NEWS BRIEFS JUNE 2023
CATS to get new bus management company
The Charlotte Area Transit System will be getting a new management company to run its troubled bus system.
The city currently contracts with RATPDev. But the bus system has been plagued by lower ridership and a high number of unexcused driver absences, which has led to routes being canceled.
Interim CATS chief executive Brent Cagle told the City Council’s transportation committee Monday that the city has received bids from two management companies.
“Neither of which was from RATPDev,” he said. “They are from two very qualified companies. We have had initial interviews with both companies.”
He said he expects the Metropolitan Transit Commission and City Council to vote on the new contract next month.
CATS buses are carrying a little more than half of the passengers they did before the pandemic. Overall bus ridership is down nearly 70 percent compared to a decade ago.
Charlotte’s bus system is run by a third-party, private company that employs the drivers because the city’s bus drivers are unionized, and state law forbids municipalities from negotiating with unionized employees.
GOP fields no candidates for City Council at-large for first time in decades
There are no Republicans running for any of the four at-large seats on Charlotte City Council this year, after filing for office closed Friday.
It’s the first time since at least the mid-1970s the GOP hasn’t had a candidate for a citywide council seat.
Republicans haven’t won an at-large seat to the City Council since 2009.
But they have still tried.
One Republican ran in 2019, and last year, the GOP fielded a full slate of candidates for the four Charlotte City Council at-large seats. They lost all four races.
After those losses, Republicans aren’t fielding a single candidate for a citywide council race this year, though there is a Libertarian running, Steven J. DiFiore II.
Mecklenburg Elections director Michael Dickerson said his research shows Republicans on the ballot in 1975 for a citywide race, though before that the records are difficult to come by.
Democrats have a 9-2 advantage on the council.
Republicans are guaranteed to keep at least one of those council seats this year, as District 7 representative Ed Driggs didn’t draw an opponent. In District 6, Republican incumbent Tariq Bokhari has a rematch against Democrat Stephanie Hand, whom he beat by only 357 votes last year.
Democratic incumbent Dante Anderson was re-elected Friday because she didn’t draw an opponent.
In District 3, there will be a new council member after Victoria Watlington filed to run at-large. There are three Democrats running to replace her: Tiawana Deling Brown; Melinda Lilly; and former council member Warren Turner.
Cost of light-rail repairs jumps to nearly $59m
The Charlotte Area Transit System said the cost to repair the entire Lynx Blue Line light rail fleet will now cost nearly $60 million - nearly twice as much as the original estimate this spring.
Interim CATS chief executive Brent Cagle told City Council in April that he expected to have all 42 light-rail vehicles overhauled before the summer of 2025.
At the time, the cost was $30 million.
But in a memo last week to the Metropolitan Transit Commission, Cagle said he expects the
overhaul to cost nearly $59 million. What’s more, the work by manufacturer Siemens won’t be finished until late 2027.
The repairs are needed because CATS failed to do the required maintenance. That resulted in a May 2022 derailment, when a Lynx train’s wheel left the track after water had seeped inside bearings in the axle. That caused it to corrode and stop turning.
The train did not tip over and no one was hurt.
But the state blasted CATS maintenance and response to the accident.
Cagle said in an interview that CATS will have one round of maintenance done on the vehicles in the near future, and those same cars will then need to have the same bearing work done in a few years after.
The $59 million is a significant financial hit to CATS, which is funded primarily by a half-cent sales tax. That tax brings in about $150 million a year. CATS didn't respond to a request for comment.
The new repairs will include the installation of a new monitoring system to track the temperature of bearings. High temperatures are a sign of possible failure.
N.C. Labor Commissioner says Fury will not re-open without state inspection
North Carolina Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson said Friday that the Fury 325 roller coaster at Carowinds will not re-open until his inspectors determine that it’s safe.
“As I’ve said both publicly and privately - I told our guys on the ground that until we are 100% comfortable with issuing a new certificate of operation we will not do so,” he said.
Dobson said the ride is inspected annually, and that its most recent review was in February. That found no significant problems, he said.
The Fury was closed last week after a video shot by a Carowinds guest showed a cracked steel support column swaying as the coaster sped by.
Carowinds said yesterday it will replace the entire column, but did not give a timeline as to when that work will be finished.
Dobson said his office hasn’t found a similar problem at any other roller coasters.
Lawsuit against Tim Moore is 'resolved'
A lawsuit against Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore is over.
Former Apex Town Council member Scott Lassiter, a fellow Republican, sued Moore last month, claiming that Moore’s relationship with his wife ended his marriage.
Moore acknowledged he had a “casual” relationship with Jamie Lyles Lassiter, a state employee, but said the Lassiters were separated at the time. The lawsuit also alleged that Moore used his power as House speaker to pursue the relationship. Moore denied that.
Alicia Jurney, an attorney for Scott Lassiter, told WFAE Monday that the lawsuit had been QUOTE resolved. WRAL reported the lawsuit had been dropped.
Boater dies in Lake Norman on busy holiday weekend
A body has been recovered after a day-long search for a missing boater on Lake Norman, according to Cornelius-Lemley Fire Rescue. The identity of the boater and a cause of death have not been released. First responders began their search Saturday night in hopes of a rescue, officials said.
They believed the boater went missing around marker D9, but searchers eventually moved to the area near The Sandbar Lake Norman (D5). The search became a recovery effort Sunday, as teams from Cornelius and Sherrills Ford endured rough lake conditions and high temperatures.
They located the body of the missing boater Sunday afternoon.
Cornelius police and the state Wildlife Resources Commission are handling the investigation.
Popular Carowinds roller coaster shuttered due to cracked pillar
Visitors to Charlotte's Carowinds amusement park this weekend won't be riding the Fury 325 rollercoaster.
The ride — which is billed as "the tallest, fastest, longest giga coaster in North America” and "North America's longest steel coaster" at over 1.25 miles long — was closed down Friday after a large crack was found in one of the coaster's support pillars.
"It separated like that. Every car came through. Every time it shook. It separated like it did," Jeremy Wagner, a Carowinds visitor, who claimed to have reported the crack to Carowinds and a local fire department, told WRAL.
In a statement to WCCB-TV on Friday, Carowinds said: “Fury 325 (has been closed) after park personnel became aware of a crack at the top of a steel support pillar. The park’s maintenance team is conducting a thorough inspection and the ride will remain closed until repairs have been completed.”
According to Carowinds' website, the Fury 325 "crosses both North and South Carolina state lines."
The Fury, which is located above the front entrance of Carowinds, features:
- a massive 190-foot-tall barrel turn.
- a high-speed S-curve reaching speeds of up to 95 mph.
- with trains reaching a height of 325 feet.
and an 81-degree drop.
Local Fourth of July celebrations get underway amid hazy, hot weekend
Fourth of July celebrations will take place around the Charlotte region this weekend amid hazy skies and an impending heat wave that could push temperatures into the mid-to-upper 90s.
The National Weather Service warned of poor air quality during the day Friday as smoke from wildfires in Nova Scotia, Canada, and New Jersey blew south over the Carolinas.
The haze arrived just as a heat wave also pushed into the region, nudging weekend highs into the mid-90s and bringing with it the threat of storms Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday.
Despite the forecast, several towns and businesses were still planning to hold Fourth of July events through the weekend.
The town of Matthews planned to hold a celebration with live music in Stumptown Park Friday night at 6 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
Belmont will also kick off the holiday weekend Friday night withlive music and fireworks from 6 - 10 p.m.
The town of Davidson will hold a celebration on Sunday.
The Charlotte symphony will also hold its long-running Summer Pops Independence Day concert on Sunday behind SouthPark Mall.
Charlotte's annual SkyShow fireworks will take place in uptown on Tuesday, July 4, at BB&T Ballpark following the Charlotte Knights baseball game, which begins at 6 p.m.
Charlotte airport predicts 13% increase in Fourth of July travelers this year
The Charlotte Douglas International Airport is anticipating record-breaking crowds this Fourth of July weekend.
Some 229,000 passengers are expected to pass through airport checkpoints Thursday through Sunday, representing an increase of 13% from last year.
A news release said that's also a 23% increase over Fourth of July travel in 2019, before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That's also not counting the 367,000 connecting passengers who will pass through the airport this weekend.
The airport will have extra staff in the lobby to help guide and assist passengers, and flyers are encouraged to arrive early.
CMPD investigating fatal shooting outside PNC Music Pavilion
Charlotte Mecklenburg Police are investigating a shooting death in the parking lot at PNC Music Pavilion in northeast Charlotte Thursday night.
In a press release, CMPD says officers responded to a report of a person shot as a concert let out just after 11pm. They found a male victim who was pronounced dead at the scene. Anyone with information is asked to call 704-432-TIPS and speak directly to a Homicide Unit detective.
The victim’s identity has not been released.
Belmont mayor resigns for health reasons
The longtime mayor of Belmont has resigned for undisclosed "personal health reasons," the city said Thursday. Charlie Martin has been mayor of the Gaston County community west of Charlotte for 10 years, and was on the city council for eight years before that.
