Local News Roundup: VP Harris visits Charlotte; Not enough NC school vouchers; Centene’s HQ gets a new owner

Vice President Kamala Harris visits Charlotte. We’ll have a wrap-up of her visit.

Good news (or bad news) in school vouchers: 13,500 students are granted North Carolina opportunity scholarships, but it’s not even close to the number of students who have applied. We look at the numbers.

On Monday night, City Council member Renee Johnson offered up an alternative way to pay for public transit plans (spoiler alert — she got the idea from Asheville).

CATS will hold Public Meetings about the Red Line Commuter Rail this month in Northern Mecklenburg and Iredell County, and a virtual meeting will take place next week. We’ll hear more.

The defunct Centene headquarters building in University City gets new life this week as Vanguard announces it will buy the building. We’ll give the details.

The Charlotte Knights begin their season with a six game home stretch against the Norfolk Tide.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. says he’s got enough votes to be on North Carolina’s ballot in November. If he’s validated in NC, how will this impact the vote here?

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into 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”
Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter and host of “The Political Beat”
Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter
Alexandria Sands, reporter with Axios Charlotte

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

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?

Kamala Harris and President Biden Haven’t Discussed Re-Election

#KamalaHarris gave a recent interview to the #WallStreetJournal and discussed a number of things from immigration to reelection. Laverne McGee, Sisters Lead Sisters Vote President Holli Holliday and Mary C. Curtis break down some of her responses and more, on #PRIME.

Is Vice President Kamala Harris’ Team on the Outs?

Reports of tension among VP Kamala Harris’ team has many questioning her future and more. To discuss why so much scrutiny is being placed on Harris, Charles M. Blow brought on The Guardian opinion columnist Michael Harriot and #CQRollCall columnist Mary C. Curtis.

POLITICAL WRAP: Biden Address to Joint Session of Congress Happening Wednesday

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Nearly 100 days after taking office, President Joe Biden is finally set to give his first formal address to a joint session of Congress.

Wednesday’s speech will give the President an opportunity to make the case for his $2 trillion infrastructure plan and other legislative priorities.

Mary C. Curtis: Biden Hits Road to Promote COVID Relief Plan

CHARLOTTE, NC — This week President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are touring the country to highlight their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan as $1,400  dollar direct payments begin hitting bank accounts.

Some Republicans approve of parts of the bill that will benefit constituents, though they voted against it because they say it is too big and not targeted enough.

WCCB Political Contributor Mary C. Curtis discusses how the bill with benefit small businesses, schools and families.

You can catch Mary C. Curtis on Sunday nights at 6:30 PM on WCCB Charlotte’s CW discussing the biggest issues in local and national politics and also giving us a look at what’s ahead for the week.

You can also check out Mary’s podcast ‘Equal Time.’

Local News Roundup: NC Delegation Reacts To Biden Inauguration; Trump Pardons Hayes; Search For Council Member Mitchell Replacement

Friday, Jan. 22, 2021

On the next Charlotte Talks Local News Roundup …

Former President Donald Trump issued dozens of pardons on his last full day in office Tuesday. North Carolinians were included in that number, like Robin Hayes, the former chair of North Carolina’s Republican Party and former congressman from North Carolina’s 8th District, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI. Trump also pardoned Waxhaw’s Carl Andrews Boggs and Charlotte’s Patrick Lee Swisher. We’ll discuss.

Last week, we talked about the resignation of longtime City Councilman James “Smuggie” Mitchell, who left his post on council because of a conflict with his new job as a part owner of a Charlotte construction company. This week, City Council began accepting applications to replace the at-large council member. The process is scheduled to be completed Feb. 1 with the announcement of Mitchell’s replacement.

The months-long look into North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr’s insider trading allegations has been dropped by the Department of Justice. Burr has consistently denied the allegations. We’ll catch you up on what’s happened.

As the U.S. surpasses 400,000 deaths to the coronavirus, vaccines in North Carolina are ramping up. Dr. Mandy Cohen, the NC DHHS Secretary, said this week that 450,000 people have been vaccinated in North Carolina so far. What’s ahead on vaccinations in North Carolina and in Mecklenburg County (where this week we had our first pediatric death at the hands of the virus)? We’ll have an update.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into the week’s top news on the Charlotte Talks Local News Roundup.

Steve Harrison, WFAE’s political reporter
Nick Ochsner, WBTV’s executive producer for investigations & chief investigative reporter
Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time” and contributor at WCCB-TV
Claire Donnelly, WFAE health reporter

Inauguration Day And The Days Ahead For Biden, Trump And America

The American tradition of a peaceful transfer of power from president to another will take place after undergoing a violent test of its strength.

The nation’s capital is a fortress after the deadly events of two weeks ago by a crowd that was whipped up by the outgoing President Trump, who – true to form – is breaking with norms and snubbing the incoming President Biden.

Awaiting Biden in the Oval Office are some of the heaviest challenges to face a new president: a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans, economic headwinds and balancing unity with the reckoning Trump is bound to face as an ex-president.


Mary C. Curtis, Roll Call columnist and host of the “Equal Time” podcast (@mcurtisnc3)

Michael Kruse, POLITICO, senior staff writer (@michaelkruse)

Mary C. Curtis: Inauguration Day for Joe Biden

CHARLOTTE, NC — Joe Biden swears the oath of office Wednesday to become the 46th president of the United States, taking the helm of a deeply divided nation.

WCCB Political contributor Mary C. Curtis has more on what lies ahead for the Biden administration.