Black caucus concerned about impact light rail project could have on community

A group of black politicians in Charlotte, North Carolina, want the city to put safeguards in place to protect African-American residents who they say could be disproportionately affected by a proposed transportation project.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Political Caucus said in a press release he worries about a $13 billion-plus light rail system project that could be funded by a 1-cent sales tax.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Political Caucus Chair Stephanie Sneed at the lectern speaks during a news conference March 1. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube via WCNC-TV)

The caucus points to a transportation expansion in 2007 that led to gentrification and displacement of black people from their neighborhoods.

The Charlotte Observer reported that following the development of a light rail system, developers rushed to rebuild, renovate apartments and build high-end restaurants along a now more easily accessible corridor.

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In the Wilmore neighborhood of Charlotte, the number of black residents decreased by 40% and the number of white residents increased by 20% between 2010 and 2020, the Observer reported.

The caucus is concerned that this latest expansion proposal — which would, among other things, overhaul the bus system and expand access to streetcars — could have the same effect.

“These projects will significantly affect the Black community’s access to fast and efficient transportation, affordable housing, the ability to retain ownership, superior mobility and other economic opportunities,” the caucus chair said. . Stephanie Sneed said at a press conference on Tuesday, speak Observer.

“In the past, our communities have been gutted by transportation,” she said.

The Rev. Janet Garner Mullins, who spoke at the press conference, was succinct. “Black and brown people living near the light rail should not be moved as if they were garbage,” she said during a WCNC Newsletter.

Reverend Janet Garner-Mullins speaks at a March 1 press conference called by the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube via WCNC-TV)

The caucus wants to see Charlotte follow the lead of Austin, Texas, which will also build a light rail system as part of a transportation plan approved by voters last year. Austin will allocate $300 million in “anti-displacement” funds to purchase properties along its transit corridor for affordable housing.

Concerned about housing, the group wants 10% of available units along the railway development to be affordable. The caucus would also like to see participation of “disadvantaged businesses” in the transit plan, as well as improved participation of minority suppliers.

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A group of Charlotte officials traveled to Austin on Wednesday to begin studying their transportation system.

The caucus made it clear that it needed a lot of information before backing any proposed system and the tax that would come with it. There is currently no deadline for submitting the tax question to voters.

“Do black voters benefit? » Sneed asked out loud on WCNC. “Are black residents benefiting from these referenda and increased taxes?”

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Jose P. Rogers