by: Jim Bradley Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Charlotte gets a new City Council on Monday night.
Almost half of the council members sworn in are new. They include Vi Lyles, who won an at-large seat, and district representatives Al Austin, Greg Phipps, Kenny Smith and Ed Driggs.
None of them will have long to settle in before facing some contentious issues. The first is likely to come up minutes after their Monday night swearing-in ceremony.
The council's first job is to pick a new mayor pro tem who steps in when the mayor isn't available. The job has been held by Pat Cannon who is now taking over as mayor.
Councilman Michael Barnes, who got the most votes in last month's election, said he wants the job.
"I think I've worked very hard to represent the city well and I see no reason why I shouldn't be in that position," Barnes said.
Several council members have indicated they won't support him.
Fellow Democrat LaWana Mayfield has sparred publicly with Barnes over funding for the controversial streetcar project. She and Barnes also exchanged testy emails recently over the mayor pro tem vote.
"I have concerns about (Barnes') leadership," Mayfield said.
Leadership on the council will be important since the city has a number of major issues on its plate including funding for roads, control of the airport and attracting new jobs.
Political expert Eric Heberlig said council members will need to work quickly to put dissension behind it.
"To the extent it (dissension) is personality-driven, just because people don't like each other, that's a real problem," Heberlig said.
At the same time, Heberlig said the business and financial experience of a number of new council members could help bring a fresh perspective to some controversial issues.
The swearing in ceremony will start at 7 p.m. Monday.