Friday, May 29, 2009

First look at NASCAR drug policy

Jeremy Mayfield's legal complaint contains the first public glimpse of NASCAR's full substance abuse policy. The policy was included in court papers the suspended driver filed Friday.

Click here to read NASCAR's substance abuse policy.

The rules give racing officials broad discretion over punishing drivers, mechanics and crew members.

The policy spells out how officials can require mandatory testing prior the season, and random tests throughout the year. It also lists behaviors that could trigger suspicion of drug use, including accidents during events, chronic forgetfulness or broken promises, and deteriorating personal hygiene or appearance.

The policy does not specifically list which drugs are banned. Prohibited substances are those that in NASCARs determination "may affect adversely the safety and well-being" of competitors, officials or spectators, including "but not limited to illegal drugs."
"NASCAR may make this determination with respect to a particular substance at any time," the police states.

A rule governing alcohol says competitors and officials cannot drink on the day of an event.
One provision appears to give racing officials permission to release information about violations, saying NASCAR "may publish the results of any test or tests pursuant to this policy and the circumstances giving rise to such test."

The policy says officials will provide information about rehabilitation programs if requested, and encourages "self help" and treatment.

- Doug Miller

Fire administrators to save teachers?

What if you fired every single administrator, from school principals to the education officials in Raleigh, to save teacher jobs?

It still wouldn't be nearly enough to make up the billion-dollar shortfall North Carolina is facing in its education budget for 2009-10, according to a memo sent to local educators by N.C. Board of Education Chair Bill Harrison and state Superintendent June Atkinson.

Click here to read the memo.

A House committee's proposal to cut thousands of teacher jobs and shorten the school year has educators up in arms. Harrison and Atkinson sent the memo to illustrate how tough it is protect classrooms when money is this short.

Eliminating all staff from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, all central office staff from all school districts and all principals and assistant principals would save a mere $436 million, their memo says.

Cut all state spending for testing, textbooks and classroom supplies and you'd save about $214 million more. That leaves another $350 million to cover the billion-dollar gap.

Harrison and Atkinson note that they're making a point, not endorsing the cuts they outline. As they note in a classic understatement: "Few of us will ever see $1 billion."

- Ann Doss Helms

Knoxville to McCrory: Ouch!

The King of the South debate continues:

“We could’ve easily become a Knoxville, Greensboro or Richmond,” Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was quoted as saying in a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution story. “Instead we compete, fortunately, with Denver, Dallas and Atlanta.”

A Knoxville News Sentinel blogger today takes issue with the comment in a post entitled "Charlotte mayor knocks Knoxville."

He notes: "A few years back, the mayor of Charlotte got a bouquet of flowers from his counterpart in Atlanta, but he might not get the same treatment from Knoxville boosters. ...Ouch!"

Observer associate editor Mary Newsom columnist recently weighed in on the matter.

It all started with the AJC article alleging that "Charlotte, the Queen City, maintains pretensions of one day surpassing Atlanta as economic King of the South. Sam Williams, head of Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce, says dream on."

Click here to read the entire Charlotte vs. Atlanta story.

- Doug Miller

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barnes: Concord police wrong to chase car

Charlotte City Councilman Michael Barnes criticized the Concord Police Department this week, saying officers were wrong to take part in a car chase that led to the death of an 84-woman and injuries to six others.

Two officers pursued a shoplifting suspect three miles from Concord Mills mall into Charlotte on Friday, police said. Authorities say the suspect, Demetrio Jaunt Rollins, 18, was fleeing in a Buick LeSabre when the car crossed the center line on Mallard Creek Road and crashed head-on with car driven by Docia Barber. Barber, 84, died at the scene.

During Tuesday's City Council meeting, Barnes said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police would not participate in car chase for such a minor offense. "She died over a pair of shoes," Barnes said, referring to the alleged shoplifting. "That should have never happened."

Click here to read Charlotte's policy.

It says, part: "Officers are authorized to engage and continue in a Pursuit only when they have reasonable suspicion to believe the driver or occupant has committed or is attempting to commit a crime dangerous to life, or when officers can articulate the exigent need to apprehend the suspect(s) because of the potential for harm to the public (Public Risk) if they are not apprehended. Officers must always weigh the need to apprehend the suspect(s) against the danger created by the pursuit (Pursuit Risk). The danger created by the flight of the suspect can not constitute justification for the pursuit."

