When Frank Griswold became the Episcopal Bishop of Chicago, before he was elected the Presiding Bishop of the Church, he used an expression I appropriated into my life. He talked about “Exceeding the generosity of the call.” It was directed towards people who come to feel they ‘own’ something at church and won’t let go. I think of this saying when I have been too busy for my own good. Stepheny, you have exceeded the generosity of the call again! We have long time city council members who think they own Rocky Mount and have definitely ‘exceeded the call.’ having created a ‘mell of a hess.’
It is an applicable saying when applied to members of the city council. Especially after the unbelievable behavior and rhetoric at the Council meeting on June 22, 2020. I listened in for a few minutes but couldn’t take it. This was early on in the meeting. The unbelievable stuff happened during the public part of the session when people got up and had at it. I waited for Randy Adcox’s summation. I wish every citizen could read his report. It is a long piece for the blog, but it is guaranteed to wind you up, followed by banging your head against the wall. I will save you some trouble, however. I used all my best swear words after reading Randy’s summation. It didn’t change a thing, so don’t bother with that reaction to this meeting. I hope you will appropriate Bishop Griswold’s saying when one of your busy days feels like you have exceed the generosity of the call.
RANDY”S SUMMARY: Greetings friends and welcome to another episode of the Rocky Mount City Council Roundup! If you couldn’t make it out to attend today’s council meeting, don’t worry; I was there, and I witnessed the entire Trainwreck; uh… Sorry…I meant meeting. 😉
So after a bit of a delay, Mayor Roberson dropped his gavel at 4:05, and then asked for a moment of silence so those with varying religious beliefs could pray in their own manner. The roll was then called, followed by the approval of the minutes from the June 8th “regular” council meeting, and then approval of the “Committee of the Whole” meeting from the same date.
Item 6 today was the city manager’s “Community Update” segment, and Mrs. Small-Toney used her time to thank the city’s fire and police departments for their efforts in rescuing 92 citizens and 4 pets during the recent flooding across the city. She also acknowledged assistant city manager Elton Daniels and his recent selection as secretary/treasurer of the state’s city manager’s organization. Sadly, she also announced the cancellation of the city’s annual July 3rd fireworks celebration, as well as the public gatherings scheduled at some of the city’s outdoor venues, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Item 7 was the presentation of a plaque proclaiming the month of July as Parks and Recreation Month.
Item 8 was the “public speaking” segment of the meeting, and frankly, it was during this part of the meeting that I was tempted to get up and leave. Though I’m hesitant to even repeat some of the comments made during this portion of the meeting, I feel like there were some things said that NEED to be heard by EVERYONE in this city – in spite of their threatening and disgusting message. Truthfully, I’m just sorry my “audience” isn’t bigger (feel free to share this post. In fact, I’d ask that you PLEASE share it with everyone you come into contact with over the upcoming days and weeks; it’s THAT important!)
So, Mr. Tom Harris led off today’s speaking segment, and he used his time to inquire about the methodology the city uses in determining how utility bills are “written off”, an obvious reference to council member Andre Knight who has had (so far anyway) more than $47,000.00 in utility bills written off. Mr Harris also inquired about the status of the Local Government Commission’s (LGC) ruling on the downtown hotel and parking deck project, and further pointed out that the hotel/motel industry has suffered a significant financial downturn during the current Covid-19 pandemic. He also questioned the wisdom of moving forward with such a project in light of the current financial uncertainty.
Mrs. Morie Minges spoke next and pleaded with the council to respond to the citizens’ questions and concerns brought up during these meetings.
Nehimiah Smith spoke next and issued a not-so-subtle threat to any business in this city who doesn’t “respect the black citizenry”. Mr. Smith has apparently become the defacto spokesperson for the entire black population in Rocky Mount, and he repeatedly stated that “we will shut you down”. It’s hard to see how Mr. Smith’s bellicose and incendirary comments could possibly help to alleviate the racial disharmony he frequently *claims* to be trying to heal, but nonetheless, every business in this city has now been put on alert that *HE* will “shut you down” if you fail to live up to *his* expectations!
Curmilus Dancy spoke next and his message was also an “in your face”, defiant, and frankly, non-constructive diatribe about how everyone who doesn’t agree with *him*, should simply go away or “sit down and shut up”. In other words, unless you’re willing to agree – unconditionally – with Mr. Dancy, you shouldn’t be allowed to voice your opinion regarding this city council as a whole, but *especially* the black members of the council. It was in a word, “typical” commentary from the self- professed “political agitator”. And again, it was hard to discern how such comments could possibly help bridge the racial divide he and others claim to want to resolve.
Council member Reuben Blackwell’s son “Cooper” Blackwell spoke next, and dropped what some might call a “bombshell”. According to young Mr. Cooper, this city council has “met the demands” of he and his “Black Action Committee” members regarding the Confederate monument, and that “the revolution has begun!”.
Former mayoral candidate Bronson Williams spoke next, and used his time to pontificate on the status of Rocky Mount, and specifically how the city is moving forward in spite of perceived hindrances from certain (presumably white?) citizens.
There would be additional “fiery” commentary later in the meeting, but I for one was glad to see THIS segment of the meeting come to an end!
