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Mixed results in new racial trust survey for Charlotte

Back in 2001, Charlotte area leaders were troubled to discover the city ranked almost dead last on a study measuring trust between races in 40 major cities. A flurry of community trust-building initiatives was born. But 8 years later, the results are mixed. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: A new survey commissioned by the Foundation for the Carolinas found virtually no change in the percentage of Charlotte residents who say they trust people of other races. The figure is still just 24 percent, which is a bit disheartening to city leaders who've spent the last 8 years trying to improve race relations in Charlotte. On the other hand, city community relations director Willie Ratchford says, "It could have gotten worse and it didn't. Even with a larger community than we were some years ago, the fact that we've remained constant is a positive." Charlotte is 25 percent larger than it was in 2001 and quite a bit more diverse. That might explain why the survey found major gains in the number of people who have friends of a different race, religion or sexual orientation. Last year, more than 50 percent of people said they have those kinds of friends, compared to only 23 percent in 2001. Michael Marsicano of the Foundation for the Carolinas says more people seem to be learning to trust each other one-on-one, "And I think that's probably the first step toward the movement of trusting groups that are different from us as a whole group." We'll find out when the survey is repeated again in two years. Marsicano says he's more troubled at what the survey found about civic involvement in Charlotte. "Nearly four-fifths of survey respondents reported they have never attended a political meeting or political rally in the last 12 months," says Marsicano. "We can't build the kind of community we want, unless there are great numbers of people who are actively involved in building the kind of future we all like to imagine." Marsicano says the lack of political involvement is particularly surprising considering the survey was conducted at the height of the 2008 Presidential campaign. "Lack of time" was the main reason people gave for not going to city council meetings and other political events. But safety was also a big concern. Nearly a dozen local companies and nonprofits announced new initiatives today meant to improve the quality of life and relationships in Charlotte. They are all part of a multi-year collaboration called "Crossroads Charlotte" and include a new chamber of commerce program to help minority-owned businesses and the creation of a Center for Active Citizenship at Queens University.