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A Call to Action

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Environmental Action Team Members speak before County Commissioners

The LWVCM-Environmental Action Team Members, Chris Danis, and Margaret Howe-Sope spoke before the the May 9th County Board Budget Hearing.

Chris Danis Comments:

LWVCM- Environmental Action Team Member Chris Danis Comments

Good evening: Chairman Dunlap, Vice Chair Powell and Commissioners. I am Chris Danis , live in County Commissioner District 4 and I am here tonight as a member of the League of Women Voters Environment Action Team. As some of you know the League of Women Voters has been active in the Mecklenburg County for the past 100 years.

While we applaud your recognition and support of the importance of education, public health, social services as well as protection of persons and property, our concern tonight is the amount of proposed funding for the environment (air, land, water) and recreation (parks, greenways, trails, and pools) in the proposed FY 2020 County budget.

Since Mecklenburg County is one of the fastest growing areas in the Southeast (with over 50 people arriving daily), planning now before total build-out is possible, necessary, and good business. It doesn't take a PhD in Economics to realize that as more land is used for buildings and roads, land values rise to the point where it becomes VERY costly to allow land to be set aside for public use. The main fallacy in this non-action is that much of that public land is the same land that protects our water sheds and air quality, while providing for needed recreation areas for our growing population.

The quality and quantity of water is now and will continue to be a major concern in Mecklenburg County. We understand the storm water component of the Land Use and Environmental Services reflects only 0.47% (less than a %) of the expenditures, or about $6.5 million of the $1.9 billion proposed budget. The potential situation was made worse in December 2018 when NC General Assembly passed legislation that eliminated the ability of local governments to address storm water from increased built up areas. This legislation, (NC Session 2018-145/ Senate Bill 469) made changes to the Post-Construction Storm Water Ordinance (aka PCSO) that had been in place in Mecklenburg County and Charlotte since 2007 and 2008.

The League of Women Voters Charlotte Mecklenburg has voiced the concern about the PCSO implications to all NC Mecklenburg County State Legislators asking for flooding and storm water protection measures for redevelopment to be re-instated. A copy of that letter may be provided.

Every stream in Mecklenburg has been impaired for years. The Post Construction Storm Water program was a successful example of how county and city governments cooperated to address flooding and erosion caused by excess water velocity and volume. However, the County's budget does not reflect the impact of the new state legislation on the County's taxpayers.

We can hope, that the state legislation will be changed, but we cannot wait for that to happen. We have to be proactive at the local level NOW.

We therefore ask that the Commissioners reconsider how to improve the less that 0.5% or about $6.5 in the FY2020 proposed budget. The result would be better protection for our water quality/quantity, public health, private and public property, and other natural resources.

We further ask the Commissioners to accelerate and advance the storm water utility services, as well as parks and greenway services to align joint staffing expertise and project alignment. Storm water protection, greenways and parks, trails, and transit measures fit together nicely.

Margaret Howe-Sope comments:

LWVCM- Environmental Action Team Member Margaret Howe-Sope Comments

I am Margaret Howe-Sope, and live in County Commissioner District 5.

Parks and recreation have three values that make them essential services: economic value, health and environmental benefits, and social importance.

In Mecklenburg County, parks and greenways reflect truly public dollars because they benefit all, regardless of race, age, gender, or income. The concern is that only certain areas of the county have access to these truly public spaces, namely: NOT the socially vulnerable populations that need them the most. I am speaking specifically of the communities in east and west Charlotte as well as the more rural areas of the County.

According to the Trust for Public Lands 2018 ParkScore analysis, Charlotte-Mecklenburg spends just $47.14 /resident for parks as compared to the National ParkScore average of $87/resident. The County is way behind, and with the rapidly growing population, at this rate we'll never catch up. Furthermore, we'll never be able to spend the $30 million on 30 miles of greenways by 2030 with the proposed budget funds and staff allocation.

It is no secret that land values are increasing and available land is decreasing. The proposed budget attempts to maintain and enhance existing facilities due to a history of budget neglect...but does NOT accelerate the immediate need to acquire and protect land for future public use.

Our suggestions are the following:
1. Increase the proposed land and environmental services expenditures to more than 0.5% in the FY2020 budget.
2. Dedicate monies to bolster staffing and acquisition of land for parks and greenways.
3. Include mechanisms that will allow a developer/property owner to receive reduced capital gains, storm water fees, or county property tax assessments NOW and the future for deeded public greenway access and land allocation.
4. Ensure ALL development projects (utility, transportation, transit, public housing, commercial developments) includes a review of how the project may serve to enhance public benefit and connection to parks and greenways.
5. Consideration of adding a voluntary donation check box to parks and greenways on the County tax bill to allow taxpayers to donate additional funds dedicated to parks greenway, and trail acquisition.
6. Consideration of a shared tree planting program wherein the property owner pays of the cost of planting approved trees in City/County approved places and the City/County pays the other half of the cost.