“It was an honor and privilege to serve as your Mayor. I truly enjoyed every moment and will cherish my time serving, considering this as one of my life’s highlights," said Martin, in a statement.
His term ran through 2025. The mayor's office will now be on the ballot in November 2023.
Charlotte gets a $12 million boost for mobility hub plans
Charlotte has been awarded a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund three "mobility hubs" in a low-income area that's been designated one of the city's Corridors of Opportunity.
The funds will pay for three hubs with charging stations for electric vehicles, improved sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, smart lighting, a multi-use path and 3.5 miles of new sidewalks along West Sugar Creek Road. It's part of the city's plan to improve transportation infrastructure and give people more ways to get around, especially in historically underserved neighborhoods.
“We are grateful for our valuable federal partnerships,” said Mayor Vi Lyles. “This grant will bring much needed improvements to the Sugar Creek area, improving access to housing and jobs for thousands of Charlotte residents.”
Code Red air quality means it's unhealthy to be outside in Charlotte
Charlotte’s skyline is obscured by a smoky haze, and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has issued a Code Red Air Quality alert again due to smoke from Canadian wildfires drifting into the region. Air in the Charlotte region is well above recommended limits for exposure to fine particulates and other dangerous pollution. That level of air quality is unhealthy for the general public, not just people with known breathing problems.
People are advised to limit their time outdoors, avoid strenuous activity and use an air filter indoors if possible.
Davidson affordable housing development preserved, organizers say
The Davidson Housing Coalition has acquired a 32-unit affordable housing development called The Bungalows. Built in 2000, the Bungalows serves very low-income residents on the west side of Davidson. The original tax credits were expiring and the developer wanted to sell the project. Give Impact Advisory Services — which had been seeking to raise $1 million — and Crescent Communities helped close the deal. The Bungalows will now remain affordable housing in perpetuity.
Miles Bridges could play again in a Charlotte Hornets uniform
The Charlotte Hornets have extended qualifying offers to forwards Miles Bridges, PJ Washington and guard Theo Maledon which will make all three restricted free agents.
If Bridges signs the contract, he will serve a 10-game suspension for domestic violence at the beginning of the season. NBA free agency begins on Friday at 6 pm.
The Charlotte Hornets announced today that the team has extended Qualifying Offers to the following players: Miles Bridges, Theo Maledon and PJ Washington, making all three restricted free agents.— Charlotte Hornets PR (@HornetsPR) June 28, 2023
Davidson joins in Huntersville and Cornelius in calling to take power from Charlotte on transportation votes
Davidson Town Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to join other towns in a bid to take power away from the city of Charlotte when making decisions about regional transportation planning.
The issue is how votes are counted on the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, which helps allocate funding for major projects.
Charlotte’s representative has a weighted vote equal to 46 percent of all votes in the organization.
Some say that’s not fair.
The towns of Huntersville and Cornelius recently passed resolutions calling for one town, one vote. Davidson passed a similar resolution Tuesday, with commissioners saying they want other governments to have more power.
The 27 voting members of CRTPO must ratify their new governing structure this year, and 75 percent of member governments need to agree.
A change in how votes are counted could impact big decisions, such as whether to have privately managed toll lanes on Interstate 77 in south Charlotte.
Plane skids to a halt at Charlotte airport after landing gear fails
A Delta Airlines flight landed with no nose gear Wednesday morning at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
According to airline officials, around 8:58 a.m. Delta Flight 1092 landed safely on Runway 36 left without its front landing gear. No injuries were reported and all passengers were taken to the terminal by a bus.
The runway will remain closed until the plane is removed. Officials are expecting operational impacts while the runway is closed.
In a statement, a Delta Airlines spokesperson said there were 101 people aboard the Boeing 717, which came from Atlanta. That included two pilots, three flight attendants and 96 passengers.
As the crew attempted to land, they saw a warning that the nose gear wasn't in place. The pilots aborted their approach and flew past the control tower so controllers could look at the plane's underside. They saw the nose gear doors were open, but the landing gear wasn't in place.
Approximately 90 minutes after their first landing attempt, the crew touched down without the nose gear and rolled to a stop.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and people. While this is a rare occurrence, Delta flight crews train extensively to safely manage through many scenarios and flight 1092 landed safely without reported injuries. We apologize to our customers for their experience,” said the spokesperson.
Eastway Middle School will get a Cambridge magnet in 2024
Eastway Middle School will offer a Cambridge magnet program in August 2024, replacing the current leadership magnet program at the east Charlotte school. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board approved the change Tuesday.
CMS Magnet Director Walter Hall says it’s part of a push to create more attractive magnet programs in middle schools, which is the level where many students leave the district for charter and private schools. Hall says they often return for high school.
"Middle school is the messy middle," he said in a recent interview. "We don’t have the variety of choices and themes and magnet schools that we do in elementary school and high school."
Eastway’s Cambridge students will be guaranteed seats at a new Cambridge magnet program opening at nearby Garinger High, also in 2024. The Cambridge program, which was developed at the university in England, provides a path to an internationally recognized diploma — similar to the International Baccalaureate program that’s better known in this area.
Eastway Drive closed after serious traffic accident
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has closed Eastway Drive in both directions near Central Avenue due to a serious traffic accident.
Six people have been involved in the crash, two people have been transported to the hospital. Four patients have minor injuries. CMPD is advising commuters to avoid the area and take an alternate route.
Bill blocking energy efficiency building code updates goes to Gov. Cooper
The state House has given final approval to a bill that would reorganize the governor-appointed state Building Code Council and delay any updates to the state's energy efficiency codes for eight years, until 2031. All Republicans and some Democrats voted to concur with the Senate version of the bill, which now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper.
Cooper says he has deep concerns about the measure. It has the backing of the North Carolina Homebuilders Association, which says stricter standards for things like insulation, windows and doors and heating systems would make new homes unaffordable. Supporters say improved energy efficiency lowers energy bills and would help the state meet its climate goals and lessen heat-trapping pollution.
In a statement, the NC Sustainable Energy Association said it was disappointed in the vote.
"Should this bill become law, North Carolina’s energy conservation codes would be nearly 20 years out of date by the time we consider updated codes, leading to higher utility costs for homeowners for years to come," said Cassie Gavin, the group's director of policy.
Charlotte Douglas officials expect a record-breaking July 4 travel weekend
Flying out of Charlotte for the Fourth of July Weekend? Charlotte Douglas Airport officials are expecting recording-breaking crowds for the upcoming holiday.
The airport expects nearly 229,900 passenger screenings from Thursday, June 29 to Wednesday, July 5. Compared to the same time last year it’s a 13 percent increase. Officials expect the travel period to be 23% busier than the same holiday weekend in 2019.
The airport will have additional staff in the terminal to help guide and assist passengers. Officials expect the summer travel season as a whole to exceed 2019 the last pre-COVID summer by nearly 10 percent.
After killings, Legacy Motor Club driver Jimmie Johnson withdraws from Chicago Street Course race
Former NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will not race this weekend after his mother-in-law, father-in-law and a nephew were killed in what police suspect was a murder-suicide.
Statesville-based Legacy Motor Club said on social media that it has withdrawn the No.84 entry from this weekend’s race at the Chicago Street Course.
LEGACY MOTOR CLUB has elected to withdraw the No. 84 Carvana Chevrolet from this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series event in Chicago.— LEGACY MOTOR CLUB (@LegacyMotorclub) June 27, 2023
The Johnson family has asked for privacy at this time and no further statements will be made
Arson investigators looking into major fire that partially destroyed Charlotte Prep
An arson investigation is underway after a three-alarm fire at a private school in southeast Charlotte on Monday night.
Charlotte Fire Department arrived at Charlotte Preparatory School, on Boyce Road off Sardis Road. just before 10:30 p.m. It took firefighters about 90 minutes to control the blaze.
No injuries were reported, but the facility had extensive damage. All camps and activities at Charlotte Prep are canceled for the rest of the week. The Lower School building appeared to be completely gutted.
The school was founded in 1971 and enrolls about 400 students in grades pre-K through 8. Charlotte Prep also offers summer camps and year-round child care.
Fire Capt. Jackie Gilmore said Tuesday that estimated damage totaling $2.5 million, though that figure could change.
Investigators from the ATF and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's arson squad are looking into the cause.
Gilmore said investigators are looking at footage from neighbors' doorbell cameras and the school's security cameras, as well as reports from neighbors that they heard a loud, explosion-like sound shortly before the fire. There was a storm system to the north producing lightning at the time.
"There has been a fire on our campus. No injuries have been reported at this time. All camps and activities are canceled for the remainder of the week. Do not come to campus until further notice," the school posted on its website.
Charlotte to spend $1M a year for three years on transportation consultant
The Charlotte City Council Monday approved a three-year contract for a consultant to map out the city’s long-range transportation plan — even though there isn’t a tax yet approved to implement it.
