Charlotte City Council spend much of its day Tuesday discussing two of its big goals for 2024, tackling crime and transit.
The council is moving forward with its goal of pursuing a one-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation and transit projects.
At one point, the hope was for this to be on the ballot in 2021. Now it looks like that won’t happen until 2025 at the earliest. It’s a complicated puzzle for Charlotte City Council. First, council members hope to get unified support from all the Mecklenburg County towns. They then need to convince state lawmakers to allow them to put the sales tax increase on the ballot. Then voters need to approve it. None of those tasks are simple.
Day 2 of Charlotte City Council's retreat in Winston-Salem: #CLTCC is planning to discuss crime and its transit plan
— Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) January 23, 2024
City leaders are stressing this will be a transportation-first plan. That means roads, sidewalks, and greenways will be tackled first and ahead of transit projects. In terms of transit projects, the Red Line is finally picking up steam. The city is currently negotiating with Norfolk Southern for the line that would run from Uptown to Mount Mourne in Iredell County. If the city gets that figured out, they hope the towns will come on board.
The city manager says a penny sales-tax increase would generate $345 million a year, which is more than $10 billion over 20 years. He also says the city needs to start investing in this ambitious plan as soon as possible.
Charlotte City Council also heard from CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings about the state of Charlotte’s crime.
There seems to be a consensus around three main areas they want to tackle: property crime, juvenile suspects and repeat offenders but Charlotte City Council won’t be able to go at this alone.
It’s been a little more than three weeks since five people were hurt in a mass shooting near Romare Bearden Park, making crime top of mind for Charlotte City Council members. It’s why they heard from Jennings at their annual retreat.
“We have to step up deterrents,” Councilman Ed Driggs said.
Even though violent crime is flat, Driggs says Charlotte’s current crime prevention efforts aren’t working. Property crime, such as auto theft, is up. Driggs wants criminals to be held accountable in court.
“If we don’t allow police to do their jobs because we are being overly protective of people then we are going to get what we got,” he said.
What happens next is still to be determined. Councilman Tariq Bokhari has been meeting with nonprofits and state lawmakers about creating a taskforce to look at juvenile and repeat offenders.
Councilmember Tiawana Brown says those repeat and juvenile offenders need to be brought to the table.
“We try to make all the decisions for them,” she said. “We think we have all the answers for them, and we don’t.”
She says it is a complicated issue and the city needs to address its root cause.
“I hear my council members, but I want them to hear me too,” she said.
Jennings says he met with Gov. Roy Cooper Monday and discussed the impact of the Raise the Age law that went into effect four years ago. Jennings says with fewer young suspects going to juvenile detention centers, they aren’t getting connected to resources and counseling.
VIDEO: City leaders discuss transportation-first plan
VIDEO: Councilmembers focus on Charlotte crime, transit future during annual retreat