Concord Police Chief Merl Hamilton has defended the two officers who chased Rollins in separate vehicles. The department is looking into whether the officers actions violated its rules.

Click here to read Concord's policy.

It includes this explanation: "When an officer attempts to execute a motor vehicle stop, there is a point in time when it becomes apparent that the violator is either going to stop or attempt to elude arrest. This point in time is defined as the point in which a reasonable person would know that he/she is being ordered to pull over through the use of the blue lights and siren. When the officer makes the determination that the suspect vehicle is not going to stop, the officer must ensure that the violator has committed a felony or is in the process of committing a felony by immediately meeting the criteria required for the charge of Felony Speeding to Elude Arrest G.S. 20-141.5 or any other felony charge.

If the felony is present, the officer must obtain permission from a supervisor to continue. If a felony does not exist or the supervisor does not give permission to continue, the officer must discontinue the pursuit by turning off all emergency equipment and reducing speed."

- Fred Clasen-Kelly

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Phantom budget cuts?

Yes, Mecklenburg County really is making budget cuts.

After county officials unveiled their recommended budget last week, a reader asked whether the county is making actual cuts to its budget. He wrote that in some years, officials and the media talk about “budget cuts” but in fact there is an increase in spending.

He pointed to the school system as a good example of this. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools often gets less from the county than it asks for but more than it received the previous year. While some officials talk about making cuts -- to the original plan -- others note that the district's budget is growing.

So, is there fuzzy math going on this year?

In short, no. Nearly all the departments and agencies the county funds are recommended to receive flat or reduced funding. The proposal calls for cutting county departments by an average of 9.6 percent, CMS by 9.8 percent and CPCC by 9.2 percent.

This chart shows you a comparison of the county's budget from the 2006-07 to the current recommendation.

One of the few exceptions: the county will spend more in its operating budget to pay off its debt for construction. That's mostly due to a change in the county's debt policy to spend part of its reserves to pay for construction projects without borrowing money. Previously, the money had been spent to pay off bonds the county had borrowed.

Think the cuts aren't enough, or go too far? A budget hearing is set for 6 p.m. Thursday. Commissioners will approve the spending plan in June.-- April Bethea

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

County debt rating: 'Teetering on the edge'

Mecklenburg County leaders travel to New York each December to meet with bond rating agencies. That helps them determine how much the county will spend when it borrows money for construction.

In January, County Manager Harry Jones told commissioners that rating agencies had made it clear the county was “teetering on the edge” of being downgraded if they didn't get a better hold of their debt.

A year ago, the concerns prompted the county to revise its debt policy. This year, it led staff and commissioners to delay a $253 million bond sale. The county also is planning to limit how much new debt it takes on in the future, an effort described in a Sunday story.

So what are the concerns? Here are some excerpts from this year’s reports from Fitch, Standard & Poor's and Moody's.

- “Given that the county’s current debt position is already well above Moody’s national median for Aaa rated counties … leveraging to the levels allowable in the debt policy could have negative impact on the credit quality.” – page 4 of Moody’s report

- “Fitch believes the guidelines embody liberal debt burden and debt service spending targets relative to other highly-rated entities; the county contends that the high ceilings provide flexibility and that actual ratios will be below the guidelines.” – page 2 of Fitch report

The annual trips to the rating agencies are largely routine. But on the eve of this year's visit, Commissioner Bill James sent a letter to the rating agencies critical of the county's past debt decisions.

One of the agencies read part of the letter during their meeting with county officials. While some commissioners knew James had sent the letter, the full board did not see it until February. The letter drew strong criticism from some commissioners, who felt James was trying to jeopardize the county's finances. - April Bethea

Friday, May 22, 2009

Can the Bobcats leave Charlotte?

City Attorney Mac McCarley sent these answers to commonly asked questions about the city's involvement in the arena:

Q: How long is the agreement with the Bobcats?
A: Through the end of the 2029-2030 NBA season.

Q: What happens if they’re sold?
A: The new owners would be subject to all the same restrictions and guarantees.

Q: Can the team leave?
A: No. The city may seek an injunction to force the team to honor the commitment to play here, or can enforce liquidated damages of $200,000,000 in the first 5 years (2005-2010), $150,000,000 in years 5 – 10, and a declining balance going from $85,000,000 in year 11 down to $7,000,000 in year 25.