Thank you for your time and consideration of these ideas. We will be happy to share written copies of this presentation upon request.

Education Action Team Statement to CMS Board April 9th

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen of the CMS Board:

The League of Women Voters of Charlotte-Mecklenburg recognizes that CMS has been diligently working on greater equity in the public schools, and we support you in these efforts. In light of the Policy Committee's work on equity and our support for your equity initiatives, we want to urge you to include a community-based Equity Advisory Committee + an important element which is currently missing from your proposed Equity Policy.

The rationale for such a committee includes the following:

  • A community-based Equity Advisory Committee (EAC) can help to build trust among CMS, The Board, and the public.
  • A committee of diverse stakeholders can provide valuable input and resources to assist CMS in addressing the complex community challenges that impact our students and schools.
  • Transparency and accountability can be achieved through regularly scheduled reports shared with the EAC that are prepared by CMS which indicate progress toward its identified areas of action for equity in our schools. The LWVCM views the roles of a community-based EAC as follows:
  • To promote mutual understanding and build trust between the community and CMS
  • To promote inclusion, justice and equity in our schools
  • To support the goals and work of CMS in its efforts to achieve equity for all students
  • To connect the district with community resources to increase student success and build partnerships to support these efforts
  • To provide community input to assist CMS in making progress toward its equity goals
  • To review regular reports of the progress toward the areas of action for equity it in our schools that are also made available to the public and the media We hope that you will build on the good work that you are doing to achieve greater equity in our schools and for our students by including the establishment of a community-based Equity Advisory Committee in the Equity Policy that you are now considering. Best regards,

Delores Johnson Hurt, President League of Women Voters Charlotte-Mecklenburg

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ERA ACTION TEAM STATEMENT

Cate Stadelman presented remarks to Mecklenburg County Commission, April 2, 2019 regarding our support of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Good evening.

The League of Women Voters "support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and efforts to bring laws into compliance with the goals of the ERA." The League is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public.

Many Americans mistakenly believe that women and men are guaranteed equal rights, but the only right the Constitution explicitly gives to both men and women is the right to vote. Women continue to confront workplace discrimination; health care inequities; disparate rates of poverty; rape and domestic violence assaults; and a lack of political parity.

The Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex, recognizing that men and women are persons of equal stature under the law.

In the 1970s opponents of the ERA spun tales of terrible things that ratification of the amendment would bring. Today gay marriage is the law, women in the military do see combat, and more than 75 percent of working-age women are in the labor force -- even though the amendment failed to pass in the `70s. Today's opponents have equally specious arguments against the ERA, claiming that women already have equal rights. The Supreme Court has indeed been persuaded to extend the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to cover many forms of sex discrimination, but these protections have not been strictly applied.

Laws have been passed to address inequities for women but there are gaps in these laws. Supreme Court decisions have limited enforcement of specific laws, particularly in the areas of violence against women, sexual harassment and equal pay. And laws can be changed, so progress on women's rights could vanish. The economic survival of families depends on ending discrimination in hiring, paying, promoting, and providing a safe work environment for all working people. A recent report titled "The Status of Women in North Carolina: Employment & Earnings" highlighted what all of us know: Women earn less than men. And women of color, more likely to be discriminated against, make only 50-60% of what white men are paid. Closing the wage gap will go a long way to lifting families out of poverty.

Women of all classes, all racial backgrounds, and all political parties need to raise their voices in support of ERA ratification. And like the League of Women Voters, we welcome men to join us! Thank you.

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FEAT update!

Thanks so much to all who answered the call and helped us get the Reasonable Redistricting post cards sent out. We are making progress, albeit slowly. The NC FEAT RRR team is joining forces with Common Cause, Democracy NC and a few other organizations to get language agreed on by all that will go into a proposed constitutional amendment which we will ask the NCGA to put forth in 2020. Hopefully, all will be ready to go in a few weeks. Meanwhile, we here in Charlotte will continue to reach out to collect signatures on our RRR endorsement forms. Cate Stadelman and a few dedicated volunteers collected almost 100 signatures at the Women's March yesterday + kudos to you all!

