News & OpinionWeekly News Roundup

5 Things to Know: Gov. Cooper to Let State Budget Pass Without Signature

...and four more stories from Sept. 17-23, 2023

The North Carolina General Assembly chambers. Medicaid expansion, Government Transparency Act, NC redistricting trial, NC congressional maps, domestic violence, state budget
The North Carolina General Assembly voted on a much-maligned state budget overnight on Thursday. (Photo by J. Zehnder/AdobeStock)

Gov. Cooper to Let State Budget Pass Without Signature

Following months of delays, the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly passed a heavily maligned state budget with an overnight vote on Thursday. On Friday, Gov. Cooper announced that he would let the budget become law without signing it, releasing a statement that cites the urgency of Medicaid expansion as his reason for not pushing back against a budget he disapproves of.

“Health insurance for 600,000 more North Carolinians that brings more mental health and substance use disorder treatment, help for desperate rural hospitals and billions of dollars into our economy is a life-saving, monumental decision for our state,” Cooper wrote.

“Make no mistake, overall this is a bad budget that seriously shortchanges our schools, prioritizes power grabs, keeps shady backroom deals secret and blatantly violates the Constitution, and many of its provisions will face legal action. However, we must recognize this irresponsible legislature’s decade of refusal to expand Medicaid, which has caused life and death situations for so many North Carolinians and threatened the very existence of numerous rural hospitals.”

The NC Budget and Tax Center claimed that legislative leaders had “prioritized the interests of the wealthy few and out-of-state corporations over the people of North Carolina” in the state budget.

NC Senate Democratic Whip Jay Chaudhuri called it “the worst budget I’ve ever seen,” claiming that it fails schoolchildren while underpaying teachers, helps pay for rich people to send their kids to private school and funds anti-abortion organizations, among other reasons.

In a speech on the NC House floor on Thursday, which was transcribed in full and published by WRAL, Rep. Brandon Lofton of Mecklenburg County expressed just some of the concerns that Democrats and progressives have with the new budget.

Charlotte GM Workers Join UAW Strike

Workers walked out of a GM plant in southwest Charlotte at noon on September, with dozens of workers and fellow union members forming a picket line in front of the plant on Quality Drive over the afternoon.

Representatives of UAW Local 2404 told Queen City Nerve they’ll be setting up on the street for as long as it takes for union reps to come to an agreement with GM. Elsewhere in the country, UAW members are also striking against Stellantis and Ford.

UAW Local 2404 vice president Roderick McClurkin said he found out his plant would be joining the strike, which has been rolled out on a city-by-city basis by the national UAW organization since Sept. 15, on Thursday night. He said he’s optimistic that the strike will not be drawn out much longer.

Picketers block the entrance to a plant holding UAW signs during a strike
Four of the workers who started a picket line outside of a southwest Charlotte GM plant on Friday. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

“It seems like they’ve made some progress within the last week and hopefully by us ramping it up some, we’ll get to where we need to get to,” said UAW Local 2404 vice president Roderick McClurkin. “Record profits should mean a record contract, it’s that simple.”

Charlotte City Council member and NC Commissioner of Labor candidate Braxton Winston joined workers on the picket line Friday, saying he came straight from his own job at Spectrum Center, where he’s a proud member of IATSE.

“I’m here to stand in solidarity with my fellow siblings in labor,” Winston told Queen City Nerve. “I’ll be out here as long as they need me … I know how difficult it is to find solidarity in the labor movement in Charlotte. So that’s what we’re here to do, to stand with them and make sure workers get their fair share.”

Threat Causes Moments of Panic at Ardrey Kell

An apparent hoax threat against Ardrey Kell High School sent the school into a lockdown on Friday, with students and teachers barricading themselves in classrooms before police arrived at the school and found no real threat or evidence of any incident. Officers also cleared nearby Community House Middle School.

An email sent to parents stated that police had been called to investigate reports that there was “possibly an armed person on campus.”

CMPD responded to the scene and found that the report was likely a hoax. “Preliminary reports indicate this is a hoax consistent with hoaxes going on nationwide,” CMPD reported on Twitter.

Many parents lined up at the school to pick their children up following the all-clear report.

Johnston YMCA Deal Falls Through

In an email to members on Thursday, staff at the Johnston YMCA, which was slated to close at the end of the year due to planned redevelopment, stated that the facility would remain open “for the foreseeable future.”

A deal with Republic Properties — which planned to redevelop the property on North Davidson Street with housing, retail, and a grocery store — has reportedly fallen through due to “market conditions.”

The brick facade of the Johnston YMCA with picnic tables and a large tree out front.
The Johnston YMCA will remain open for the foreseeable future. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

In its email, the Y stated that it will “continue to explore options for the future of the Johnston YMCA property to accomplish the following: Help our Y improve its financial position & continue to serve the NoDa/north Charlotte community.”

The email stated that the facility will have more news about additional programming and youth offerings in the weeks to come on its Facebook page, where on Thursday staff posted a “Jobs Available” photo. Many of the leading staff members at the facility resigned following announcement of the impending closure in May.

Elon Opens Regional Center in South End, Law School Coming

Elon University on Tuesday officially opened its new regional center in South End while announcing plans to offer a part-time Elon University School of Law Juris Doctor degree program in Charlotte, stripping the Queen City of its title as the largest U.S. city without a law school.

Law classes will begin in fall 2024, pending approval by the American Bar Association and The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Applications to the program will be accepted beginning Oct. 1, 2023.

The Elon University in Charlotte regional center, located at 330 W. Tremont Ave., also offers Elon undergrad students majoring and minoring in sport management the opportunity to study and work in Charlotte.

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