Articles About Government and Civic Engagement

For two years, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Charlotte City Walks from hosting in-person walking tours to introduce people to the history, food, culture and challenges facing our diverse neighborhoods. In 2020, the program was canceled. In 2021, City Walks went virtual, offering self-guided video tours and tours via the Clio app. This year, City Walks […]

Charlotte is a fast-growing city where the skyline changes by the month and neighborhoods are reshaped at a disorienting pace. But there are a multitude of data sources to help you understand the city and your community. You can start with interactive maps like the Quality of Life Explorer (produced by the Urban Institute in […]

After 18 years as director of UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute, it’s time to move on. And it’s only appropriate that the same field that first introduced me to the institute’s work is now leading me away to a new chapter, serving as North Carolinas’ Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources. My introduction to the institute came […]

A set of almost deserted railroad tracks runs from uptown Charlotte through Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. In fast-growing, highly congested north Mecklenburg, people see those tracks and ask: Why not use them for mass transit? For more than 20 years, that’s what the county’s transit plan has proposed: Use the tracks for a commuter rail […]

Sometimes I feel as if I’m watching a play. It’s one I’ve seen before – performed many times in different venues. It’s called “The City Wakes Up To Its Future.” We have now reached the penultimate act. I’m referring, of course, to the recent cyclone of activity that’s swirling around Charlotte’s proposed 2040 Comprehensive Plan […]

Contributing writer Martin Zimmerman interviews Sarah Hazel, recently appointed as Chief Sustainability & Resiliency Officer for the city of Charlotte. Sarah Hazel comes to the Strategic Energy Action Plan team from a six-year tenure on the city manager’s staff, where she worked on a wide range of initiatives including SEAP program development. She now manages […]

Down the middle of Hawthorne Lane at the corner of East 8th Street, the dust is just settling on the new LYX Gold Line Extension tracks. When the line opens later this year, it will be the first time a streetcar has rumbled down this block since 1938. Still, the legacy of that old streetcar […]

Charlotte City Council members confronted an uncomfortable question Monday: How can you get people in the general public to pay attention to technical, somewhat boring, but extremely important matters like the city’s new development rules – before a major controversy erupts? Planning staff are nearing the finish line for Charlotte’s 2040 vision plan, which will […]

Charlotte’s notorious “50-out-of-50” ranking for economic mobility has many roots, ranging from systemic discrimination to gaps in education, health and jobs training. But one of the most consequential factors for intergenerational economic mobility is likely wealth, and the simple fact is that some families have much more than others. A key component of wealth is […]

I’ll never again look at a city’s Main Street the same way. In Mindy Thompson Fullilove’s newest book, Main Street: How a City’s Heart Connects Us All, she does something relatively rare for books about urban issues. Some focus on cities’ physical attributes, such as low-density single-family sprawl, building design, street grids, auto-dominated transportation, and […]

Almost eight decades ago, Charlotte had just topped 100,000 residents, World War II raged, legal segregation was the law of the land and most of Mecklenburg County was still farmland. But despite the obvious differences from today, an urgent call in 1944 for the city to develop a plan to manage its growth still resonates […]

Debbie Williams grew up in Charlotte’s Brookhill Village, a neighborhood of one-story duplex and triplex apartments built for black families in the 1950s. She has watched while its owners let the buildings deteriorate as luxury apartments began rising nearby. Two decades ago, she moved away. But her mother and sister remained in the low-rent housing […]