Q: What protects the city from the team leaving?
A: The liquidated damage provisions are guaranteed by the team and by Bob Johnson personally.

An Observer story Friday said Bobcats owner Bob Johnson is looking to sell the team.

The city agreed in 2002 to build the $265 million arena where the Bobcats play. Part of the deal was that the NBA team would operate the facility and keep most of the revenue from it.

Click here to read the city's final arena agreement.

- Julia Oliver

List of county job cuts

Mecklenburg County’s budget shortfall means its departments could lose about 300 jobs, including the layoffs of dozens of employees.

County Manager Harry Jones’ proposed 2009-10 budget calls for 302 fewer positions in the county next year. Of those, 88 are filled and the rest are vacant. About three-dozen of the layoffs are code enforcement inspectors from the Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, whose positions are funded through fees.

Click here for a list of what jobs are being cut, by agency.

The above except from the county’s budget book lists 227 jobs that will be eliminated. However, the county also is cutting funding from another 75 positions. Money for those 75 jobs – which are in the Sheriff’s Office, Department of Social Services and the Community Support Services agency – could be restored if funding becomes available later, said Budget Director Hyong Yi.

The number of jobs that could be cut is fewer than what county officials had announced earlier this year. Before the county said it could lose 334 jobs, including 89 layoffs. Yi said county departments were able to save some jobs by making cuts elsewhere in their budgets.

Commissioners will vote on a budget on June 16. April Bethea

Thursday, May 21, 2009

College survival odds - by high school

If you've got kids pondering college, the UNC-system database used in a recent Queens University of Charlotte study is a treasure trove.

The state universities track how students do as they advance through the system - or drop out. Cheryl Pulliam of Queens' Public Education Research Institute used the data to look at how kids in five urban districts, including CMS and Wake, compared as they advanced through state schools, and to look at results for individual CMS high schools.

For example: 84 percent of Myers Park grads returned for a second year of college with a GPA of 2.0 or higher, compared with 54 percent of Berry grads.

Click here to read Pulliam's report.

The database provides school-by-school data from other counties and charter schools, plus provides for interesting comparisons of universities.

For instance: When my son was graduating in 2007, the word at his school was that UNC Chapel Hill was tough to get into but easy to stay in, while N.C. State made it easy to get into but hard to stay.

Turns out they were right: State admitted 62 percent of applicants, with Chapel Hill took only 34 percent. But just over 20 percent of Wolfpack students left before their second year, and only two-thirds graduated within five years. At Chapel Hill, only 3 percent were gone by second year, and 84 percent had graduated in five years.

Click here for the UNC-system database.

- Ann Doss Helms

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

CMS cuts range from custodians to chiefs

From longer grass outside schools to 10-hour days for administrators working during the summer, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' expanded 351-page budget book has more details about how officials plan to handle budget cuts for 2009-10.

Click here to view the budget book. (Warning: it's a large file.)

The budget book also includes letters from board chair Molly Griffin and Superintendent Peter Gorman about the budget and the economy, department-by-department spending plans and a raft of charts with additional data, including trends in enrollment, staff and per-pupil spending.

Commissioners and the school board will meet to discuss the budget from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday at the Education Center, 701 E. Martin Luther King Blvd., and commissioners will hold a public hearing May 28.

To let commissioners know what you think, sign up for the public hearing on the county's budget Web site

You can also find contact information for commissioners here.
Ann Doss Helms

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pastor Jinwright indictment

Anthony Jinwright, appearing in federal court today, told a judge he understood the 14-count indictment brought against him. The long-time Charlotte-area pastor who leads Greater Salem City of God in west Charlotte was given a $100,000 unsecured bond.

Click here to read the indictment.

Jinwright , who declined to answer questions from a reporter, last month proclaimed his innocence in a written statement. “I am not guilty of such allegations,” the statement reads. “No evidence to support these charges has been presented to me and I therefore await my day in court.” - Christopher D. Kirkpatrick

Monday, May 18, 2009

Which groups will county cut?

Mecklenburg County staff recommends spending less on nonprofits and outside agencies in the 2009-10 budget.

At least one nonprofit may challenge its proposed budget cut.

