… it’s an irresponsible government that fails to choose priorities.
A series of public engagement hearings are under way in regards to the $5 Million from the American Rescue Plan and how it should be spent. This large sum dangled before me strongly suggests I can be a hypocrite. I fume and swear over the Biden administration as being the worst thing that has happened to America, but I want this money. I believe if prioritized, these funds will do great things for Rocky Mount, NC
At another series of public hearings, I forget for what, I stood looking down at some drawings before moving to the next station. A black gentleman was standing next to me shaking his head. He looked at me and said, “I come to all these public meetings and then they do what they want continue anyway.” He came to mind at the Citywide meeting on September 14th, but rather than accepting, “It’s always been this way” or Dr. Koo’s negativity that “It should have been more money, in the first place,” I’m over the moon about what a measly $5 Million can do. It won’t fix all the things that deserve support, but with a prioritized plan, it will be a major factor in the on-going revitalization of Rocky Mount.
I’ve never spoken at a City Council meeting and only once when the low income housing plan was being proposed at ECC. (You see how far that got me who supported low income housing but not in the location it is being built upon.) I hope for a better outcome in this endeavor.
I spoke at the meeting about prioritizing the best outcome for the long haul. If you take a moment, I will make the same pitch to you. I might have been the 5th speaker. The priorities for this money must be established. We are told that the City Council will make the final determination after these public sessions. It’s up to you what you think about that. I hope this is not just an exercise in crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s to check a box in order to receive the money.
Our reality is that 7 Councilman, four seats in this last election, make decisions for 54,330 (2020) people. Wards #2 and #3, with a small voter turnout, decide what they think best. I call it ‘the my will be done’ agenda. Maybe the answer is to determine how much each Ward will receive. Let each Ward’s slice of the pie succeed or fail on the shoulders of their Councilman. A reelection has something tangible to judge the leadership or lack of.
This kind of money could be dribbled here and there, not without merit mind you, but without a substantial impact that Rocky Mount can build on. This money can not be all things to all men! The results of the public meetings will gather a long list of needs. I want to convince you that this investment into our residential and commercial architecture is a priority. Decide how much money can be allocaded in each Ward. Let the Councilman in that Ward, along with the constituents, decide the neighborhood, or particular housing that is targeted. I know lighting is a major concern and needed downtown. Maybe that becomes #1 and a commercial building that can be saved, with architect and contractors in hand, becomes #2.
Below are two great examples of a terrible downhill spiral that has taken hold of these buildings. I offer these images, but there are plenty of choices that can be made. With rescue money that restores, repurposes, and preserves, money spent on infrastructure like lights downtown, wouldn’t that be fantastic outcome.
When the Public Engagement is finished, please, let the words to this song not be applicable to our situation.
[Verse 1] After the ball is over, after the break of morn After the dancers leaving, after the stars are gone Many a heart is aching, if you could read them all Many the hopes that have vanished, after the ball.
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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