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Other stories of note this year included "World Class City, Third World Paycheck" 

This April 25 cover story discussed how the working poor ­ folks who work a full-time job, yet still do not earn enough to make ends meet ­ have become one of the fastest growing demographics in the city. We told you about how some of these folks work for the city of Charlotte. Helping Empower Local People (HELP) spearheaded a campaign to pass a "living wage" ordinance which would raise the minimum wage paid to city workers to $9 per hour as well as the minimum paid by businesses who do contract work with Charlotte. Over 60 cities across the country have already passed such an ordinance. Ultimately, the ordinance failed after the city council failed to override Mayor Pat McCrory's veto last May of the living wage initiative, which he compared to socialism and later characterized as a "non-issue." In response to the city's decision, HELP launched an anti-arena campaign a week before the June 5 referendum, asking, in effect, why they should support millionaire basketball players and team owners when the city would do nothing to help the working poor. HELP leaders are currently in the process of reaching out to other groups in hopes of getting the living wage initiative re-started.

Sports writer Susan Shackelford's stellar coverage of the Charlotte Sting, the city's most successful professional sports team ever, smoked the rest of the local media. We ran a cover story on Allison Feaster's emergence as a bonafide star, provided a mid-season report card that noted impressive improvements, and a regular-season recap explaining how the team pulled off their amazing turn-around which took them all the way to the WNBA championship game.

Charlotte's declining air quality continues to be a troubling issue, and it's one we explored at length in "Homegrown Health Hazard" by Sam Boykin. In this September 12 cover story, we wrote about how the EPA sued Duke Power, citing over 50 violations of the Clean Air Act. Moreover, several environmental and health organizations, referring to in-depth studies, accused Duke Energy's antiquated coal-fired power plants of producing a substantial amount of NC's air pollution. According to the studies, that pollution is, in effect, responsible for increased asthma attacks, respiratory disease and premature deaths in the area. Duke Energy responded that they're improving the efficiency of their power plants, and continue to operate within the confines of the law. Duke Energy spokespeople also pointed to car and truck emissions as being a major source of air pollution. The potential for real improvements in our environment was delayed once again as the NC House of Representatives adjourned this year's session without approving the NC Clean Smokestacks Act, which stood to reduce smokestack emissions early 70 percent over the next 10 years.

We also covered local efforts to enact a death penalty moratorium. Groups like Charlotte Coalition for a Moratorium and People of Faith Against the Death Penalty were at the forefront of this campaign, and continued to point out what they see as inequities within the capital punishment system. Their efforts are part of a growing state and national movement which, to date, has resulted in over 30 municipalities ­ including seven in NC ­ calling for a moratorium. The NC legislature this year passed a law that bans executions of prisoners who are determined to be mentally retarded. Legislators also discussed whether black defendants who have all-white juries are being discriminated against during their trials, and lawmakers approved a measure to improve the quality of representation for death row defendants. *

The Year Paul Morsecapty: Paul Morse

George Bush

In QuotesEver have one of those days where nothing seems to come together right? Well, if it's possible to have an entire year like that, we had one in 2001. From here, the century can only get better. In January, the nation swore in a president the people weren't completely convinced they had elected. The seemingly unstoppable pendulum of prosperity reversed itself, taking with it quickly made fortunes and hard-earned retirement funds. NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt was killed in an accident that should have merely rattled him while racer Tony Stewart walked away from a violent airborne wreck. The Mecklenburg County Commission squabbled with the Charlotte City Council over land for a new arena for the Charlotte Hornets, then offered to help the city after a referendum on a new arena failed miserably.

Meanwhile, schools of sharks of different breeds swam the East Coast in a bizarre behavior pattern that included a rash of attacks on humans and the death of a 12-year-old boy. Then in September, the secure world we knew shattered along with the walls of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Anthrax, a disease unknown to Americans for a quarter century, was unleashed in newsrooms and our nation's capital.

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