Stepheny With Things to Talk About After ‘A Mount Rushmore 4th of July’

For me, these last days have been like a roller coaster ride from long ago Riverview in Chicago. Roller coasters are not for me. I looked forward to the Mount Rushmore celebrations, hoped for and received a patriotic fix.  One of my favorite parts of the evening were the brief stories of Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Lincoln.  A few tears leaked while hearing their inspiring stories, knowing the country they helped build is under attack.  Mobs of indoctrinated people empowered by destruction and mayhem, have been left to run free and out of control.

Recharged with hope by a show of strength and determination from the program, I returned to thoughts of Main Street Rocky Mount determined to kick some sand on the beach, or holler from my Main Street Bench, pleading for a return to law and order.  I was determined to help figure out how to put our city back on a sensible path to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We  begin by examining our reality.

IF WE KEEP DOING WHAT WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE,                                                        WE WILL GET WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE

What a dilemma we are in. I am in! I have a friend who has my best interests at heart, who tells me to strive to be the Henry Kissinger of Rocky Mount, rise above the fray, stay out of politics, another words, Live on Higher Ground. I don’t want to disappoint these expectations, but, but, but…again! in the middle of a budget meeting, a vote passes ignoring the three public meetings who said “Leave the Monument Alone.” Public meetings for show and then do what you want to do anyway. Once again we got what we already have.

Manley Photographs has captured the remarkable dismantling of the monument. ‘Forever Gratitude’ for the images that tell a wordless story. I leave you with one to meditate over. What CAN we do when  “Our Nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.” Rocky Mount with beautiful, God-fearing, people, asking so little…to live a safe life where education, medical support, reasonable taxes are available. The right to love and be loved, to sit on the porch relishing a cool evening, to listen as the bird song quiets down. I think of  two teenagers having kiss on the porch swing, the voices of mothers calling their children home, Dads putting down their papers as the light fads. There is no difference among us when it comes to these things. In our minds, kneeling now on a level piece of ground with cement crushed to powder, it is a blank slate. In your spheres of influence, won’t you reason together how we can stop doing what keeps getting us the same results.


Taking the Lead From the Movie – Dave – City Government Leadership Doing The Right Thing – Part 1


Dave is a 1993 film about an affable temp agency owner with an uncanny resemblance to the U.S. President. To avoid a potentially explosive scandal when the President goes into a coma, Dave is put in his place. This scene is a wonderful moment when Dave acts upon his determination to no longer be managed, told what to do by threat or intimidation but to do the right thing. Here is a quote from the movie that suits our purposes:

I forgot that I was hired to do a job for you and that it was just a temp job at that. I forgot that I had two hundred and fifty million people who were paying me to make their lives a little better and I didn’t live up to my part of the bargain. See, there are certain things you should expect from a President. I ought to care more about you than I do about me… I ought to care more about what’s right than I do about what’s popular. I ought to be willing to give this whole thing up for something I believe in.
Dave Kovic

Watching this movie clip is like the taxpayers of Rocky Mount watching the Budget Meetings live, or imagining our City Council and appropriate city employees,  gathered together in a room making decisions for the welfare of the community. Not everyone is expected to be brilliant in all matters, but we expect everyone to keep up with the current research into urban planning/revitalization in communities like ours.  Research that show what works or hasn’t. What should be funded and defunded. It is no longer tolerable that this kind of information is ignored in favor of a elected few who make decisions for private gain.

Since city employees are not to approach councilmen unless summoned, their expertise is basically ignored as well.  The perception is that employees have to acquiesces or lose their jobs. Indeed, many have been run off for daring to question how things are done. Today we know a lot more about how this has happened and why. We know who is gaining at the expense of others. WE THE CITIZENS must continue to declare  “enough!” We have only ourselves to blame if we don’t figure out how to come together and put a stop to these few who govern at the cost of many. The taxpayers are being held hostage in this power struggle between right and wrong.  (Don’t lose sight of the fact that Mr. Rose works for the City Council not for us.)  My question: Should we hire a knight in shining armor to gallop onto the field baring a banner that says – The End of Shenanigans?  I don’t know. What I do know is a good man like DAVE, who took a stand for doing the right thing, in reality is us.

The Time Has Come To Talk Of Many Things – Cabbages and Kings

“If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.”
― Martin Luther

There was a point in my marriage when I pondered the   philosophical question: If you don’t want to do something, does that mean I can’t? That is until one day it occurred to me to write down what these somethings were that I thought I couldn’t do. It turned out that most of the list didn’t require Bob in any way, like wanting to be more intentional about my writing.  

