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Year-End Scorecard

A Fond Look Back At A Really Screwed Up Year

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It's time for the body count. This is the where Creative Loafing recounts the coups of the last year in our editorial crusade to get critical information to our readers free of charge. From printing the addresses of registered sex offenders living in our community to taking on Duke Power to digging the real dirt out of the proposed new arena contract with the Charlotte Hornets to reporting on the living wage ordinance, the CL staff took on the stories that others wouldn't touch. Our goal this year was to dig in until we got measurable results. This is our scorecard.

We Wrote

Left in the Lurch Sixteen mostly African-American residents of a west side police district showed up at a March city council meeting to plead with council for better police protection for their neighborhoods.

Redistricting increased the David 2 service area where they lived by nearly half and added some of the roughest areas in the city to the already downtrodden, largely African-American police district. At the same time, the number of officers patrolling the district declined, and the police department shifted more of its officers to more affluent suburban districts to handle tickets and car accidents. Council members showed little concern about the matter when the David 2 residents came to speak to them.

The Outcome CL kept the heat on city council and on the police department to increase the number of officers until additional officers and officer positions were finally added. Ironically, council member James "Smuggie" Mitchell, who represents the area, took credit for "getting" the extra officers for the community.

We WroteThe Human Face of Piedmont Courts Piedmont Courts has long had a reputation as scary, dangerous place. A place where young children, single mothers and violent criminals all call home. Some saw a potential for positive change for Charlotte's oldest public housing development in the federally sponsored HOPE VI program, the same program that helped turn housing projects Earle Village, Dalton Village and Fairview Homes into revitalized mixed-housing communities. However, many criticized the program for displacing low-income families, and failing to provide them with a place to go. We went inside Piedmont Courts to talk to the residents themselves and get their take on the issue. What we found was an eclectic mix of people who were ambiguous about the upcoming project ­ and who were acutely aware of the media machine and how they're perceived by it. Some folks said they welcomed any improvements that HOPE VI might provide, and saw it as a chance for a better future for themselves and their kids. Others said they wished the city would just leave them alone, that things were fine as they were, while still others criticized law enforcement and the property managers for not cleaning up the area. Then there were the residents who were causing much of the drug and violence-related problems. To them, Hope VI was merely a nuisance and a disruption.

The Outcome

In November, the federal government rejected Charlotte's HOPE VI grant application for $29.5 million to remake Piedmont Courts. While spokespersons for the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) wouldn't disclose why Charlotte was denied the grant, a December meeting reportedly told Charlotte Housing Authority the denial was due to CHA not having prepared to move displaced Piedmont Courts residents to a suitable location. Officials with the Charlotte Housing Authority said they plan to apply again next year for a HOPE VI grant. Meanwhile, the residents of Piedmont Courts continue to live in a substandard and often dangerous environment.

We Wrote

Lost in the Shuffle

Robin Hester, a blind woman dying of AIDS, and her elderly grandmother desperately needed a place in public housing. But the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) records and administration were in such disarray that for almost a year, they couldn't tell the women where they were on the list, or even if they were on it. What's more, the endless lobbying attempts of an HIV caseworker assigned to Hester to contact city and CHA officials where often ignored. Further investigation found that public housing applications by the poorest of the poor were often lost or misplaced by poorly managed CHA employees.

The Outcome

CL stuck to its guns with follow-up articles, and after further investigation, CHA eventually straightened out its act, and its waiting list.

We WroteShowdown at McCrory Corral: City Fails the CL Counter-terrorism Security Challenge In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, city leaders orchestrated a PR blitz about all the measures they were taking to secure the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center against terrorists, wackos and other violent types. At the time, the city had spent about $5,000 on security guards from Barton Security Protective Services. CL decided to put the rhetoric to the test.

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