Local News Roundup: Triplexes up for discussion again at City Council; Hornets practice facility approved; Pineville’s controversial substation vote; March Madness in the Carolinas

At City Council Monday night, the city proposed a modification to development rules that would limit triplexes in residential areas to corner lots only. How does this depart from what was laid out in Charlotte’s 2040 plan?

City Council also voted 7-1 this week to move forward with plans for a stand-alone practice facility for the Charlotte Hornets. We’ll remind you of how this changed from the original plan, and fill you in on what will happen next.

Both the President and the Vice President were in North Carolina this week to talk about affordable healthcare. This already made multiple visits to the Tar Heel state for President Biden and Vice President Harris, which will undoubtedly be a major battleground state in this November’s election.

In Pineville, the town council approved a controversial substation this week, but it was a tight vote. We’ll talk about the very short special meeting that ended in a 3-2 vote. The leaders say the substation is crucial to keeping up with the growing demand for utilities. We’ll discuss.

The NCDOT gets positive feedback for its updated plan for a new Amtrak rail yard in South End. We’ll explain.

And March Madness continues for teams in North and South Carolina. We’ll break it down.

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


Nick Ochsner, WBTV’s executive producer for Investigations & chief investigative reporter
Mary Ramsey, local government accountability reporter for the Charlotte Observer
Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
Ely Portillo, senior editor at WFAE News

A two-tiered justice system is nothing new — and certainly not what Trump says it is

It may come as a surprise to hear that I actually agree with Donald Trump on something: America does have a two-tiered system of justice. In fact, you could say I beat him to it since I reached that conclusion long before the former president adopted it as his mantra.

I was not even in grade school when my older brother was arrested. While I didn’t know much about the world, I always thought that you had to do something terrible for law enforcement to haul you away. I also knew my brother Tony. And, though he teased me in the annoying way big brothers do, I valued him not only as a brother and friend, but as a pretty cool dude. So, I knew he couldn’t be the bad guy.

I still remember that night.

My mom and dad, fresh off the joy of a church dance, were confronted with the crisis when they hit the front door, and they scrambled to find the deed to the house in case they needed it to bail their son out (because if my father had anything to say about it, Tony was not going to spend a night in jail).

I was more confused when I discovered his “crime,” sitting down in a diner and ordering a burger.

That was it?

It really was the “system,” I realized, not my brother. Maryland law, at a time not that long ago, allowed business owners to bar Black people from their establishments. What the state did was technically legal — but wrong. I was sure of it.

An unjust law allowed the police whose salary my parents paid with their taxes to handcuff, fingerprint and jail my big brother because people who looked like my family were not included in an oath to “protect and serve.”

It was definitely a two-tiered system of justice, one that folks like my three eldest siblings and civil rights lawyer Juanita Jackson Mitchell — whose expertise brought my brother home — worked to correct with activism and courage, an adjective that definitely does not apply to Trump’s Jan. 6 army of lawbreakers.

That the activists’ job is not done is clear when poor folks and minorities, often represented by overworked public defenders, languish in jails when they haven’t been tried or convicted of anything.

It’s why my solidarity with Trump ends when you dive into the actual details.

Local News Roundup: Pat Cotham out after Super Tuesday upset; Matthews Commission discontinues Zoom comments; Sheriff McFadden at the SOTU address

Super Tuesday in North Carolina ended with upsets (including Pat Cotham losing out on the seat she’s held since 2012), low voter turnout and the end of the line for Nikki Haley. We’ll recap what the primary will mean for the local, state and national vote going forward.

The Town of Matthews decided no more Zoom comments will be included in future meetings after offensive remarks were made last week. We’ll hear what Mayor John Higdon said about the Zoom-bombers.

CATS said this week at the Charlotte City Council meeting that it still plans to move the main bus station uptown underground. We’ll hear what CATS Interim CEO Brent Cagle said about the plans, which aren’t changing despite the Hornets’ no longer participating in the plan to build a practice facility as part of the project.

This week, Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden is in the audience for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. He’s Charlotte-area representative Alma Adam’s guest for the address, and she said she wants to highlight his efforts to reduce gun violence.

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 Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter and host of “The Political Beat”
Ely Portillo, senior editor at WFAE News

Justice for Black voters? Or rap songs and sneakers?

Vice President Kamala Harris marked the anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Ala., this past Sunday, joining in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, re-creating the steps of the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and other leaders and citizens demanding the vote.