Item 9 saw the approval of several ordinance changes involving the FY 2020/2021 budget, including over five and half million dollars to the Tar River Transit operations. In addition there were more than a million dollars in Community Development grants approved.
Item 10 was a “Public Hearing” that was *supposed* to be about a proposed FY 2020/2021 Annual Action Plan for the city, and the “Down East HOME Consortium, which is a requirement for eligibility for HOME partnership Investment funds, and CDBG Entitlement allocation. The segment started off with the director of the local United Community Ministries, pleading with the council to reconsider, after they had apparently turned down more than $30,000.00 in requested assistance from the city. Things quickly got sidetracked however, when several speakers rose to address the council. Dr. Lisa Nelson-Roberson addressed the council and stated that she was there representing a group who wanted to see the city take advantage of the current racial focus throughout the country, and use this as justification to establish a “Black Business Matters” zone in downtown Rocky Mount, and for the city to help finance training and incentives to assist black owned businesses downtown. She referenced the “Ratio Plan”, a report the city paid more than $40,000 for several years ago, and stated that this was proof of monies earmarked for development in Edgecombe County, being diverted to Nash County (to be clear, the city council has never moved forward with the recommendations of this Ratio Plan, and in fact, council member Lige Daughtridge has repeatedly asked the council why they haven’t moved to implement some of those recommendations!).
In addition to Dr. Nelson-Roberson, local developer Troy Davis next addressed the council and complained that Mayor Roberson had recently commented that the city needed to find a “real” contractor to work on some of the proposed projects, a comment Davis seemed to believe was aimed at him and his business. He next launched into a tirade about the Confederate monument, almost shouting that the monument needs to come down – “right now!”.
Items 11,12 and 13 all saw the approval of several additional budget ordinances, ranging from waste water transfer stations, to the city’s “self insurance” policy, to finally, an ordinance to provide more than $250,000.00 to cover expected losses for the Event
Center during Covid-19.
Item 14 saw the approval of the Down East Home Consortium agreement between the city and nearby communities. The consortium was started back in 1995, and was created to assist small municipalities with acquiring government funding to assist with low income housing. Current members of the consortium include Spring Hope, Pinetops, Whitaker’s, Edgecombe County, Sharpsburg, Princeville, Middlesex and Conetoe. Nash County recently decided not to renew their membership in the Consortium, due to concerns that there wasn’t enough “Nash County” projects being considered.
Item 15 saw the approval of several aspects of the “Urgent Repair Program Procurement and Disbursement Policy, which prompted council member Knight to inquire as to whether or not these were “minority” contractors. After the city manager assured councilman Knight that there were indeed minority contractors among those in the program, the motion was passed unanimously. (There was no breakdown given as to the number of minority owned, as opposed to *non* minority owned contractors among those listed in the program, but apparently there was enough minority owned contractors to satisfy the Councilman.)
Item 16 saw the award of their badge and side arm to retiring police officers Sargent Leslie Harrell after 30 years of service, and Senior Officer Teresa Lassiter after 14.5 years of service.
Item 17 saw the approval of a water assessment contract with a residence at 1125 Freer Street.
Item 18 acknowledged the receipt of a petition for the city to annex parts of Vestal Road.
Item 19 approved the agreement between the city and Duke Progress Energy, to provide faster response times in the event of power outages.
Item 20 saw the adoption of a resolution declaring certain city property as surplus, and authorized it’s disposal via electronic auction at Govdeals, Inc.
Item 21 saw the appointment of two individuals to various commissions and boards.
Item 22 saw Councilman Reuben Blackwell call for a new city ordinance requiring the wearing of masks by anyone out in public within the city limits. City attorney Jep Rose commented that the proposal would first have to be put in writing before it could become a new city ordinance. (Look for this new ordinance to be approved at the next council meeting).
Item 23 saw council member Andre Knight call for the city to enact the “Black Business Matters” initiative requested earlier in the evening by Dr. Nelson- Roberson. Details of the initiative have yet to be ironed out, but supposedly this program will provide funding and technical support for not only the “Black Business Matters” program, but also Cooper Blackwell’s group, the “Black Action Committee”. Note the emphasis here is on *black owned* businesses, and young Blackwell’s “Black Action Committee”. There’s no denying the intent here is for this city government to encourage, facilitate and yes, *finance* black initiatives and black *owned* businesses, including expanding the current “black business district” (aka “the Douglas Block”), to include several other blocks and properties in downtown Rocky Mount. One can only hope that this initiative will help *everyone* in the city, though it’s obviously intended to *FIRST* help black business owners and black interest groups.
On a side note, it should be pointed out that during this Covid-19 pandemic, the city has put in place a moratorium on “utilities disconnects for non-payment” indefinitely. This has resulted in more than $2 million in lost revenues for the city so far, most of which will *never* be collected. With the uncertainty regarding Covid-19, and the overall lack of commerce in this part of the state, one has to ask the obvious question; ” Is THIS the time for the city to be handing out money in an attempt to jump start small businesses?”. Apparently some of your council members think so!
Well friends, that’s your city council Roundup for Monday June 22th, 2020. Thanks for tuning in and enjoy the remainder of your week.