way. It took me barely 20 minutes to get downtown to work.

Nearly 30 years later, we’re in the same house, but it’s between two beltlines, the old I-440 and the new and still under construction I-540. Every municipality in the county is growing rapidly – four of the once-little towns lead the state in growth – and Raleigh is bursting at the seams.
A report this week from the U.S. Census said the state capital grew by 14,000 residents 2004-2005, more than any other city on the Eastern seaboard. The growth rate of 4.3 percent ranked Raleigh 13th in the nation, trailed by Cary’s 3.3 percent growth at 22nd. Charlotte had growth of 2.1 percent, 40th in the nation.

Now we’ve been moved. We’re still in the same house in the same neighborhood, but the developers and real estate sales folks have changed our part of town from North Raleigh to Midtown. As the city has grown to an estimated 341,500 population and spread in almost every direction, our neighborhood on the north side appears to be closer to the city center than to the outskirts.
Funny thing, though. My 20-minute commute to work, in the same building where I began capital corresponding 29 years ago, has stayed about the same. Can’t complain about that.


David McKnight said...

When Raleigh was not considered to be such a major urban force across the whole of North Carolina, many people had an image of our Capital City as a sleepy sort of village, larger than a traditional town but not quite in the same "city categories" as Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Charlotte.

But all of that has changed in the last 20 years, and when you add to this mix of urban energies the dynamic Triangle city centers of Durham and Chapel Hill, then you can begin to understand why the entire Research Triangle Park area has become such a considerable regional power unto itself in the realm of partisan national politics, especially in the Democratic Party.

The Republican Party, after all, still relies quite heavily on its traditional bases of support in Piedmont and Western North Carolina, and North Carolina's two U.S. senators are Republicans from Salisbury and Winston-Salem.

This is why Democratic voters in Charlotte, the Piedmont Triad and Western North Carolina need much better information on how the Democratic Party in the Raleigh-Durham region has virtually become a political team unto itself, with the national Democrats seemingly lining up with Triangle Democrats on major issues and offering scant regard for the more moderate, conservative and "ticket-splitting" philosophical inclinations of Democrats from the Piedmont region.

Am I alone thinking that when it comes to Democratic Party politics, those of us who grew up in the Charlotte area must continually remind ourselves and our neighbors that we did not move to the Triangle area from another state in the Union?

Or, as we like to tell our new friends and neighbors in Raleigh and Durham: "I'm in the state I'm in!"

Anonymous said...


What a stupid, idiotic comment...

Raleigh/Durham are great examples of how the Demon Party divides people by pitting them against each other, and how academia's bias influences an area. I lived in Raleigh and could not wait to leave because there solutions were always 100% gov't solutions. Atleast, Charlotte gets something when they give something.

David McKnight said...

Anonymous calls my comment about the Democratic Party "stupid." But remember, I'm just a country fiddler, so I don't always understand the intricacies of Raleigh politics.

But I can cipher, and by my reckoning, two of the three Research Triangle counties, Durham and Orange, consistently bring in the largest county vote margins in all of North Carolina in favor of national and statewide Democratic Party candidates for public office in general elections every two years.

So even if you don't play in the North Carolina Symphony, you can see why the most influential Democrats at the national level are quite anxious to keep their connections up to date with the Democrats of Durham, Chapel Hill and the RTP.

And as far as dividing folks up is concerned, I would just muster the comment, Au contraire! Durham and Orange counties come rolling in every two years with a vote advantage totaling in the tens of thousands in favor of the Democratic Party slate.

Meanwhile, back home in Charlotte, dear old Mecklenburg may go Democratic or it may go Republican depending on who gets first in line for ice cream in Dilworth. So it only figures that some idea or notion that a Charlotte Democrat might wish to place before the Democratic Party at the state or national level just might not get the same hearing that a timely utterance on the part of a Democrat somewhere along Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard might contribute, and unlike Duke-Carolina basketball, it doesn't matter which end of this boulevard your Democratic Party commentaries emanate from.

That's why Charlotteans and folks from the Piedmont region are lucky as a Cornelius clover to have such a knowledgeable and erudite political reporter as The Observer's Jack Betts telling them what the heck is going on here in the political corridors of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region of the Old North State.

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