Prominent Charlotte political group voices concerns about city’s transit plan

CHARLOTTE — One of the city’s most influential political groups says if the city wants its transit goals passed — that including the extension of the light rail and streetcar line — needs to make sure residents are protected from displacement and people can afford to live in local communities.

[ALSO READ: Cost increased and timeline pushed back for light rail expansion in Charlotte]

The Black Political Caucus held a press conference as a city delegation headed to Austin, Texas with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance to learn more about Austin’s recently approved transit plan.

Improvements to the streetcar line, the light rail and bus improvements would all be funded under a proposed one-cent sales tax increase. The pie-in-the-sky proposal hasn’t gained the necessary momentum yet in the North Carolina General Assembly, which needs to authorize a referendum.

The BPC says if leaders want their support, changes need to be made.

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“A lot of these referendums are heavily relied upon for Black voters and support but do Black voters get the benefits,” BPC Chair Stephanie Sneed said. “The BPC cannot remain silent on the impacts of the transformational mobility network tax.”

The BPC would like to see anti-displacement measures in place to make sure current residents aren’t priced out when development occurs along the new lines. The BPC also wants minority contractor participation and a commitment that there will be at least 10% of affordable housing built in new developments because of the new transit funding.

“Black and brown people living close to the light rail should not be displaced like they are trash,” Rev. Janet Garner-Mullins, a long-time BPC member, said. “The approval of this tax should take into account the impacts of all citizens and not just the wealthy and affluent neighborhoods.”

Austin, Texas voters approved a $7.1 billion transit plan funded by an 8.75-cent property tax increase. It also includes $300 million for an anti-displacement fund.

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The Austin delegation includes the mayor, city manager and Councilman Malcolm Graham, who says he likes the proposals from the BPC, but it is too soon to say how they will be included.

“The requests they are making aren’t unreasonable,” he said. “Obviously, the devil is in the details.”

It is still unknown when this referendum will be on a ballot. All the proposed projects are many years down the line.

(Watch the video below: Cost increased and timeline pushed back for light rail expansion in Charlotte)