The no-bid contract is with InfraStrategies, a California consultancy run by Carolyn Flowers. She’s the former chief executive of the Charlotte Area Transit System.
The consultant, who has worked with Charlotte since 2021, will do “financial modeling” for transportation projects, which includes roads, greenways, sidewalks and possibly new rail lines, if the city is able to advance a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for it.
InfraStrategies would project how much money the city will have over the next several decades, and how much it would cost to build and maintain projects.
The city expects to spend up to $1 million a year for three years with InfraStrategies.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles announces she's running for a fourth term
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles says on Twitter that she is running for a fourth term as mayor. Lyles was first elected mayor in 2017.
Lyles, a Democrat, is the first Black woman to serve as mayor. In her announcement video, Lyles emphasized affordable housing and public safety, two major themes of the past few years. Her time in office has been marked by rapidly rising rent and home prices, the massive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city's quest to expand public transit and the racial justice movement sparked by George Floyd's murder.
Lyles would likely be a heavy favorite against any primary opponents for the Democratic nomination. And the Democratic nominee has a big edge in Charlotte, one that's grown as the city becomes more blue. Charlotte hasn't had a Republican mayor since Pat McCrory in 2009. A former assistant city manager, Lyles is also the longest-serving Charlotte mayor since McCrory, who was elected to seven terms.
The city's primary election is scheduled for Sept. 12.
CATS awarded $30 million grant for clean buses from the FTA
The Charlotte Area Transit System has been awarded $30 million from the Federal Transit Administration to aid its Fleet Electrification and Workforce Development programs.
The FTA grant will include money to buy and support for 16 hybrid electric-diesel buses, 15 battery electric buses, 15 electric bus charging stations and the eSERVE Academy training program. The grant funds are part of the FTA’s 2023 Low or No Emission Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive program.
Charlotte had plans to electrify its whole bus fleet by 2030, but has slowed them in the face of rising costs and uncertainty over how long it will take to buy enough buses and install charging infrastructure.
Charlotte's oldest restaurant, Green's Lunch, closing for good Wednesday after 97 years
Charlotte’s oldest restaurant, Green’s Lunch, will close its doors in uptown for good on Wednesday after 97 years.
The restaurant opened in 1926 and was founded by Robert Green. It stands as the longest-serving restaurant in the city. Known for its hot dogs, Green's was bought in 1989 by Joanna Sikiotis.
The Sikiotis family has run the restaurant since and had only made slight changes to the menu such as the addition of chili and slaw on its famed hot dogs.
No injuries reported after major fire breaks out in lithium plant
Highway 161 in Bessemer City is shut down Monday morning at the site of a three-alarm fire at a lithium processing plant.
Gaston County officials say the three-alarm blaze began about 1:30 a.m. at the Livent facility on the wes side of Bessemer City. NC 161 is closed between 14th Street and Lewis Farm Road.
There’s no word on what may have started the fire. The company said there were no reported injuries and — aside from the smoke — no risk to the surrounding community.
The fire began in a building that produces solid lithium ingots. Lithium is the essential ingredient in rechargeable batteries, and lithium production has been booming as governments and automobile companies try to aggressively ramp up electric vehicle production. Lithium can react violently with water and create flammable gases and fire.
Gaston County, which has rich lithium deposits, has several major lithium mines and processing facilities in the works.
Special Olympic athletes from North Carolina win medals in Berlin World Games
A Charlotte-area athlete won a gold medal at the Special Olympic World Games in Berlin.
Philip Blount, of Mecklenburg, placed first in the shot put finals on June 22, according to a release from Special Olympics North Carolina.
Erin Cagle, of Wake County, North Carolina, competed in the final round of artistic gymnastics on June 24, and won silver in vaulting.
The closing ceremony was scheduled for Sunday.
Weekend shootings leave 1 dead, 5 hospitalized in Charlotte, police say
A woman was killed and six others injured — five of whom were hospitalized — in three separate shootings that took place within hours of each other, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.
The first shooting was reported just after 8 p.m. Friday on a busy strip of North Davidson Street between 34th and 35th streets, considered to be the heart of Charlotte's eclectic NoDa neighborhood.
Police said the shooting stemmed from a fight. One person was shot and rushed to the hospital, but was expected to recover. Mecklenburg County EMS said another person was also rushed to a hospital, but did not say if the second person had also been shot.
On Saturday at about 4 a.m., police were called to the 1100 block of Nations Drive. Officers arrived to find a woman shot dead, and a wounded man who had also been shot. The man was rushed to a hospital and is expected to recover.
Less than two hours later, police were called to the scene of another shooting on the 2300 block of North Graham Street. Three men at the location were transported to a hospital with gunshot wounds. Two of the three had serious, life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
Police have not reported arrests in any of the three shootings, or identified any of the victims.
In a video posted to CMPD's Twitter, CMPD Major Gabe Chickoree urged residents to call police if they sense a potentially violent situation escalating while out in public.
"This type of violence in the city is something that all of us as residents and citizens of this community have to take a stance against," he said.
LGBTQ groups boycott Charlotte gay bar, saying owner kicked out drag performer
Dozens of drag performers, local LGBTQ leaders and LGBTQ advocacy groups have announced a boycott of a gay bar in Charlotte’s South End, alleging its owner shouted a drag performer off the stage as they were beginning a performance.
Drag performer Shelby Savage, who uses they/them pronouns, says they were beginning a contracted performance last Saturday, June 17, at Bar 316 in South End when the bar owner, Jeff Edwards, lashed out, calling Savage a "freak" and telling them to leave.
Savage wrote on Facebook they had already performed one number earlier in the night, and left after Edwards shouted them off the stage.
A letter signed by some of the state’s largest LGBTQ organizations, including Equality NC and Charlotte Pride, accuses the owner of displaying a history of aggression and racism. Edwards did not respond to requests for comment.
CATS to keep operating express bus to Union County
The Charlotte Area Transit System will keep operating the express bus between uptown and Union County after Union County Commissioners voted Wednesday to reverse themselves and help fund the route.
Union Commissioners voted in April to stop spending $86,000 a year to help pay for the route, which had seen ridership drop by about 80 percent over the last decade. They said it wasn’t worth subsidizing a route with such low ridership, especially when the post-COVID shift to working from home meant many commuters weren’t coming back.
But the town of Indian Trail decided to keep paying for the service, prompting Union County to change its mind this week.
As of now, the express bus’ last stop will be in IndianTrail. If the city of Monroe decides to keep funding the route, the 74x bus will go all the way to Monroe.
The 74x has been in operation for nearly 20 years.
CMPD investigating a pedestrian struck in south Charlotte
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is investigating a fatal crash in south Charlotte that left a pedestrian dead last night near SouthPark mall
Officers responded around 10 pm to a vehicle crash involving a pedestrian on Fairview Road near the Mall. When officers arrived they found 47-year old Gregory Wall lying in the road and a white 2014 Chevy Silverado with front end damage.
Wall was pronounced dead by paramedics. Police say Wall was crossing in a dimly lit area and was not in the crosswalk. He stepped into the path of a truck driven by 27-year old Martavious Locke and was struck. Locke was not found to be impaired, police say.
Senate approves bill to reorganize building code council and block code updates
The state Senate approved a bill Thursday that would reorganize the state Building Code Council and block an update to North Carolina's energy efficiency rules.
The move comes as the council, appointed by Democratic governor Roy Cooper, considers updates to the building code, including adopting 2021 international standards for things like insulation, windows and heating and cooling systems.
Builders say the changes would make new homes unaffordable. Supporters say the tighter standards would pay for themselves through lower home energy costs. Supporters also note that if North Carolina fails to update its building code, cities and counties could become ineligible for federal grants.
See more about the fight over the energy conservation code here.
The Charlotte Hornets select forward Brandon Miller with the No.2 pick in the NBA draft
The Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night selected University of Alabama forward Brandon Miller with the No.2 overall pick in the NBA Draft.
Miller finished his freshman year with Alabama averaging 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game. The 20-year old was the 2023 SEC Player of the Year, SEC Rookie of the Year, First-team All SEC and the SEC tournament MVP.
The Hornets also head the 27th, 34th, 39th and 41st picks in the draft.
There's a $30,000 reward for suspects in 2020 shooting in west Charlotte that left 4 dead
Authorities are still looking for suspects in a 2020 shooting that left four people dead in west Charlotte.
The Charlotte FBI office is working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The shooting occurred at Beatties Ford Road on June 22, 2023. More than 150 shots were fired into a crowd during the Juneteenth celebration. Three people were killed by gunfire and an additional person was run over by a car leaving the area.
The FBI is offering up to $30,000 dollars for the arrest and conviction of the suspects involved.
The #FBI continues to offer a reward of up to $30,000 for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the deaths of four people during a shootout in Charlotte on June 22, 2020. Call the @CMPD Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600 or 1-800- CALL FBI. https://t.co/5Aky8nfvkx pic.twitter.com/Uphf27aq2u— FBI Charlotte (@FBICharlotte) June 22, 2023
Mecklenburg County considers $30 million public subsidy for tennis facility
Mecklenburg Commissioners are considering whether to spend up to $30 million to help build a new tennis facility in the River District west of the airport.
