Local News Roundup: COVID vaccines for the very young; Bruton Smith remembered; NC’s first case of monkeypox

COVID-19 vaccines are now available in Charlotte for children 6 months to 5 years old for the first time. We’ll talk about where you can get them.

This week marks two years since a shooting on Beatties Ford Road, with still very few answers.

NASCAR Hall of Famer and founder of Charlotte Motor Speedway Bruton Smith died this week at the age of 95. We’ll talk about his long and sometimes controversial life in motorsports.

At this week’s City Council meeting, south Charlotte residents spoke out about a plan for developveloping apartments in their neighborhood.

The NBA draft starts Thursday. What are the Hornets’ prospects? We’ll get a rundown on that and what the organization plans to do after their anticipated new head coach backed out of the job.

And North Carolina sees its first documented case of monkeypox.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and all the week’s top local and regional news on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

GUESTS:

Erik Spanberg, managing editor for the Charlotte Business Journal

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

Claire Donnelly, WFAE health reporter

Seema Iyer, chief legal correspondent WJZY Queen City News

What hate did to Birmingham

In the 1950s, Atlanta and Birmingham were about the same size, with about the same population, problems and promise, John Archibald points out in his book “Shaking the Gates of Hell: A Search for Family and Truth in the Wake of the Civil Rights Revolution.” But then, Atlanta fashioned itself the city “too busy to hate,” while Birmingham, “as the world would learn, was not that busy.”

I told Archibald I would reference that line, crediting him, of course, after he repeated it in a speech during the recent National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference in that Alabama city, his home base, because it was both ruefully funny and soul-crushingly tragic — and most of all, because it provides a too accurate view of a cycle that continues, one you don’t have to travel to Birmingham to observe.

Those at the conference got a chance to witness the roots and results of what hate did to Birmingham, how it labeled the city and hobbled its progress, during a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Unfortunately, those who most need to learn its lessons would never have the sense or the courage to set a foot inside.

When will Congress call domestic terrorism by its name?

I can’t imagine how Garnell Whitfield Jr. did it, how he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to demand some sort of action from the country’s leaders on gun violence and on the domestic terrorism wrought by white supremacy. But as I was riveted by his testimony, I realized the strength and courage he must have drawn from the memory of the mother he will never stop grieving.

Ruth Whitfield, at 86, was the oldest victim in a shooting at a Buffalo supermarket that left 10 people, all African Americans, dead. It was May 14, not even a month ago. Yet there have been so many shootings since, it sometimes seems as if the rest of the world has forgotten. An 18-year-old white man is accused of carrying out the racist attack, accused of driving hours to hunt and murder as many Black people as possible.

“I would ask every senator to imagine the faces of your mothers as you look at the face of my mother, Mrs. Ruth Whitfield,” Garnell Whitfield testified on Tuesday.

Would they be able to do that?

“Ask yourself,” he said, “is there nothing we can do?”

The track record isn’t great.

I’m not sure what Whitfield was expecting from lawmakers who have a hard time even naming what happened. How, then, could they put themselves in his shoes?

Garnell Whitfield is far ahead of our elected representatives, many of whom want, have always wanted, to distract and downplay, to accuse others of bad intentions, to look everywhere but into the eyes and the broken heart of a man whose life has been forever changed.

Whitfield’s plainspoken speech must have startled those reluctant to call out “domestic terrorism” and “white supremacy” for the dangers they are, despite the warnings from FBI Director Christopher Wray’s March 2021 testimony before the same committee about the connection between the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and right-wing “domestic terrorism.”

They would rather, as Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have done and continue to do, point to acts of violence by those on the left and accuse Democrats of using any effort to counter domestic threats as an excuse to go after political opponents.

A preview of the Jan. 6 committee hearing from a national and NC lens

This week, the house committee investigating the January 6th insurrection plans to hold its first hearing on its findings. On Sunday, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney was asked by CBS News if this was a conspiracy.

“It is extremely broad. It’s extremely well-organized. It’s really chilling,” she responded.

Several North Carolina residents have been arrested for allegedly taking part in the insurrection. Politicians have also been implicated. That includes former North Carolina congressman and former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Last week, the Department of Justice declined to prosecute Meadows after Meadows did not cooperate with the investigation.

We discuss what we know about the investigation’s findings so far and what it means for our state and our country.

GUESTS

Megan Squire, senior fellow for data analytics at Southern Poverty Law Center

Michael Gordon, reporter with The Charlotte Observer

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

‘What Next’ podcast: The Right’s Poll-Watching Army

Republicans who still haven’t accepted that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in 2020 are recruiting “a volunteer army” of poll watchers and poll workers for upcoming elections. For those who want transparent and fair elections, an influx of enthusiasm is theoretically a good thing. But if new poll workers and poll watchers have an agenda— chasing after fraud that didn’t happen—can they hurt more than they help?

Guest: Alexandra Berzon, investigative reporter for the New York Times.

Guest hosted by Mary C. Curtis, columnist at Roll Call and host of its Equal Time podcast.

If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast, bonus episodes of shows like Slow Burn and Dear Prudence—and you’ll be supporting the work we do here on What Next. Sign up now at slate.com/whatnextplus to help support our work.

Podcast production by Mary Wilson, Elena Schwartz, and Carmel Delshad, with help from Anna Rubanova and Sam Kim.

Local News Roundup: Budget season continues; $275 million proposal for Spectrum Center; Tepper development arm files for bankruptcy

Charlotte City Council passed its $3.24 billion budget for next year, and that means there will not be a tax increase for residents, while raising pay for city employees.

The city of Charlotte proposed spending more than $200 million to improve the Spectrum Center and $60 million to build a new practice facility for the Charlotte Hornets. The proposed improvements would be in exchange for the Hornets extending their lease to 2045.

