As many as 55,000 people were expected in town this weekend for the annual Charlotte Pride festival. The festival started Saturday along Tryon Street in downtown Charlotte, celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Activities continue today from noon to 6 o’clock along South Tryon Street. The Bank of America Charlotte Pride Parade starts at 1 o’clock on North Tryon Street. It’s the first gay pride parade in Charlotte in 19 years. Find out more at charlottepride.org/
BILLBOARDS USED TO SEEK MISSING GIRL
Authorities now are using electronic billboards throughout the Charlotte area as they continue the search for missing Salisbury teenager Eric Parsons. The billboards went up this weekend, showing photos of the girl at age 13, and another showing how she might look today at age 15. She disappeared in November 2011, but her family did not report her missing until last month. Police have questioned her parents, who say they have not seen her since they sent her to stay with another family member. The billboards have been posted by the Rowan County Sheriff's office, the State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. Anyone with information is asked to call the Rowan Sheriff’s office at 704-216-8700.
DRIVER CHARGED AFTER BUS WRECK HURTS SOLDIERS
All but one of the 29 Army reservists hurt in an Iredell County bus crash Friday have been released from the hospital. The Salisbury based soldiers were returning from training when their tour bus skidded on Highway 150 in the rain Friday afternoon, and rolled down a small embankment. Meanwhile, the bus driver has been charged with failing to maintain lane control.
Public school students across the state return to classes Monday, including about 144,000 in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. And as the new year begins, a new nonprofit group in Davidson is trying to erase the digital divide – the gap between technology haves and have-nots. Our news partner DavidsonNews.net reports that E-2-D – for End the Digital Divide – is working with Davidson’s Ada Jenkins Center and Davidson College to deliver free computers and training to public school families who need them. The project started when 13-year-old Franny Millen, a Bailey Middle School student, realized some of her classmates didn’t have computers at home – and she decided to do something about it. This weekend, student volunteers from Davidson College delivered the first 50 laptops to elementary school students. A donation of 500 laptops from home improvement retailer Lowe’s will allow the project to help every public school family in Davidson and Cornelius who lacks a computer.
STATE WORKERS GET BIG PAYCHECKS
Salaries for some top administrative positions in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services have risen sharply with recent hires. The agency also created several new high-salary positions since Gov. Pat McCrory took office in January. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that the new information technology chief Joe Cooper is making $175,000, about $20,000 more than the technology chief for all of state government. Medicaid director Carol Steckel is making $210,000 a year, though the state's new salary plan caps pay for that job at $136,900. She is making $48,000 more than her predecessor. Agency spokesman Ricky Diaz says the new employees could make much more in private business.
EASIER TO ERASE CRIMINAL RECORDS
North Carolina is expanding the opportunity for people to erase old criminal records that make it harder to get a job. Lawmakers of both political parties agreed last year to broadly expand the opportunity for adults to erase first-time nonviolent misdemeanor crimes or low-level felony convictions. The General Assembly this year passed legislation barring an employer or school from asking an applicant to provide information about an arrest, criminal charge, or conviction that has been expunged. More than 150 lawyers statewide are volunteering their services to prepare legal documents or collect sworn statements, including dozens from Duke Energy and white-collar law firm Parker Poe. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics says more than 1.5 million of North Carolina's 9.5 million residents had a criminal record in 2010.