The Rocky Mount Bill of Rights Versus A $18 million Parking Garage

I have only a few pages left in Charles Krauthammer’s book, The Point Of It All. He has been gone a year now and is sorely missed. A syndicated columnist, political commentator, physician, he wrote columns in the Washington Post for 33 years. This book is a second collection about everything from baseball to chess, policy, the space program, the state of many things. A brilliant man whose writing, use of language, and clarity are as fine as any class you could possibly take on the subject of writing.

While reading my way along, I’ve been aware of many voices talking in the background as if a radio has been left on in another room. These voices are in deep conversation, some frustrated or discouraged, some saying nothing can be done, but many bent on hitting the pause button until the investigations into the wrongdoings of city government can be concluded. I know you have been hearing these voices too! The opening lines in the Lindell Kay Telegram article (Friday, July 5, 2019) sum up what these conversations are about.

“What started out as a simple non-binding letter of intent presented six months ago during a hectic Rocky Mount City Council meeting is poised to become an $18 million downtown parking deck.”                                                  Click here: READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

Enter Charles Krauthammer – paraphrased – a few words from an address at  Hillsdale College celebrating Constitution Day. (page 268-269)

The essence of constitutional power — the separation of powers and the inherent rivalry among the branches would check the ambitions of any potential tyrants. The skeptics, however,  insisted on the Bill of Rights, not trusting that the enumeration of powers would be enough to actually prevent tyrannical rule. The Bill of Rights ensured that each citizen would explicitly be given a sphere of inviolability in the form of rights against the government–inside of which the citizen remains sovereign and free.  

My sense is that the crux of all these conversations taking place, regardless of how well stated they are, is that the proposal for a hotel leaves us feeling that we have no rights in the matter. City Council meetings are held, a sham of a public hearing takes place, but the vote has already happened. It is maddening.

Here is what Lige Daughtridge had to say the other day: “There are alternative uses for $18 million that could benefit downtown and the city far more,” said council candidate Lige Daughtridge, who has been a vocal critic of the hotel and parking deck proposal. “$10.5 million could solve the downtown drainage issue; we could speed up the installation of sidewalks and road repairs throughout the city. If the developer is serious in his belief of the success of the hotel, there are far less expensive ways for the city to incentivize the project, such as providing 140 surface spaces instead of a parking deck, or property tax rebates.”  So you see the conversation is not all nasty or thoughtless. There are those trying to protect the RIGHTS of Rocky Mount citizens when it comes to a project like this. A project we are told will happen, whether we like it or not, rather than what is prudent and a part of a master plan. No wonder we feel our Rocky Mount Bill of Rights are being treated as a no never mind!

Be Sure To Scroll Down to See Comments.

Come to the City Council meeting on Monday, July 8th at 7:00. Come early and if you are going to speak, try your best to be clear, reasoned, stating your objections and WHY. I’ll be there cheering you on.

About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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13 Responses to The Rocky Mount Bill of Rights Versus A $18 million Parking Garage

  1. Craig Rich says:

    I have had a very strong attachment to Rocky Mount for many years. I attended NC Wesleyan in the sixties and felt the downtown area was ruined when Tarrytown Mall opened. Now I see a ghost complex and an opportunity for the downtown area to be reborn. A couple of years ago a “progressive” City Manager was hired in my present home of Aiken SC. Aiken’s downtown area had suffered with the opening of a large shopping mall and we had a large number of closed businesses and empty storefronts. Thankfully, we organized a Downtown Development Association that help reverse this trend. Now enter the city manager who with the help of some council members and a hotelier decided the city Needed a new larger hotel and large parking deck. Existing businesses were closed by immenet domain to gain the property needed. Needless to say all this was accomplished very quietly until it became known to the citizens of Aiken. With enough input and productive meetings the idea was squashed and the city manager was sent packing. I might add that his cronies on council gave him a severance package that would have solved a lot of city debt. This idea in Rocky Mount seems almost like deja Vu (all over again). The citizens of Rocky Mount can save the city and make it into the jewel I remember. But it takes the city and it’s people United. We elect leaders to give us the best for us not the best for them and the “good ol’ boys club”.

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    • Thank you, Craig, for taking a moment to leave this comment. It bolsters me to know that other small communities have experienced and transcended the same kind of problems. We have an October election with interest in running for Mayor and Council seats. This will help because there is a no-confidence attitude surrounding the leadership. I have ties to Aiken–my in-laws are buried in the Episcopal Churchyard. I have happy memories of visiting there. Keep your eye on Rocky Mount and keep cheering us on.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Well written positive thoughts and I appreciate all of your efforts to stop this nonsense.

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    • What seems reasonable to me is to take no action until those under investigation, who are making these decisions for us and have lost the public trust, are cleared. Thank you for your comment. Glad you are keeping me company on Main Street.

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  3. Randy Adcox says:

    Always enjoy your commentary Stepheny!
    Another great piece of “common sense”.

    Like

  4. Rodd says:

    As many people know the “build it and they will come” approach is NOT a good business model. Numerous hotels, malls, strip shopping centers and big box stores sit empty and decaying surrounded by condos and cluster housing now in disrepair, for sale and empty; a reminder that this business model fails.

    I recall during my studies in graduate school many wise professors lectured, and provided strong evidence, that this mentality of everything but the kitchen sink planning WILL NOT WORK. It is neither wise or financially viable to mix all the elements of private and public funding with fanciful and delusional dreams of hotels, a smattering of cluster housing, condos, parking facilities, shops and restaurants and expect it to save decaying urban centers. Further, it is WIDELY believed that the urban renewal period from which this business model grew—was a complete and utter failure.

    Let’s explore why.

    Mixed use planning is a delicate balance of design. It only works well with harmonized ingredients–for instance, a shopping area with a park and small restaurants linked by the common goal of user friendliness and matched services such as shopping, resting, watching the kids play in a small green space and off to grab a lunch, some more shopping and then home. A nice day.

    What doesn’t work is a neighborhood concept of cluster housing and mixed income apartments dissected by a hotel, parking structure, a large event center, more parking, blighted areas within view, a busy railroad and abandoned and structurally unsound buildings. Not a nice day! Too many obstacles, no harmony and little hope of economic revitalization necessary to grow businesses and housing that would be blended—creating harmony.

    It seems far wiser to redirect the millions of dollars that will be wasted on a hotel and parking structures. This large amount of money would restore the shops along Main Street, spur interest in reinvestment in downtown businesses, create a loan fund for incubating businesses, etc. This in turn would entice people to restore the housing, move back downtown, walk to the businesses, sit in the parks, watch the trains and dine out. There is a simplicity and harmony in all of this. A connection. A blending of purpose.

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    • I am beyond grateful to you for leaving this smart and articulate comment, which I know is based on your expertise in this area, your vast personal experience in Preservation and Restoration. How wonderful to have your voice in this matter. Thank you. I have shared your thoughts on other social media.

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  5. Tom Betts says:

    So well written, such common sense.

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  6. AK2NC says:

    Another fantastic post, Stepheney – thank you! The citizens of Rocky Mount are so incredibly well-served and fortunate to have thoughtful, caring, well-reasoned voices such as yours and Lige Daughtridge’s, and the on-going investigative reporting by Lindell John Kay.

    Like

  7. dhoughtlin@gmail.com says:

    You go, girl! 😊

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