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Environmentalists Blast Mayor Lyles For Scrapping Environmental Committee

Steve Harrison/WFAE
Corine Mack of the Charlotte NAACP speaks at a news conference Monday about Mayor Vi Lyles' decision to eliminate the council's stand-alone environmental committee.

A group of environmentalists Monday criticized Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles' decision to disband a stand-alone environmental committee as part of a shuffling of council assignments and committees.

"Unfortunately, we are here today to report that the mayor, and perhaps the council itself, has decided to stop recognizing environmental issues at the strategic focus level of operations, and has eliminated the strategic environmental focus of the city," said Brian Kasher of Quality First EHS, an air-quality and environmental consultant.

Kasher spoke at a news conference, along with other activists, including Corine Mack of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP.

"Why are we changing that?" Mack said. "Why are we going to do something that's going to put us back at least four or five years? Five years that we do not have. I am asking, I am praying, that we come beyond ourselves, and look at the masses and do what's right for all people."

Last month, Lyles re-organized the council's committees - a move that folded the environmental, public safety and housing committees into a single committee.

Lyles wrote to council members that she made the changes because the city's current "silo model has become outdated and inadequate."

She said it made sense to combine public safety, housing, and environmental issues into one committee.

Under her plan, James Mitchell will continue to chair the economic development committee; Julie Eiselt will continue to chair transportation and planning; Greg Phipps will continue to chair the budget committee; and Justin Harlow will chair the new neighborhood development committee.

A fifth committee - the inter-governmental relations committee - will have two chairs: Larken Egleston and Tariq Bokhari.

Dimple Ajmera would lose her chair of the environment committee and LaWana Mayfield will lose her chair of the housing committee. 

Ajmera is possibly the biggest loser under the re-organization, as she does not have a vice chair either. Mayfield is vice chair of the transportation committee.

Late last year, the environmental committee helped pass the Strategic Energy Action Plan, an aspirational plan to have the city become a "low-carbon" city by 2050.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.