On March 7, 1965, that group was stopped by violence meted out by law enforcement, but their well-publicized bravery surely shamed the country and Congress into passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that August.

Why then, did the vice president’s message speak so much of work to be done? As she said: “Today, in states across our nation, extremists pass laws to ban drop boxes, limit early voting, and restrict absentee ballots. … Across our nation, extremists attack the integrity of free and fair elections, causing a rise of threats and violence against poll workers.”

Since 1965, provisions of the Voting Rights Act have been chipped away, with a majority-Republican-appointed Supreme Court declaring racial discrimination over in the 2013 Shelby case, and GOP-majority states anxious to prove them wrong, falling over themselves to gerrymander and enact restrictive laws.

A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice found that the racial turnout gap — the difference in the turnout rate between white and nonwhite voters — has consistently grown since 2012 and “is growing most quickly in parts of the country that were previously covered under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,” which forced jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to “preclear” changes in voting policy with the courts or Justice Department.

In Alabama, it took lawsuits to gain an additional U.S. House district, in time for this week’s primary, and one that would give Black voters a fighting chance. This is in a state where African Americans make up 27 percent of the electorate but where just one majority-Black district is currently represented by Rep. Terri A. Sewell, a Black Democrat, in a seven-member delegation.

Sewell was with Harris on Sunday, though she didn’t have much company from Republican House colleagues. In the past, Democratic and Republican members of Congress put aside differences to honor the moral rightness of the marchers’ cause and walk side by side.

Not today.

All this doesn’t mean politicians of every affiliation don’t crave the support of minority voters. With reports and polling on the number of Black and Hispanic voters who seem to be turning away from President Joe Biden and giving former President Donald Trump, Republicans and third parties a second look, the race is on for any constituent who may make the difference in November.

But instead of courting minority voters with policies that would, say, grace them with a sip of water or a snack while waiting in long voting lines (looking at you, Georgia) or stopping poll observers from peeking over shoulders to catch nonexistent skullduggery (part of new rules in North Carolina), some are taking a different approach.

Why not roll out the “bling,” including incredibly tacky, $399 high-top golden sneakers?

Once upon a time, politicians wrestled with the role of religion in politics

“The Catholic public official lives the political truth most Catholics through most of American history have accepted and insisted on: the truth that to assure our freedom we must allow others the same freedom, even if occasionally it produces conduct by them which we would hold to be sinful. … We know that the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us.”

When he was governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, walked a tightrope when it came to the mixing of faith and politics, particularly on the issue of abortion and reproductive rights, as is plain in his 1984 speech “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective,” delivered at the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology.

More from Cuomo: “Must I, having heard the Pope renew the Church’s ban on birth control devices, veto the funding of contraceptive programs for non-Catholics or dissenting Catholics in my State? I accept the Church’s teaching on abortion. Must I insist you do? By law? By denying you Medicaid funding? By a constitutional amendment? If so, which one? Would that be the best way to avoid abortions or to prevent them?”

Yes, he asked a lot of questions. But at least he was thinking, even when he didn’t have all the answers.

Revisiting that address seems especially appropriate as American laws and religious tenets become increasingly difficult to untangle, when politicians such as House Speaker Mike Johnson point to the Bible as the answer to every question he is asked about his philosophy of governing.

Will Trump Take Over the RNC? Cash-poor, on a losing streak, and firmly behind Trump, is now the time for national Republicans to change leadership?

Is RNC chairperson Ronna McDaniel to blame for Republicans’ poor fundraising and recent underperformance in elections?

Guest: Shelby Talcott, reporter covering Trump and national Republicans for Semafor.

Local News Roundup: Union County bans fluoride in their water; the Leandro saga continues; Charlotte FC kicks off season

Union County commissioners vote to ban fluoride in the county water supply. According to the CDC, putting fluoride in water is vital to keep teeth healthy, especially in young children. The practice has been done across the country for decades. Detractors claim the issue is about consent, personal freedom, and whether the board has the authority to add fluoride to the water.

Elsewhere, more signage is coming to uptown Charlotte as a display bearing the company’s name will be added to the Wells Fargo building. City Council noted this follows a precedent after signage was approved for the Truist building in 2020.

The saga of the Leandro lawsuit continues. This week, the North Carolina Supreme Court considers whether the state needs to pay around $700 million to fund education improvements as ordered by a trial court.

