Council QuickiesNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: Bike Lanes and Parking Lots

April 3, 2023

Charlotte city skyline from an aerial view
(Photo by Grant Baldwin)

As is the new plan this year for the first Monday of each month, Charlotte City Council spent the day yesterday holding committee meetings then gathered together upstairs at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center so a representative from each of the four committees could fill everyone in on what they had learned, discussed and decided in their respective meetings throughout the day. It’s rare that any real decisions are made at these meetings, as conversations often focus heavily on process. In short, welcome to the monthly wonk meeting.

Next up, there’s a budget workshop scheduled for Thursday, April 6 and a business meeting on Monday, April 10.

Budget, Governance and Intergovernmental Relations Committee

Council member Dimple Ajmera returned from maternity leave and kicked things off as chair of the Budget, Governance and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

Following Ajmera’s rundown, council discussed the evaluation process for the three employees who work under council’s oversight (the city manager, clerk and attorney). Renee Johnson said current evaluations are done without speaking to said employees’ subordinates, making it difficult to rate/judge their leadership style or skills.

“I think we should be evaluating our direct hires by their ability to carry out the tasks that we expect of them,” replied Braxton Winston. “I think that is much more important than the way their subordinates feel about them.”

Some council members, like Johnson, hope to add a “360-degree evaluation” to the current evaluation process (not replace it). The 360-degree evaluation includes mostly anonymous feedback from employees that the subjects manage, their peers and others.

Housing, Safety and Community Committee

Ed Driggs brought up NC Senate Bill 317, which would allow any type of development on 80% of any property regardless of zoning as long as 20% of said development was affordable housing, but affordability would only be legally mandated for one year.

Driggs called the bill a “shot over the bow” from state legislature that could potentially be disruptive to land use in Charlotte. It’s currently in committee and may remain there but there are some lawmakers who have “taken up the issue with a vengeance” so he suggested that council keep an eye on it.

Jobs and Economic Development Committee

City staff is updating the Charlotte Business INClusion policy to help create opportunities for minority/women-owned businesses (MWSBEs) to become prime contractors with the city rather than just require prime contractors to seek MWSBEs as subcontractors, among other changes.

Renee Johnson thanked Graham and the committee for their attention to improving opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. She said there’s a reentry workshop/simulation at the Valerie C. Woodard Center on April 14 at 1:30 p.m. and invited all council members to attend.

James Mitchell asked if city staff has done any community outreach, specifically with CharlotteEAST, to get feedback on the three existing petitions for Eastland Yards. Assistant city manager Tracy Dodson said they have not, as they’re waiting until the extension for submittals is over on May 1.

Transportation, Planning and Development Committee

Ed Driggs revealed that, on top of all the issues Brent Cagle is dealing with as interim director at CATS, he was spending Monday night at home with COVID and did not sound well when Driggs spoke to him over the weekend.

Driggs, Cagle and city manager Marcus Jones got together last week and formed a five-point plan to address the issues at CATS.

  • 1) Federal Transit Administration review of CATS.
  • 2) Formation of oversight work group made up council members for deeper dive, similar to SAFE Charlotte.
  • 3) Suspension of CATS CEO search to allow Cagle to build on momentum he has created during interim term.
  • 4) Increasing manpower at CATS by borrowing leadership from other city departments to help.
  • 5) Restructuring general oversight of CATS within city manager’s office.
Discussing the Unified Development Ordinance, Braxton Winston said he would like city staff to look into the impact of removing parking minimums from restaurants, breweries, bars, etc.

He added that having those parking minimums in place now works counter to some of the city’s goals, including Vision Zero, and that having a parking minimum at a brewery is a way of encouraging if not mandating drunk driving.

LaWana Mayfield suggested that council members look into protecting more bike lanes, pointing out that she sees some on the west side that just serve as street parking if they’re not protected with plastic posts like she sees elsewhere in the city.

Mayfield also noticed how many bike lanes just seem to start and end with no real reasoning “as if they’re just going to float into the air when they run out of lane.” She added that she owns a bike but won’t use it in Charlotte as she does not feel safe to do so.

Mayfield recommended that council members drive through communities to see the impact of decisions after the fact rather than just assume bike lanes are operating as they should.

Renee Johnson added that in Prosperity Village there are semi-trucks that regularly use bike lanes as a rest area, parking there overnight.

Johnson also pointed out another revelation about CATS that came to light Monday morning regarding staffing. NC DOT found that neither the Blue Line nor Gold Line had been properly staffed with the preferred minimum number of operators at any given time. Cagle is working to fix the issue.

That latest revelation came to light thanks to a whistleblower. Johnson wants a more effective whistleblower hotline for city employees, contractors, etc. to use. She says folks don’t know about the one that’s currently in operation, which doesn’t effectively protect anonymity.

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