Archives for June 2023

Local News Roundup: Officials look for answers after Charlotte Preparatory fire; Vi Lyles announces reelection campaign; SCOTUS hands down decisions impacting NC cases

There are millions of dollars of damage at Charlotte Preparatory School after a fire ripped through the building this week. Reports say there were no sprinklers in the section of the building where the fire broke out.

Touting her record on jobs and affordable housing, Mayor Vi Lyles has announced she’s running for another term. The Democrat has held the position since 2017.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck a blow to North Carolina Republicans, rejecting their argument for the independent state legislature theory that would have restricted the power states courts have over elections.

And the North Carolina legislature has revamped its abortion bill that was already vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper. We explore the changes and what they mean for access to health care in the state.

Those stories and more on this week’s Charlotte Talks local news roundup.


Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter

Nick Ochsner, WBTV reporter

The Failed Coup in Russia

For months, Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin has been railing against his own country’s military leadership. It all came to a head this weekend – when the mercenary leader gathered his troops, took over a Russian city, and started to march towards Moscow. Then – as suddenly as it began – it stopped. Russia says Prigozhin has fled to Belarus, and his troops will all be granted amnesty. But an independent Russian journalist in exile doubts the official narrative, and speculates on Vladimir Putin’s future..

Guest: Mikhail Zygar, Russian journalist and author of the upcoming book, “War and Punishment: Putin, Zelensky and the Path to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine”

In a moment of progress in America, everyone can win

It’s one of those moments that theater fans live for: A performer delivers a monologue or a move or a song that stops the show — literally. Strangers become friends, applauding as one in the dark, all thinking the same thought: “Start writing your Tony Award speech now.”

One of those moments happens when the character of “Lulu” explains her philosophy of life to a gob-smacked conman who has invaded the lives of the citizens of Cobb County in the Broadway musical “Shucked.” (Judgment of the show depends on your tolerance for a relentless stream of puns, many involving corn.)

But on one thing those who have seen the show could agree: Once Alex Newell finished the final notes of “Independently Owned,” it was just a question of when, not if, they would hold Broadway’s most prestigious award, a Tony for best featured actor in a musical. Newell, who identifies as non-binary, said at the recent awards show: “Thank you for seeing me, Broadway.” Mom got a shout-out as well, “for loving me unconditionally.”

It was a scene that triggered cheers in the house and some jeers in other quarters, predictable in a time when red states are rushing to pass laws to restrict the rights of non-binary Americans.

But it shouldn’t have, at least not from the folks who bleat about the loss of meritocracy in America. They should be applauding, too, because, with all due respect to the talented nominees, the best person won.

All the reactions to history-making scenes surface the hypocrisy of those afraid of an America they increasingly do not recognize. The so-called changing country has always been there, just hiding — well, forced to hide. And that worked, unless you were the one in the closet or at the back of the bus.

If you were someone with a race, gender, creed or identity who was barred from jobs, schools and neighborhoods or the Broadway spotlight, you spent so much time worrying about presenting a non-threatening façade — with the stakes often your survival — not much energy was left for living out your wildest dreams.

Trump indictment: When always striving for ‘more’ turns toxic

It’s an exchange I remember, one that instantly stuck while watching the 2017 movie “All the Money in the World,” a version of the kidnapping and ransom saga of the grandson of J. Paul Getty, a man wealthy beyond measure. A hired middleman, watching Getty haggle as the young man’s life is at stake, proclaiming he has “no money to spare,” incredulously asks: “What would it take for you to feel secure?” Getty, portrayed by the brilliant Christopher Plummer, answers with one word: “More.”

I recalled that scene as real-life events, as startling as any movie plot, have played out. Just this week, a former president of the United States appeared in a Florida courtroom to answer to federal charges that he hoarded classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago home, hedged about having them and refused to give them back.

Like any other person accused of criminal conduct, Donald Trump is awarded the presumption of innocence. The grand jury that indicted him was made up of fellow citizens, and his ultimate fate will be in the hands of the same.