And coming off a playoff appearance last fall, Charlotte FC returns to the pitch this Saturday to kick off its third season. Will a new coach mean more success for the team?

Those stories and more on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.


Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter
Alexandria Sands, reporter with Axios Charlotte

When the game of politics plunges into dangerous spectacle

“Are you not entertained?” shouts Maximus as the titular “Gladiator” in the 2000 film. And actor Russell Crowe sells it — enough to snag an Oscar — as he repeats the line to the stadium. “Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”

Everyone loves a spectacle, even now, which is why more than 123 million viewers reportedly tuned in to this week’s Super Bowl, whether you were there for the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Francisco 49ers — or a shirtless Usher.

Don’t forget, though, that the shouted movie line was about a lot more than the show. It was a taunt, used to communicate the gladiator’s disgust with the reason the crowd cheered him. They weren’t interested in a game well-played by evenly matched opponents, which I’ll wager was the main reason Sunday’s Las Vegas event was a must-see.

That ancient Roman audience showed up for the blood. The more gruesomely the gladiator dispatched the fighters in front of him, the louder the crowd’s approval, no quarter nor empathy given.

In politics today, I’m afraid too many political gladiators are harking back to the example of ancient Rome’s idea of what will win over the citizenry, rather than pulling a page from Kansas City coach Andy Reid’s strategic playbook.

Entertainment, sure. As fractious as possible.

Valentina Gomez, 24, a Republican candidate for Missouri secretary of state, wants to make sure voters know what she thinks of LGBTQ-inclusive books. A campaign video that went viral on social media shows the candidate using a flamethrower to torch a few, with the message: “When I’m Secretary of State, I will BURN all books that are grooming, indoctrinating, and sexualizing our children. MAGA. America First.”

Rather than back away, her campaign responded in a statement to NBC News: “You want to be gay? Fine be gay. Just don’t do it around children.”

What E. Jean Carroll could teach ‘tough’ Republicans about calling out a bully

E. Jean Carroll is a brave woman. And her courage calls out the cowardice of many who could learn a thing or two from the writer who just won a judgment of $83.3 million — a sum set by a jury of Americans doing their duty — against the man who defamed her.

Considering all she has gone through, I’m sure if Carroll could trade that money for the life and the reputation she built before she learned the truth about the character of that character Donald Trump, she would.

But the findings in her civil cases did seem to bring a sort of justice, and a sense of liberation. In an interview this week on MSNBC, she told host Rachel Maddow how she felt about the prospect of facing Trump in the courtroom: “I lost my ability to speak, I lost my words, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t go on. That’s how frightened I was.”

But after she entered the courtroom and took the witness stand, Carroll said: “Amazingly, I looked out, and he was nothing. He was nothing. He was a phantom.”

That she fought and she won at 80, an age when women in our culture aren’t especially valued, made her elation lovely to behold.

Carroll’s triumph and her joy made me think of all the big, strong men Trump has insulted and worse, who nevertheless have lined up to support him and debase themselves in the process. I’d love to ask them, as they grin and bear it through clenched teeth, if it’s worth it, the “it” being a Senate seat, a Cabinet appointment or a future with the MAGA base Trump wields like an ax.

Do leaders realize Americans who don’t vote for them are still Americans?

Was it a figment of our imagination? I’m talking about the 2004 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention by Barack Obama, then a little-known state senator from Illinois. In his uplifting speech, he had a warning for “the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.”

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a Black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

“We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states.”

And enough Americans believed it, believed in the promise of unity, that U.S. Sen. Obama was rewarded with two terms as president of the United States, the first Black man to be elected to that office.

Even then, though, there were hints that not all Americans were celebrating the milestone, not everyone bought the lofty words.

In the background hovered Donald Trump, the same guy whose family’s real estate business had settled with the federal government after excluding folks who looked like Obama from renting a Trump property.

Trump tapped into the wariness and hostility that some felt about this Black man and his beautiful family moving into the White House and becoming the face of America to the world. Trump’s absurd “birther” lies doubting Obama’s American-ness, his bleating the president’s middle name, Hussein, on cue, all of that was lapped up by Americans insecure about their place in a changing country.

The backlash fighting progress that my historian son has told me turns up like clockwork in our country helped give us President Donald Trump. And now, with a New Hampshire primary victory and what looks like a clear path to the Republican presidential nomination, Trump is back — though, as his racist attacks on Republican challenger Nikki Haley and disparaging comments about Black and brown migrants prove, his act has hardly changed.