I tell you this story because here in Rocky Mount there is a certain amount of, “does this mean we can’t,” going on. We have let the bad guys consume our energy and ire. We have become the animals in the zoo looking out at self-serving councilmen, mismanagement, job turn over in city government, a Human Relations Committee that is like a bad joke, of name-calling, the outcry of racism when certain people are put under a spotlight, asked questions or criticized. We wind up with an attitude that things will never change, there is no point voting, etc. But things are changing in spite of these bad actors. Voting gets rid of self-serving councilman one by one. Do they make things difficult, of course, but the revitalization of Rocky Mount continues as more people are moving here, great companies are bringing jobs and energy. These wonderful investors and new business start-ups are our somethings that have a will of their own, persisting, believing, and are the future of Rocky Mount in our midst now. The question: If you don’t want to, does that mean I can’t, can mean in our personal lives now and then,  no we can’t. In the case of Rocky Mount, in spite of any obstacles, we are moving forward and the answer is we can, and we will. Attitude, attitude, attidude, it does make a difference,

Join me on my Main Street bench.                                 The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.’                                             (Lewis Carroll)

I invite you to follow this blog and check out the new Facebook page by the same name: Click here -Main Street Rocky Mount. Like and Follow that too.  Thanks.

Free Political Consulting – From a Main Street Bench – Stepheny Is In


“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
 Buckminster Fuller




You’ll pardon the use of a political slogan that is a cliche when I say,  It’s Time for a Change. As the candidates for City Council and Mayor declare themselves, I already think of them as ‘Change Candidates.’ Campaign Slogans that are successful are the ones we don’t have to think deeply about but intuitively know are right. It IS time for a change of leadership on the City Council, along with a new energetic, experienced, independent, business-oriented Mayor.

The following are  ‘Change Candidates’ to believe in. –  Sandy Roberson, Kevin Jones, Lige Daughtridge, Richard Joyner, and Tarrick Pittman. It would be a mistake to think of Mr. Pittman as simply the man running against the current city councilmen and ignore his positive agenda for Ward I.  The rest of the candidates are not emboldened to run because of the investigations underway, but because they have the will, the experience, and knowledge to govern with Rocky Mount’s best interests in mind. Buckminster Fuller’s quote talks about building a new model and these ‘Change Candidates’ will provide new leadership, focused on the economic growth of Rocky Mount. All these candidates are running for something!

One more free consultant suggestion – that we treat these ‘Change Candidates’ as a slate. I have a friend who had direct experience in Chicago with a group of women who ran for various seats yet coordinated their messages, PR, interns, volunteers, printing, and speaking engagements. The end result – a consolidated message, individual and group print that furthered their collective campaigns. The voter turn-out was one of the highest in the history of the city! There is another plus to the slate approach — if I could give one donation to support this slate, it falls under a tenant of mine….alone I can do so little, but together we can do so much.

Regardless of the political slogan each candidate picks, let’s make it our job to help however we can to get them elected. We all understand why this needs to happen. Let’s stay on the sunny side of the street and as a mentor of mine councils, Stay above the fray!       PS: I am waving my usual nickel consultant fee to all Main Street readers.


“Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.”
― Margaret Mead

The Rocky Mount Telegram – The Unfolding Story – Leads Us To A New Beginning

Today’s blog post is dedicated to my tutorial professor who reminds me from time to time that my job as a writer is to set us on higher ground. This admonishment caused me to think beyond the current crisis of allegations, where we are all focused, to what comes next once the future of our city government is determined. This will be a new beginning.

The two quotations from the professor’s private papers, Naval Wisdom, have been selected because of their relevance to the Telegram’s well-written serial story  making news.

“If you can not explain it here and now, in the dark of the mid-watch,
how will you ever explain it later at the long, green table?”

The Rocky Mount Telegram has been writing a kind of mystery story that has people staying up late at night in order to read the next chapter as soon as it is available. I think of this story as a book found shelved in the business section with chapters devoted to management, in this case, mismanagement, incompetence, and cronyism. The ‘book’ has become an instant best seller in the genre of political intrigue. There is a lead detective, Lindell John Kay who has uncovered serious allegations of mismanagement. He is a methodical man who prides himself on building his case carefully, looking into records, acquiring evidence, and taking interviews with those who are or have been working in city government or are small businesses owners who can substantiate the allegations that are coming to light. 
As the plot unfolds, Detective Kay continues to apprise the citizens of Rocky Mount, where the story is set, of further revelations. Opinions are being formed as to who else may be responsible, either because of their complicity or because they have gained from the graft and corruption under suspicion. There is an attempt to turn the spotlight from obvious mismanagement to a knee jerk fall back position: this is merely a black and white issue, (racial) which explains away any responsibility to make this right. The flip side of the coin is that this story is about right and wrong. It is about actions, process and good governance that is under scrutiny.

