In 2009, Charlotte faced political change, an economic meltdown and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James being Bill James. The year comes to an end with Queen City voters electing a mayor not named Pat McCrory and questions about the city's future.
In no particular order, here's a look back at the top nine news events that shaped 2009.
Charlotte and the recession: Like the rest of the country, Charlotte ambled through the recession. Business owners struggled to keep their doors open and some even found success during the economic nosedive. Steven Price of the Chicken Coop said in a July 29 Creative Loafing article ("How's Business?"), "We're maintaining. We're definitely more fortunate than some." But everyone wasn't that lucky ... like those who lost their jobs. Some Charlotteans told CL in "True Tales of Survival," published June 24, that they've turned to day labor, writing college papers and prayer to get by. The weak economy also taxed services like the Urban Ministry, as people who've never sought help found themselves standing in soup lines. Urban Ministry's associate executive director, Liz Clasen-Kelly, said in a June 3 article that more than 400 people visit the soup kitchen each day.
Money to give, but no takers: As some agencies and people struggled to make it, in 2009, The Men's Club, an upscale strip club in Charlotte, found it hard to give away money, according to a CL article published on Sept. 9. Wanting to be known for more than a place to come and get a lap dance, Brad Fuller, the club's general manager, said a number of Charlotte-area charities refused to take donations from establishments like The Men's Club. Why would groups turn down funds when giving was down? Libby McLaughlin, chief development officer of United Family Services, said: "... the women who work in those clubs are trying to support themselves and their families; but there is the larger issue of the objectification of women."
Mayor Pat exits: This year marked the end of the McCrory era in local politics as seven-term Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory left office after losing his bid for governor in 2008. In the mayoral office since 1995, McCrory is the only mayor that many people in Charlotte have ever known. Reflecting on his 14 years as the leader of the Q.C. with CL on Oct. 28, McCrory recalled the good ("We've had 14 years of clean government," he said, "with no scandals, no ethics violations, no embarrassments.") and the slights -- like losing Charlotte to Bev Perdue in the race for governor.
Anthony Foxx enters: With no McCrory on the ballot, that meant Charlotte would have a new mayor -- and for the first time in 22 years, he's a Democrat. Anthony Foxx steps into a city in free fall. First, Foxx has to fix a longstanding feud between officials in the Queen City and Raleigh. "There is absolutely no substitute for being able to pick up the phone and calling the governor directly or calling a member of the General Assembly directly," Foxx told CL in a Dec. 2 article. Then Foxx has to deal with some unresolved local issues, including a seemingly stalled revitalization of east Charlotte. While Foxx said in a Dec. 16 article that he wants to make Charlotte a city where every side is ripe for business and families, some east Charlotte leaders say they've heard it all before and hope to see action in the Foxx administration.
Gay Charlotte: As many things changed on the political landscape, some things stayed the same: Bill James, of the Mecklenburg County Commission, continued his war against the LGBT community. In February, James offended many in the gay community when he penned an e-mail voicing his discontent with the county taking up the issue of domestic partnership benefits. In the e-mail, James called gays criminals and transgender people "trannies." At the time, he said he stood by what he wrote. Last week, the board of county commissioners voted to extend same-sex domestic partnership benefits to employees. At that meeting, James and Commissioner Velma Leake got into a verbal sparring match when he asked Leake if her son was a "homo." Leake's son died of AIDS 10 years ago. While James is known for anti-gay statements, the city of Charlotte also came under fire in September regarding its lack of outreach to gay tourists.
The fight against smoking: In a state that garnered the moniker "Tobacco Road," lawmakers began crafting a bill to ban smoking in restaurants, workplaces and even bars, according to a Jan. 28 article published in CL. State Rep. Hugh Holliman, the House majority leader from Lexington and a former smoker, planned to file the bill the day the legislative session opened in 2009. He last sought a ban in 2007, when his bill narrowly failed in the House of Representatives. This time, the bill was approved.
Change at the United Way: One change that Charlotte welcomed happened at the United Way. In August, Jane McIntyre took over the agency, which had been under scrutiny after former director Gloria Pace King was fired when news of her salary became public.
Remembering Rae Carruth's crimes: A decade ago, Charlotte was caught up in the scandal of former Carolina Panther wide receiver Rae Carruth. He arranged for the mother of his son to be shot on Nov. 16, 1999. She died, but his son Chancellor survived and years later, as we reported in a Nov. 11 cover story, he attended a Panthers game along with the Allegro Foundation to perform on the field during the pre-game activities.
The Gantt Center opens: Charlotte's first African-American mayor received an honor that the entire city can enjoy as the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture opened at the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus in Uptown. Durham-based architectural firm The Freelon Group created a "Jacob's Ladder" concept, drawing inspiration from the Myers Street School that once stood in the old Brooklyn neighborhood, an African-American neighborhood that was lost to urban renewal.