|Stories to watch|
|Change and debate will be part of landscape|
|Published Thursday, January 2, 2014 8:12 am|
There’ll be no shortage of local stories to cover in 2014.
|BB&T Ballpark, the new home of the AAA Charlotte Knights, opens for baseball in April.|
From sports to government, Charlotte is moving forward with plans that are sure to be debated and dissected.
• Baseball’s return: The minor-league Charlotte Knights are back in North Carolina after a 25-year absence. They have a new home with the debut of BB&T Ballpark, a 10,000-seat state of the art facility near Bank of America Stadium. The Knights – as well as Center City boosters – are banking on the stadium’s location, minor-league pricing and the team’s recent success to fuel interest and attendance.
• Mayor Patrick Cannon’s outreach. The rubber really hits the road for Cannon, who has already reached out to decidedly anti-Charlotte lawmakers in the Mecklenburg delegation. Cannon wants to engender a spirit of cooperation in the wake of the nasty fight over who gets to control Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Charlotte-area Republicans, surprised the Democratic-leaning council had enough spine to challenge a takeover, are saying the right things about working together, but how it’ll manifest in the GOP-leaning General Assembly is totally different.
• Charlotte City Council: Democrats have a 9-2 majority, but the math is deceiving. Mayor Patrick Cannon no longer has a vote, but he does have a veto at his disposal. Michael Barnes moves to mayor pro tem, a largely ceremonial role that provides a bully pulpit and higher profile. As a fiscal moderate, will Barnes track more closely with Republican newcomers Kenny Smith (District 6) and Ed Driggs (District 7) on taxes and spending? A good deal of attention will also go to newcomer Vi Lyles, a former assistant city manager whose ties to city administration make her worth watching.
• Charlotte Hornets. The nickname returns to its roots as the NBA Bobcats take on new imagery and mascot. Owner Michael Jordan finally hits a home run with fans.
• CIAA basketball tournament. The annual hoops and party extravaganza has been exceedingly good to Charlotte, pumping millions of dollars into the city’s coffers. CIAA Commissioner Jacqie Carpenter, however, has made it quite clear that the host city is going to have to be more generous with payouts to the league.
Next month’s tournament is the last in Charlotte’s contract, but city political and tourism leaders want an extension. Curiously, bids to host the 2015 tournament haven’t gone out, which tightens the window for a new venue’s selection.
• CityLynx Gold Line. Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee, a champion of transportation as economic engine, is bullish on finding federal money to keep the streetcar project on track. The city failed to secure funding in 2013 through a hurried grant process, but will certainly try again in 2014. At least this time, city officials are taking the time to be more thorough with their pitch to the feds on funding the project, which would stretch from the Elizabeth neighborhood to the Beatties Ford Road corridor.
• Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. The board is coming off a tumultuous year in which it dumped Harry Jones as county manager, promoted Bobbie Shields on an interim basis, then kicked him to the curb in favor of Dena Diorio, the first woman to hold the post. Mecklenburg also hired a new Department of Social Services chief to overhaul that troubled branch.
Last month, Democrats toppled one of their own, Pat Cotham, as chair in favor of Trevor Fuller. Can Fuller get the Dem majority get along well enough to govern, or will the board break off into factions with liberals on one side and conservatives on the other?
• State taxes: You’ll get to keep more of your pay from work, but don’t celebrate just yet. An overhaul to North Carolina’s tax code means everyone pays a 5.8 percent rate, a drop from the previous high of 7 percent. Standard deductions are increased to $7,500-$15,000, depending on filing status.
The bad news: You’ll pay for taxes for some goods and services that were previously untaxed, like tickets to movies and sporting events (excluding high schools). Deductions on mortgage interest and property taxes is limited to $20,000.
• 12th Congressional District: At least six people intend to run for the seat U.S. Rep. Mel Watt is resigning on Jan. 6. Four Charlotte residents are in the race, which could dilute the local electorate’s clout and open the door for a candidate outside the city limits. By the way, 52 percent of the 12th’s voters live in Mecklenburg County.
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