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WFAE's Top Stories Of 2018

Billy Graham Evangelical Association/ DeMoss

From breaking news like the death of world-renowned Evangelical leader Rev. Billy Graham and the October shooting at Butler High School in Matthews to issues that continue to impact the Charlotte area like the affordable housing crisis and tolls on Interstate 77, WFAE has brought you the news of it all.

Our staff of editors and reporters identified the stories with the most impact in the Charlotte region along with our best work. Here's what we covered in 2018 that we won't forget:

1. The Death Of Rev. Billy Graham

The Rev. Billy Graham, a native son of Charlotte who helped transform Evangelism and was a religious counselor to presidents, died at age 99 at his home in Montreat, N.C., on Feb. 21, 2018.  For six decades, he proclaimed the Christian gospel to more than 200 million people around the world.

In a series of stories, we covered the people — known and unknown — who bid farewell to the pastor at his funeral, highlights from his 60-year ministry and the legacy Graham left behind.

2. The 2018 Midterm Election

Credit Mark Harris For Congress / Dan McCready For Congress

The 2018 elections were seismic. There was the primary election that unseated the incumbent sheriff in Mecklenburg County over immigration issues and the general election that voted in the first all-Democratic board of county commissioners since the 1960s. Find stories on the issues and people driving local midterm elections, and the 2018 election’s impact here.

Of course, as we get ready to begin 2019, one election remains unresolved: the 9th Congressional District race between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Mark Harris. The North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has refused to certify the race until its investigation into allegations of election fraud has been completed. More on the 9th District race here.

3. Rental Evictions Rising; Affordable Housing Not Meeting Demand

Credit Pixabay
An analysis of court records by UNC Charlotte's Urban Institute found that there are 25 evictions a day in Mecklenburg County.

WFAE’s Gwendolyn Glenn reported on the rapid rise in rental evictions and how the increase in evictions is closely tied with the affordable housing crisis in Mecklenburg County. She found that landlords filed more than 30,000 evictions in the county’s fiscal year that ended June 30. That’s an increase of about 1,000 notices from the previous year.

As evictions are rising, so is the average Charlotte rent. That’s displacing a large number of residents, the majority of whom are likely to be a minority and low income. Glenn’s series highlights the city’s ongoing increasing demand for affordable housing in the area, just as Charlotte residents in November approved a $50 million bond to do just that. Read her series here.

Credit David Boraks / WFAE
Lyn Alexis, 25, and her daughter, Iori, 5, moved out of Gracious Hands after eight months.

4. Finding Home

WFAE’s David Boraks has been following the story of Gracious Hands, a transitional home in northwest Charlotte and a mother who — with the help of the home — worked to turn her life around for herself and for her daughter.

The series is an intimate look at Charlotte’s affordable housing crisis, not only for those looking for a safe place that they can afford but also for organizations that try to help them. Gracious Hands was fighting eviction from its rental house, while also raising money to buy its own home. In December, a donor came forward to buy a home. More on "Finding Home" here.

5. The Changing Face Of Atrium Health

Atrium Health
Credit Atrium Health

The state’s largest health care system changed its name from Carolinas HealthCare System to Atrium Health in February as it announced a $1 billion plan to expand in the Carolinas and into Georgia in June.

Amid growth and changes, a merger with UNC Health Care fell apart in March and the health system faced multiple lawsuits by its own doctors. One of those lawsuits came after the system ended its contract with a longtime anesthesiology group over disputes, the hospital claims are about payments and the doctors claimed were about patient care.

Credit Nichole Sanchez
Winds from Florence sent a tree crashing down on Nichole Sanchez's rental home on the night of Sept 14.

6. Hurricanes Florence and Michael

Hurricane Florence made landfall the morning of Sept. 14, devastating the coastal Carolinas and causing record flooding across the rest of the two states. The hurricane caused a historic $17 billion in damages in North Carolina, according to Gov. Roy Cooper's office. WFAE covered the breaking news and lasting impact of the storm, with reporter David Boraks on the coast after Florence touched down. Those stories can be found here.

Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida panhandle in early October, just weeks after Florence. It devastated the southeastern part of the country and sent rain and winds through the Carolinas. Although its impact was notably less than its predecessor, Michael still caused school closings, power outages and downed trees in the Charlotte area and compounded problems from Florence. Find those stories here.

An aerial view shows toll lane construction on I-77 at I-277 near uptown Charlotte in late 2017.

7. For Better Or Worse, 2018 Brings Tolls To Charlotte

After years of construction and court battles, tolls started making their way to Charlotte highways in 2018. The Monroe Expressway opened last month in Union County — a project that was more than three years in the making and cost $731 million. The controversial toll lanes on Interstate 77 was scheduled to open by year’s end but has been pushed to the first quarter of 2019.