Charleston-based Beemok Capital has proposed building the $400 million tennis complex. The company has said it might move the Western & Southern professional tennis tournament from its home in suburban Cincinnati to Charlotte.
The city of Charlotte has already approved spending $65 million from tourism taxes to help bring the facility and tournament to Charlotte. The city’s money would come from a tax that can only be used for tourism-related projects.
The county said that the state is willing to spend $25 million, which would bring the total public investment to $120 million.
In a presentation to commissioners Wednesday, Mecklenburg Deputy County Manager Leslie Johnson did not say where the county’s $30 million would come from. Some of that money could, in theory, be used for other things such as public health and affordable housing.
She said the state of Ohio first offered $50 million to Beemok to keep the tournament and has since increased its offer to possibly $150 million.
“They understand the significance and the economic benefit of this site to their community,” she said.
Johnson said a forecast shows that the county would recoup its investment in 19 years through new property taxes paid by the facility.
Commissioners on the county’s Economic Development Committee backed the proposal. Mark Jerrel was especially enthusiastic.
“Overall, I have not seen a better deal since I’ve been sitting on the board,” he said.
The full commission will vote on the $30 million later this summer.
Valerie Kinloch named president of Johnson C. Smith University
Johnson C. Smith University has named Valerie Kinloch as its 15th president.
Starting Aug. 1, she succeedes current president Clarence Armbrister.
JCSU Chairman Steve Boyd said he was impressed by Kinloch's work and that she was the Board of Trustees' unanimous choice.
"She is a dynamic leader and change agent pure and simple. She will help us continue to elevate the quality of education we provide as we deliver on our promise to mold the next generation of leaders for this community and beyond,” said Boyd.
Kinloch graduated from JCSU in 1996 and has been a member of the university’s Board of Trustees. Currently, she serves as the Dean of School Education at the University of Pittsburgh where she oversees 300 full- and part-time staff and more than 1,000 students.
She has also held positions as an associate professor at The Ohio State University and a faculty member at Teachers College-Columbia University and the University of Houston-Downtown.
“It’s a dream come true to be invited to lead one of the finest Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America — and at the same time come home,” Kinloch said in a statement.
City of Charlotte upgrades Access Charlotte program
The city of Charlotte will launch an upgrade to its Access Charlotte program, aiming to provide free Spectrum internet and Wi-Fi to more than 5,000 low-income households and 15 community spaces.
Funding will come from the American Rescue Plan Act COVID-19 relief plan over the next two years. The city's goal is to close the "digital divide," or the lack of Internet access affecting many people in low-income, minority-concentrated neighborhoods.
“We are so excited about launching Access Charlotte on this scale,” said Mayor Vi Lyles, in a statement. “This is an initiative that can help solve a glaring divide in our community and improve the quality of life for our residents.”
Households in the program area will be eligible even if they are current Spectrum customers. For those who are not, you can sign up to request a home installation kit and to begin the service at 1-855-326-5115 or activate on the Spectrum website.
“The city’s commitment to creating this powerful public-private partnership will bring fast, reliable broadband and in-home Wi-Fi to thousands of families across the city — enabling residents to participate fully in today’s digital world for work, learning, entertainment and staying connected,” said Spectrum Community Solutions Senior Vice President Keith Dardis in a statement.
Along with the free internet access, "digital navigators" will aid customers. The navigators will help with technical support, digital education and digital literacy training. Customers can contact them by calling 311 or using the CLT+ app.
Two teens shot in Gastonia
Two 14-year-old boys were shot in Gastonia, and investigators say they have no suspects.
Officers found the boys wounded at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday near Laurel Lane and Quail Woods Road in Gastonia. Both were taken to a hospital in serious condition.
Gastonia police are asking for the community's help. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Gaston County at 704-861-8000. Callers can remain anonymous, and a cash reward may be available.
Home sales fell in Charlotte in back-to-back months
Home sales in Charlotte fell in May for the second month in a row, as buyers continue to face higher interest rates, prices and a limited supply, according to Canopy, a regional Realtor association in Charlotte.
Canopy reported the number of homes sold in May fell 16.6% compared to the same month last year. The median home in Charlotte sold for $385,000 in May, a 2% decline. The average price — which reflects higher-priced home sales more — increased by nearly 5%. The average home sold for $483,322 compared to $462,152 in May 2022.
And the average length of time homes stay on the market before selling increased 20.9%, to 81 days, compared to 67 days in May 2022.
“Prices across the region continue to moderate and fortunately are better than the national median and holding steady, which continues to benefit buyers,” said Tiffany Johannes, president of Canopy.
“Inventory and supply however continue to be a challenge, hence buyers seeking homes further out from Charlotte’s core," she said.
Last month's inventory increased by 6.7% with 4,667 homes for sale, which is just over a month's worth of inventory.
Hearings begin this week on Duke Energy rate increase for Charlotte and western NC
Public hearings begin this week on Duke Energy's request to raise rates 15.7% over three years for central and western North Carolina, including Charlotte.
The rate hikes would affect Duke Energy Carolinas customers from Durham to Greensboro to Charlotte and the western part of the state, excluding the Asheville area. Duke says it needs to raise an additional $823 million to upgrade the electric grid, improve reliability during storms and prepare for more renewable energy and electric vehicles.
If approved, rates would rise 9.5% overall next Jan. 1, 3.3% in 2025 and 2.9% in 2026.
The increases would be slightly higher for residential customers — 17.9% over three years. They would rise 10.5% in 2024, 3.8% in 2025 and 3.6% in 2026. Duke says it costs more to serve the larger number of residential customers.
A typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month would pay about $19.97 a month more in the third year. A typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month would wind up paying $19.97 a month more in the third year. Duke says that would still be below the current national average electric bill.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission plans hearings Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Burke County Courthouse in Morganton and Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte. Additional hearings will be held in July. For details, visit https://www.ncuc.gov/Hearings/e7sub1276_hearing.html
Regulators are also considering a similar rate increase for customers of Duke Energy Progress, in the eastern part of the state and the Asheville area. Hearings in that case were held last month.
Man killed in north Charlotte is the 11th murder so far this month
Police are investigating a homicide in north Charlotte on Tuesday, as a violent start to the summer season continues.
Around 12:00 pm officers received a call about a vehicle crash at Arthur Davis Road near Old Statesville Road and I-485. When officers arrived they found a male with a gunshot wound. The Huntersville Fire Department also responded and pronounced him dead. His name was not released.
So far this month, it's the 11th killing in Charlotte.
Man arrested in deadly quadruple shooting at Charlotte Lounge
A 32-year-old man has been arrested in the weekend shootings at a southeast Charlotte lounge that left three people wounded and another dead.
Jerome Laricky Planter was arrested Monday by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill inflicting serious injury, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
The shootings happened just after 2 a.m. June 17 at the Fusion Lounge on Independence Boulevard. La’Nard Gaddy, 33, died at the scene.
Three others with gunshot wounds were taken to a hospital and are expected to survive, police said.
1 killed, 3 injured in shooting at southeast Charlotte lounge
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say four people were shot, one fatally, at Fusion Lounge in southeast Charlotte early Saturday.
La'Nard Gaddy, 33, was killed, according to police.
The shooting was reported about 2 a.m. Saturday at the lounge, located at 6432 E. Independence Boulevard.
Three others were taken to a hospital. Mecklenburg County EMS said two of the injured had life-threatening injuries and another had serious injuries.
Police later said the injured were in stable condition.
A woman who said she was Gabby's sister-in-law, Shakerrie Mobley, spoke to WSOC-TV after the shooting, and said Gabby worked in construction and was the father of a 6-year-old girl.
“How do you tell a young girl that the father that she was waiting to pick her up, is not picking her up for Father’s Day? It’s just very hard to deal with,” Mobley told the television station.
Police have released no other details about the shooting, and have not reported any arrests.
Mooresville reopens Liberty Park on Saturday after major renovation
The town of Mooresville will hold a grand reopening for Liberty Park on Saturday.
Crews have spent years renovating the 5.5 acre park and installing a new three-level playground, splash pad and covered basketball court.
The park will reopen with an official ribbon-cutting at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by a festival through 9 p.m. with food trucks, games and a performance from country music singer Craig Morgan at 6:30 p.m.
A portion of North Church Street adjacent to the park will be closed for the festival. The park is located at 255 East Iredell Ave.
Mandy Cohen nominated to be next CDC director
President Biden confirmed Friday that he plans to nominate Mandy Cohen, who led the NC Department of Health and Human Services through the COVID-19 pandemic, to be the next director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cohen's current job is executive vice president at Aledade and CEO of Aledade Care Solution, a healthcare consulting firm.
"Dr. Cohen is one of the nation’s top physicians and health leaders with experience leading large and complex organizations, and a proven track-record protecting Americans’ health and safety," the White House said in a statement.