David Tepper’s development entity has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In other sports news, Charlotte FC has already fired coach Miguel Angel Ramirez, just 14 games into the season. What’s behind this surprising move?

And Charlotte remembered North Carolina political pioneer and former county commissioner Ella Scarborough this week.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and all the week’s top local and regional news on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

GUESTS:

Erik Spanberg, managing editor for the Charlotte Business Journal
Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
Steve Harrison, WFAE’s political reporter
Danielle Chemtob, investigative reporter with Axios Charlotte

For Asian Americans, celebration, challenges and action

May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, has special significance in 2022, as both an acknowledgment of contributions and a reminder of a resurgence of xenophobic rhetoric and violence. Civil rights groups, academia and businesses have responded with action, education and activism, part of a “Stop AAPI Hate” coalition.

Mary C. Curtis speaks about the past, the present and future solutions with Anne Lee Benedict, active with MCCA — a national organization dedicated to advancing diversity, inclusion and equity in the legal profession — and Joanne L. Rondilla, an assistant professor of sociology and interdisciplinary studies and Asian American studies at San José State University.

Ex-Charlotte mayors McCrory and Cannon lose comeback bids: An analysis of the NC primary

In this episode Inside Politics: Election 2022, we discuss the results of the May 17 primary in North Carolina and look ahead to the general election.

Election night in the U.S. Senate race came to a predictable outcome. Former state Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley cruised to victory in the Democratic primary. And U.S. Rep. Ted Budd easily defeated former Gov. Pat McCrory in the GOP primary.

Budd was complimentary of McCrory on election night. But McCrory did not return the favor — he refused to endorse Budd and questioned the direction of the Republican Party.

Another big story from May 17: Controversial GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn was ousted in the primary by a fellow Republican.

We’ll also talk about the upcoming July election for Charlotte City Council.

Voters winnowed down candidates for mayor and council last week. Former Mayor Patrick Cannon, who served prison time after being arrested for corruption while in office, lost his bid to return to public office with an at-large seat on council. Meanwhile, incumbent District 1’s Larken Egleston will exit from council after losing in the Democratic primary for an at-large seat, and some districts will have new representatives. Incumbent Mayor Vi Lyles cruised to an easy victory in her Democratic primary.

Our guests for this week are retiring Charlotte City Council member Julie Eiselt and journalist Mary C. Curtis of Roll Call.

Local News Roundup: Recapping the NC primary and reflecting on the Buffalo mass shooting

The North Carolina primary this week was full of stories, including the seeming end of Pat McCrory’s political career, a decisive loss for U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn and some surprises in the Democratic City Council race. Sheriff Garry McFadden kept his seat in Mecklenburg County, and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles won her primary.

People around the country — including Charlotte — are reacting to Sunday’s shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, where a gunman killed 10 and injured three.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill into law that will ban transgender students from playing women’s sports.

And yet another earthquake is felt just outside the Charlotte area.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and all the week’s top local and regional news on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

GUESTS:

Erik Spanberg, managing editor for the Charlotte Business Journal

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”

Steve Harrison, WFAE’s political reporter

Seema Iyer, chief legal correspondent WJZY Queen City News

What happens to America when optimism dies?

When I interviewed Majority Whip James Clyburn in 2014 about his memoir “Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black,” the South Carolina Democrat was confident in America’s ability to find its way, no matter how extreme the political swings might appear at any given time.

“The country from its inception is like the pendulum on a clock,” the congressman told me. “It goes back and forward. It tops out to the right and starts back to the left — it tops out to the left and starts back to the right.” And remember, he said, it “spends twice as much time in the center.”

I have always appreciated Clyburn’s wisdom, his passion and his commitment to his constituents. But most of all, I have admired the optimism of this child of the South, who grew up hemmed in by Jim Crow’s separate and unequal grip, yet who believed in the innate goodness of America and its people. Clyburn put his own life on the line to drag the country — kicking and screaming — into a more just future.

He was convinced, I believe, that no matter how off balance America might become, the country would eventually right itself.

A lot has changed since that afternoon, when he sat at a long table, signing books and chatting in the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C., right beside his beloved wife. Emily Clyburn, a passionate civil rights activist, died in 2019, though Clyburn often references her wise words.

That optimism, however, has lost its glow.

Clyburn’s worries drove our conversation in July 2021, the second of two times he was a guest on my CQ Roll Call “Equal Time” podcast. The topic was voting rights, and Clyburn had opinions about the Senate procedure that would eventually stall legislation to reform those rights and restore provisions invalidated by a Supreme Court decision in 2013.

“When it comes to the constitutional issues like voting, guaranteed to Blacks by the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, that should not be filibustered,” he said. And about restrictive laws being passed in states? “I want you to call it what it is. Use the word: nullification. It is voter nullification.”

“This isn’t about just voting; this is about whether or not we will have a democracy or an autocracy.”

With those remarks in the back of my mind, it was still startling to hear Clyburn last week on MSNBC, talking about his GOP House colleagues, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, and their waffling about complying with subpoenas from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

When asked if the government and Capitol Hill could “be fixed,” Clyburn, known for his philosophical “this too shall pass” mantra, instead replied, “I don’t know.” He talked about threats to undermine democracy and said the country is “teetering on the edge.”

And that was before the shooting in Buffalo that claimed the lives of 10 beautiful Americans doing something as routine as Saturday supermarket shopping. African Americans were targeted by an 18-year-old who wore his “white supremacist” label like a badge of honor in a heavily plagiarized racist screed, a man whose stated goal was to “kill as many blacks as possible.”

Is it any wonder Clyburn’s optimism has been waning in these times?