Charlotte City Council met for a business meeting on Monday night to hear feedback from residents about the proposed city budget for Fiscal year 2023. Much of the talk consisted of praise for the raises for city workers and concerns that the city isn’t taking climate change seriously enough.
There is a budget workshop to make adjustments based on feedback and new info scheduled for Wednesday, May 11, with council straw votes scheduled for May 25. The budget will be considered by Council for adoption on May 31. FY23 begins July 1, 2022.
Before getting to the public hearing on the budget, the meeting began with a public forum on any issue residents wanted to address. The first speaker was J.D. Williams, a 25-year veteran of the CMPD, who asked that the city overturn the department’s facial hair policy. Williams suffers from razor bumps, a condition mostly experienced by Black men.
Williams and others who struggle with razor bumps are allowed to wear beards, but other officers are not, and he said he is discriminated against because of it and made the subject of microaggressions within the department. He asked that all officers be allowed to wear beards.
Charlene Graves spoke about the arcade and sweepstakes businesses popping up around the city, especially in low-income neighborhoods. She says there are nine within a couple miles of her home on the Albemarle Road corridor. “How many more of these businesses will you allow?” she asked.
Representing a group of fellow local students, Evan Lee called on the city to make a declaration announcing that we — as a city, country and planet — are in a climate emergency, which would then direct or influence future policy decisions.
Public Hearing on Proposed FY2023 Budget
Moving into the public forum specifically about the FY2023 budget. Beginning with local activist Kass Ottley, who thanked council and city manager Marcus Jones for the proposed budget and for listening to city workers and union reps about what was needed in the budget, which includes 8% raises for general hourly workers with an additional 2.5% raise for second- and third-shift workers.
Mike Ross, a worker with Charlotte Water, said, “We will remember each and every one of you [council members] who met with us and listened to us [while creating the budget] when we’re in the voting booth.”
Another city worker, Mr. Forney, asked that council approve the proposed budget and thanked the city manager’s office for listening to workers so they can be a part of the growing economy of the city. He also pointed out that, “This is just Round 1. There will be more rounds.”
Dominic Harris, president of UE 150 chapter and worker with Charlotte Water, began his speech by thanking all his colleagues and coworkers in attendance, then the city manager. “I thank everyone who knows that city workers deserve to be able to afford to live in the city we work in.”
Mitchell Edwards with the NAACP thanked council and staff for some of its sustainability portions of the budget, but thinks the city can do more, including green workforce training and adding sustainability provisions to spending earmarked for affordable housing.
Jodie Yan is a 16-year-old student who said the city’s Strategic Energy Action Plan is not enough to confront the climate crisis, and she and her peers are frustrated with the city’s lack of urgency. “It appears the city is not as concerned as my generation is.”
Local climate activist Tina Katsanos told council, “The budget does not reflect the urgency of the moment,” and stated that spending 45% of the budget on the police department only proves that. “We need a climate budget, not a police budget.”
Elina Shepard with Sustain Charlotte thanked council and staff for including a record amount of spending for sustainable transportation infrastructure in the budget, including $8 million for cycling infrastructure, double the amount in last year’s budget.
Former Mayor Jennifer Roberts started by saying she’s moved by the young people who spoke about sustainability before her, and hoped the council was listening. Roberts praised the city’s purchase of 55 electric buses/vehicles but would like to see more than one electric police car and fire truck.
June Blotnick with Clean AIRE NC said she would like to see more spending earmarked specifically for climate resiliency within the Corridors of Opportunity, as those communities will bear the brunt of climate change and feel its worst effects first.
As the forum wrapped and many of those in attendance left the room, Renee Johnson said the Strategic Energy Action Plan Committee recently took action on at least one of the things speakers had addressed on Monday night. Though it was unclear what exactly she was referring to, she mentioned that all updates can be found on the SEAP website.
Council discussed a $24,448,588 reimbursement agreement with developers of the 7th and North Tryon project, a $600-million mixed-use development on a 3.1-acre site bounded by North Tryon, Seventh, College, and Sixth streets in Uptown.
The money would go to public infrastructure and public parking (250 spots) and would be reimbursed through 45% of incremental city and county property taxes from a designated area over 15 years.
The project is expected to provide approximately 400,000 square feet of office space; 30,000 square feet of retail; 345 multi-housing units; 220 hotel rooms; and 23,100 square feet for a public plaza. The project commits $18 million in funding toward affordable housing projects elsewhere.
Council deferred the North Tryon Project vote until May 31st so staff can come back with a presentation clarifying what has changed since the project first began planning. Ed Driggs was concerned that $600 million when the planning started is not equal to $600 million today, thanks to inflation, and wants to know what parts of the plan have been diluted over time.
Council voted to purchase a shopping center and land at the corner of West Boulevard and Remount Road for $1,200,000. The property had been subject to a federal foreclosure after the feds found the site had been turned into an open-air drug market.
The city will be “required to manage the Property in accordance with terms and conditions established to eliminate the re-occurrence of criminal activity at the site.”
According to the city, this purchase “allows for the opportunity to expand the tax base by attracting private sector investments and revitalizing corridors into mixed use areas promoting safety, viability, and sustainability of neighborhoods.” The city will “terminate existing leases as soon as practicable.”
Council also approved an NCDOT transportation safety project that will include installation of concrete median on South Boulevard just south of Sharon Lakes Road to restrict left turns to and from a gas station after an evaluation revealed a history of angle crashes for vehicles exiting the gas station just south of Sharon Lakes.