Project HealthShare runs a free medical clinic and scored "low performing" on a county review that helps determine spending. County staff has recommended phasing out money to the organization and two others.

But group officials say they have expanded their services and made other changes since their last evaluation.

How is the county recommending whose funding to keep or cut?

Click here to see the county's nonprofit scorecard.

(Go to page 5 to see whether groups are ranked, high, moderate or low-performing.)

The county also is recommending phasing out funding for programs run by Mi Casa Su Casa, and the Community Building Initiative, Budget Director Hyong Yi told county commissioners last week. He said the groups could have funding restored in the future if the organization shows significant or dramatic improvement, or if it climbs higher on commissioners' priority list.

Some background:

This is the first year the county used this evaluation process for the non-profits and other service agencies it funds, and Yi acknowledged last week the process was not perfect.

In all, county administrators are recommending about $4.29 million to 25 support programs, a decrease of about 8.5 percent from what the organizations received this past year. No money was recommended for first-time applicants. The county also will give $1.47 million to seven programs with which it has contractual obligations. - April Bethea

Friday, May 15, 2009

NASCAR office tower fight

A developer building an office tower adjacent to the NASCAR Hall of Fame has sued the city of Charlotte over the escalating cost of a shared parking lot.

The developer, Corporate Plaza Partners, LLC, is an affiliate of Lauth Properties. It says the city is overcharging for the cost of expanding the lot.

But city staff members said that Corporate Plaza Partners is reneging on an agreement that is part of the NASCAR complex on Stonewall and Brevard streets.

The developer filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, seeking to keep the city from collecting $3.4 million.

Click here to read the motion.

- Julia Oliver

Psyching-out Phelps?

Fast entry times show Michael Phelps has real competition at this weekend's UltraSwim meet.

The list of times, called a 'psych sheet,' has Phelps as the top seed in the 200 meter freestyle and 100 meter butterfly. He entered the second-fastest time in the 100 meter freestyle, third-fastest in the 50 meter freestyle, and fourth in the 100 meter backstroke.

Click here to see UltraSwim entry times.

Once the racing starts, of course, swimmers are reseeded by how well they do in preliminaries. - Doug Miller

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How will CMS teachers be laid off?

Performance is the first criteria, according to Superintendent Peter Gorman's 'reduction in force' plan. Experience and class subject will also play a role.

More than 400 classroom teachers will get layoff notices the week of May 25, Gorman said. Teachers and other employees will be called back if the state, federal or county budget picture for 2009-10 improves. - Ann Doss Helms

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big house? Rainwater could cost you

Mecklenburg Storm Water Services has proposed increasing the stormwater fee for most homeowners next fiscal year and shifting more of the burden to the largest homes. The smallest homes would see a slight decrease.

Charlotte homeowners with more than 5,000 square feet of impervious surfaces would see their annual fee increase from about $96 to more than $200.

Stormwater officials released this illustrated memo explaining their rationale - and the proposed fee hikes.

Click here to see the memo.

Read the story: Double storm water fees? Some homeowners say it's unfair

Some local elected officials, as they examine budget proposals this month, are questioning the proposed fee increase. - Christopher D. Kirkpatrick

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jacobsen memo: $163,907 pay, county car

Richard "Jake" Jacobsen, 65, gets the county's eighth-highest salary despite working for UNC Charlotte's Institute for Social Capital, a nonprofit organization.

As they try to reduce a $78.9 million deficit in next year's budget, Mecklenburg County commissioners are promising to scrutinize all expenses. But County Manager Harry Jones says they should continue to pay the former Department of Social Services director, even though he no longer works for the county.

Today's story explains that under an arrangement between Jacobsen and county leaders, he will stay on the public payroll until his retirement in February 2010.

Jacobsen and the county drafted a "memorandum of understanding" on the arrangement. It detailed his pay and other expenses, including that he be "provided with a vehicle," according to the rules governing the use of county vehicles.

Click here to read the memo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Where will your kids go to high school in 2010?

CMS hasn't locked in boundaries for new schools in Mint Hill and Mecklenburg's northern tip, but the staff recommendations are posted online now.

Click here to see the maps.

These maps and numbers will be presented to the school board Tuesday, with a vote June 9.

The document also includes staff recommendations for elementary schools that will be built nearby; opening dates for those schools are uncertain because of the financial crunch.

