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Report Lays Out Approaches To Tackle Poverty

Gwendolyn Glenn/WFAE
Dee O'Dell, Sr. VP US Bank and Ophelia Garmon-Brown, Sr. VP Novant Health, co-chaired the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force

After about a year-and-a-half of work, the Charlottte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force released its long-awaited report Monday on how the economic mobility for the city’s less-fortunate residents can be improved. The 92-page report included a long list of recommendations that encompasses issues such as childcare and segregation.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
County Commissioner Trevor Fuller spearheaded the creation of the Opportunity Task Force.

The task force began its work 18 months ago, shortly after a UC Berkley/Harvard University report ranked Charlotte dead last of the country’s 50 largest cities, in terms of economic mobility for children born into poverty.

A lot of what the task force’s report identified as issues have been discussed many times before—the need for affordable housing, affordable daycare, desegregated housing and schools, more school counselors and higher wages for workers. But County Commission Chairman Trevor Fuller, who pushed for the task force’s creation, says the report is calling for different approaches to be taken in working on those issues and more aggressively.

“What I say to people is we’re already spending a lot of money putting in a system that doesn’t work for everybody so it’s simply a question of us reallocating that money to make opportunity real for people in our community,” Fuller said.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
New task force will implement the recommendations of the Opportunity Task Force report. Co-chairs James Ford, former NC Teacher of the Year and bank executive Andrea Smith.

A lot of what the report calls for has no funding or clear-cut strategies behind them—that will have to wait. But Fuller says the report gives the city a solid framework to add that substance in coming months and years.

“What I’ve heard from the community is that people are in what they are looking for is some structure, some direction, blueprint, which we not have to use as a framework to put substance on it, commitments in and allocate resources under this framework so I’ve very excited about where we are and where we’re going,” Fuller said.

Task force co-chair Ophelia Garmon-Brown pointed out that the report is not a cure-all or quick fix. She says a lot of obstacles, such as segregated neighborhoods, were intentional decisions made hundreds of years ago that will take a long time to fix.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
Activist Braxton Winston says the report did not present any new information for him but hopes its recommendations will make a difference in tackling poverty.

“It is a complex situation and it will take all of us coming together in a positive sense, not pointing fingers, not blaming but trying to understand what we all can do together,” Garmon-Brown said. 

Garmon-Brown says the entire city will have to pitch in and take the attitude that the city’s problems will have to be tackled differently and in making decisions, city officials should always ask how they will affect children and families.

Charlotte activist Braxton Winston says he’s glad to see officials acknowledge that two very different Charlottes exist but, “These are issues I didn’t need identified and a lot of people that are living in a position where they don’t have upward mobility I don’t think this report is needed to tell them what the problems are but if the folks that can help with resources need it then so be it, but it’s time now to put those assets and resources to good use.”

To carry out the reports’ recommendation, another task force was created that will have initial staff provided by the United Way and Foundation for the Carolinas. It will be co-chaired by bank executive Andrea Smith and former North Carolina teacher of the year James Ford. They say they will have ways to measure long and short-term goals and will seek diverse leaders to be a part of the effort.

Credit Gwendolyn Glenn
A large crowd turned out at Government Center to hear the long-awaited recommendations in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force report.

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.