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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Charlotte Plans To Lay-Off Police Like Newark; Stimulus Funds Expiring

Charlotte Public Safety Task force: "Charlotte Can't Afford Cost Of Firefighters, Police; Stimulus Funds Expiring

The City of Charlotte's spending on police officers and firefighters is "financially unsustainable without large budget cuts or increased taxes," according to a task force appointed by Mayor Anthony Foxx that presented its yearlong study into the city's finances Monday night.

The warning is cold water to the city, which has so far survived the economic downturn mostly unscathed, at least compared with other governments, including Mecklenburg County.

The task force, chaired by Cyndee Patterson of The Lee Institute, said that the city's biggest problem is that it gives public safety employees raises annually that exceed the growth rate for other city employees.

An additional problem is that the city will lose federal stimulus dollars that have helped pay for 125 new police officers, leaving a $5.6 million hole in the budget by 2014.

The report said that by fiscal year 2013, police and fire expenses would outstrip property tax revenue that primarily pays for them. Public-safety represents 65 percent of the city's general fund.

"You don't have a lot of time to fix this," Patterson said.

The report projected escalating deficits, from roughly $4 million in fiscal 2013 to $23 million in fiscal 2015. A small property tax increase would likely only delay the problem, Patterson said.

City budget director Ruffin Hall said after Monday's workshop that outside factors could alter the expense and revenue lines, which project a shortfall in three years.

It's possible the economy could bounce back, spurring development and generating more property tax revenues.

On the expense side, the City Council could choose not to give public safety employees a typical pay plan, which is a 3 percent annual cost-of-living increase and occasional 5 percent step increases. There are 10 possible pay steps over a career for police officers, and eight steps for firefighters.

For fiscal 2010, as the economy soured, the city gave no raises to any employees. (The City Council did vote to give bonuses to City Manager Curt Walton and City Attorney Mac McCarley.)

For the current fiscal year, the City Council approved a 2.5 percent step increase for public safety employees and a 2 percent cost-of-living increase. Other city employees received 2 percent raises.

The city made roughly $10 million in budget cuts to fund that controversial pay increase, which cost the city roughly $6 million. Most Democrats supported the pay hike, while Republicans argued against the pay raises, saying the money should be saved.

The debate this summer came as the national and local economy was struggling, and city staff said upcoming budgets would be uncertain. But the council members hadn't seen the gloomy projection that Patterson's group presented Monday night.

Council member Edwin Peacock, a Republican, asked task force members whether they thought police and fire staffing was at the right level.

"You are stating we have something unsustainable," Peacock said. "Are we operating efficiently?"

The task force didn't comment on the staffing levels for police and fire, and whether they are appropriate. It did, however, suggest that the city could reduce pay increases and still be within pay levels of peer cities.

It noted that recent public-safety voluntary turnover rate is 1.2 percent, and that applicants had submitted over 1,500 applications for 100 police and fire vacancies. It also said that other cities have smaller step increases, or no step increases at all.

There were no representatives from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police or the Charlotte Fire Department at Monday's meeting.

Peacock asked: "In what job can you get an 8 percent raise (referring to a 5 percent step increase and a 3 percent cost-of-living increase)?"

Sam Bowles, vice president of Carousel Capital and a task force member, said, "We got into pretty strong debates about raises, but we concluded it wasn't in our purview to make that value judgment. We did conclude, regardless of what you feel, the current structure is unsustainable."

Foxx appointed the task force a year ago in hopes that it would scour the budget, looking for savings.

Patterson said that overall the city's finances are in good shape. With departments being run efficiently, it made it difficult to search for savings to cover the projected police and fire shortfall.

Laid-Off Newark Police Officers Cope With Unemployment

Only a year ago, Zack Vonlagen was hailed as a hero by Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Today, he was filing for unemployment.

Vonlagen, 25, was among 167 Newark police officers who were ordered to turn in their guns at several precincts throughout the city today as part of the biggest layoff of city police since 1978 — at a time of year when crime is at its peak, and in a year where violence is trending upward.

A member of the last graduating police academy in March, Vonlagen said he doesn’t regret his time with the Newark police. "This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’d definitely do it again even if I knew what the outcome would be. It was almost like a dream come true."

Richard Velez, a two-year veteran, turned in his gun this afternoon at the city’s South Precinct.

"Right now we’re going to sit down and balance out a budget," he said of his wife and two young daughters. "Unfortunately, Christmas time is here. It’s going to be a short Christmas list."

After a sleepless night, Robert Andrews, 23, rose at 7 a.m. today and started looking for work.

"I’m on the computer right now," he said from his home. Andrews graduated from the police academy in July 2008, having left a job that paid him $60,000.

When he was laid off today, he was making $47,000.

"It’s not about money with me with this job. I’m concerned with the citizens," he said. "If it took 167 of us to bring Newark back, how can they go on without us?"
The potential threat to public safety prompted a group of 50 Guardian Angels, the well-known vigilante group based in New York City, to patrol Newark’s West and South Wards tonight — their first foray into the city in almost 30 years.

"We’ll make citizens’ arrests, we’ll make physical interventions, we’ll chase drug dealers," said the group’s founder and president, Curtis Sliwa.

He said he had been inundated with calls from residents to patrol Newark’s streets.

Although Police Director Garry McCarthy and the mayor both insist the police reorganization will provide for the same number of officers on the streets, finger-pointing continued today between the administration and the union.