According to the plan:

* The Bailey Road high school would slice off the northern part of the county, creating a low-poverty, mostly-white high school that would open with roughly 1,400 students. Hopewell and North Meck, which are far over capacity now, would give up big chunks of their current zone.

* North Meck would pick up part of the West Charlotte zone, with its poverty level rising from 20 percent this year to about 39 percent in 2010.

* The new Mint Hill high school zone would cover the county's eastern point, taking territory from Independence and Butler. It would open with about 1,800 students and a poverty level around 43 percent.

* Butler would pick up some of East Meck's zone. According to the staff projections, poverty levels for the existing schools would not change dramatically. - Ann Doss Helms

Foxx: Give CMS $4.7 million from speedcams

The mayoral candidate writes "now is the time to help each other as best we can," in a letter to Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

Charlotte City Councilman Anthony Foxx has scheduled a news conference this morning to discuss his plan to ease the school system's budget shortfall.

His idea: Send $4.7 million from Charlotte's now-defunct speed camera program to the school system.

Foxx outlined his proposal in a Friday letter to school board members and Superintendent Peter Gorman.

Click here to read Foxx's letter.

Foxx says in the letter he will make his recommendation at tonight's council meeting.

Some background:

The city's speed cameras were turned off in 2006 after a court decision involving red-light cameras in High Point. The N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that a provision in the state constitution requires most of the fines to be turned over to the schools; rather than raise local taxes, Charlotte turned off its cameras.

Most of the fines collected from speeders in Charlotte and High Point were being used to pay for the programs. - Doug Miller

Sunday, May 10, 2009

WH memo: Manhattan flyover bungled

The Air Force One photo shoot that startled New Yorkers last month was the result of 'structural and organizational ambiguities' at the White House Military Office, according to an internal federal review.

On top of that, the shoot (above) cost taxpayers $328,835.

The Military Office director, Louis Caldera, resigned Friday. The federal report says Caldera had no idea the photo op called for the aircraft to fly at 1,000 feet. The purpose of the flight was to update the official photo of Air Force One.

After the flight, Caldera was in the West Wing when he learned that the flight reminded people of 9/11, the report says.

Click here to read the White House report.

Paper Trail typically sticks to documents behind local stories, but we'll make an exception for this one. It's a rare glimpse into a communication breakdown at the highest level. - Doug Miller

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hot documents: Week's top 3

CMS cuts, the transit tax, Crosland's memo - those are the topics that drove Paper Trail this week.

Here are links to the documents behind those stories - and Charlotte's fastest week in review:

1. Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones said Thursday he's recommending cutting nearly $34 million from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools next year. That would help balance a looming shortfall in the county budget, a move that likely would trigger layoffs of hundreds of teachers.

Click here to see Jones' memo.

2. State lawmakers told city and town leaders Wednesday that if they want the option of asking voters to approve another half-cent sales tax increase for transit, they need to get their "act together" and ask for it.

Click here to read the bill.

3. Developer John Crosland said it's time to attack Charlotte's affordable housing shortage. "Thousands of people are trapped by this system," he says in a white paper circulating among city leaders.

Click here to read Crosland's conclusion.

- Doug Miller

New details in Yarmolenko case

Slain UNC Charlotte student Irina Yarmolenko was found last May with a bungee cord, ribbon and drawstring around her neck, according to new details contained in motions filed this week in Gaston County Superior Court.

Click here to see the court papers.

According to discovery evidence released to defense lawyers representing the two suspects in the case, DNA from the items around Yarmolenko’s neck and scrapings from beneath her fingernails did not match either suspect.

But partial evidence from both men did match DNA found inside the car, according to the motions, which seek modifications in the defendants bonds.

Mark Carver of Gastonia and his cousin, Neal Leon Cassada Jr. of Mount Holly, have been charged with first-degree murder in the May 5, 2008 killing of Yarmolenko, 20. Her body was found beside her car on the banks of the Catawba River in Mount Holly where authorities said she had gone to take photos. An autopsy revealed asphyxia as the cause of death. - Joe Depriest

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Jones memo: Cut $33.9 million from CMS

Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones said this afternoon he's recommening cutting nearly $34 million from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools next year in order to help balance a looming shortfall in the county budget, a move that likely would trigger layoffs of hundreds of teachers.

