Friday, April 26, 2013

Old Charlotte, meet New Charlotte

Old Charlotte met new Charlotte Thursday night. And in this case, "old" doesn't necessarily refer to people's ages.

Thursday night, I sat in on WFAE's latest public conversation, this one on "One Charlotte or Many? A Neighborhood Perspective."

Among the panelists was Tim Timmerman, a south Charlotte resident and founder of a group called South Mecklenburg Alliance for Responsible Taxpayers (SMART). He's of the opinion that south Charlotte the wedge-shaped pie slice with the city's least crime, highest incomes, highest property values, highest education levels, etc. is not getting its share of city resources while its property owners pay the lion's share in property taxes. His part of the city would end up paying for a streetcar nobody wants, he said, and he's tired of so much city money going to center city. South Charlotte has no voice, he said.

The other panelists Diane Langevin, president of the Winterfield Neighborhood Association in east Charlotte, Vee Veca Torrence, president of the Thomasboro Neighborhood Association in west Charlotte, and City Manager Ron Carlee, only three weeks into the job didn't loudly denounce Timmerman.

But the audience sure did. Several audience members drew applause when they said Timmerman was being divisive. We are one city, they said. Stop being adversarial. We need a strong downtown and strong neighborhoods. We need not only a streetcar but a "spider web" of transit connections throughout the city. Two who drew applause were long-time Charlotte residents, one in her late 60s and a Charlotte native, the other a man who said he, too, lived in "the wedge," yet he was delighted the city had spent time and attention on uptown. He recalled uptown Charlotte in the 1970s. It was dead, he said, and so much livelier now.

Which mayors weighed in on airport issue?

More regional voices are diving into the issue of who should control the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.  This morning's Charlotte Observer has an article from Jim Morrill, "Mayors urge delay on airport bill." 

The article quotes Miles Atkins of Mooresville saying a dozen mayors at a regular meeting last week of a group called the Regional Conference of Mayors Central Carolinas Advisory Board

Read more here:
discussed the issue with Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx.

It also quotes Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor as concerned that the airport bill is another example “of those in Raleigh trying to whittle away at local control.

“We’re just asking them … to hold off making a decision so there is additional time to investigate all the ramifications with all parties at the table,” Taylor said. “We keep hearing they (Charlotte) have done something wrong, but we don’t know any details.

“We want to know specifically what is driving the need for this legislation. We haven’t gotten a satisfactory answer.”

The sponsors of the bill, N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho and N.C. Rep. Bill Brawley, are also from Matthews.

According to Morrill, the mayors who signed a letter to N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, urging delay on the bill were: Atkins of Mooresville, Taylor of Matthews, plus:
  • Belmont Mayor Richard Boyce
  • Spencer Mayor Jody Everhart
  • Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner
  • Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh 

The issue has created discussion throughout the Charlotte region about regional cooperation. To read more:
Regional cooperation at risk? 
Threatened revote on bypass didn't happen
 and, from the Observer: 
Emotions high over airport authority push

Monday, April 22, 2013

Threatened revote on bypass didn't happen

While I was heading out of town last week, the threatened move by Charlotte, planned for Wednesday night, to revisit a vote of support for the Monroe Bypass did not take place.

Robert Cook, secretary to the transportation planning group formerly known as MUMPO (see "MUMPO no more") reports that, indeed, Charlotte City Council member Michael Barnes told the group that he did not intend to raise the Monroe Bypass issue at the meeting. 

Here's the background on the issue: "Charlotte council, smarting over airport resolutions, threatens Monroe Bypass."

And here's the Sunday article from The Charlotte Observer's Jim Morrill, "Emotions high over airport authority push."  He was at the legislative building on Wednesday as city officials and legislators were discussing whether this vote which was to have been symbolic only, not actually a vote on revoking funding for the project should happen.

Meanwhile, for those of you following the political soap opera around Charlotte's airport, the Airport Advisory Committee has been asked to attend the 5 p.m. Charlotte City Council dinner meeting.

The council's agenda packet includes a complete list of Airport Advisory Committee members, including who appointed them and when, and when their terms end. Want to see?  And here's a link to download the full council agenda. The Airport Advisory Committee agenda item is on page 5 of the PDF document. And here's the Observer's take on the impetus for today's meeting: Charlotte City Council to grill airport board over power struggle.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MUMPO no more

While reporting further on the Charlotte City Council vote Monday to seek a re-vote on a resolution supporting the Monroe Bypass I learned of a name change.

But first, it's important to note the vote to be possibly revisited was on a resolution, not a measure directly affecting the project's funding; I've updated the original blog, "Charlotte council, smarting over airport resolutions, threatens Monroe Bypass," to clarify that.)

The Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, known for years as MUMPO, has renamed itself the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO), says MUMPO (or CRTPO?) Secretary Robert Cook.

As I've opined in the past, since the 2010 census brought portions of Iredell and Lincoln counties into the jurisdiction of the MPO, I was hoping for MILUMPO. I have an odd fascination with the bizarre names of the regional transportation groups surrounding Charlotte, not to mention a continuing frustration that transportation planning in this huge metro region is fractured among so many groups: GUAMPO, CRMPO, GHMPO, RRRPO (the pirate?) and RFATS. What do those excellent acronyms stand for? Read it here: "No more MUMPO. Get ready for ... MILUMPO?"

