By Collin Cunningham
(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) This Wednesday, May 25 Roundup comes to readers with a heavy heart as we report the death of 75-year-old Mecklenburg County Commissioner Ella Scarborough after battling failing health conditions.
Also heavy is yesterday's shooting that left 18 students and three adults dead in Uvalde, Texas, and we let readers know how local and state leaders are reacting. The weightiness continues with the $5 billion list of new building construction projects that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools released on Tuesday in hopes of securing a bond change in 2023. Lastly, the National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado with winds of 110 miles per hour made contact with the Charlotte region on Monday.
1. Mecklenburg County Commissioner At-Large Ella Scarborough dies at 75
An acting member of Mecklenburg County's Board of County Commissioners and the first Black woman to be elected to Charlotte City Council died on Tuesday at 75 years old. Mayor Vi Lyles confirmed the death of Ella Scarborough in a tweet posted Tuesday night, calling the event a "significant loss for the city."
Scarborough's family has yet to announce public funeral arrangements.
Scarborough's personal health has dominated local headlines since February, when the board approved a medical leave request and agreed to continue paying the at-large board member $50,000 per year. At the time, Scarborough had been absent from the group's in-person meeting sessions for several months. Commissioners later appointed former board member Wilhelmenia Rembert as Scarborough's replacement in March.
The commissioner's death marks the final chapter in a lifetime that included an infantile fight for survival after Scarborough's premature birth and an arrest for political demonstration while protesting Jim Crow-era laws in her hometown of Sumter, South Carolina, per WSOC.
Mecklenburg's main decision-making body will likely address Scarborough's legacy at a regular meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. Learn what else board members will discuss Below the Fold.
2. CMS request: District unveils 125 proposed projects worth over $5B
What happened: We reported earlier this year that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had pitched a pair of high schools and accompanying apartment communities that would bring more than 800 residential units to town, but a list of 125 proposed new buildings and renovation projects released Tuesday shows the district has its eye on over $5 billion in additional developments.
Highlight's from the district's 2022-2031 capital needs assessment would see Charlotte East Language Academy shift gears to being a dual language magnet school and a high school devoted to medical and technology studies that would stand alongside the district's Metro School. Athletic facilities costing $70 million each would give students access to swimming pools, baseball fields, tennis courts and football stadiums.
Why it matters: In order to compensate for the new buildings, CMS will likely submit a request in 2023 to increase a $922 million bond referendum approved in 2017 to $2 billion. That vote allowed the school system to start on 23 new projects to aid its student population exceeding 140,000.
Several of those new buildings have yet to initiate construction, meaning that the projects presented at Tuesday's school board meeting could take several years to break ground if voters take to next year's request.
In other news related to North Carolina's largest public school district, the findings of a federal health investigation into CMS's Smith Family Center revealed that cancer-causing compounds were not present in the now-closed building, WSOC reported. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offered to peek inside the structure after nine staff members who worked inside the building received cancer diagnoses. According to WBTV, other CMS strategies include revising learning districts to spread an even number of students among a proper number of educators.
3. Mayor Vi Lyles, NC Gov. Roy Coooper respond to Uvalde, Texas shooting
Investigators say 18-year-old Salvador Ramos opened fire on students at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, leaving 19 children, one adult and the suspected shooter dead after a Border Patrol agent entered the building and shot him.
Both Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper took their thoughts for families and Uvalde community members to Twitter, with Lyles calling the violence "unacceptable" and said her heart was "aching for those families."
Cooper, meanwhile, called the event "devastating" and said North Carolinians' hearts were among those of victims' families and others affiliated with the school.
On May 15, NPR reported that 198 mass shootings have occurred in the United States since 2022 began 19 weeks earlier. Tuesday's shooting is the deadliest to take place at a public school since 26 people died to gunman Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
4. Tornado in Meck. Co.: NWS reports 110-mph winds on Monday
Earthquakes have been rumbling South Carolina consistently since the start of the year, but on Monday Mecklenburg County got its taste of erratic weather events when the Greenville-Spartanburg National Weather Service office reported a tornado hit Charlotte. Burnt Umber Drive in east Charlotte was the first to feel the tornado — considered an EF1, the second-weakest storm of its type on the Enhanced Fujita Scale — the event included winds reaching up to 110 miles per hour.
Cutting a 10-mile path heading northeast into Cabarrus County, the whirlwind touched Earth at 1:37 p.m. before returning to the sky 14 minutes later, the tornado reached the area around Rocky River Elementary School before dissipating. During that quarter-hour period, Charlotteans reported trees being ripped from yards, vehicles sustaining scratches and other minor damage, though no injuries have been identified.
Below the Fold
Commissioners, continued: In addition to likely discussing Scarborough, an agenda posted to Mecklenburg County's legislative website shows that commissioners will hear public comments on a $2.1 billion budget proposal at Tuesday's meeting. While it would not raise property taxes, we reported last week that the financial forecast could close the county's juvenile detention center and includes less than half of what Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools requested of the county earlier this year. Readers can watch the meeting starting at 6 p.m. on this page.
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