Ever collision at sea and ship grounding is the result of multiple
failures by many individuals, and had its origins long before, in
failures of training and management, only coming to the sad current
result through process failure, including inept leadership, exhibited by
the failure to apply prior lessons learned by others through painful
experience, via a disciplined, continuous application, supported by
repeated, constant re-enforcement, in pursuit of excellence, all the
time, in every evolution.

The naval findings in this quotation are applicable to our collision, the result of multiple failures by many people that have had their origins before this unfolding story came to light. The Navy found inept leadership and a failure to pursue excellence in every situation. Those who will be attending the City Council meeting scheduled this afternoon will represent many others who ask for a simple outcome: a fair game played on a level playing field for all. We all expect the right thing to be done in order to let us get on with the game of revitalization, the saving of our Main Street, and further reason for economic investment. A new beginning starts with a political solution to the problems that reside in City Management. After a  financial audit as well as a management audit, we will have new procedures and a new resolve to say every day,  “Yes!” to Rocky Mount.”







The Rocky Mount Telegram – Making a Mess at Rush Hour!

Having a day on my own in London, I spent part of it on Charing Cross Road in and out of the bookstores that were still open in those years. I was collecting Beverley Nichols on that jaunt and imagining that at any moment I would see Anthony Hopkins coming towards me straight from one of my favorite movies, 84 Charing Cross Road. Headed to the tube with a few wrapped books, I felt a restraining hand on my elbow. I had started to step off the curb forgetting which direction the traffic was moving.  It was a stranger holding my arm. He said, “Don’t do that luv, it makes such a mess at rush hour.” I have never forgotten his kindness or the wonderful humor of this moment.  I think it is safe to say that the Rocky Mount Telegram has made quite a mess at rush hour!

As part of this same trip, Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car chase by the paparazzi. I’d read enough English mysteries by then to have no doubt that the government was involved. Riding the tube later that same day not a word was spoken. Everyone had their heads buried in the newspapers. I was reminded of this experience when the Rocky Mount Telegram’s staff writer, Lindell John Kay began the expose on the City Manager and Landis Faulcon, Director of Community & Business Development — and anyone else that deserves this scrutiny.  Of course, here in Rocky Mount, everyone is talking! Phone calls, e-mails, clandestine meetings, Facebook posts,  conversations over lunch, dinner, or standing in the driveway. There are people worrying about how deep this investigation will go, some sorry they backed the wrong horse and those of us who are hopeful and ecstatic that at last the truth is being told. Later today many of us will be headed to City Hall to make our presence known while the Committee of the Whole meets behind closed doors.

I grew up reading The Chicago Tribune and thought I was headed to college to become a journalism major. I resent the state of journalism today. I canceled my Telegram subscription as a point of honor. But wait, a reporter actually investigating! Checking records, laying out a fact-based case step by step. Can you believe it? An investigation long overdue about things known, suspected,  rumored, but usually stifled one way or another. I need to subscribe again in thanksgiving for Lindell John Kay and the revelations that are being spelled out, no holds barred.

When the taillights of at least two cars head out of Rocky Mount,  let us hope and pray that the damage left behind continues to be investigated. Surely this must include the City Council who hired the City Manager in the first place. There is quite a mess to clean up. Now is our chance thanks to The Telegram who have dared to name those who must not be named and expose what I call the shenanigans of City Government.



Main Street Is In Need of a Jewish Grandmother

For years my daughter, Claire, and I have enjoyed a little in-house ‘Jewish Mother’ humor, a response when she tells me that she is headed off on an adventure lasting a few days, be it work or fun. I have been known to respond in my best ‘Jewish Mother’ voice…..”Go, I don’t want you should worry about me, here, all by myself.” When a conversation like this took place the other day, it got me thinking……

What Main Street Rocky Mount needs is a real Jewish Grandmother who can worry about six things at a time, and more than that, give us the benefit of her wisdom. If only grandmother, LaVerta, were still alive and available to us. I am coming to know this particular Jewish grandmother through the loving stories told by her grandson who is a dear friend of mine. I imagine her as a cross between Auntie Mame and a wisdom figure with ties to the Desert Fathers. LaVerta exposed her grandson to some of the finer things in life instilling in him an appreciation for couture clothes and a good martini and everything in-between. She encouraged this bright and articulate boy, who grew up with a passion for many things, to have the courage of his convictions.