But the crimes presented in the indictment issued by federal prosecutors are serious, and what we already know is astounding.

So, why? Why jeopardize national security by allegedly stashing classified documents in unsecured areas in a ballroom, a storage area and, in one weird instance, a bathroom adorned with an enormous chandelier? (No one ever said that wealth bestows good taste.)

Even those who adore Trump would have to admit the man is not known as a reader, so I doubt he wanted to catch up on information he neglected while “president-ing.”

Isn’t this a man who gained the ultimate prize?

While Trump lost his reelection bid, something he never accepted, the former president scaled heights unknown to most people on the planet. Maybe he might be a bit insecure because his business success needed a boost from his dad — though, even then, he acted as though it was his due. Trump became a television star in a world where celebrity is admired and often worshipped. He was elected to the top office in the United States, stood as a global leader, with all the powers that come with the titles.

Did he still want “more?”

Public education won’t ‘fail,’ unless America abandons the idea and the ideal

While many on the right decry the lack of respect Americans now bestow on the U.S. Supreme Court and its 6-to-3 conservative majority — denouncing the shift in public opinion, a low 18 percent vote of confidence, as sour grapes from liberals who can’t get their way — it wasn’t always so.

In 1954, after the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in public schools violated the Constitution in Brown v. Board of Education, it was many who called themselves conservatives who expressed outrage and did something about it, ignoring the decision in order to maintain the segregated status quo. In a 1956 “Southern Manifesto,” a long list of lawmakers vowed to “pledge ourselves to use all lawful means to bring about a reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution.”

What was deemed “lawful” by them often included actual violence inflicted on African-Americans who dared follow the court and the law toward an education that was their right as citizens. After all, they and their families had been paying taxes to support a system closed to them, as well as paying again for schools where they could learn.

To maintain a worldview of white supremacy built on lies of Black inferiority, some states and counties defied Brown with “massive resistance,” closing entire public-school systems — as Prince Edward County, Virginia did for five years — rather than tolerate Black and white learning side by side. Private, all-white “segregation academies” sprung up to educate a portion of the populace, with publicly funded vouchers enabling parents to escape integration until such evasions were ruled unconstitutional.

North Carolina’s Pearsall Plan was enacted with the same intent, to circumvent the Brown decision.

And though the South was the face of this “resistance,” some of the most rage-filled images of white resistance originated from Northern cities.

Schools have always been a battleground. And while race is not always the primary catalyst for the fight, to deny that it’s often in the mix is to ignore history and reality. For instance, the race-neutral insistence on the value of students attending neighborhood schools rings a bit hollow when redlining and housing discrimination have left a legacy visible on the streets where Americans have lived for generations. Schools across America have remained unequal, depending on ZIP code, when it comes to available educational options. In cities such as Chaicago, majority Black schools are also the first tagged for closure when budgets tighten.

It’s ironic, considering it was African-American voters and legislators who were key in creating public schools for Blacks and whites in the South in the late 1800s.

Local News Roundup: How did NC delegation vote in debt ceiling deal? Protest over CMS boundaries; video released of CATS bus shooting; County narrowly approves CMS bond request

How did North Carolina’s congressional delegation vote on the debt ceiling deal?

The controversy surrounding the southern Mecklenburg County Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools boundary changes continues as students and parents form a human chain in protest of the proposed changes in boundaries in that part of the district.

Video released this week shows the moment when a Charlotte Area Transit System driver and a passenger shot at each other on a moving bus last month, showing the argument that happened leading up to the shooting.

Charlotte Fire officials are discussing new potential fire-prevention requirements at construction sites after a massive, deadly fire at an apartment building under construction in SouthPark last month.

And Mecklenburg County Commissioners are split on CMS’ request for a $2.5 billion bond package, which narrowly won approval in the budget straw vote this week.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and more, on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.


Erik Spanberg, managing editor for the Charlotte Business Journal
Mary C. Curtis, columnist for, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
Hunter Saenz, WSOC-TV Reporter
Ely Portillo, Senior Editor at WFAE News