Monday, April 15, 2013

Charlotte council, smarting over airport resolutions, threatens Monroe Bypass

Charlotte City Council is threatening to withdraw its support for the proposed Monroe Bypass in a key, regional transportation planning group.  And one council member suggested the city should rethink its regional participation in other regional groups, including the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

Council members Monday night directed their representative to MUMPO (Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Agency) to seek a revote on a MUMPO resolution supporting the bypass. (Update Tuesday, 4/16: The vote at issue is a March 20 "Resolution to Support Prompt Action for the Construction of the Monroe Bypass." It was not a vote on whether to fund the bypass. It has been in the Long Range Transportation Plan since 2002, MUMPO Secretary Robert Cook told me Tuesday afternoon. This paragraph has been edited to clarify that point.)

Why the switch? It's all part of continuing anger (a more accurate word might be "livid") among Charlotte council members over a bill in the legislature that would strip the city of its control of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport by creating a state-appointed regional authority and transfer the airport-owned property to the state. County commissioners in Union, Gaston, Lincoln and Iredell counties have passed resolutions supporting the bill. None of them talked with Charlotte city officials before taking those votes.  (See "Regional counties jump into airport fray, support regional board" and "Charlotte airport fight pits city against region.")

Last week, council member David Howard told the Charlotte Observer: "It makes you not want to get involved in regional efforts at all.” Howard told the Observer he wondered whether Charlotte should continue to support the construction of the Garden Parkway and the Monroe Connector-Bypass – two toll roads proposed for Gaston and Union counties, whose boards voted in favor of the airport authority bill.

Howard is the Charlotte City Council representative to MUMPO and Monday he told council members that his vote to support the Monroe Bypass resolution came before the Union County vote in favor of taking Charlotte airport control away from Charlotte. Howard suggested that the council should direct its MUMPO representative to seek a MUMPO revote on the resolution. On a motion from council member Warren Cooksey, the council did just that, unanimously.

Because MUMPO votes are weighted according to population, Charlotte has 16 votes. All the other entities have a total of 22 votes. In other words, it's fairly easy for Charlotte to carry a vote.

Read more here:

The next MUMPO meeting is 7 p.m. Wednesday, and Howard can't attend. Council member Michael Barnes will represent Charlotte at that meeting. Barnes said he would offer a motion Wednesday noting that Howard had sought direction from the full city council and the council had directed its MUMPO representative to seek a revote on the issue of support for the Monroe Bypass. The decision whether to have a revote would come Wednesday, and the actual revote would be a month later.

A few minutes before Howard brought up the Monroe Bypass, council member Andy Dulin asked city staff for information about how much money the city spends on regional groups, including the Centralina Council of Governments and the Charlotte Regional Partnership, a 16-county economic development agency. "If we talk about COG we got to talk about the Regional Partnership," he said.

No council action was taken on that suggestion.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Bike-ped trail along rail route hits the ground running

I had just spent 2 1/2 hours listening to Charlotte City Council members talk about the upcoming city budget  with the specter of the proposed streetcar hanging overhead, in the gov center's windowless Room 267. And that was after Mayor Anthony Foxx and City Manager Ron Carlee, in his second week into the job, said any streetcar discussion should be off the table for the day.

The discussion before the non-discussion of the streetcar was not exactly optimistic. As the Charlotte Business Journal reported this week, ("Consultant: Charlotte transit plan at least $3 billion short") the income from the county's half-cent sales tax for transit isn't enough to allow any more of the proposed transit system to be built after the Blue Line Extension. No money for the Red Line commuter rail to Davidson (although the problem there is lack of federal money). No money for the Southeast Corridor, whether it ends up as light rail or bus rapid transit. No money for the West Corridor. (Remember it? I thought not. The 2030 Transit Plan calls for a streetcar to the airport. Yes, the plan calls for TWO streetcars, in case you had not noticed.) No money for the East-West streetcar  which, yes, has been in the adopted transit plan for a decade and which the city has proposed building without waiting for the Metropolitan Transit Commission to find any (nonexistent) money.

In any event, Foxx told the council, referring to the "promise" to build the transit system using only the sales tax: "When people say a promise was broken, I'm asking which promise are they saying was broken? The promise to do it within the half-cent sales tax? The promise to get the plan built in 2030? 'Cause one of them's going to get broken."

I left that, yes, depressing meeting to go another one, much more sparsely attended, which also focused on a long-range transportation proposal that doesn't, today, have money to be built. But this one was, strangely, more cheering.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Charlotte to hold 2 'Jane Jacobs Walks' May 4

If you know who Jane Jacobs was and understand the role her work has played in revolutionizing thinking about cities and planning since the 1960s, you'll understand why her birthday is a time to encourage city-dwellers to get to know their own places a little better.

For the second year in a row, the online publication I run for the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute is sponsoring a Jane Jacobs Walks in Charlotte. For more information, visit

New for this year: We're sponsoring two walks, in two different parts of the city. The walks are part of a movement around the globe to celebrate on the weekend of Jacobs' birth. 

1. Like last year's Jane Jacobs Walk (read about it here, and here), one will be a munching tour of East Charlotte, led by historian Tom Hanchett of Levine Museum of the New South.
2. The new, additional Jane Jacobs Walk will focus on South End its history, redevelopment and urban design successes and challenges. That one will be led by UNC Charlotte architect and urban design Professor David Walters

Details on Walk No. 1: Saturday May 4, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Hanchett, on his "Munching Tour," will encourage participants to look at the immigrant-run restaurants and stores in East Charlotte as embodying some of the elemental principles of Jane Jacobs' writing about cities how they absorb newcomers and allow for entrepreneurial businesses, even if the setting is not necessarily affluent or glossy.