Homicide in Charlotte is no equal opportunity offender. Race and sex plays a big part in who will be a victim. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police just released this data on this year's 26 homicide victims so far:
Last month, when Mayor Pat McCrory went up to the state legislature to get more funding for our over-burdened criminal justice system, Sen. Dan Clodfelter, with a straight face, told television reporters that if Charlotte wanted more criminal justice system funding legislators would have to make tough choices between funding schools and funding the courts.
What a crock!
Clodfelter and others have long counted on the fact that the average taxpayer has no idea what legislators spend money on in Raleigh. Here's a small sample of what the House leadership currently plans to spend money on:
That's just a bit of the more than $60 million in pork the house has planned. If history is any indicator, the Senate side will put up a list that is just as bad. It's worth remembering the next time you read about how we don't have enough money for education, roads or the criminal justice system. What they really mean is that they don't have it because they spent it on something else.
This week, a 16-year-old North Mecklenburg High junior who threatened students with a gun he brought on campus later killed himself with it when confronted by police at a nearby gas station.
The response by the local powers that be to the tragic and frightening incident Wednesday at North Mecklenburg High school was pretty convincing.
Those who don't know any better would almost think that school system leaders do everything in their power to prevent a tragedy like the one at Virginia Tech. But don't be fooled.
There were 18 instances of possession of a firearm at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools last year and 378 instance of possession of a weapon, but only six expulsions.
The North Mecklenburg student who tragically took his life this week is probably the only kid who brought a dangerous weapon on campus this year who DEFINITELY won't be back in school within the year. And that's only because he' s no longer with us.
The kid in the photo above is Holly Mitchell, who made local news this fall for bringing an M-16 assault rifle and ammo to a football game at West Mecklenburg High School, where he was a student. Amazingly, he's still running around town, racking up new charges and posting photos like this one on MySpace. (Thanks to crimeincharlotte.com for the photo.) That's because the schools and prosecutors also haven't made it a priority to prosecute these kids.
Christopher Fonseca (pictured left) was charged with bringing a weapon on educational property in April 2006. He was back in school in December, when he was arrested again for having a gun on school property.
And then there is my all time favorite, Jorge Marin. CMS officials apparently thought that the 10-day suspension they gave Marin for slashing at another Coulwood student with a knife during a fight on a school bus in February 2005 would get his attention.
It didn't. In another case at Coulwood, Marin threatened and then attempted to stab a teacher with a pencil because the teacher told him he couldn't leave the classroom. When the teacher threatened to fight back if Marin kept lunging at him, Marin sharpened the pencil and came at the teacher again. CMS officials handed Marin another 10-day suspension. Marin would no doubt still be at CMS too if he wasn't arrested for trying to mow down a police officer with a stolen car.
Developers were supposed to flock to the South Boulevard light rail line. But this week, Bank of America announced it was backing out of its planned development of the Scaleybark Station, despite millions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies thrown in by Charlotte Area Transit System and the city to sweeten the deal.
Though no one wants to cop to this publicly, none of the other planned lines are likely to qualify for the federal funding CATS needs to bring them to life because the areas they run through lack the density needed to support them. Unless the federal government changes its density standards, which doesn't look likely any time soon, the other lines simply won't qualify. (Federal funding covered half the cost of the $463 million South Boulevard light rail line.)
So Huntersville and Davidson residents are touting a hair-brained scheme to fund their line, which would haul only 4,000 commuters according to the most rosy projections. According to the scheme, developers are going to pay the difference through some sort of tax increment financing where future additional tax dollars generated by development along the rail line fund at least half its cost.
So here's a question I bet the light rail booster can't answer. If Bank of America struggled with a station development on more valuable land near uptown, a development that was already being subsidized by taxpayers, how the heck are developers going to be able to afford to subsidize a rail line up north?