Click here to see Jones' memo.

Jones also is recommending cutting about $2.4 million from Central Piedmont Community College, according the memo sent to county commissioners today. - April Bethea

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CMS magnets: Lottery results

What's full? Piedmont Middle, Montessori programs and traditional elementaries.

On the other end, 14 magnet schools came through the first lottery with no one waiting to get in.

A Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools list shows how many students got into magnets and how many landed on wait lists, by grade, program and school. Numbers will shift during spring and summer, as some students decide not to claim their seats and others fail to earn scores that would get them in.

Click here for the results of this year's first CMS lottery.

Waiting lists are long at perennial favorites, even after the school board revamped the magnet offerings for 2009-10. Piedmont Middle, for instance, will lose its "open" program, shifting all its seats to the International Baccalaureate program that used to make up about half the school.

That means students who don't pass their reading and math exams this year can't get in. Piedmont has the district's longest waiting list, with 444 students,

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is offering students another chance at getting into underfilled magnet schools next year.

Click here to learn more about which schools still have openings and how to claim them (deadline is May 22). - Ann Doss Helms

Update: Charlotte needs to get 'act together' for transit tax

Charlotte area legislators told city and town leaders today that if they want the option of asking voters to approve another half-cent sales tax increase for transit, they need to get their act together and ask for it.

“If Mecklenburg County wants to be included in this legislation, we need to hear from the local community, sooner rather than later,” Sen. Malcolm Graham, a Charlotte Democrat, told the local leaders during a meeting at the legislature. “There needs to be consensus.”

Charlotte City Council members and representatives from Mecklenburg municipalities were in Raleigh today, meeting with Mecklenburg County lawmakers.

They discussed a bill that would give Mecklenburg County authority to seek voters' permission to levy another half-cent sales tax for transit.

The bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Becky Carney passed the House and is in Senate committee.

Click here to read the bill.

Some background:

The City Council deferred a vote Monday on whether to ask the General Assembly to include Mecklenburg in a bill that allows urban counties in the Triad and Triangle to levy a half-cent sales tax for mass transit.

If included in the bill, Mecklenburg County commissioners could ask county voters to approve a second half-cent sales tax for mass transit. Council members said they wanted to wait until after the Raleigh trip today before voting. They plan to address the matter May 11.

Sen. Dan Clodfelter, also a Charlotte Democrat, blocked Mecklenburg's inclusion in the bill partly because he said he wanted a commitment from the Charlotte Area Transit System that it would build light rail down Independence Boulevard. - Mark Johnson and Julia Oliver

Read more about this developing story in tomorrow's Observer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Charlotte's first wish list for Gov. Perdue

N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue has named Charlotte City Council member Michael Barnes as her volunteer liaison, and Barnes recently sent Perdue a list of key issues facing the city.

His April 27 letter lists four requests:

1. Relax the September deadline for use of federal job training money through the stimulus program.

2. Ensure that the state mow the grass along its rights of way and pick up litter.

3. Require a state DOT official work in Charlotte 2-3 days a month. Currently, Barnes says, developers must travel to the Albermarle office to review plans.

4. Install signs on I-485 directing drivers to the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

Click here to read Barnes' letter to Perdue.

Perdue named Barnes as her liaison in March, when she became the first governor with a Charlotte presence by opening a new Piedmont office in the government center.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Crosland: 'Thousands are trapped by this system'

Today's story about Charlotte's affordable housing shortage quotes developer John Crosland saying: "It's high time we try to do something about the people who are really struggling to find an affordable place."

Crosland has published his findings about the housing situation in a white paper circulating among city leaders.

His proposed solution: reduce the cost of development, which would cut housing prices. That would require easing land-use regulations, among other steps, he argues.

Other ideas include free or low-cost government land for affordable housing and larger housing bonds.

"I have seen the system that we have in place and understand that thousands are trapped ...Instead of leaving these families to fail, we must extend them a hand," the study says. "I do not want to see Charlotte become a place where the rich get richer while the poor get poorer."

Click here to read the conclusion of Crosland's white paper.

Among the study's findings: Charlotte lost 1,125 units for the poorest families from 2001 to 2007. At least 3,201 affordable units were demolished, while only 2,076 new affordable units were built to take their place.