It’s gonna be a big year in Charlotte’s politics


Normally, Charlotte City Council which meets for the first time in 2022 on Monday would feature a few newly elected faces.

But it’s not a normal year.

What is happening: The fall 2021 local election was twice postponed, first because of a delay in the U.S. census results, and then because a state court wanted more time to consider the lawsuits. From now on, all the electoral primaries will take place in May.

  • So the same 11-member council that has quarreled and launched into personal attacks will start another year together, with a slew of important items on the agenda.

Together with Mecklenburg County Commissioners and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, local leaders this year will tackle issues such as transportation, development regulations and public safety.

Why is this important: The established wisdom is that little is done in local politics during election season. But from recovering from a pandemic to defining our city’s vision for the next several decades, politicians have a lot to do in 2022.

Here are some of the biggest issues local leaders will face.

Transit

Around the same time last year, leaders unveiled a major investment in expanding transportation in the region. Now his fate is at stake.

The context: In December 2020, the Charlotte MOVES task force convened by Mayor Vi Lyles unveiled the Transformational Mobility Network, a plan that includes new light rail lines, greenways, cycle paths, and improved roads and bus routes.

It has a high estimated price $ 13.5 billion, much of which would come from a 1-cent county sales tax increase that voters are expected to approve.

Yes, but: Several major obstacles remain:

  • The Republican-majority General Assembly is expected to approve a sales tax increase.
  • There is opposition from towns in northern Mecklenburg due to lack of movement for the construction of the LYNX Red Line, the long-awaited railway line north of Uptown. The tracks on which it would be built belong to Norfolk Southern, which has repeatedly refused to share them.

If these hurdles are overcome in some way, sales tax could be on the ballot this year. But even the city’s leaders are skeptical.

  • Right now it’s the best of times, ”Pro Tem Mayor Julie Eiselt tells me about the possibility of a vote in November. “I’m not holding my breath.”

But one thing that is certain: even if efforts fail, we’re almost certain to hear a lot about transit this year. And with nearly 400,000 people set to move to Charlotte over the next two decades, that conversation couldn’t come soon enough.

Charlotte Moves Working Group Report - Rail

Source: Charlotte Moves Task Force Report, City of Charlotte

Unified Development Ordinance

The city’s 2040 plan defined the city council in 2021. But all these fights were about a visionary document.

  • In 2022, the council will decide on the rules that will actually implement this vision, called the Unified Development Ordinance.

Details: The 600+ page document will serve as a rulebook for development in Charlotte, requirements for saving and disposing of trees to stormwater.

  • It also establishes zoning districts for residential, commercial and industrial areas (this is where the single-family home zoning changes in the 2040 plan come in).

Why is this important: It may not seem like an exciting read, but it is a key policy that will shape the city’s development. For example:

  • To help preserve Charlotte’s tree canopy, UDO is proposing to require any private owner to obtain a permit to remove trees over 30 inches in diameter, if they are not sick or falling.
  • It would also restrict vacation rental platforms like Airbnb, including limiting the number of short-term rentals in a given area.

And after: You can comment on the UDO online through Friday, and city staff will post another draft this spring. The city council is due to vote on the ordinance in July.

Infrastructure deficit

The state’s Department of Transportation faces an $ 11.6 billion budget deficit for transit projects, and Charlotte executives are bracing for delays and cuts.

The big picture: The city does not yet know which projects will be impacted. But as it should become clearer this year, city council will have to decide whether to fund certain improvements from its budget.

  • For example, in December, the council voted to reimburse Centene, a health insurance giant that is building an east coast headquarters in the university area, up to half the cost, or 6.5 million dollars, for the improvement of two intersections.
  • Both intersections are the responsibility of the state, but with the opening of the Centene campus this year, the city wanted projects to be a priority.

Construction on the Centene campus in June 2021. Photo: Katie Peralta Soloff / Axios

To note : The NCDOT financial hole only concerns projects that have already been funded. This means that items on the city’s wishlist – like street lighting, traffic lights, and crosswalks – are also changing rapidly.

Public security

With a gun crisis in our schools, the city and the nation, public safety will continue to dominate conversations, especially during campaigns 2022.

What is happening: By about halfway through the school year, 23 firearms were found on CMS campuses.

  • CMS has ordered transparent backpacks and will be implementing other security measures like more random projections.
  • But school board members and Superintendent Earnest Winston will likely face continued pressure to fix the issue this year.

The big picture: Although the number of homicides declined in 2021, gun violence is still pervasive in Charlotte and cities across the country, and disproportionately harms communities of color.

COVID-19 recovery

Elected officials will continue to fight the fallout from COVID-19 this year as more relief money flows in.

The context: The city, county and CMS will collectively receive $ 674.5 million from last year’s American Rescue Plan Act. Some of this money arrived last year and the rest will be distributed in May.

The city, which raises $ 142 million, allocated the first half of the money to three main categories: housing, workforce development, employment and community vitality. But leaders have yet to decide how to spend the remaining $ 71 million this year.

County of Mecklenburg released its strategy for disbursing $ 215 million in ARPA money in December. It prioritizes the use of the money for issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, health equity, parks and child care.

The bottom line: Money is seen as a unique opportunity to address the inequalities that the pandemic has exacerbated – if we make the most of it.

Elections this year

To note : Court decisions on the redistribution case could modify the information below.

May primary: Primary elections will be held on May 17 for Charlotte City Council, Mayor, and all other 2022 races (County Commission, United States House, United States Senate, North Carolina House and Senate, Courts, District Attorney , etc.)

July: By state law, the date of the city’s general election depends on whether there is a second federal primary anywhere in North Carolina, Michael Dickerson, Mecklenburg County Election Officer, tells me. A second primary takes place when none of the candidates in a primary receives a certain percentage of the vote.

  • But most likely, there will be one somewhere, which means that the general elections for city council and mayors will likely take place on July 26 if nothing changes.

November: General elections will be held for all other races in 2022, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, which does not have a primary because its races are non-partisan.

You can see the full list of offices on the ballot in 2022 here.

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