Cohen's appointment is likely to draw opposition from Republicans who think her response to the pandemic was too strict, and who oppose mask mandates and vaccination mandates. Sen. Ted Budd, a Republican, sent Biden a letter calling Cohen "unfit for the position" because she "politicized science, disregarded civil liberties, and spread misinformation about the efficacy and necessity of COVID vaccinations and the necessity of masks."
Update: 12-year-old boy killed in north Charlotte, two people arrested
Charlotte Mecklenburg Police say a 12-year-old boy who was killed in north Charlotte Thursday night was named Ahmad Wrighten. In a press release, CMPD says the killing happened at about 11:30 pm on Sunwalk Court. That’s just off Statesville Road.
Police say when they responded to an assault with a deadly weapon call, they found the boy with traumatic injuries. He was taken to Atrium Main where he was pronounced dead. On Friday, police said they've arrested Anthony Rashad Wigfall, 34, and Demetria Robinson, 32, and that the two have been charged with murder.
Police didn't release any other information about the case, or say whether the accused have any relationship to Ahmad.
Twitter won't allow abortion rights campaign video to be promoted, Lt. Gov. candidate says
Mecklenburg State Sen. Rachel Hunt, a Democrat who is running for lieutenant governor, said Twitter won’t allow her to use a two-minute campaign video talking about abortion rights as a paid advertisement on the site.
The video clip focuses on abortion rights and Hunt’s belief that the GOP will seek more abortion restrictions in the future. Hunt said she is running for higher office because “the Republican plan isn’t this year’s 12-week abortion ban, it’s next years’ total abortion ban.”
Hunt said her campaign sent Twitter money to boost the video, or essentially make it a paid advertisement that shows up in people’s feeds.
“The money wasn’t used,” Hunt said. “We didn’t get any notice from them at all at first. But then we inquired why this hasn't been done? Why haven’t you boosted it? And we were told that is abortion advocacy. And they will not allow us to boost the post or promote it in any way.”
Twitter didn’t take down the video, which is still on her feed. But Hunt posted a screenshot showing the promotion had been halted. Hunt said that’s a big problem because abortion rights is a large part of her campaign, as well as a key issue for Democrats across the country.
She says Twitter has told her it might have “good news to share on that front” but as of now the video still isn’t allowed as a paid ad..
“And obviously that is very concerning to us because you know this concerns a fundamental right of North Carolinians and and they are saying it’s prohibited content,” Hunt said.
Twitter was purchased by Elon Musk last year, who said he wanted to make the platform a forum for free speech.
WFAE reached out to Twitter’s press email about the issue. As is Twitter’s standard response to media inquiries, it replied with a poop emoji.
Childcare costs eat up North Carolina family budgets, study finds
The cost and availability of childcare remains a major obstacle for many families in North Carolina trying to get ahead economically. A new study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds one in six children in North Carolina lives with a parent who had to leave a job, turn one down or scale back their working hours because of childcare costs.
For a toddler, those costs average about $9,916 a year.
That’s 10% of the median income for a married couple — and 33% of the median income for a single mother in the state. Even with subsidies, that can make childcare prohibitively expensive.
The other issue is availability. The Charlotte Ledger reported this week that because of staffing shortages, there are only about 39,000 slots available in Mecklenburg County, even though centers are licensed to offer more than 48,000.
And a federal subsidy that’s been helping to boost pay for childcare workers runs out at the end of the year. The $1.3 billion dollars in additional COVID funding helped retain workers who can often make more money working in retail or fast food. According to the study, the average childcare worker in North Carolina makes $12.87 an hour.
You can read the whole report here.
Report: Cincinnati is going to try to keep its tennis tournament
Even as Charlotte pushes ahead with plans to subsidize a new, $400 million tennis facility, suburban Cincinnati isn't giving up its flagship tournament without a fight.
The Western & Southern Open has been played outside Cincinnati since 1899. Beemok Capital bought the rights to the tournament and says it plans to relocate the tournament to Charlotte, if the city, state and county will approve its new sports facility, west of the airport in the new River District. Charlotte City Council this week approved spending $65 million on the facility.
But Ohio governments are also approving money to keep the tournament in place. From the Dayton Daily News:
“The effort to keep the tournament in its Cincinnati home, where it’s been for 125 years, has the united support of leaders from the State of Ohio, Warren County, the City of Mason, the City of Cincinnati and other regional entities,” Smith said. “This united effort will produce a $50 million retention commitment, which is one-third of a proposed $150 million reconstruction project to enhance the current facility. That was the request from Beemok, and we’re working to meet that request.
But in addition to that commitment, Smith said there are other funds available to this project as well, as was discussed with a Beemok official at a recent Mason City Council meeting.
“It isn’t a question of whether the region feels it can compete with another city to retain the tournament: we can,” Smith said.
Mecklenburg County is set to consider incentives for the tournament at a committee meeting next week.
Panthers release 2023 training camp schedule; free tickets available soon
The Carolina Panthers said Thursday that their 2023 training camp will start on July 22 at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. Tickets will be available starting June 29. They're free, but people are limited to six each. Here's the schedule of key dates:
- Panthers rookies, including quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick, report to camp July 22
- Veterans report on July 25
- The first practice will be held July 26 at 10:15 am
- The Panthers host "Back Together Saturday" on July 29. Practice starts at 11 am, and the event also features performances and activities for fans.
- Fan Fest will be held in Charlotte at Bank of America Stadium on Aug. 2. Tickets will be $5.
- Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets will join the Panthers for two sessions, on Aug. 9 and Aug. 10.
Training camp breaks after the Aug. 10 practice.
Lawmakers to question Duke Energy official on Moore County substation attack
North Carolina Congressman Richard Hudson will hold a hearing in Pinehurst Friday on last year's Moore County substation attack.
Hudson, a Republican from the Ninth congressional district, will join colleagues from the House Energy and Commerce Committee. A Duke Energy security director will discuss the steps his company is taking to protect its infrastructure. The panel will also hear from North Carolina's emergency management director and an NC State engineering professor.
Moore County was left in the dark for days last December, after a Duke Energy substation was damaged by gunfire. An investigation into the attack continues.
Charlotte tourism chief to retire
Tourism chief Tom Murray is retiring from his position as head of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, a job he’s held for 11 years and that included the massive disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Leading the CRVA over the past 11 years has truly been the pinnacle of my career,” said Murray, in a statement. “As the trusted leader of Charlotte’s visitor economy, the CRVA shapes millions of experiences day in and day out, uniquely enriching the lives of the millions of visitors and Charlotteans who call our city home. The CRVA is on track to end fiscal year 2023 in a strong financial position, record-breaking for many of our venues and brands. While there’s still much work to be done, I have full confidence in our leadership team and am certain that the timing is right.”
The board of directors will conduct a national search for his replacement.
Gov. Cooper signs bill to legalize sports betting in North Carolina
Regulated sports betting and horse racing should begin across North Carolina in the first half of next year after Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation that greatly expands gambling within the state's borders into law. The Democratic governor held a bill-signing ceremony Wednesday at Spectrum Center, home to the Charlotte Hornets. It could house one of several anticipated sportsbooks allowed at or near professional sports venues as part of the law.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly finalized the bill last week. The new law says betting could begin as early as next Jan. 8 but as late as mid-June 2024.
Duke Energy seeks rate hike for eastern North Carolina, Asheville
Duke Energy wants to raise rates 4.3% at the end of this year for residential customers in the Asheville area and eastern North Carolina to cover rising fuel costs.
That's about half the increase regulators approved last year for the division, known as Duke Energy Progress. Duke says a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity would pay $5.98 more per month.
Duke doesn't make a profit on fuel. It charges customers only the actual cost.
“While we continue to see increasing energy demand as a result of a growing economy, fuel prices have begun to stabilize, which is a positive sign for our customers,” Duke North Carolina President Kendal Bowman said in a press release.
The rate hike would be in addition to a proposed three-year, 16% increaseto cover new plants, transmission lines and other facilities.
Duke also has asked regulators for similar rate hikes in its central and western North Carolina territory, Duke Energy Carolinas. That includes a 16.6% increase for fuel costs and a 3-year, 15.7% increase to cover the cost of big projects. Regulators have scheduled public hearings on the 3-year increaselater this month and next, beginning with hearings June 21 in Morganton and June 22 in Charlotte.
CMPD names 3 previously unidentified bodies, including WWII vet found decades ago
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department says detectives with its Cold Case Unit have identified three deceased people, some found decades ago, who were previously unidentified. CMPD partnered with two non-profit organizations to identify the victims through forensic genetic genealogy, including online DNA databases.
- 45-year-old Jose Elder Espinoza was reported missing by his family in 2003. His unidentified body was found in 2008 in wooded area near Dixie River Road. His death was ruled a homicide, and the murder continues to be investigated.
- 40-year-old Cody Ray Herrell was originally from South Carolina but was known to live on the streets of Charlotte. He died two years ago and was found near the 4200 block of Trailer Drive. Detectives said there were no signs of trauma. His remains have been returned to his family for final arrangements.
