When the outcome of the public engagement meetings about the American Rescue Plan have finished, the input recorded, the City Council will decided how this money is spent. I want Councilman Tom Harris, the banker, business man to be on point.
I have heard nothing but worthy suggestions from the public.
• Supporting small business startups • Addressing mental health issues • Establishing a museum • Promoting Boy & Girl Scouts • Building residential & commercial inventory • Repairing dilapidated housing • Restoring crumbling houses into decent, affordable homes • Revitalizing Main Street • Building businesses from within to foster economic stability
However, this $5.2 million will not cover all the requests, cannot be all things to all men. In spite of all the worthy ideas. The total sum only used for residential and commercial inventory, will have a lasting benefit adding stability to the community.
At the Ward Four meeting, Edith Joseph, who was raised and lives in the Little Raleigh area, is concerned about the number of houses in her neighborhood that are dilapidated. She would like to see these deteriorating houses fixed. She believes this goal will provide affordable housing for our people and for those who want to move into the area. Other citizens agree with the use of American Plan Rescue funds for housing and commercial Main Street area.
At the first Citywide hearing, Adrienne Copland on the right did not speak, but Bridget Phifer, on the left, is a Nash County resident who is CEO of Living Better Life. She emphasized the lack of affordability of homes in the communities. She also said, “I believe a lot of economic stability comes from building businesses from within” and suggested that some of the rescue plan funds be directed toward helping create some sort of accelerator and perhaps help subsidize those looking to start a business. I’m in the middle and I talked about the community knowing what they need better than anyone and can prioritize those needs as captains of their own ship.
If you divide seven (Wards) into $3 million you will have equatable results. Each Ward will have $428,571 to work with. There is already a mechanism in place after the Public Engagement is over with the Neighborhood Associations, where each group has a president and appointed representatives.
At a neighborhood meeting, residents discuss their concerns, the problems everyday people encounter. I attended one of these meetings where a resident announced that “the black dog is back.” A dog menacing the neighbors, though not as significant as our border crisis, crime and inflation, was moving to me because it is the ordinariness of our lives that is sacred.
$5.2 million won’t fix every savable shotgun and bungalow or repair all the commercial buildings, but each Ward given an equal share will treat this money carefully. Different decisions are made when you give your bride and groom X amount of wedding dollars from which they will pay for things. The same will be true when the available dollars are split between 7 Wards. Using this Rescue Plan money in each Ward will contribute to safer neighborhoods, pride of place, and neighbors looking out for one another, as of old.
We cannot revitalize a community along racial lines. The inference is things are only equitable if the black community benefits. No, we all benefit if, for instance, over on Holly and Star streets some shotguns are selected. Once linked with poverty, today this significant shotgun architectural style, when saved, is perfect housing for Seniors, people working in the area, young single professionals that care for us in the hospital, or pull us from fires, or a couple getting started.
The dignity of ownership, and homes sheltering us that are safe, where memories are made, where kids can play and flourish, that is an equitable issue we want for everyone. I repeat, you can not build a community along racial lines. What is of great concern to me is the attitude expressed in Ward 2 by a black woman I was talking to on the street. We talked a little Rocky Mount politics and she said, “This is the way it has always been and will be.” She accepted this fact and suggested I should too.
This point of view has us captured. It answers my question of why, for instance, Wards One & Two have had the same council members for over 20 years. Yet they have never been held accountable for the boarded up, neglected, deteriorating housing which remain in their jurisdictions. Those who pay the price year after year living in declining neighborhoods, seem to have accepted that ‘it has always been this way.’ The party line is this has happened because things aren’t equable, and because of racism. Not because there is no money to be made when manipulating the system. Is it no wonder people have given up trying to pick up trash in the front yard, or pool their talents, helping one another. This is just how it is.
When divided equally, this particular fund isn’t a lot of money per Ward, but it can go a long way when not highjacked by someone’s personal agenda. $5.2 million will improve the living conditions for as many as the money can stretch for. The residents of each Ward, can thank the city for providing these engagement meetings, and tell their Councilman, how and where they have agreed to use it. Maybe one Ward decides to place all their chips on fixing up a youth location, or another Ward lets people put their house in a lottery , and if pulled from the hat, gets their new roof and electricity up to code. Evenly divided per Ward is a win for everyone.
“The first step to success is knowing your priorities.” Aspesh
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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