Once she told her grandson when he was involved in a controversial political campaign, “Roddy sometimes you just have to put your stake in the ground.” Which brings me to the point of my musings today. I think we must embrace LaVerta’s admonition and be willing to put our stakes in the ground when it comes to saving Main Street.

It’s complicated when one is raised with southern sensibilities. The thought process goes like this – If I speak up, I could offend friends or business associates, all the interrelated connections like — my grandmother dated your grandfather back in college or our families who went to the beach together every summer; a myriad of concerns that give one pause before deciding whether to get involved or not. This is why I think Main Street needs a Jewish grandmother. Besides loving and worrying over us, she would admonish us to have the courage of our convictions; telling us, “Sometimes you just have to put your stake in the ground before it’s too late, and that time is now.”

Watercolor credits:

Picture #1 -Small Town Illinois by Timothy Arties, Picture #2 -Alex S. Kosich, Jr. AIA Architectural Renderings, Design Consultant,  Picture #3 Rosie Philips Fine Art

Company is Coming! Thoughts About The City Council and Our Downtown

   “You cannot score a goal when you are sitting on the bench. To do so,                                  you have to dress up and enter the game.”

I would never want the positive attitude of this blog to change.  I am, after all, a Pollyanna at heart: everything is beautiful, in its own way. But this quotation has caught my attention and I have taken it seriously. Though this post may be viewed as controversial, I hope you agree that we can talk about problems from time to time. Let’s begin by acknowledging that everyone who grew up in and around Rocky Mount has a story to tell about their memories of going downtown with Grandma to pick up her prescriptions, or buying ‘back to school clothes’ at Belks or having a soda at the drugstore. That was then.

I have thought about Main Street and the Event Center like a brand new sparkling red barn sitting adjacent to a faded, neglected farmhouse. Something seems bass-ackward about this scene in spite of the barns usefulness and addition to the community. With the opening of the barn doors, we have company coming to town. Looking at Main Street through the eyes of these strangers, I say, “Lordy, Lordy, what are they going to think of us with so many of our downtown commercial buildings looking awful? We have SO MUCH to be proud of, but will our guests see the beautifully restored Train Station, Bus Station, Imperial Center, the Douglas Block, and Streetscape or understand the investment and creativity that is at work at The Mill, and in our new downtown businesses? Or, will they take home the picture of Main Street with many peeling facades, boarded up, with broken glass and vegetation growing out of cracks in the bricks?

We like to blame others for the neglected farmhouse, but the truth is, it’s all of our faults put together! We have allowed our leadership to remain in place year after year who won’t enforce codes or make policies, to keep our beautiful commercial buildings and historic neighborhoods from further deterioration.  We seem so hesitant to demand what as taxpayers we should expect. It reminds me of Harry Potter and The One Who Shall Not Be Named syndrome.

Often our efforts with the City Council, when criticized or questioned, get derailed by derogatory name-calling: telling someone they are a racist seems to work well. This appears to be the fallback accusation when the state of things are brought to the attention of the Council who can offer no justification for why Main Street languishes. I would say the word  ‘ticked’ comes to mind when we learned that the taxpayers have just paid thousands of dollars to send newly hired people off for training. We look at each other and ask, “Why are we not hiring people in the first place that come to us with the appropriate educational background and laudable credentials that make them ready to ‘have at it’ on day one?” What leadership, with our best interests in mind, keeps spending thousands of dollars on parades rather than using that money to start stabilizing facades along Main Street or fix a block of houses in terrible disrepair? We don’t need more low-income housing, we need to clean up and save what we have and turn neglected homes into neighborhoods to be proud of again.

We don’t expect or want city government to fix everything, but we need leadership to care more for the city than a tightly guarded power base, we the taxpayers, are continually having to quarrel with. It is not fair to suggest, and I’m not, that nothing good has been accomplished, but honestly, folks, since no one is irreplaceable, term limits should be put on the ballot. After all, if something like a 3 term limit of say 2 years each isn’t enough time to accomplish the job,  you get what we’ve got.


I would love to read your comments left below.