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.


Posted in From a Bench on Main Street | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

There Are Members on the City Council Who Are Now ‘Exceeding The Generosity Of The Call’

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.’

Frank Tracy Griswold III (born September 18, 1937) is a retired American bishop. He was the 25th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

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.

Posted in City Government | Tagged , | 1 Comment

John Jesso Remains Rocky Mount’s Codega

I’m thinking of John Jesso today. I first met him when I went to his office to inquire about starting the blog, Main Street Rocky Mount.  Would I be stepping on anyone’s toes? John listened to my ideas  and without hesitation,  said, “I would love your help in highlighting  the beautiful story of Rocky Mount.” 316 published posts later, John remains my cheer leader. His friendship is precious to me. When I came across the idea of a Codega, I knew immediately that this concept applied to John; then the Downtown Development Manager of Rocky Mount.

“In Venice in the Middle Ages there was a profession for a man called a codega. – a fellow you hired to walk in front of you at night with a lit lantern, showing you the way, scaring off thieves and demons, bringing you confidence and protection throughout the dark streets.”

John remains Rocky Mount’s tireless codega. He continues to hold his lantern high, showing all who come our way the possibilities that Rocky Mount offers. He has always had great confidence in the future  of Rocky Mount. In the next chapter of his life he brings his expertise to Chambliss Rabil Commercial Reality. John and his partner Lee Mears, have in recent months effected the sale, lease or have under management in downtown alone over 165,000 square feet of space.  One of my Main Street heroes, is Troy White, with all the saving and repurposing of buildings on Main and Howard Street that he is working on. We have not met although I feel I know Troy through John Jesso.

I asked Troy for a quote I could use to illustrate John’s continual pursuit of  investors who are central to the “repairing of the breach.” Here is the lovely answer I received. It proves my point that John remains the Codega of Main Street who brings a man like Troy White to the community. Thank You, John! Thank you Troy for this comment and sweet thoughts, which I did not include but appreciate!

John and I met through a mutual friend that I was doing a favor for.  The friend asked me to assist him in looking over a building he was interested in purchasing in Rocky Mount.  We were both living in Durham and he knew John and scheduled a meeting to view the building and brought me along for my professional opinion.   We met John in front of 202 Main st.  That was where and how I was introduced to and  met John.  He and I would hit it off and he would invite me back to Rockymount to take a look at some of the other buildings in the downtown area.   I fell hard for the two sister buildings on Howard St. They were in horrible shape but I could see the potential. I would later talk to some clients of mine about 202 Howard St. and they purchased that building as well.   Since that time I have periodically come to Rockymount and my relationship with John grew stronger every trip. Now I consider him a true friend and I am overwhelmed with all of the possibilities for the future of Rockymount.   Since then, many other friends of mine have purchased property in Rockymount and plan to either develop or move to Rockymount as I do.

Well Stepheny, thats the short but complete version.  I look forward to meeting you and I want to thank you for all of  the support you have given me and my team. I look forward to meeting you soon.  You are so beautiful to me as well.  Smile.

Look For This Signage Along Main Street Area

Posted in Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings | Tagged , | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in From a Bench on Main Street | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Come Fly With Me, Let’s Fly Away – For Inspiration in Salisbury NC For A Rocky Mount Tour

1)  Take a look at this Link announcing the Salisbury Fall House Tour – CLICK HERE

178 miles · Light traffic · 2 hr 46 min

2) Mark the date on your calendar as a possible adventure to Salisbury NC.

They say it takes three years to create a lasting event. A modest beginning, a second year that builds on the purpose of the event with more attendance, a third year where people have helped with your advertising by stating, “I wouldn’t miss it!”

It isn’t that Rocky Mount is short on well established community events,  but in my current Preservation Rocky Mount board position as Advocacy Chair, I always have my bright lights on when traveling down the road of “what ifs.” This idea won’t ring everyone’s bell, but we have a contingency of preservationists, historians, and other like minded folks in the community that could come together to orchestrate an undertaking that builds on itself leading to a three or four day event that could look like this: The event begins on a Thursday with a ticketed seated luncheon featuring a NC speaker appropriate to the event.  Friday evening: a ticketed event for patrons and sponsors, home owners and esteemed guests. Saturday: the house tour and shorter hours on Sunday afternoon. With the addition of a Machaven, a Stonewall, a Mill property rotating each year, special places like these would serve as the anchor destination of the tour where refreshments and enjoying the atmosphere and history are on the menu.

We would engage the Historic Preservation Committee, PRM, appropriate representatives from the Development Services department, (Director, Will Deaton,)  to combine mutual goals as a underpinning  for the event. Each year a living member of the Twin County Hall of Fame could serve as Honorary Chairman. I think of Stacy Jesso and Jennifer Roberson, and so many others who could help create a project like this in their sleep. The restaurants can get involved offering a Preservation Burger, or salad, or drinks. With all the restoration going on downtown, that work can be highlighted. The arts community can offer an exhibit in several places highlighting  our preservations successes. Maybe a concert could be held at the Event Center on Saturday evening after the dinner hour at all our downtown restaurants? You can see how this can take on a life of its own with the goal of  highlighting Rocky Mount as a responsible partner in the NC Main Street Program along with other likely organizations that have a heart for preservation, restoration and repurposing.


Action Plan: Form a committee, promote the Salisbury Tour to get the creative juices flowing with interested people in Rocky Mount etc. etc. etc. We’ll take as many busses as necessary for the cost per person for a round trip ticket. Or spend the night, make it an occasion to treat someone you love. The only hitch is you must take in as much as you can to bring back with you in order to influence the plans. Think how great this could be with YOUR ideas and creative energy. Come on, Let’s Fly Away!


