News & OpinionWeekly News Roundup

UNC Charlotte Students Organize in Weekly News Roundup

Inspired by the April 30 shooting that took the lives of two classmates and injured four others on UNC Charlotte’s campus, a group of student organizers have formed Real Change Now, a coalition that stands against gun violence and work to affect policy change at the state level. The group held a press conference in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center on Tuesday to express their concerns and list their goals, which can also be found on a petition the group has put together.

UNC Charlotte Students
Student organizers with Real Change Now gather outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. (Photo courtesy of Real Change Now)

“School shootings should not occur. The escalation of gun violence in our community should not occur,” the petition reads. “Of all the cities in North Carolina, Charlotte has the highest propensity for gun-related violence. We want to prevent gun violence in our community, our state, and our country.”

Real Change Now’s demands and goals include requiring permits for all guns, limiting the number of guns and amount of ammunition that can be purchased at one time, instituting mandatory waiting periods for gun and ammunition purchases, requiring background checks for guns given as gifts, banning high-capacity firearms and magazines, requiring licenses for all gun dealers in North Carolina, requiring safe storage of all guns, requiring that all lost or stolen guns be reported to police and addressing toxic masculinity.

City Manager Marcus Jones presented the proposed 2020 budget for the city of Charlotte on Monday evening. The $2.6 billion budget prioritizes neighborhood development, transportation, planning and economic development while establishing internal work teams to align with those priorities, according to a press release from the city.

The city’s new tax rate — 34.81 cents per $100 assessed property value — is the lowest its been in 50 years, Jones said. The proposed budget includes an increase in the minimum wage to $16 an hour for city employees; total funding of $50 million toward implementation of the city’s affordable housing strategy, $7 million of which to be used primarily for Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing; and $1.8 million for investment in neighborhoods in Charlotte’s east and west side.

The budget also increases funding for the JumpStart microgrant program, which aims to end community violence, from $100,000 to $500,000 and would establish the Office of Equity, Mobility, and Immigrant Integration, which will leverage existing resources to enhance access to government services and economic opportunity.

South Carolina senators have delayed a vote on whether to offer the Carolina Panthers $115 million in tax breaks to build their new headquarters and indoor practice facility in York County, just over the state line. After questioning whether billionaire team owner David Tepper needs any such financial incentives, opposing S.C. Sen. Dick Harpootlian funded his own economic analysis of the potential deal, finding that the benefit to the state for hosting the new headquarters would be around $1 billion, less than a third of the figure found by the state’s commerce department. This new analysis put the tax incentive in danger of failing to pass if put to a vote. The bill has already passed through the South Carolina House. It’s unclear when the Senate will schedule a new vote.

Police on Tuesday asked for the public’s help in tracking down a stolen vehicle that was taken from a locked lot in late April. According to CMPD, a suspect wearing all black with his face covered and wearing gloves cut the lock on a fence at Creative Customs early on April 25 and stole a trailer that held a customized 1975 Chevy Caprice. According to the report, the trailer has red skid-prevention wheels on the back, and the suspect was driving a white Chevrolet single-cab truck with stickers in the top right and top left of the back window. The truck has black rims and is damaged on the right front fender and right bed rail. Police ask that anyone with information call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

The stolen Chevy Caprice. (Photo courtesy of CMPD)

The city saw two murders occur this week, bringing the 2019 total to 50. Just after 11:15 p.m. on Saturday night, officers in the Providence division were responding to an unrelated call near Bojangles’ Coliseum when they heard shots fired nearby. They responded to Washburn Drive and found 59-year-old Melvin Bell lying in the street, dead of a gunshot wound. On Thursday morning, Diane McLelland was stabbed to death on North College Street in Uptown on her 62nd birthday. CMPD has since arrested 55-year-old James Curry Jr. and charged him with McLelland’s murder.

Diane McClelland

On Wednesday, as the city continued on pace to see its deadliest year on record, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney held a press conference alongside Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox and Community Relations Executive Director Willie Ratchford, focusing on mediation and educating youths about conflict resolution as a way to prevent more violence. According to CMPD, at least 14 of the 49 homicides that had occurred at the time of the press conference could be traced back to minor disagreements. Guns were used in 90% of those homicides.

“We can’t police our way out of this problem,” Putney said. “The entire community needs to engage to find solutions. We need to make sure everyone in this community has the skills they need to deal with conflict without resorting to violence.”

CMS has implemented measures to increase safety and security in schools and has increased the number of social workers, counselors and psychologists supporting the emotional and mental health of students.

“We know that what will make the real difference is not changes in technologies or procedures, but changes in minds,” Wilcox said. “We must resolve differences and equip our young people to find solutions to conflict that do not include violence.”

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