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5 Things To Know: Community Orgs Make Innovation District Demands

...and four more stories from Nov. 14-20, 2022

Atrium Health Innovation District rendering
A rendering of the Atrium Health Innovation District. (Courtesy of City of Charlotte/Atrium Health)

Community Orgs Make Demands of Innovation District Development

In a press release on Tuesday, a coalition of community organizations and labor unions called on Charlotte City Council and the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners to leverage public incentives to ensure more equitable outcomes in the upcoming development of an Atrium Health Innovation District in the Midtown area.

The district will be anchored by the Wake Forest School of Medicine and will be built on approximately 26 acres along McDowell Street between Stonewall and Morehead streets. The first class of students is expected to begin attending the school in 2024. Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist is requesting a combined $75 million in public incentives from the city and county for the development of the medical school and surrounding district. 

While the Innovation District is expected to have a significant economic impact, including the creation of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for the city in property taxes alone, some have expressed concerns that it will have a negative impact on low- and middle-income residents in the area, especially in the historically Black neighborhood of Cherry, which will border the district. 

“The details [of the Innovation District plan] leave a lot to be desired, especially since this project has the potential to attract more jobs, drive property values higher, and thus add to a worsening housing crisis that is compounded by the fact that North Carolina has some of the worst labor protections and utilizes the abysmal federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour,” read the release, which was co-signed by the Housing Justice Coalition and Southern Piedmont Central Labor Council. 

The release included a list of demands that these organizations say will ensure true equity in benefiting all Charlotteans, including a commitment to making 70% of all housing built on the site affordable/workforce housing (current commitment is 5%), a commitment to encouraging minority- and women-owned small businesses to open on the site, a written commitment to develop a state-of-the-art community medical clinic onsite in the Innovation District that will perform charity and low-cost medical care with the help of residents and students from the Wake Forest Medical School, and six other demands that can be read here.

Demands also include a donation from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist to the Cherry Community Organization (CCO) for the preservation and rehabilitation of naturally occurring affordable housing. You can view CCO co-founder Dr. Sylvia Bittle-Patton’s speech to city council on Monday here. Council will vote on whether or not to approve the spending on Monday, Nov. 22. 


State Budget Approved, Views Differ on Teacher Raises

A two-year, $25.9-billion state budget that passed through the North Carolina General Assembly this week was quickly signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday. The budget includes disaster relief, PPP loan forgiveness, as well as infrastructure and health-care spending, but grabbing most of the headlines has been an average 5% raise for North Carolina teachers, as legislators have called it. 

The pay increase for teachers breaks down to a 1.3% pay raise in each of the two years covered by the spending plan. Add in step increases for eligible teachers, and the salary increase averages out to 5% per teacher over two years. The budget also includes $100 million for teacher supplements in most counties throughout the state, though Mecklenburg, Wake, Durham, Buncombe, and Guilford counties will get none of that money. 

“The idea here is they already have the capacity to be competitive with the teacher supplements,” Ryan said.

CMS Board of Education
Some don’t think the budget takes care of teachers the way lawmakers claim it does. (AdobeStock)

CMS teacher and advocate Justin Parmenter likened the budget to “feeding educators [shit] sandwiches and saying they’re BLTs” on Twitter on Friday while decrying media organizations that have pushed the narrative of a 5% pay raise for teachers. 

“Including step increases in numbers you’re reporting as teacher raises is disingenuous and it’s intended to obscure legislators’ actual priorities. And since many people don’t read past the headline it’s a pretty effective political strategy,” he wrote. “Veteran teachers who have dedicated 25 years or more to serving our state’s children will earn $68/month more under this budget. That’s a 1.3% increase after almost two years of terrible job conditions and at a time when districts are hemorrhaging teachers.” 


Mask Mandate Remains in Place as Test-Positivity Rate Stays Above 5%

Wednesday marked the day in which Mecklenburg County Public Health would begin considering lifting the county-wide mask mandate, based on a Nov. 3 change in policy regarding how they would do so. However, it appears the mandate will stay in place for a bit longer, as the county has still not reached the milestone needed to remove it.

A look at daily test-positivity rates in Mecklenburg County up to Wednesday. (Courtesy of MCPH)

County health officials have said that the mask mandate will be lifted when the county sees test-positivity rates drop below 5% for seven straight days, and as of Wednesday, the rate was still at 6.4%. The next data update will be published on Monday, Nov. 22. 


Judge Throws Out Danquirs Franklin Suit

On Friday, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit filed by the family of Danquirs Franklin, who was shot and killed by CMPD officer Wende Kerl in the parking lot of a Burger King on Beatties Ford Road in 2019. The suit, filed by Franklin’s mother in 2020, made claims of excessive force and constitutional violations. 

A still from Wende Kerl’s body camera footage.

In his ruling, Senior U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen stated that Kerl made mistakes in how she handled the incident — specifically acknowledging that it appeared Franklin was following Kerl’s orders when he was shot — but called them “reasonable” mistakes. 

“Given the gift of hindsight, it seems likely that Officer Kerl made a mistake in shooting Danquirs Franklin. Franklin appeared to be complying with the CMPD officers’ orders to ‘drop the gun’ when he took the pistol out of his jacket pocket. Video shows that he was holding the slide of the pistol, not the grip. And Franklin’s incredulous last words — ‘You told me to’— seem to confirm his intentions nearly beyond doubt,” Mullen wrote. 

“But because a court must not judge with the ‘20/20 vision of hindsight’ the question is whether Officer Kerl’s mistake in shooting Franklin was reasonable,” the ruling continues. “The answer is yes.”


Police Identify Man Killed Last Week

Police have identified a man who was shot and killed in north Charlotte on Friday, Nov. 12. Just after 9 p.m. that night, police responded to a welfare check call about a man lying in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven on North Tryon Street at Dalton Avenue. Responding officers found 30-year-old Cornell Williams dead of a gunshot wound. 

 

On the following Saturday, police arrested a 32-year-old man for the killing. The suspect has been charged with murder and possession of a firearm by a felon. 


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