Booker and union president Derrick Hatcher blamed each other for the layoffs.

Booker assailed Hatcher for not putting the city’s proposal of $6.8 million in department cuts to a vote of the union membership.

"This is a guy who was sitting in a bubble," Booker said, telling Hatcher to "be a man of your word."

Hatcher accused the mayor of hiding the city’s budget crisis until after the May election and then blaming the union for the layoffs.

"We didn’t hire these individuals. He did, " Hatcher said. "He should put on his big-boy pants and say, ‘I’m going to take this on the chin.’"

Laid-off cops blamed both Booker and Hatcher for not putting aside their differences in the interest of saving jobs.

"We supported this city for a long time and committed to turning it around for a long time," Vonlagen said. "Our good effort and spirit were stomped on. A lot of hearts were broken. I lost faith in the city today. "

Survey Reveals Charlotte's Crime Problem Is Not Improving

Respondents to a survey organized by a Charlotte community organization disagree with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police statistics showing a dropping crime rate in the city.

About 80 percent of the approximately 500 people who participated in the survey said the crime problem in Charlotte is either unchanged or has gotten worse over the past two years.

The study was conducted in recent weeks by Neighbors For A Safer Charlotte, a grassroots organization founded in April 2008.

Their study results contrast with a steady stream of monthly crime statistics from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, showing -- for the most part -- that the crime rate has been dropping over the past 12 to 18 months. Earlier this week, CMPD statistics through March showed the overall crime rate is down 15 percent since the same time a year ago.

The survey results show that if CMPD statistics are correct, the perception among residents is that crime remains a big problem.

Respondents did not fall into the "lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key" category, as most of them said they support more mental health and substance abuse programs -- and said they believe only violent offenders should be put in jail.

Here are results from some of the organization's questions:

How much of a problem do you feel crime is in the Charlotte area?

75% rated it "serious" or "very serious"

In the past two years, has crime in Charlotte increased, stayed the same, or decreased?

42% said it is worse. Another 38% said it has remained the same.

Do you own a gun for protection?

31% said they owned a gun. Another 18 percent said they are considering buying one.

Which factors tend to increase the crime problem locally?

91% said gang and drug activity.

83% said the absence of a responsible parent or role model tends to increase crime activity among juveniles.

75% said lenient sentencing equals more crime.

50% said racial tensions were not likely to contribute to crime.

Not rated as significant factors were unemployment and poverty, and the lack of a police presence.

Have the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County done enough to deal with the crime problem?

79% said more needs to be done.

Are the courts too lenient or too tough?

78% said they are too lenient.

Do you plan to vote in the District Attorney race in November?

91% said they plan to vote in that contest.

What would help solve the crime problem?

96% said tougher sentencing.

88% said more programs for juveniles outside regular school hours.

85% said more mental health and substance abuse programs.

70% said only violent offenders should be incarcerated.

Charlotte Trumps Newark In Crime, Murder Rate Up

Its Official folks!

Charlotte, N.C. is now the new "Dirty South".

Charlotte city officials are trying to pretend Crime is decreasing, however area residents can't be fooled.

We know that Crime within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region is actually getting worse!

Now here's some positive news from Urban America:

Thanks to Bold, Outstanding Leadership and a United Community effort (all ethnic & socio-economic groups working together) Newark, NJ's Murder rate is down.

In fact Newark was completely Murder-Free (March 2010) for the first time in 44 years!

Kudos to Mayor Corey Booker!

On the other hand Charlotte, NC’s Crime and Murder rates continues to rise.

Let’s see Newark is located in the heavily Diverse yet densely populated Northeastern United States, while Charlotte rests in the South with a population of less than 1 million people and is much less Diverse.

Could it be Mayor Booker actually knows what he's doing and actually cares about ALL his Constituents not just Wealthy, Caucasian citizens?

Could it be Mayor Booker, his Chief of Police and the County D.A.'s Office all realize it takes more than just locking up all Blacks & Hispanics to help resolve a citywide Crime crisis?


Could it be due to Mayor Booker investing useful, Academic type resources into the lives of his city's Minority Youth?

For example: After School programs, College Prep programs, Mentors, Summer Camps, Summer Jobs, etc.,

Perhaps all three efforts have contributed to Newark's recent dramatic drop in Crime.

Take a hint Charlotte!

Obviously our local "Leaders" don't know what the heck they are doing or they may need to just dump their Pride and communicate more with Mayors like Corey Booker for advice on how to fix Charlotte-Mecklenburg's growing Crime problem.

Hey I’m just saying, please don't hate the messenger.

Instead of becoming offended (Charlotte's local "leaders") over the contents of this revealing post, why not channel those energies into lowering the Crime rate in a Constructive, Unified manner? Ranks Charlotte, N.C. 14th Most Dangerous City

(Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C. metropolitan statistical area)

Population: 1,635,133

Violent Crimes per 100,000: 721

To determine our list, we used violent crime statistics from the FBI's latest uniform crime report, issued in 2008.

The violent crime category is composed of four offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

We evaluated U.S. Metropolitan statistical areas--geographic entities defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for use by Federal agencies in collecting, tabulating and publishing federal statistics--with more than 500,000 residents.

View Larger Map

Sources:, McClatchy Newspapers, MSNBC,, Neighbors For A Safer Charlotte, WCNC, Youtube, Google Maps

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