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The Voice of the Black Community


Change is upon us for 2013
From fiscal cliff to schools, there’ll be new realities
Published Thursday, December 27, 2012 8:17 am
by Herbert L. White

Out with the old, in with the changes.

First-time Mecklenburg County Commissioners Vice Chair Kim Ratliff (left) and Chair Pat Cotham.

There’ll be a lot of changes in 2013, from how government handles a looming financial crisis to a running battle over how to pay for capital improvemnets in Charlotte. Some of the players have changed, but there are enough familiar faces to remain part of the drama. Here are five issues that will generate headlines and interest next year.

The fiscal cliff
Everyone has a stake in whether taxes will revert back to Clinton-era levels on Jan. 1. Taxpayers are keeping a wary eye, but so are state and local political leaders who may have to do without federal funding for programs that impact everything from social services to transportation.

Nonprofit agencies, still reeling from financial uncertainty after the Great Recession, are bracing for the cliff, a series of spending cuts and revenue increases that automatically kick in if Congress and President Barack Obama can’t agree on a resolution.

Charlotte streetcar
The project is already under way but when – or if – the streetcar will ever make its proposed route connecting east and west Charlotte is anyone’s guess.

The project is a major bottleneck to passage of a capital improvement plan. City Council shot down then-City Manager Curt Walton’s $926.4 million proposal . Mayor Anthony Foxx then vetoed one City Council budget, saying it didn’t do enough for the city.

“Everyone seems to understand the fiscal cliff awaiting the city in 2014,” Foxx wrote council members earlier this month. “Council members are torn between paths of fiscal responsibility; not raising taxes at all and raising them as necessary to promote the long-term health of the city.”

GOP dominance in N.C.
Former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory was elected governor in November, handing the Executive Mansion over to a Republican for the first time since 1988.

Combined with a Republican majority in the N.C. House and Senate, the state is taking a more conservative turn. Likely to be on the agenda when McCrory takes office on Jan. 5 is a tweaking of the state’s tax code and an overhaul of funding for state agencies.

With Democrat Bev Perdue out of office and iron-clad control of the General Assembly,  Republicans are likely to weaken or eliminate the Racial Justice Act, which makes it possible for convicted killers to petition to have their death sentences reduced to life without parole based on bias in their trials.

Three death row inmates were re-sentenced to life in prison without parole earlier this month after a Fayetteville judge found there was evidence that racial discrimination in jury selection played a role in their sentences.

Also likely is a voter ID law, which Perdue vetoed last year over Republican objections. Critics of the bills say an identification requirement unfairly targets students, the elderly and minority groups who traditionally support Democratic candidates.

New school board leaders
Mary McCray was elected chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Baord this month.

McCray, a Democrat won unanimous election to the position at the Dec. 11 board meeting. Tim Morgan, a registered Republican was unanimously elected vice-chair. Both are at-large representatives.

McCray succeeds at-large representative Ericka Ellis-Stewart, who declined nomination as vice chair, citing the time required to chair the board.

Morgan, an Independence High School graduate, was first elected to the board in 2009 as District 6’s representative and was elected at large in 2011. Morgan previously served on the Citizens Capital Budget Advisory Committee and the School Building Solutions Committee.

Their task will be to grow support for initiatives drawn up by new Superintendent Heath Morrison as well as overseeing Project LIFT, a $55 million program funded by community and philanthropic giving.

Mecklenburg commissioners
The board has three newcomers elected at large in Democrats Pat Cotham, the new chair, Vice Chair Kim Ratliff and Trevor Fuller. The board will have to wrestle with fallout from revelations of a broken Department of Social Services and the firing of former DSS director Mary Wilson.

Property revaluation that left taxpayers clamoring for changes  still has to be addressed.


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