- The body of World War II veteran Oliver Doc Mundy, from Mooresville, was discovered in an elevator shaft at the Dunhill Hotel on North Tryon Street 35 years ago. The building had been abandoned seven years earlier, and was being remodeled at the time. Known as "O.D.," he was also known to be living on the streets of Charlotte at the time of his death. Mundy served as a combat engineer in the Pacific theater of World War II, and participated in the invasions of Bougainville Island and New Caledonia.
All three were identified using advanced DNA technology. CMPD is still working to identify at least eight remaining victims whose discoveries date back as far as 1975.
Mecklenburg County expands property tax relief program
A week after voting to approve a budget that raises property taxes, Mecklenburg County Commissioners say they’re hopeful many more people will use an expanded property tax relief program. The HOMES program is open to low-income people who have owned their houses for at least three years.
Funding for the program next year has been increased to almost $14 million, up from $358,000 this year. County staff said Tuesday that they hope to serve almost 25,600, compared to 1,347 this year. Mecklenburg commissioner Leigh Altman said it’s the county’s obligation.
"Nobody in Mecklenburg County should ever be forced out of their home because of inability to pay tax," she said.
The average amount of tax relief would be $515, county staff estimate. The program reopens in July; you can find more information here.
Charlotte considers a new plan for Brookhill Village in South End
Charlotte is considering a new plan to help the remaining residents of Brookhill Village, a crumbling affordable housing complex surrounded by gentrifying South End. On Monday, City Council heard the site's owner wants to refurbish and preserve 100 affordable housing units at the site on South Tryon Street, if the city and county will pay.
Griffin Brothers is seeking $7 million from the two governments, split evenly, to rehab the units and provide subsidies. Shawn Heath, director of the city's department of housing and neighborhood services, said past plans to do something with Brookhill Village have all fallen through.
"Sadly, unfortunately, none of those came to fruition. So to an extent we are where we are and this proposal is really built around. How do you make the best of the current situation?" he said.
The holdup has largely been because of the sites split-ownership structure. Although Griffin Brothers owns the buildings and has the rights to the site via a ground lease that runs through 2049, another company, controlled by the family of late Charlotte businessman C.D. Spangler, actually owns the land. That makes any redevelopment extremely difficult.
Griffin Brothers plans to redevelop most of the site as a mixed-use property. There are 78 occupied apartments still at Brookhill Village, where residents pay an average of $466 a month.
Charlotte approves new budget without tax hike, but bills likely to rise anyway
The Charlotte City Council approved Monday night its $3.3 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The budget raises hourly employees’ pay by 6%, while salaried employees will get a 4% increase. Police and firefighters will get larger raises.
The budget has a revenue-neutral property tax rate, which means the city will collect the same amount of money as last year, outside of the new buildings and houses that have been completed in the last 12 months.
But most homeowners will still pay more in city taxes. That’s because residential property increased at a higher rate than commercial property in the recent property revaluation.
And the budget increases the solid waste fee, stormwater fees and water rates.
Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston voted against the budget, saying the raises given to city employees aren’t big enough.
“What that means for the public is that it’s going to be very difficult for us to keep the skilled workers that are necessary to provide the critical services that are necessary,” Winston said. “So those salary workers — I feel like we’re going to lose a lot of good important talent.”
Winston was the only council member to vote no.
US Supreme Court won't hear challenge to NC's decision to nix Confederate license plates
The U.S. Supreme Court says it won’t review North Carolina’s decision to stop issuing specialty license plates with the Confederate flag. The court did not comment Monday in declining to hear the case. The dispute stems from North Carolina’s 2021 decision to stop issuing specialty license plates bearing the insignia of the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
North Carolina says the plates “have the potential to offend those who view them.” The chapter says the state’s decision violated state and federal law. The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 in a similar case that Texas could limit the content of license plates because they're state property.
Charlotte City Council to vote on budget, $65 million tennis subsidy for tennis complex
Charlotte City Council is expected to approve its budget Monday night for the coming fiscal year. The $769 million operating budget does not include a property tax increase, though most homeowners will still see higher bills because of this year’s property revaluation.
City Council is also planning to vote on $65 million to subsidize a new tennis facility at the River District, west of Charlotte’s airport. Economic development officials hope to lure a major tennis tournament there. And the council is set to earmark $20 million to subsidize a new development at the former Eastland Mall site that could include sports fields, event spaces and an e-sports arena.
Monday's meeting starts at 5 p.m.
CMPD investigating three homicides during the weekend
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police department is investigating three homicides that occurred over the weekend in Charlotte.
On Saturday afternoon, just after 12:30 pm, CMPD officers responded to a call to check on someone at the 500 block of Peppervine Lane. When officers arrived they found 33-year old Justin Lavon Johnson with a gunshot wound, and he was pronounced dead. On Sunday, CMPD arrested 48-year old Lawrence Arnold Jackson, who has been charged with murder.
Early Sunday, officers responded to a call for an assault with a deadly weapon at the 12600 block of Atkins Circle Drive around 4:30 am. When officers arrived, they found 29-year old Reginald Averi Gilkesson with gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead by paramedics. No arrests have been made.
And Sunday night, CMPD officers responded just before 10:00 pm to a call for an assault with a deadly weapon call at the 2600 block of Southwest Boulevard in the University Park neighborhood. Officers found a man with multiple gunshot wounds. Paramedics pronounced him dead. CMPD released no other information.
All three investigations are ongoing and anyone with information are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600
NC Republicans applaud Trump in Greensboro as he fights federal indictment
An enthusiastic crowd of Republicans in Greensboro gave former President Donald Trump several standing ovations Saturday night as he cast the federal indictment against him as one of many politically-motivated attacks.
Trump addressed the North Carolina Republican Party convention one day after federal prosecutors unsealed a 37-count indictment that accuses him of mishandling classified information.
He referred to the Department of Justice as the “Biden Administration’s weaponized Department of Injustice” and predicted the charges against him “will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country,”
The ex-president also called the 2024 presidential election “the final battle.” WFAE will have more coverage of the NCGOP convention and what some attendees thought of Trump and the two other presidential candidates who attended – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence – Monday on Morning Edition.
Charlotte Douglas expects to finish fourth runway in 2027
Charlotte Douglas International Airport have officially begun the next project for Destination CLT, the airport's expansion plan. Friday, officials ceremonially broke ground on the fourth parallel runway, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2027. The new runway will be 10,000 feet long and will be able to accommodate an additional 20 arrivals and departures during peak hours in 2028, and 32 by 2033.
The runway will cost $1 billion. Additional taxiways will also help planes get to their gates faster after landing, airport officials said.
"This new runway will lead to an increase in capacity to meet future demand. Growth in Charlotte is good for everyone who relies on this airport including American, the customers we serve and our team members," said American Airlines Chief Operating Officer David Seymour.
With Trump coming to NC, Democrats react to his indictment
North Carolina Democrats are responding ahead of the state GOP convention in Greensboro, where presidential candidates Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence and former President Donald Trump will all speak this weekend. The biggest issue by far: Trump’s new federal indictment for obstruction, conspiracy and retaining classified files.
State Sen. Graig Meyer, a Democrat representing Caswell, Person and Orange counties, said Republicans should make their position on Trump's indictment clear.
"I can't wait to see what erupts at the convention, the GOP convention here this weekend, as people have to draw and take sides on this," he said. "But if you're looking out for what's the good of America, it is very clear that we do not need President Trump under indictment running for political office or possibly elected to be president of the United States once again."
Trump will speak Saturday night. On Tuesday, he says he’s been ordered to report to federal court in Miami for his arraignment.
DNC Chairman Jamie Harrison says apart from the indictment, Democrats are focused on defeating the Republican Party’s platform as a whole.
"Regardless of what happens in Trump's legal proceedings, we know this, the Republican Party remains firmly in the hold of Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans," he said.
North Carolina is getting an early taste of what’s sure to be a pitched battle for North Carolina in the 2024 presidential race. Both Harrison and North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton say their party is focused on winning the state, something a Democrat hasn’t done since Barack Obama in 2008.
"Seventy-four thousand votes is what Joe Biden lost by in 2020. It's a number that haunts me, to be honest with y'all," Clayton said. "And it's something that I am trying to make sure that we're all winning on the margins this year across rural North Carolina, urban North Carolina and everywhere in between."
President Biden is also visiting eastern North Carolina Friday to talk about economic development and meet soldiers at Fort Liberty, formerly known as Fort Bragg.
Politicians including Biden, Trump descend on North Carolina this week
North Carolina will briefly be at the center of the political world Friday and Saturday, as we get a preview of what the 2024 presidential race might look like.
- President Biden is visiting eastern North Carolina, focused on workforce training and military families. They’ll visit Nash County Community College in Rocky Mount and Fort Liberty, formerly known as Fort Bragg.
- Three Republican presidential contenders will be in Greensboro for the state GOP convention. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to speak there Friday evening, followed by former Vice President Mike Pence Saturday afternoon and former President Donald Trump Saturday evening.