Our goal at this point is just to collect as many signatures as possible. Good news: the FairDistrictsNC.org site now has an endorsement form that can be submitted online + yay!! So please take a look at it + and submit yours if you would. So, there are now 2 ways to forward our cause: carry endorsement forms with you to collect signatures (especially from businesses) and promote the website. Some of you had mentioned that your churches may want to be involved + Jennifer and/or I will be happy to speak to any groups. Of course, we especially need to persuade the conservative members of the NCGA + especially the senators, so if you know of anyone who lives anywhere in NC who has a Republican Senator that they would contact, that would be hugely helpful.

A Working FEAT Meeting

The holidays are in full swing and we are all busy but here's a quick overview of what we are up to: Our goal is to implement the Reasonable Redistricting Reform (RRR) plan that was presented at the Workshop in August. Research illuminated 5 principles that have worked in jurisdictions around the country that are working on redistricting reform. We are using these principles as the foundation of our plan because asking the current legislature to adopt 5 reasonable principles is more likely to win their support, rather than presenting them with a finished product which they had little or no say in creating. To do this, we plan to reach out to community/business/faith, etc. leaders to enlist their support. We asked the workshop attendees to list any community contacts they may have who might be influential in the Charlotte region. The response was gratifying and we have been working with the NC FEAT to hone our outreach strategy. We have created a spreadsheet of all of the contacts that the attendees provided and the next step is to send out a "mail merge" to introduce these potential supporters to the RRR plan and request a short, 15 minute meeting with them so that we can share more about our efforts and ask them to sign our endorsement forms.

Our FEAT Team is meeting on Thurs., January 10, 2019 at 6 pm at the LWVCM office (1817 Central Ave., Room 210) to address and stuff envelopes. Please join us if you can-these are exciting times and we have a chance to make a real difference.

Debbie Snowdon, Chair, LWVCM FEAT

Debbie.snowdon@yahoo.com

704.975.4335

Education Action Team Statement

Tom Bowers of the Education Action Team provided the following statement regarding the CMS Budget before the Mecklenburg County Commission meeting:

We appreciate the important synergy that exists between CMS, who develop and present a strong budget plan and the Commission, which must ensure careful oversight of the CMS budget. It is clear that both groups take their responsibilities seriously and conduct themselves with integrity and mutual respect.

The League of Women Voters has always supported strong public education. Our Charlotte-Mecklenburg League has been closely following the new CMS student assignment plan and bond referendum. We witness the educational challenges our community faces and the great legacy and successes we enjoy.

Members of the League urge your full support for the bond issue to build, replace and renovate much needed schools throughout the county because it will provide facilities that now serve almost twice the students for which a building was built. This results in aging mobile units, overburdened cafeterias, inadequate restrooms and no space for special classes.

These capital expenditures will also expand access to the district's planned magnet programs.

The League strongly urges you to approve the proposed expenditure to wipe out the waiting list of four and five-year-olds for the child care subsidy program. Study after study confirms the value of pre-K education for all children. You will recall that the Opportunity Task Force said,

"A child's earliest years have a profound and often lasting impact on his or her school success, career success, and adult life. Early care and education in particular pose opportunities for substantial long-term benefits to both children and the general public."

Chicago and Michigan studies* show that investments in early education return $7 to $16 for every dollar spent by reducing costs of remedial education, criminal justice, and welfare while increasing worker skills, income levels and economic productivity,

The budget proposal for early childhood education to serve all four and five-year-olds is a welcome start, and we urge your approval.

Important funding is still needed to complete the CMS plan for meeting the social and emotional needs of our students. $4.5 million is requested to provide an additional 42 counselors, 6 psychologists and 12 social workers. Physical and social needs must be met before a teacher can teach and a child can learn.

A caring community funds that commitment. We trust that as caring stewards you will support these vital programs that build the foundation for all of our futures. Thank You all!

  • The Chicago Child Parent Centers (CPCs) were similar to current state Pre-K programs in design and cost. The Chicago Longitudinal Study reported a $7.14 to $1 benefit-cost ratio. The High/Scope Perry Preschool Program that operated in the Ypsilanti, Michigan school district has been estimated to have a benefit to cost ratio of 16:1 over 40 years.

Medicaid Expansion

North Carolina's current Medicaid program covers only 30% of low income North Carolinians. This leaves 300,00-500,000 people in NC "In the Coverage Gap" which means they are too poor to qualify for subsidies on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace but do not fit into one of the limited eligibility categories for NC Medicaid. Being desperately poor isn't enough in NC to get health coverage. We need to change this. Join us in our Close the Coverage Gap Campaign! Opportunities for advocacy include:

  • Contact Governor Cooper and request that NC expand Medicaid. (919) 814-2000

  • Write your state representative and senator. Updated talking points will be available soon.

  • Help organize an informational session with community groups.

  • Give a presentation to your faith, neighborhood, or work networks.

  • Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper.