Stories We'll Be Watching In 2020
The news never stops, and we know 2020 will keep churning out more stories for WFAE to cover. Here are a list of some of the topics we'll be keeping an eye on when the calendar turns to a new year and a new decade.
The Republican National Convention is coming to Charlotte in August, and it’s not without some controversy already. After the Charlotte City Council approved the bid in 2018, it passed a resolution in July 2019 condemning President Donald Trump’s “racist and xenophobic language.” Then there’s the fact that Charlotte will be the first city to host a president who has been impeached running for reelection. There’s sure to be plenty more news to come. Follow along with all the preparation, twists and turns in our new podcast launching Jan. 23, "Inside Politics." Award-winning reporters Lisa Worf and Steve Harrison will help you navigate all that you need to know.
The Charlotte Diocese promised a list of credibly accused clergy would be released by the end of 2019. It delivered just under the wire, releasing the list of 14 names Dec. 30. But what happens next? What more will we learn about who is on the list, and what will the list mean for survivors?
Charlotte recorded more homicides in 2019 than in any year since 1993, when it had a record 129. What is the city going to do to address the violence and see that trend go in the other direction?
Winston-Salem’s BB&T and Atlanta’s SunTrust received approval to merge in early December, forming the sixth-largest commercial bank in the country that will be called Truist — and be based in Charlotte. Does the Queen City have enough room for another bank? How will it reshape uptown, particularly after Truist bought Hearst Tower for $455.5 million, renaming it Truist Center?
North Carolina’s General Assembly had to navigate through redrawing districts at the end of 2019, and now the fun part comes – elections in those new districts. There’s also a U.S. Senate spot up for grabs as Thom Tillis is up for reelection. Oh, and there's a presidential election, too.
Funding For Arts In Charlotte
Mecklenburg County voters said "no" to the quarter-cent sales tax increase proposed to help fund the arts and cultural sectors. While the headline-making tax has been given a clear answer from the public, a number of questions remain: What will happen to the Arts and Science Council, which has seen annual funding decline over the years and would have received the biggest chunk of the tax-generated funds? Who (or what) will Charlotte turn to in keeping the arts alive? -- David Boraks
Continued Efforts Around Affordable Housing
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County leaders, along with local business and community groups, have mounted a big campaign this year to solve the region's gap in affordable housing for low-income residents. By fall, they had raised $275 million in commitments to build new homes or renovate existing units to keep them affordable. That includes $50 million in Housing Trust Fund bond money approved by voters in November 2018, $55 million in pledges to a private sector Housing Opportunity Fund, and millions of dollars more in commitments that include land donations and low-interest loans.
The problem has been building for years. A Mecklenburg County study found that the average rent in the county rose 18% between 2005 and 2017, while wages only rose 4%. Meanwhile, hundreds of existing units are being lost to redevelopment — often for luxury housing. The city's housing director put it this way in November: "You continue to have what we refer to as 'naturally occurring affordable units' that are converted to market rate, which makes them further out of reach for a household that's needing affordable. You also continue to have more people coming to the city." She added: "I just think that we have to continue employing all of our tools to continue to address this problem." – David Boraks
Charlotte and North Carolina joined other local and state governments this year in adopting goals to deal with climate change, despite the federal government policy to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. The state's Clean Energy Plan calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the electric power industry to 70% below 2005 levels by 2030, and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. Gov. Roy Cooper also wants more renewable energy and more electric vehicles on the road. And he wants to keep costs down and ensure low-income residents have equal access to new power technologies.
Charlotte City Council adopted its own "Strategic Energy Action Plan," which aims for zero carbon emissions from city buildings and vehicles by 2030 and cleaner vehicles and energy across the city. City leaders and community members have been meeting to discuss how to reach those goals, though the plan has hit a few snags, including the departure of the city's top environmental officials and a lack of plans for converting the city's bus fleet from diesel to electric.
In November, local climate change activists got a boost in a visit from Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. She told more than 1,000 young poeple uptown the world's ecological emergency is dire: "And if the adults and people in power are too immature to realize that, then we need to let them know, and we need to do it now, because this is our future, and we will not let it be taken away from us." What changes will take place in 2020? – David Boraks
Silver Line Light Rail
Charlotte City Council approved in November a $50 million contract to design the Silver Line – a 26-mile light rail project from Matthews to Belmont. What will that design yield, and what is the timeline for a potential new light rail line that could cost at least $3 billion?