With North Carolina expected to once again be a swing state, get ready for a lot more visits from politicians … even though the election is still 17 months away.
SouthPark apartment didn't meet fire codes before fatal blaze, CFD says
The Charlotte Fire Department says that the apartment building under construction in SouthPark that burned last month didn’t meet two fire code requirements.
In a statement Wednesday, the department said the wood-framed building didn’t have a standpipe installed. That’s a pipe containing water that firefighters can connect to on every floor, and buildings under construction are required to have them when they’re taller than 40 feet.
The fire department also said fire officials hadn’t performed an inspection or been contacted by the general contractor, who is supposed to contact the Fire Marshal before construction exceeds 40 feet.
Two workers, Demonte Sherrill and Ruben Holmes, died in the fire. The six-story apartment building was completely destroyed. Investigators say the fire started in a trailer on the first floor, but haven’t finalized the cause.
Mill Creek Residential, the apartment building’s developer, could not be reached for comment.
Gastonia approves Pride Month declaration in a split vote
The Gastonia City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night in favor of a proclamation of Pride Month in the city. Council member Jim Gallagher argued that Gastonia’s guidelines say the city will not issue proclamations on political issues.
"I will simply never vote to bring the very thing that we are watching in real-time cause so much conflict, strife and dissension in our country to our very doorstep," said Gallagher.
But council member Robert Kellogg said it’s wrong to deny LGBTQ residents a proclamation.
"We are essentially debating whether to give a specific segment of our population a piece of paper. The same piece of paper we do every meeting, every month, every year repeatedly, for other groups of Gastonia residents that is at its core discrimination," he said.
Gallagher and council member Jennifer Stepp voted against the proclamation.
CMS delays opening an aviation magnet at Waddell High
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted unanimously Tuesday to pull the plug on plans to open an aviation-themed magnet at Waddell High in August. The board approved the plan in November, but Vice Chair Stephanie Sneed reported that only 44 students signed up.
"It’s much lower than the targeted amount, which was 250 students. It is not fiscally responsible or feasible in order to start a magnet program with only 44 students. So now we’re looking at a longer recruitment season to support maximizing enrollment for this program," she said.
Board members said they hope to figure out what went wrong in marketing the program and try again in 2024. Waddell High, in southwest Charlotte, was built as a full-size high school. It will reopen in August with about 250 students in a special program for immigrant high school students who are learning English.
Mecklenburg commissioners approve $2.3 billion budget, property tax increase
Mecklenburg County Commissioners approved a $2.3 billion budget Tuesday night for next fiscal year that includes a property tax increase to fund social services, schools, the sheriff’s office, Central Piedmont Community College, public health and more.
The nearly three-hour meeting turned contentious, as commissioners debated whether they could include any last-minute budget changes and whether they should include a $2.5 billion bond referendum for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools construction on November’s ballot.
"This, if it passes and go before the public and it passes, the public will, will experience a tax increase. And that's something that I can't support," said Commissioner Arthur Griffin.
The budget for next year includes a 1.6-cent property tax increase that will impact about 91% of homes in the county, according to earlier estimates. A mid-priced home would see an increase of $273 a year. Repaying bonds in future years would require further tax increases.
Commission Chairman George Dunlap emphasized that voters will have the final say on whether to approve issuing $2.5 billion worth of bonds for CMS they’ll ultimately be responsible for repaying.
"This board of Commission cannot put a $2.5 billion tax burden on the community unless the community says that's what they want," said Dunlap, in response to Griffin.
Commissioners did ultimately approve the bond referendum in a 7-2 vote, with Griffin and Pat Cotham voting no.
Dunlap said he’s glad this year’s budget process is done with.
"And we won’t have to deal with that again for another year," he said. "Thank you, Jesus."
2 accused of making threats to the Islamic Center of Charlotte; CAIR calls for hate crime probe
The Council on American-Islamic Relations says it welcomes charges against a 19-year-old man and a juvenile who allegedly made threatening phone calls to the Islamic Center of Charlotte last month.
The two people, both from South Carolina, were charged with communicating threats. CAIR also called for state and federal law enforcement to investigate the threats as a hate crime.
Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's national communications director, said the group hopes that if the suspects are convicted they will be given an opportunity to learn about the American Muslim community and about why threats to any house of worship are unacceptable.
Charlotte City Council drops two Eastland plans, but considers a new one
Charlotte is dropping two options but looking at a new proposal to develop a sports and entertainment facility for part of the old Eastland Mall site.
The city’s economic development staff said at a committee meeting Monday that both a tennis facility and a publicly-owned sports facility would no longer be considered for Eastland. The city is considering a larger tennis facility at the River District, west of the airport.
But a private developer submitted a proposal Friday to build a $68 million sports facility with indoor and outdoor components. They’re requesting $28 million in public funding, plus getting the land for $1 a year. Even though it was after the city's deadline for proposals, the council agreed to consider the proposal.
Some council members said they were frustrated by the slow pace of decision-making, but others said it's important not to rush. Mayor Vi Lyles said the most important thing now is to make sure the proposals are financially viable — past Eastland ideas such as a movie studio and indoor ski slope have fallen through.
"We vetted a big proposal and they had no money, and it was just a heartbreak for all of us," she said. "So getting those commitments early and the banking credentials and financing and capital commitments is absolutely essential."
The new proposal will be up against a competing plan to build an e-sports arena, amphitheater, sports fields and event space. That plan would require $30 million in public money. Council member Tariq Bokhari is a minority owner of one of the partners on that proposal, but the city attorney said there would be no conflict of interest.
City Council plans to solicit feedback on the two proposals and consider them later this month. A decision could come in July. Construction is underway on another part of the Eastland site for a development with houses, apartments and shops.
Cabarrus County School Board opposes new private school voucher plan
In a 5-2 vote Monday night, the Cabarrus County School Board passed a resolution opposing the General Assembly’s school voucher proposal saying it could cost the district nearly $3 million. Board member Pam Escobar made the motion for the resolution, questioning whether lower income families would actually benefit.
"That's my concern, that this money isn't going to go to families that could use it or need it or really give them an opportunity. What it's really going to be doing is going into the pockets of families who have already made the choice and have already decided not to be part of public schools," she said.
The Cabarrus resolution says the board opposes any voucher bill that does not include a household income limit as a meaningful part of the eligibility criteria.
CATS closes employee parking deck after safety inspection; rail operations manager fired
The Charlotte Area Transit System said today it has closed much of an employee-only parking deck near North Davidson Street after a recent inspection found potential safety problems with the structure.
Interim CATS CEO Brent Cagle said the transit system acted as a precaution.
"The current inspection noted that there continued to be some issues. In an abundance of caution, at the recommendation of the inspector, we have closed all of the elevated levels of that parking structure as the engineers develop a new engineering fix," Cagle said at a City Council committee meeting.
CATS has been under scrutiny after the state criticized earlier this year its overall safety procedures for the light-rail line.
In March, Cagle acknowledged that CATS had also missed numerous state-required inspections of parking decks and bridges on the Lynx Blue Line. He said Monday that all other parking decks have been inspected and are OK. Almost all bridges have now been inspected, with no critical issues found.
Cagle also said CATS' general manager for rail operations, Deltrin Harris, is no longer with the transit agency, but didn't give any details about his departure to the city council's transportation committee. The city released a letter which said Harris was fired for unsatisfactory performance.
Harris had been placed on administrative leave after a series of safety and operational issues that have bedeviled CATS' Blue Line light rail and Gold Line streetcar.
Committee Chairman Ed Driggs said CATS is moving in the right direction after a long period of disruptions.
"I'm hoping that within the span of a couple of months, there will no longer be any noteworthy news about CATS, that we will have resumed reasonably normal operations," said Driggs. "We've got changes taking place at the top and we will conduct a search for the CEO as soon as we have a stable situation into which to recruit."
Man shot in uptown, police say
A man was shot Monday morning in uptown, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said.
Police located the wounded man on the 400 block of West 5th Street after receiving a 911 call at about 7:30 a.m.
During the 911 call, a woman said a man was pointing a gun at her and her friends. When officers arrived, they found a man with a gunshot wound.
He was transported to a hospital.
CMPD has not released any further information about the investigation.
The location of Monday's shooting is about four blocks from where a man was shot and killed last week near Truist Field. Two people were also shot and injured in April at the adjacent Romare Bearden Park.
Families still worry as Tuesday's CMS board vote on boundaries nears
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board is scheduled to vote on a long-awaited boundary plan for south county schools Tuesday. But first they’ll hear from a lot of families who still hope for revisions.
Board member Jennifer De La Jara got hearty applause two weeks ago, when she told a packed house that the board might create an alternative to the superintendent’s boundary plan. Since then, De La Jara says, board members have been meeting with constituents and CMS staff to look at options "make small tweaks" that could be introduced as amendments.
As of Monday morning more than 50 people had signed up to speak about the boundaries in hopes of swaying the vote.
