Archives for October 2021

Sometimes, it’s as simple as getting clean water

Washington must seem increasingly irrelevant to citizens dealing with Life 101.

For just one example, turn to a state where too many citizens can’t count on a basic commodity. What must the residents of Benton Harbor, Mich., be thinking as they observe their leaders in Washington debating infrastructure and reconciliation bills? They have been advised by state officials to continue to use bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth while action catches up to need — the need being attention paid to a contaminated water supply and aging pipes leaching lead.

The city would like some help from FEMA, the National Guard and officials on the federal level, so local officials voted last week to enact a state of emergency to cut through the noise.

If it all sounds eerily similar to the situation that continues to bedevil Flint, Mich., that’s because it is. In that city, after seven years dealing with its own state-caused, contaminated water disaster, after lawsuits and a resulting program to check and replace its lead pipes, after President Joe Biden this summer declared “Never again” while touting his infrastructure package, residents are still wary. And can you blame them?

What happened to all the lessons that were supposedly learned? What happens when a crisis passes from the headlines, and pretty quickly when those affected are minorities? (That’s the case in majority Black cities such as Benton Harbor, Flint and Jackson, Miss., whose water crisis may not even have crossed most Americans’ radar.) The lack of political will to invest in these cities is another column.

Well, what happens is the country moves on to another scandal, real or trumped up.

In the real category, I would place investigations into the hidden motives that drive social media operations, and also throw in the Jan. 6 attempt to overturn an election and democracy itself — in fact, that last one could use more attention. Trumped up? That the Virginia gubernatorial contest may hinge on a white student having “nightmares” over reading “Beloved,” an award-winning Toni Morrison book about enslavement, earns a high spot, especially when compared to the lack of focused concern for the children who may have cognitive impairment from contaminated water.

That is, until the crisis happens to you.

Local News Roundup: ‘Historic’ water main break, COVID-19 vaccines for kids on the way, redistricting work continues

On the Local News Roundup: a water main break disrupts service to much of Charlotte, creating a geyser taller than the trees. We were told to boil water before drinking, but that order has now been rescinded.

Voting districts are being redrawn at all levels and, this week, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board got to work drawing its new districts.

COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11 are just over the horizon, perhaps just weeks away. We look at what that rollout may be like.

And CMS continues to experience staffing woes with teachers quitting and subs in short supply because of the pandemic.

Our roundtable of reporters fills us in on those stories and more.


Ann Doss Helms, education reporter for WFAE

Katie Peralta Soloff, reporter for Axios Charlotte

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for and host of their “Equal Time” podcast

Joe Bruno, reporter for WSOC-TV

Equal Time: Why universal pre-K may help stem crime


As Congress deliberates this week on what should be included in the reconciliation bill, child care and specifically universal pre-K is being debated. Educators, parents and doctors have long advocated for pre-K. Another group has added its voice to the chorus: law enforcement.

Mary C. Curtis sits down with Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, the president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, to discuss how early education helps develop life skills.

Will those who yell the loudest teach kids how the world really works?

We teach our children lessons about leading with empathy and intelligence, about taking the high road, about playing fair. And we warn them that bullies never win in the end. Be the bigger person. Follow the right and righteous path, and you shall be rewarded.

But the examples being set on very public stages tell an entirely different story, one that says accumulating power is the goal, with no guardrails on how you acquire and keep it. Rules are for suckers, unless you’re the one who makes them.

Take voting rights. If the goal of our democracy is to let all eligible Americans vote and for every one of those votes to count, the Freedom to Vote Act would have had a clear glide path to passage. But when, as promised by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the compromise bill massaged by holdout West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin was brought to the floor Wednesday, not for a vote but for a mere discussion, Republicans offered no help.

How far Democrats will go to pass rules that creep toward restoring parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, obliterated by the Supreme Court, is uncertain. But for anyone interested in a true representative form of government in the United States, something is needed.

What keeps the White House COVID-19 task force chair up at night?

ary C. Curtis, host of the Equal Time podcast, usually ends her show by sharing what’s keeping her up at night. This past week, she posed the same question to Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of the White House’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine.

Here’s a transcript of that conversation, edited for clarity and brevity, on the latest on COVID-19 and equity:

Local News Roundup: redistricting continues, another high school lockdown, new nondiscrimination ordinance for Mecklenburg

On the Local News Roundup, the redistricting process continues for state and local elections. Legislators get into the nitty-gritty of drawing state Senate and House districts while Mecklenburg County Commission reviews three possible maps for local districts.

A local Charlotte high school goes on lockdown after a gun is found on campus. One student is arrested and charged following a shooting near the school.

Volleyball players at Olympic High are benched for participating in a protest over sexual assault.

And, Mecklenburg County passes its own LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance.

Our roundtable of reporters fills us in on those stories and more.


Steve Harrison, WFAE’s political reporter

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

Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter

Nick Ochsner, WBTV’s executive producer for investigations & chief investigative reporter

‘White folks don’t care about dead Black and Brown people like they ought to’

It has been more than a year since the killing of George Floyd sparked cries for police reform and even defunding. But it has all but stalled on the national level as time has passed and as the FBI reports a historic rise in murder rates.

Mary C. Curtis speaks with author and professor David Kennedy, director of the National Network for Safe Communities, to understand why and what the next steps should be. Also, ‘Equal Time’ checks in on COVID-19 vaccine equity with Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who leads President Joe Biden’s health equity task force.

Pairing leadership with justice: Is that so hard, Washington?

It was an example of leadership and justice. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, fresh off surviving a recall vote, was not laying low but standing in front of cameras, signing a bill that would return prime property in Manhattan Beach — known as Bruce’s Beach — to descendants of the Black couple who had been run off the land they owned close to a century ago.

It turns out the very white Manhattan Beach was not always that way; the transformation was not by coincidence, but by design.

“As governor of California, let me do what apparently Manhattan Beach is unwilling to do: I want to apologize to the Bruce family,” said Newsom, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. He then handed the signing pen to Anthony Bruce, whose great-great-grandparents, Willa and Charles Bruce, had once turned the lovely stretch along the water into a needed getaway for African Americans, complete with lodge, cafe and dance hall.

Newsom wasn’t standing alone, literally or otherwise. Behind stood activists with organizations such as Where Is My Land, co-founded by Kavon Ward and Ashanti Martin, who have worked hard and know that the meaning of the word “reparations,” so feared in some circles, is merely “the making of amends for a wrong one has done.”