Do We Really Care About Our Children?
Plus the obvious on RNC and scooters that too many want to avoid
A few snapshots of the city as we wait for something like autumn to arrive, perhaps by Thanksgiving:
The Harvard researcher whose name is forever attached to the infamous social mobility study that laid out Charlotte’s worst-in-the-nation shortcomings in that area unveiled a new online tool Monday. The Opportunity Atlas allows users to examine nationwide Internal Revenue Service and Census Bureau data on income, education, and family characteristics on a Census tract, or neighborhood, level.
The first example: How much do kids who grew up where I did earn on average? You can pick a city or address, select income, then pick a demographic: white men, black women, etc. It’s handy and revealing, and it chips away at commonly held, broad-brush characterizations about so-called “good” and “bad” parts of town, especially when neighborhoods near the city center, such as Belmont, are transforming from violent and impoverished to hot properties before our eyes.
That, of course, contributes to the gap between haves and have-nots outlined in Chetty’s original study in 2014. Charlotte is one of seven cities that the researchers highlight to illustrate specific themes. Charlotte’s entry, which we all know generally: “A Booming Economy Does Not Always Lead to Greater Upward Mobility.” No kidding, as the residents of Washington Heights and Reid Park could, and would, tell you.
The picture grows even more complicated when you understand that, in rapidly changing cities such as Charlotte, geography isn’t necessarily destiny, and physical proximity to opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean it’s accessible. “What we can see from the atlas is that just because a child moves to a high-income area doesn’t mean they have access to the things that are going on in that community that would lead to mobility. You might actually move kids to an area where they feel more isolated, more cut off,” Brian Collier of Foundation of the Carolinas told the Observer. “I think Matthews is going to have to grapple with it, Pineville is going to have to grapple with it, Davidson, every community. There are pockets of poverty across the county.”
There it is—the final barrier. “It’s all going to boil down to whether a child feels like people care about them,” Collier said. Money can’t solve that problem.
People these days are taking the long way around to avoid grasping the uncomfortably obvious. We now know that the Republican National Convention in Charlotte will be held from Aug. 24-27, 2020. “This gets to be an opportunity to brag,” Mayor Vi Lyles said during a news conference Monday. I cast my mind back to July, when Charlotte accepted and the Republicans awarded the bid, and Lyles and City Council members contorted themselves into pretzels to argue that Charlotte could host the convention without endorsing President Trump and the policies of his administration.
Right. “We get to be front and center when we renominate Donald Trump and Mike Pence as president and vice president,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson of Concord. “What an incredible record of achievement just in less than two short years.” You may agree with that statement; you may not; you may believe it’s accurate, but not in the way Hudson meant. But if you imagine those four days won’t be wall-to-wall with these kinds of tongue baths, or that viewers won’t associate Charlotte with it, I’d like a hit or two of what you’re imbibing.
Same with the scooters, sadly. They’re fun. To watch, I mean; a large mammal such as myself probably should stick with sturdier modes of transport. Charlotteans love ’em, having taken about 140,000 scoots in August alone. Folks inclined to ride them tend to love ’em wherever they’re introduced. Others, those whose jobs entail that nebulous concept known as “public safety,” aren’t quite as enamored.
Charlotte City Council member Tariq Bokhari saw a collision last week between a van and scooter, and it shook him. “[I]t's hard to believe that of all the people in #CLT, I was the person to witness the most significant accident to date,” Bokhari tweeted the next day, “and right before we are set to decide how to regulate them.” The City Council plans to vote on potential regulations for the scooters—including, possibly, restrictions on where they’re allowed to operate—before the end of the year.
And whatever the council adopts likely will not mean squat. The scooter genie has been unbottled. The only way to stuff it back in is to ban scooters altogether, and good luck with that. Bokhari, having endured an internal tug-of-war between risk to life and limb and sweet freedom, appears to have come down on the hands-off side. “I guess the real struggle with what I saw yesterday was in asking myself, ‘Could that have been prevented by the heavy hand of regulation?’,” he said last week. “And the answer is no, anymore than you can regulate someone looking at his cellphone while crossing a street.”
And that means people will get hurt and, almost certainly, killed. I nearly hit someone on a scooter a couple of weeks ago on The Plaza near Matheson Avenue. I was in my car, waiting for traffic to clear at an intersection. When it did, I hit the gas and practically grazed a guy gliding by, sans sound or clue. He showed no sign that he even noticed.
I see folks on the scooters, wearing ties and carrying briefcases, ears plugged with wireless earbuds, blithely scooting away up Trade Street as traffic roars by in the afternoon; or whipping between Humvees and Range Rovers after midnight on Tryon Street in South End; or, as I witnessed Tuesday, a man crossing Trade at Tryon on a scooter while holding a baby, and I wonder what it’ll take to illustrate the risk they’re taking. It doesn’t require much imagination.