Local News Roundup: CATS goes off the rails, political maps back at NC Supreme Court, ‘Banktown’ reacts to SVB collapse

On the Local News Roundup, the Charlotte Area Transit System goes off the rails. At least one Lynx train did in a derailment last year that officials are just now hearing about. They also discovered that every train car in the fleet needs repairs and until that happens, trains will be slowing down.

North Carolina’s voter maps are back in front of a now-Republican-controlled State Supreme Court. They’re rehearing a case at the request of the legislature.

Meanwhile, the legislature calls Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget “unrealistic.”

And we look at possible reverberations here from the collapse of a Silicon Valley bank.

Our roundtable of reporters fills us in on those stories and more.


Steve Harrison, WFAE’s political reporter

Erik Spanberg, managing editor for the Charlotte Business Journal

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

Danielle Chemtob, investigative reporter with Axios Charlotte

Why North Carolina Matters In 2020

How competitive will North Carolina be in 2020? We talk about the presidential race, a tough battle for Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and the hyperpolarization of local politics in the state.

Host Jeremy Hobson is joined by Jeff Tiberii (@j_tibs), Capitol Bureau Chief at WUNC and Mary Curtis (@mcurtisnc3), columnist at Roll Call based in Charlotte.

North Carolina Absentee & Voter ID Law

CHARLOTTE, NC — The new year brings new laws political contributor Mary C. Curtis discusses the new North Carolina absentee and voter ID law changes.

POLITICAL WRAP: Voter ID; Pelosi Delay; Charlotte Homicides

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It appears North Carolina voters will not have to show ID in March’s presidential primary. A Federal Court temporarily blocked new requirements set to go into effect next year. The decision can be appealed but that would be up to Democrat state Attorney General Josh Stein.

U.S. Senators return to Washington at the end of the week. But the question remains, how longer will Nancy Pelosi wait to deliver the articles of impeachment? Senate leaders remain at an impasse over whether there will be new witnesses and testimony in a Senate trial.

Closer to home, this year’s homicide rate in Charlotte is on track to be the worst since 1993. CMPD has investigated 108 murders so far. Mayor Vi Lyles says Charlotte is looking at data from other cities for ways to curb the violence.

N.C. Lame-Duck Session Begins, with Voter ID the Chief Task

CHARLOTTE, NC —  In the midterm elections, North Carolina voters delivered a check on the state general assembly’s Republican super-majorities, while also approving a voter ID amendment to the state constitution. Will state lawmakers be able to craft and approve a bill before the holiday break, a new year and new membership? GOP lawmakers hope so. Previous attempts at voter ID bills and voting restrictions did not pass muster with the courts.

While Republicans and supporters say photo voter ID is needed for security and to prevent fraud, opponents say it is a form of voter suppression, mostly affecting minorities, the elderly, students and the poor, a way to solve a problem that does not exist. (Mary C. Curtis)

And what else is on the docket for this lame-duck session?

Opinion: Supreme Court Resurrects the ‘Purge,’ and McConnell Saw It Coming

It was a brilliant and, opponents would say, devious move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Stall, obstruct and block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court replacement for the late Antonin Scalia.

That pick, Judge Merrick Garland, once a thoroughly acceptable and moderate choice to many Republicans, never had a chance in a ramped-up partisan atmosphere. Instead, the next president, Donald Trump, appointed conservative Neil Gorsuch, with immediate and long-lasting repercussions, this week reaching into the voting booth.

By a 5-4 vote in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the conservatives on the court reaffirmed an Ohio law an appeals court had rejected as being a violation of the National Voter Registration Act, which says states cannot purge voters for failing to vote but can figure out how to remove those who have moved or died from the list. The state — a crucial battleground — has a particularly stringent test, using failure to vote in a single federal election cycle as the trigger to start the process.

The Latest With NC Voter ID Laws and the Upcoming Election

CHARLOTTE, NC — North Carolina’s Voter ID Law is in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Mecklenburg County residents are learning they could have less time to cast an early ballot in this year’s election.

WCCB Political Contributor Mary C. Curtis is weighing in on these voter issues and what they could mean as the election draws closer.

GOP launches minority outreach in N.C., defends voter law in court

CHARLOTTE — Republicans were busy in North Carolina and Washington on Monday. Did the activity in the courts and on a conservative stage have the effect of muddying the welcome mat the GOP rolled out for minority voters in the state?

Earlier in the day, Republican state officials filed to urge a federal court to dismiss two lawsuits challenging changes in North Carolina’s voting laws, changes opponents contend disproportionately harm African American voters. A third challenge by the U.S. Department of Justice is waiting in the wings.

Monday evening in Charlotte, at the opening of the Republican National Committee’s African American engagement office in North Carolina, Earl Philip, North Carolina African American state director, said he believed in the message he has been taking to churches, schools and community groups.

In N.C. skirmish in national voting-rights wars, student once thrown off ballot wins race

Being thrown off the ballot was the best thing that ever happened to Montravias King. The national coverage that rained down on the Elizabeth City State University student when a local elections board in North Carolina rejected his initial City Council bid surely helped him break out from the field of candidates. He got the chance to plead his case, and his views, before millions, reaching many more people than a meager campaign budget could ever allow. This week, according to preliminary results, the university senior was the top vote-getter and will get to represent the ward where his school is located.

Was turnout affected by the actions of the board in an increasingly partisan state atmosphere where restrictive voting laws have drawn legal action from many groups, including the U.S. Justice Department? King, who never stopped thinking local, didn’t take any chances, knocking on 365 doors for votes, he said in the News & Record. He said that in addition to his fellow students, he had gotten a “great and amazing” reception from older voters. That he had also discussed the issue of voter suppression with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who went to North Carolina for the story, was an unexpected extra.

Past is present as North Carolina honors 1963 march and battles voting laws

CHARLOTTE — In North Carolina, commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s dream credited past struggles while a current battle over voting laws took center stage.

In an uptown Charlotte park Wednesday, the crowd used the examples of civil rights pioneers in a continuation of the Moral Monday protests against conservative laws from the Republican-controlled state legislature. Similar gatherings were planned in each of the state’s 13 congressional districts. While many issues, including education and health care spending, were reflected in comments and emblazoned on signs, the new state voter-ID bill was a unifying cause.

Later Wednesday evening, several Democratic and Republican legislators took questions from their Mecklenburg County constituents in a raucous forum called, ironically as it turned out, “Solving It Together.” At the top of the list in hundreds of questions submitted beforehand – voter-ID laws.