Politics & Government

NC lawmakers debut ‘Edge City Caucus’

Charlotte suburb lawmakers form caucus for ‘the little guy’

In the General Assembly you’ll find a Motorsports Caucus, an Agricultural Caucus, a Military Caucus, an Indian Affairs Caucus, a Sportsmen’s Caucus, a Wineries Caucus and, of course, a Prayer Caucus.

Now add another: The Union Mecklenburg Edge City Caucus.

Its members include the three senators and five House members – all Republicans – whose districts encompass the small town and suburban tracts along the county line.

“There are needs in this area that need to be addressed,” says Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews. “And those of us who live in the area are coming together to meet those needs.”

The group, which includes Sens. Bob Rucho, Jeff Tarte and Tommy Tucker, plans to talk about regional needs in areas such as transportation, schools and utilities.

Rep. Craig Horn of Weddington says the suburban lawmakers recognize that Charlotte is the “800-pound gorilla” in the neighborhood.

“What happens in Charlotte impacts everyone else, what happens along the beltway impacts Charlotte,” Horn says. “So it would seem logical that we discuss those things and promote ideas that are good for both sides of (Interstate) 485.

“Charlotte is the big guy. To give voice to the little guy, the little guys have to get together.” Jim Morrill

Teacher email sparks drama

Sarah Wiles, a science teacher at North Mecklenburg High, might not have gotten much attention for her email to state legislators telling them to stop posturing about teacher raises.

“If you continue to do nothing even though you can do something, you should be ashamed,” she wrote. “I am embarrassed for you. I am embarrassed by you. And, save for my students, I am embarrassed by being a teacher in North Carolina, the doormat of society.”

But when Sen. David Curtis, a Republican who represents Gaston, Iredell and Lincoln counties, hit reply-all with his response on Monday, he lit up social media. He offered tips on talking to private sector employers “since you naturally do not want to remain in a profession of which you are ashamed,” and talked about the “eight weeks paid vacation” the taxpayers of North Carolina provide teachers. Teachers cited it as an example of the dismissive attitudes and misinformation they face from state lawmakers.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart, a Democrat, noted the exchange at Tuesday’s budget meeting, saying the response had been “so repugnant.” Calling herself “a social media person,” she said she had promptly retweeted an article about the exchange and added the words, “Teacher pay is not political theater.”

On Thursday, Curtis was one of three GOP senators who introduced a bill calling for the state to ensure that at least 51 percent of the state’s allocation for public education go toward classroom teachers. Ann Doss Helms

Commissioner: Don’t bring crowd

Speaking of teacher pay, social media and political theater, Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James says he wants county leaders to ensure that Monday’s budget discussion with leaders of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and Central Piedmont Community College doesn’t turn into a circus.

Large, vocal crowds turned out for last week’s school board meeting and a commissioners’ meeting the week before. During the county meeting, James tweeted about “mob rule” and a “gang of teachers” attacking county officials over budget issues. The speakers were orderly but insisted on talking about teachers, even after commissioners’ Chairman Trevor Fuller ruled out budget comments.

On Thursday, James emailed County Manager Dena Diorio and other county officials: “Given the disturbance at the last County Commission meeting it might be a good idea to outline to the public and CMS that this is NOT a public hearing. The meeting is for the boards to talk to each other, not listen to prepared speeches from students, presentations from MeckEd or other groups (PTA or teachers),” he wrote. “Also – the goal is to answer commissioners’ questions so the less ‘dog and pony show’ the better.” Ann Doss Helms

Bradford faces fines

Charlotte Democrat Robin Bradford’s woes with the state elections board continue.

Bradford has until Tuesday to appeal campaign fines totaling $1,750 for filing late reports in her 2012 bid for the state House. She’s running in a rematch for the House 92 seat in west Mecklenburg that she lost to Republican state Rep. Charles Jeter.

The $1,750 may be more than she has raised for this campaign. Last month she reported raising just $207 – the cost of filing for office.

Asked to comment, Bradford said, “All items will be handled accordingly.”

Democrats consider the district one of the most potentially competitive in the state. Bradford chairs the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party. Jim Morrill

Moral Movies return

Moral Mondays have made way for Moral Movies.

The N.C. Association of Educators, along with the NAACP and Working Films, a Wilmington-based nonprofit, is continuing a film project this month with the documentary “American Winter.” They’ll show the film at 7 p.m. May 29 at the Charlotte NCAE, 301 S. McDowell St., Suite 1200.

The documentary tracks eight families during the recent economic downturn.

Moral Movies is a four-month series showing films in Charlotte and six other North Carolina cities. Organizers say they’re intended “to jump start community dialogue on social, economic, and environmental issues relevant to the state.” Jim Morrill.