Every Monday night, Tariq Bokhari and Larken Egleston step down from the City Council dais to put in a little overtime.
The two freshmen councilmen retreat to a cramped office, pick up a microphone and headphones and get back to work.
Over the course of a half-hour or so, the two men — Bokhari a Republican and Egleston a Democrat — digest in real time the policies they’ve just discussed. They hash out any differences in opinion and sometimes even rope in other elected officials as guests.
The resulting podcast — called “R&D in the QC” — is nothing short of a meaningful breakthrough in local government.
Free from the need for narrative, Bokhari and Egleston are able to rationally discuss the big issues facing Charlotte in a way that traditional media cannot.
Their conversations don’t generally produce headlines, but they do inform debate and give Charlotteans an unprecedented look behind the scenes of local government — all between rock music intros.
Bokhari is a natural high-energy host and Egleston a perfect counterpart. Together, they inject a little levity and humor into the machinations of government. Representatives of the people are, after all, people themselves.
Perhaps the most compelling example of the medium’s potential came in early February.
That’s when the City Council traveled to Durham for a week-long planning retreat. After each day’s session, Bokhari and Egleston rushed to their hotel rooms to record their thoughts.
Most of the topics weren’t sexy: the city’s AAA bond rating, for example, or how the city hired its first economist to help keep growth going.
But right there in the middle, Bokhari and Egleston had a debate on affordable housing, examining how the city of Charlotte should weigh the number of units being built with spreading them across the city — with a discussion of how to fight the affordable housing crunch on the demand side as a bonus.
The podcast format allows for a different type of discussion than you get from more formal channels.
City Council meetings follow Robert’s Rules of Order, where one person has the floor and gets to make a speech. There’s little room for actual back and forth.
Bokhari and Egleston are able to have an actual conversation, and a respectful and candid one at that. They don’t sound like politicians, and they handle policy in a way people can understand.
It would be an entertaining podcast if the two were just Joe Citizens who were into local government. But since these two have actual votes, everything takes on more import.
I’m interested to see where the two take the podcast next. You get the sense from listening so far that they’re still feeling things out.
My prediction: “R&D in the QC” will become a must-listen for the connected and informed.
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Cover photo by David Boraks/WFAE