Credit Tom Bullock / WFAE

8. The Controversy Surrounding Confederate Flags, Monuments In North Carolina

Mega Confederate flags have gone up on multiple private properties near highways in North Carolina this year, one of them in nearby Alexander County. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, the group that put up the flags, said that it’s not about racism — it’s about Southern heritage. The group also said that it was in response to the Confederate monuments that have come down.

One of the most notable Confederate monuments to fall this year was “Silent Sam” — the statue of a Confederate soldier that stood for years at the center of UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus. A group of protesters tore down the statue in August, and debates and protests regarding what to do with the displaced monument are ongoing. You can find our ongoing news coverage surrounding "Silent Sam" here.

9. The Shooting At Butler High School

Police cars are stationed outside of Butler High School after a shooting Monday morning.
Credit Cole del Charco / WFAE
Police cars were stationed outside of Butler High School after the Oct. 29 shooting.

A shooting at Butler High school on Oct. 29 left one student dead and another in police custody. Police say 16-year-old Jatwan Cuffie shot classmate Bobby McKeithen, also 16, after a fight broke out in the school hallways. Cuffie has been indicted by a Mecklenburg County grand jury, and his trial date has not yet been announced.

The shooting sparked conversations about safety at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the district unveiled plans in mid-November to increase school security, including random wanding of students and backpack searches. More on the shooting and its lasting impact on the CMS community here.

10. Jerry Richardson Forced To Sell Carolina Panthers; David Tepper Takes Over

Credit Michael Tomsic / WFAE
Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson put the team up for sale in December 2017 after allegations emerged of workplace and sexual harassment.

Former owner Jerry Richardson put the Carolina Panthers up for sale at the end of 2017 following allegations of sexual and workplace harassment. The NFL fined Richardson $2.75 million in June after an investigation into the claims were substantiated.

The league approved the sale of the franchise to hedge fund owner David Tepper in July for a record $2.2 billion. Since assuming ownership, Tepper has taken multiple notable steps to usher the team into a “new era.” That included approving the signing of safety Eric Reid, a player known to kneel during the National Anthem in protest of social injustice and police brutality. More Panthers stories here.

11. The Courting Of The Republican National Convention

The Charlotte City Council heard from more than 130 people discussing their support or opposition for the Republican National Convention in 2020.

In July, convention officials and city leaders announced that Charlotte would host the Republican National Convention in 2020. That decision was widely protested by residents, business owners and a few council members who strongly oppose President Donald J. Trump. But other citizens and city council leaders, including Mayor Vi Lyles, supported hosting the convention, arguing that the economic benefits of hosting the event are too good to pass up.

The council approved the decision in a narrow 6-5 vote. You can find more RNC 2020 coverage here, including a Charlotte Talks episode that dives into what comes next as the convention approaches.

Sexual Assault Kits
Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE

12. How Sexual Assault Kits Are Handled In North Carolina

Following an investigation launched by WFAE's She Says podcast, we found that thousands of sexual assaults kits — evidence collected at the hospital following an assault — remained untested and were sitting on shelves with local law enforcement agencies across the state. The North Carolina Attorney General's office found in early 2018 that there were more than 15,000 of these untested kits. In October, the state launched a tracking system for survivors of sexual assault to follow the status of their kit.

Our continued reporting found that sexual assault survivors don't even have equal access to evidence kits, with only a little more than half of the 121 hospitals registered in the state providing Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners and kits on site. To add to that, nurses at some of the hospitals that offer kits said that for more than a year, the state hadn't been reimbursing them for the services they provide to victims. In early October, the state's Department of Public Safety said it's now reimbursing hospitals for their work on sexual assault kits as required by law. 

You can find more reporting on those kits here

13. Ongoing Issues With Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo
Credit Zuri Berry / WFAE

In 2018, Wells Fargo faced numerous fines and penalties amid allegations of fraud. In April, the banking giant was fined a combined $1 billion by two federal regulators for abuses tied to its mortgage and auto lending businesses. In August, the company agreed to pay a penalty of more than $2 billion for allegedly selling low-quality loans it knew contained fraudulent information in the years leading up to the financial crisis. Just last week, the company settled a suit for $480 million with shareholders related to the millions of sham accounts the bank admitted to creating. 

Amid the various lawsuits, the company — which has a large presence in Charlotte — has announced plans to cut its workforce by 5 to 10 percent over the next three years. The company has laid off hundreds of Charlotte employees in 2018. 

As we cap off 2018, WFAE’s staff members share their most memorable moments and stories of the year. Find each of our Best of 2018 posts here