CMS officials have been working for more than a year on plans for a new high school that will open in 2024. Fifteen versions have been rolled out, with the most recent versions also including boundaries for a middle school opening in 2025.
The board will also hear about plans to add a Cambridge magnet program at Eastway Middle School in 2024, and will vote on eliminating a proposed aviation magnet at Waddell High. It was scheduled to open in August but failed to get enough sign-ups. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. and will stream on the board's Facebook page.
Man charged in assault on 1-year-old in South End
A 1-year-old was allegedly punched in the face by a stranger in South End during the busy Sunday brunch hour, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police.
Officers responded to a call shortly before noon Sunday for an assault on a child near West Summit Avenue and South Tryon Street. Officers arrived to find a woman who told police her infant had been punched in the face by a man she did not know.
The 1-year-old was taken to Levine Children’s Hospital and was treated and released.
Officers were able to locate Rico Limon Williams, 26, with the help of witnesses. Williams was arrested and charged with assault on a child under 12.
Did you feel it? 3.5 magnitude earthquake rattles NC mountains Sunday morning
The U.S. Geological Survey recorded a 3.5 magnitude earthquake early Sunday morning near the town of West Canton, about 22 miles west of Asheville.
The shaking was felt at about 6:09 a.m. at a depth of 2.9 km, according to the USGS.
As of 10 a.m. Sunday, more than 400 people had filed reports saying they felt the shaking — some as far away as Asheville and Hendersonville.
It’s unclear if there was any damage. Typically, earthquakes between a magnitude of 2.5 and 5.1 can be felt and cause minor damage, according to the USGS. Earthquakes below at 2.5 magnitude are usually not felt.
Sunday's earthquake is the fifth quake to hit the West Canton area in the past two weeks. On May 23, the USGS recorded a 2.8 magnitude earthquake near the town, and on May 25, a 2.4 magnitude earthquake was recorded in the area.
Two smaller earthquakes were recorded near West Canton on May 25 on May 26.
The USGS says moderately damaging earthquakes strike the inland Carolinas every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt about once each year or two.
The inland Carolinas region is laced with known faults but many smaller or deeply buried faults remain undetected, and even the known faults are poorly located at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few earthquakes in the inland Carolinas can be linked to named faults.
More than 1,300 athletes compete in NC Special Olympic games in Raleigh
More than 1,300 athletes with intellectual disabilities competed in this weekend's North Carolina Special Olympics, in sporting events such as basketball, swimming, gymnastics, powerlifting and bowling.
The Games were held at a variety of locations around Raleigh, Cary and Holly Springs.
Organizers say this year's games were the first full, in-person games to be held in North Carolina since 2019.
Some of this year’s competitors are also planning to compete in the Special Olympic World Games in Berlin, Germany, June 17- 25.
Tiny but 'ferocious' sand cat triplets born at NC zoo
The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro has announced the birth of three tiny but "ferocious" sand cat kittens.
The triplets were born at the zoo on Thursday, according to a news release.
The kittens are small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. Sand cats are one of the world's smallest feline species, weighing from 4 to 8 pounds and measuring, on average, 20 inches long.
Even though the cats appear adorable, "looks can be deceiving," and "zookeepers are quick to tell you they are wild, ferocious animals that should never be kept as pets," the zoo said in the statement.
Sand cats are native to the deserts of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Asia. They are nocturnal and like to hunt snakes.
The kittens were born to first-time mother Sahara, 3, and father Cosmo, 9. The zoo plans to soon offer a public naming poll for the kittens, whose sexes are still unknown.
The litter of kittens is the third birth at the zoo in less than two weeks. On May 20, a giraffe calf was born, and a chimpanzee infant was born on May 21.
North Carolina to receive $3M from nationwide settlement with drugmaker
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has joined other states in a $102.5 million settlement with Indivior Inc. over its use of alleged monopoly tactics in the sale of Suboxone, which is used to treat opioid use disorder.
North Carolina’s share is nearly $3 million, according to a news release from Stein's office. North Carolina and 41 other states sued the drugmaker in 2016, alleging that Indivior tried to keep its monopoly by switching the Suboxone market from tablets to film and by attempting to destroy the market for tablets.
“When drug companies manipulate the market to make more money, they put people’s lives on the line,” Stein said in the news release. “It’s wrong and against the law. That’s why my fellow state attorneys general and I have taken action. This agreement will help ensure that people who need life-saving medication to address their substance use disorder can get it.”
If a Pennsylvania court approves the settlement, a September trial would be canceled.
Don't worry if you see a burning column of gas in Waxhaw
Piedmont Natural Gas plans to conduct routine maintenance on equipment in Waxhaw from June 5 - 8. The work is planned for 2500 Providence Road South, near Atrium Health Waxhaw.
The work will involve flaring, or burning off some gas. Piedmont is warning residents they might hear "a loud noise" and see a tall flame.
"People in the area also may notice a whistling sound or the smell of natural gas," Piedmont said in a news release. The company is asking people not to call 911 unless it's truly an emergency.
Gun violence victims in Charlotte could fill Spectrum Center — twice
Local officials and activists gathered Friday to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Lt. Kevin Pietrus said there have been about 32,000 victims of gun violence in Charlotte over the past five years, ranging from robberies to killings.
"You can almost fill the Spectrum arena twice with those people. We could likely fill an entire school 10 times over with the juveniles that are among those numbers," he said.
Clydia Hemingway’s son, 22-year-old Donqwavius Davis, was shot and killed in 2019 at an apartment near UNC Charlotte. She and her family are still dealing with the grief.
"I can't see those beautiful eyes anymore. I can't see him running across that football field. It took me almost two years to watch sports again. I have four other siblings. They're hurting," she said. "And I grieve for my children ... I don't know what to do about them losing their brother."
So far this year, there have been 27 people killed with a gun in Charlotte. But the impact goes well beyond fatal shootings — there have been 2,359 people victimized in crimes committed with firearms in the first five months of the year. That's down 4% from last year.
But police said that's not good enough — especially when, as CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings said, the impact of gun violence goes far beyond those who are actually shot.
"Children, parents, siblings, friends, coworkers. They're all affected when gun violence occurs. Police officers, detectives, telecommunications, crime scene technicians, anyone who assists in these violent events, they're also impacted," said Jennings.
Jennings said as a parent, he shares the same worries about gun violence as other parents.
"As a father of three sons, I'm living in the same reality as each and every person and every parent in our society. Is my child safe? Going to the movies, going to school? Going to the mall?" he said.
Willie Ratchford, the city of Charlotte’s community relations director, said he’s concerned about young people — increasingly very young — who are getting access to guns and using them for crimes.
"This past month, we saw a 12-year-old charged with holding a woman up at gunpoint with his 6-year-old brother as a witness. We can't let this become the norm," he said.
Police say 679 guns have been reported stolen in Charlotte already in 2023, and police have seized 1,392 guns in criminal investigations.
Report: Mandy Cohen to lead the CDC
The Washington Post reported Thursday that President Biden intends to name Mandy Cohen as the next director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cohen served as North Carolina state health director from 2017 through 2021, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SCOOP: Biden plans to pick MANDY COHEN as the next director of the CDC, per sources familiar.— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) June 1, 2023
Cohen — former North Carolina health secretary and Obama health official — would replace ROCHELLE WALENSKY, who steps down this month.
Lincolnton lands major manufacturing plant expansion
Four hundred new jobs are headed to Lincolnton as a manufacturer expands there, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday. Bosch is investing $130 million to expand its power tools manufacturing facility, which makes saws, drills, routers and more.
The jobs will pay an average of $53,000, Cooper’s office said. Bosch will receive $2.7 million worth of incentives from the state if it hits hiring targets.
“When pioneers like Bosch expand in North Carolina, it validates our position as the best place for business,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders, in a statement. “As more companies invest in our state, it confirms the importance of the First in Talent Plan which prioritizes North Carolinians and their preparation for the highly skilled career opportunities made available by such innovative manufacturers.”
Former U.S. education secretary will chair the board of North Carolina's Hunt Institute
Former United States Education Secretary Arne Duncan will chair the board of the Triangle-based Hunt Institute, an education policy organization that’s affiliated with Duke University. Former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, the institute’s namesake, chaired the board for 20 years.
Duncan was President Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2015, the longest anyone has held that post.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will serve as vice chair of the Hunt Institute, which announced its new officers Thursday.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools board approves major shakeup for new superintendent's staff
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board approved several new hires for Superintendent Crystal Hill’s executive staff yesterday.
- Melissa Balknight is the new Deputy Superintendent. She’s been Associate Superintendent for Gaston County Schools.
- Kecia Coln also comes from Gaston County to become the new Chief Human Resources Officer.
- Kelly Kluttz is the new Chief Financial Officer after holding the same job with Rowan Cabarrus Community College.
- The new chief of staff is Ingrid Medlock who comes from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
- And Angela Wood joins CMS from Stanly County Schools as Associate Superintendent for Human Resources.