Jan 3, 2023 - News

3 of Charlotte City Council’s New Years resolutions

Charlotte Skyline December 2021

Photo: Symphony Webber/Axios

Charlotte leaders recently passed some of the most ambitious plans in recent memory. This should be the year they start acting on them.

  • The Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan passed. The Unified Development Ordinance was adopted.

All were major, years-long undertakings that were politically divisive at times.

Yes, but: City Council’s unusually short (15-month) term is ticking away, and another election is around the corner. Campaign season could easily become a diversion, especially with candidate filing starting this summer. Rumors are already swirling about who is and isn’t running.

  • But, but, but: The city has demanding and emerging issues that current leaders need to focus on if they want to make progress.

What’s happening: Axios asked city council members to share their top priorities for 2023 and their “resolutions,” or goals think they are achievable over these next 12 months. Common priorities fell into three overarching categories.

  • Of note: We only received responses from about half of the 11-member body.

1. Secure funding for transportation dreams

Transportation was among Charlotte’s biggest city issues in 2022, and it still is at the beginning of 2023.

Context: With a collective $13.5 billion price tag, Charlotte has big transportation plans to build a Silver Line and Red Line, plus embark on other multi-modal projects like greenways and bike lanes.

What they’re saying: Multiple council members shared a resolution to secure revenue sources — in the region, state and federally — to fill transportation needs.

  • “A comprehensive, cohesive regional transit plan is vital for continued economic development in the region,” council member Malcolm Graham wrote.
  • Graham and council member Dimple Ajmera say this will require building and strengthening relationships with local, state and federal leaders this year.

Flashback: 2022 had its share of challenges. For months, the union of CATS bus drivers has been in negotiations with the city’s contracted management company, while the riders have felt the repercussions.

  • Meanwhile, CATS committed $5 million to move forward with the Red Line planning process, but Norfolk Southern refuses to share its freight tracks with the proposed commuter rail. CATS looked at routes for the Silver Line this winter, but council neglected to inquire how many passengers would actually ride the future light rail if it bypassed Uptown, WFAE reported.
  • Also this year, CATS will search for a new CEO to succeed John Lewis, who resigned in October.

What’s next: A long-awaited 1 cent countywide sales tax hike could appear on the 2023 ballot, but only if the N.C. General Assembly approves such a referendum.

  • If not, we could be writing about transportation again in December.

2. Support more affordable housing

Charlotte used up the remaining cash in its Housing Trust Fund this year to cover rising costs for hundreds of affordable units the city already funded that were over budget. Another $50 million from the latest housing bond, passed by voters in November, will revive the account later this winter.

  • Yes, but: The $50 million is intended to last for two years, until another expected housing bond. It is unclear how far will the money go if inflation continues to drive up construction costs, however.

By the numbers: Charlotte faces a gap of about 23,000 affordable units, needed to house low-income households, at or below 30% of area median income, according to a UNC Charlotte report from 2021.

Council members expressed interest in several solutions to affordable housing, including continuing partnerships with other entities:

  • “I would like to see the City support models such as the West End Partners, supporting Land Trusts for owner-occupied housing connected to job trainings.” – LaWana Mayfield
  • “Leverage city dollars with our community partners to create new affordable housing and help people stay in place.” – Ajmera
  • “[W]e must increase our investment in affordable housing through programs like House Charlotte and homeowner assistance programs.” – Graham

Of note: More than 30% of Charlotte homes bought in the last two quarters were by investors, according to RedFin and WCNC.

  • Council member Renee Johnson said that they need to strategize with homeowners associations to combat corporate ownership in subdivisions.

What’s next: The City of Charlotte expects discuss plans during its housing and jobs summit early this year. “My goal for the summit [is] to pave the way for policies that lead to workforce development, affordable housing and a regional transit plan,” Graham said.

  • Plus, Mecklenburg County is sending out revaluation notices early this year. Property owners should prepare for a significant increase in property values that could result in higher taxes. The city will adjust the tax rate and could consider setting a revenue-neutral rate — but council members have already identified pricey infrastructure needs that could require a budget boost.

3. Rebuild the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is a priority for leaders after it ended the year on an alarming statistic: Only 60% of 911 calls are being answered in 10 seconds or less, per a December CMPD presentation to city council.

  • The industry standard is 90%.

Context: CMPD is struggling with staffing shortages and is down about 300 officers. With limited patrol, cars regularly run red lights.

  • What’s more, CMPD claims it no longer has the resources to grant the majority of media interview requests or hold regular press briefings.

Here are some of the resolutions council shared related to CMPD:

  • “Create a balanced budget that addresses CMPD staffing needs as well as continues our investments in community-based safety programs.” – Ajmera
  • “Support Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in their efforts to reduce violent crime in Charlotte. Reducing crime is important to the other focus areas of economic and community development. I have supported an emphasis not only on law enforcement and crime prevention, but also on alternative to violence programs in areas of high crime and throughout the city. Prioritizing beautification and cleanliness in Uptown and in neighborhoods across the city is also important to public safety.” – Graham
  • “Increased hiring of CMPD officers and 911 operators.” – Johnson

Other ideas

Two council members included resolutions having to do with the body’s organization.

Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston’s were:

  1. “Create a tangible intergovernmental strategy that guides City Council’s work with other elected leaders in our region.”
  2. Adopt four-year staggered terms for City Council.

Council member Tariq Bokhari said he’d like to rid of the council’s three at-large seats and go to 10 districts.

Several council members also want to see implementation of the Corridors of Opportunity, a city program designed to spark economic development in six corridors where investment has historically lagged.

  • Winston said he’d like to see “playbooks” put in place for the Corridors program.
  • Graham said he will continue to advocate for community development in these areas, such as neighborhood enhancements, public safety and small business development.

Graham also says investment in sports and entertainment is vital to economic development efforts and to increasing tourism.

  • Work with community partners and corporate partners on public/private partnerships that are making Charlotte a sports and entertainment destination (Charlotte Arts and Culture Plan, Tepper Sports and Entertainment, Hornets Sports and Entertainment, new tennis complex, etc.).”

What’s next: We’ll be closely tracking city council’s moves this year.

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