The length of this blog is longer than usual. I suggest you read the links from past posts over several sittings. Cards on the Table is about Rocky Mount’s commitment to The Main Street Program. I’d like my enthusiasm, point of view and information included in this post to influence those currently discussing the matter for which I am thankful. – Stepheny
I have been writing about the Main Street Program on this Blog for sometime. Bill West recently wrote a Telegram article about the ***CCRP meeting where they discussed Rocky Mount’s status with The Main Street Program: how to put things right in order to regain accreditation. Let me start by saying, if left in the same hands of those who have deliberately side-stepped the program, make excuses, or do the bidding of others, what do you expect to change?
There Is A Difference: From another past blog post: When I read the erroneous remarks from the City Council meeting that keep declaring there is no difference between Main Street Accreditation and Affiliation status, I repeat, there is a difference, dagnabbit! An Affiliate status has resources that help new communities get started with this successful program, BUT, Accreditation comes along later when you submit the yearly paperwork proving that you are following and achieving the Programs guidelines. If that is accomplished and you are given accreditation you become eligible for grants that affiliates cannot participate in. No accreditation, no money. Part of the guidelines call for accountability, record keeping, proof of accomplishments. The usual suspects on City Council are having none of that. Please read more, click on: https://mainstreetrockymount.com/2020/07/16/our-future-with-the-main-street-program-is-in-the-hands-of-the-my-will-be-done-councilmen/
Bill West writes, The Main Street program nationwide seeks to help transform older and historic commercial districts into vibrant areas with thriving economies. Rocky Mount’s lost its accreditation status after 2017 and remains a lesser-tiered affiliate. In the vicinity of Rocky Mount, there are accredited Main Street programs in Wilson, Tarboro, Roanoke Rapids and Goldsboro.
Since I was named a Main Street Champion in 2017, (Click on: https://vimeo.com/208376394) I have visited the accredited towns of Elizabeth City, New Bern, Goldsboro, and Tarboro. Seeing the results of the Main Street program in these places, I am 100% on board. We have John Jesso, former Downtown Manager, to thank for Rocky Mount’s initial involvement and subsequent accreditation.
The CCRP meeting Bill West reports on in his article, highlights the discussion of Rocky Mount becoming eligible for grants and other benefits by adhering to the steps that are required for accreditation. Suggesting that Covid was a factor in letting our accreditation lapse is an excuse to cover the real issues that are at stake. Rocky Mount lost its accreditation before January 29, 2020 when The White House announced the formation of a new task force to help monitor and contain the spread of the virus.
Here are some playing cards down and dirty. Nothing personal, but unless the responsibility for The Main Street Program is separated from Kevin Harris and his two new assistants in Downtown Development, forget it. I LOVE this office being moved to Main Street. That’s where it should be. However, there must be some measurement at the end of year-one to prove Kevin and group are the right fit and have assisted and succeeded in marketing the Main Street area, its commercial properties are being sold, preserved, restored and repurposed. That’s their job, A BIG one that needs complete focus through marketing, smoozing, entertaining, being present to the stakeholders already here.
The Main Street Program is predicated on responsible and willing citizens forming the backbone of leadership. It only took a few people in City government to sabotage our accreditation, drop the ball, hire people who will do what they are told, or run off good people. Take your pick.
The discussion at the CCRP meeting turned to the leadership needed to put The Main Street Program back in play. David Farris, who serves on the panel of CCRP as President of the the Chamber, suggested approaching Tierra Norwood on a formal basis. Farris said of Norwood, “She’d be the best thing, I think at this point, that could happen to the Main Street program.”
Tierra Norwood! NOW WE’RE TALKING! But you can forget Tierra or any one else until the usual suspects stop interfering and allow people to do the job they are hired to do. David Wise came to Rocky Mount from a highly successful Iowa Main Street program. He was energetic, enthusiastic, with an idea a minute based on his past experience. David began to initiate what he was hired to do. He was soon told he must pass everything through the ‘council’. Reasons were found and he was gone. The issues of accountability and record keeping to maintain accreditation is a bridge too far the ‘My Will Be Done’ agenda.
The coordinator, please Lord, Tierra Norwood, and a team, can not be interfered with but allowed to fulfill the requirements that the Main Street Program requires.
Bill West reports that Norwood said she would love to assist having worked for the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center. Norwood also emphasized she found there were 94 other communities, some of them a lot smaller than Rocky Mount, that were able to secure accredited status for their respective Main Street programs and also have thriving and vibrant downtowns.“But I would love to, you know, assist to help push that agenda as far as being accredited, opening the lines of communication between the Main Street & Rural Planning Center and the City of Rocky Mount, making sure that we understand the expectations of the program — and so we could effectively plan and create strategies to reach those goals,” she said. “I think that it would be better for implementation purposes and me really being boots-on-the-ground under contract,” she said.
She also emphasized that without having a formal agreement, while she would be able to receive feedback and provide ideas, there would still not be anyone to really execute or implement those strategies. From where I sit on my Main Street bench, even if Kevin Harris has not been allowed to make the Main Street Program a priority, he and those responsible, have cost Rocky Mount dearly. The reality is that the loss of accreditation has been deliberate. There is too much over site involved.
If you doubt me, treat yourself and have an adventure to New Bern, Goldsboro, or Elizabeth City. That’s all it will take to see how impactful the implementation of the Main Street Program can be. Though the Main Street Program is listed under the Downtown Development Department, it must be separated by leadership who will do the implementation or Rocky Mount will continue to have what we got!
***The Central City Revitalization Panel (CCRP) meets to discuss improvements and preservation within the central city boundaries of the City of Rocky Mount. The CCRP is also the governing body responsible for creating and overseeing the committees necessary to implement the Downtown Rocky Mount work plan, which is ???
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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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