If we get no federal money for the rest of these lines, we'll face one of two choices. Either pass another half or quarter cent sales tax for transit, of accept that our rail line will never be more than nine miles long. Without those connections, the transit center CATS is building uptown will be damn near useless, and so will the line if it connects to nowhere. What we will have built, essentially, will be a half-billion dollar shuttle to more affordable parking just outside the center city. But hell, it's just money.
I'm wondering if anyone finds story line from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police surrounding the shootings of the two police officers as bizarre as I do.
Demetrius Antonio Montgomery was taken into custody less than 45 minutes after the two officers were shot and killed at the Timber Ridge Apartments Saturday night (March 31) around 11:15 p.m.
The problem with that is that at 11 a.m. Sunday (April 1), when I went on the air to do my radio show on WBT radio, the police were still telling the media and the public that they were looking for two black males and were asking for the public's help in finding them.
But to me, giving the media false information -- that they were still looking for two black males -- when they clearly already had the only suspect in custody that they intended to charge is spreading false information to the public via the media.
This terrible tragedy tears me apart, too, and I feel for the department. But it's stuff like this that is making me question everything we've been told about the shooting so far. Where do the lies of omission, and commission, end in this case?
-Photo by Dale Johnson
Last week, we learned that the city spent $8,460 of your tax dollars for 940 pots of tulips it displayed in planters along Tryon Street two weeks ago. Unfortunately, the tulips are dead now.
But don't despair. Your oh-so-broke Charlotte city government, the same folks who raised your taxes last year because they claimed they couldn’t afford to hire more police officers, have additional floral wonders in store for you uptown. Coming attractions include $23,000 worth of summer annuals and $6,000 potted mums.
The total budget for uptown planting is $55,000. A special fee paid by uptown property owners covers 38 percent of that. Taxpayers are on the hook for the rest of the bill, which totals about $35,000.
Meanwhile, in a police services study presented to city council this week, city residents say they are frustrated that police officers don't have more time to spend investigating property thefts and home break-ins when citizens report them ...
Photo credit Dale Johnson
Hope you didn't miss the stunning tulips uptown along Tryon Street last week, provided by your oh-so-broke Charlotte city government, the same folks who raised your taxes last year because they claimed they couldn't afford to hire more police officers.
The tulips cost the city a mere $8,460 for 940 pots. They lasted over a week.
The folks at the Charlotte Observer are in a tizzy over the idea of voters actually being allowed to have a say -- God forbid! -- on whether they want to keep the half cent sales tax for mass transit, and the multi-billion dollar boondoggle of a light rail line that goes with it.
The paper's editorial staff used words like "mislead," "unseemly" and "fraud" to describe the efforts of petition gatherers paid by the group "Stop the Train" to get the 48,000 signatures they need for a revote on the half-cent sales tax for mass transit.
But who is misleading whom? In a Tuesday editorial, the Observer's editorial board wrote this about the petition Stop the Train is circulating:
Yes, if you take the time to read the fine print legalese, you may understand you're signing to force a new vote on the transit sales tax. Many people don't read it, though.
Fine print? Legalese? You'd have to be half-blind or half-witted -- I'm not arguing that the Observer's editorial board isn't -- to describe the wording at the top of the petition that way. But don't take my word for it. Download the petition, print it out and decide for yourself.
The version online looks small, as most PDFs do when viewed online, which may have tripped the Observer up. Right now I'm looking at a copy I printed. It's exactly four feet away (I measured) and I can read every word written in what looks to be a 12-point font across the top of it.
The five-line explanation of what the petition is about was written in legal language not to confuse people, but to meet state and board of elections legal requirements. (The Observer folks know this.)
It's not hard to understand, either.
The petition clearly says the signer supports a repeal of "the levy of the one-half percent (1/2%) local sales and use tax for public transportation systems theretofore levied after a referendum in 1998."
Again, I typed that while reading the petition from four feet away.
Look for more misleading and unseemly reporting and editorializing on this from the Big O in weeks to come. The paper's executives and their golf partners have a lot riding on that train.
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