Days after celebrating our country’s independence from Britain on July 4, 1776, I thought it would be fun to think about the 10 dates so far this year that drastically changed the course of Charlotte history.
I’m sure 2018’s contribution to history will look very different by the end of the year, decade or millennium. You never know … a future reality TV star, President of the United States or both could be wearing pink or blue booties right now in a Charlotte maternity ward.
Jan. 18: Amazon shuns Queen City
Charlotte was among 238 communities that applied for the opportunity to welcome Amazon’s second headquarters, but the online retailer didn’t include us when it announced the 20 finalist cities on this sad day. However, Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, responded with optimism: “We will reap significant benefits from the unprecedented regional effort.” So we continue to hunt for that next big whale with a better understanding of who we are and what we need to do.
Feb. 7: Atrium changes name
Carolinas HealthCare System announced it was rebranding itself as Atrium Health, a sweeping change affecting 65,000 employees. Gene Woods, who was two years into his tenure as CEO, described the change as an evolution for the 78-year-old company. Atrium Health said the name conjures “a place filled with light; a gathering ground where diverse thinkers come together and connections are made; and literally, the chamber of the heart where each and every heartbeat begins.” Around this time, Atrium Health announced plans to merge with Navicent Healthcare, expanding service to central and south Georgia.
Feb. 14: Shooting hits home
A shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school killed 17 people, prompting more debate over gun laws and more discussion about making schools safer. Superintendents in Mecklenburg and Union counties proposed budget increases that would add more safety features to buildings and increase the number of social workers to address mental health issues. Students at Ardrey Kell, Butler, Independence, Myers Park and other schools, felt empowered to organize walkouts to pay tribute for those killed and call for action to make schools safer.
Feb. 26: Light rail extension opens
The Charlotte Area Transit System opened an additional 9.3 miles of its LYNX Blue Line, from 7th Street Station to UNC Charlotte’s main campus. The line includes 11 new stations, each with the potential to attract new businesses and industries. CATS projected nearly $500 million in projects had already been completed along the line with another $4.4 billion to come by 2035. The Blue Line’s success will likely lead to more buy-in for future lines, with destinations to include Matthews, Lake Norman and the future River District.
March 22: Charlotte hires new fire chief
City Manager Marcus Jones hired Reginald Johnson as Charlotte fire chief. Johnson, a 24-year veteran, oversees 42 fire stations and 322 square miles. Just think, your family’s home, possessions and lives depend on the efficiency of Johnson’s fire department. The challenge, of course, is staying ahead of or keeping up with growth. You don’t want firefighters feeling like they are drinking from the fire hose.
May 8: Upsets dominate primary
Some incumbents failed to get re-elected in the May primary, most notably Congressman Robert Pittenger. Pittenger’s defeat opens the door for a younger successor, either Republican Mark Harris or Democrat Dan McCready. N.C. House representatives Joel Ford and Rodney Moore also lost re-election bids to challengers. Sheriff Irwin Carmichael lost to retired Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police detective Garry McFadden. New leaders usually lead to new ideas or at the very least new methods to executing old ideas.
May 16: Tepper agrees to buy Panthers
Five months after reports began surfacing over workplace misconduct involving Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, hedge fund president David Tepper agreed to buy the franchise. The price tag? A record $2.2 billion! The NFL approved the sale later that month. Tepper is expected to breathe new life into a team that has many valuable pieces, including quarterback Cam Newton, tight end Greg Olson, linebacker Luke Kuechly and running back Christian McCaffrey. Time will tell if Tepper can build a championship culture in the Carolinas.
June 7: Charter school bill becomes law
NC House Rep. Bill Brawley’s charter school bill became law, allowing Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius the opportunity to launch charter schools. The law could give these towns leverage against Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools when it comes to building new schools. If the towns choose to open and operate multiple charter schools, CMS would likely have to adjust school boundaries. However, this could relieve overcrowding at neighboring schools. Matthews and Mint Hill leaders have said they are not willing to rush to action. They favor research and community feedback.
June 11: City approves $2.6B budget
The Charlotte City Council approved a $2.6 billion budget for next fiscal year. That’s more than half of the state budgets for Delaware, West Virginia and South Dakota. Since then, they’ve scheduled a public hearing to address a $223 million bond referendum that will be up for vote Nov. 6. The bonds total $118 million for transportation, $55 million for neighborhood improvement and $50 million for housing.
June 19: County approves $1.7B budget
County commissioners authorized a $1.7 billion budget, increasing the tax rate 81.57 cents to 82.32 cents per $100 of assessed value. The budget helps prevent hackers from breaking into the IT network; enables the public health department to provide women’s health screenings; and increases the number of early childhood education classrooms.