Posted in A Rocky Mount Home Tour in Our Future | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Is The Black Community Black Enough – Getting Away With Wrong Doing

In the 1960’s Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson showed up where ever racial incidents occurred. Over the years, we have countless photographs that show them standing in the front row, mourning with a mother, praying with groups who suffered another injustice. They have spent their adult lives advancing black Americans.

Sixty years later in every area of American life, blacks have succeeded in making a lasting contribution in fields of academia, and medicine, cooperate life and politics, music and athletics; they have become famous writers, lawyers, and architects. We have had a black president. There are black senators, and congressman, an attorney general, a Director of Housing; the list goes on. The military is replete with black leadership at the highest levels.

Then what explains the presence of Al Sharpton sixty years later still preaching victimization? How do we understand our black city councilmen and others in the community still blaming the past for what’s wrong with today? The monument must come down because it keeps us captured in the past. Over and over we hear this victimization manta that ends with – therefore we deserve this! The Edgecombe side of Main Street has never had a hotel – therefore we deserve one. Al Sharpton said, We don’t owe America anything – America owes us.

The rhetoric of sixty years ago no longer states the case, now does it? The notion of oppression is not a valid argument when faced with the facts that blacks have been successful across the board in American life. The power struggle comes from those who have made a living off of telling other blacks they are victims of racism. In fact, you aren’t black enough if you dare to think otherwise. You are an Uncle Tom, if you dare think for yourself and accept that past injustices have run their course. There is nary a peep about Personal responsibility that is today’s admonition.  As long as some of our black leadership can preach ‘we are owed this or that’ and are believed, those black enough will keep covering for those whose misconduct they accept because they deserve what they have taken.

I have thrown caution to the wind here with this post. You can blame it on Al Sharpton during these last days of tragedy. Today’s world in which blacks live is a far cry from those who grew up when segregation, and its injustices flourished. To equate then with now, as if nothing has changed, is a great dishonoring of those who bore the burden of change. Today a black boy can grow up to be the President of the United States. Better check out who the victimizers are today. They are the ones whose anger and resentment pour down upon us with racial accusations declaring that white people are the cause of your troubles. Are you sure?

Posted in Battle Park & the Monument, City Government | Tagged , | 21 Comments

Sharing: A Randy Adcox ‘Concerned Citizens’ Post – Removal of the Monument Vote Takes Place During A Budget Meeting

A Finely Crafted Opinion Piece By Randy Adcox –          June 3, 2020

By now many of you have probably heard about the city council voting 6-1 yesterday to move our Confederate Monument. Last night, I watched the video of the yesterday’s proceedings and frankly, I have mixed feelings about what I saw. My first thought, like many of you, was extreme sadness and disappointment. And yes, anger. The fact that this vote was taken during a *budget* meeting, as opposed to a regular, “public” city council meeting, made it seem all the more perverse. In a time when we want our government to be MORE transparent, we have our own city government making these kinds of decisions in what essentially amounted to a “closed session” to the public. It just wreaks of a LACK of transparency and bad judgement. I’ve been told a “formal”, public vote will take place at Monday’s regular scheduled council meeting, but like a LOT of decisions made by this council in the past, it’s already a “done deal”. The public has no input or “say so” in the matter, because the council has already made the decision to move it.

Aside from the “cloak and dagger” manner in which this vote was cast, I was also bothered by a couple other points that were made during the discussion phase of this vote yesterday. First, the question of the legality of moving the monument. Council member Lige Daughtridge brought up the legal aspect of who owns the land, and whether or not the monument can *legally* be moved, and stressed that he didn’t want to see the city put itself in any sort of legal “bind” by doing something that was contrary to state law. Council member Andre Knight responded to Daughtridge’s concerns by commenting that he felt like the council itself should be more concerned with doing what is *right*, as opposed to doing what is *legal* (anyone else see the obscene irony in Mr. Knight’s comments?). The fact of the matter is that it IS illegal for the city to move that monument, unless it’s moved to an area of “equal access and equal prominence”. Moving it to private property, out of public view is also against the law. Putting it in storage for “safe keeping” is against the law, too. There’s no ambiguity here about what our state law says about historical artifacts. And Andre Knight knows this, because I told him so myself in a city council meeting two years ago!

The other (and equally disturbing) comment I heard was from council member T.J. Walker, who stated that while he was opposed to violence and the destruction of private property, “his generation” was likely to tear down the monument if it’s left standing, and this was his basis for voting in favor of removing the monument from its current location. In other words, because there are some young peoole in this city who are likely to tear the monument down anyway, we should go ahead and take it down before they destroy it. Here’s a thought, why wouldn’t we instead EDUCATE our young people about history, and the reason why that monument was erected in the first place? And why wouldn’t we stress to them that anarchy and lawlessness is NOT the way a civilized society acts? I guess it’s just easier to remove anything that’s likely to cause them “emotional duress” from their view, and “protect” them from the big ol’ mean world in which we live, huh?

I also found it disturbing that this council is willing to undertake this action after they have obtained overwhelming evidence over the last couple of years, that this monument just isn’t on most people’s radar. The four public meetings held two years ago (at a cost of $40,000!) CLEARLY showed that the vast majority of people in this city are completely indifferent about that monument. Leave it alone, tear it down…MOST people in this city, black and white alike, simply don’t CARE! Why on earth do we have to spend the thousands of dollars required to move this monument, because a handful of people take offense at it being there? The answer is simply because this has been a promise made by council members Knight and Blackwell, to some of their most ardent supporters. It’s that simple. It’s certainly not because there’s been a huge public outcry to take it down.
Lastly, my biggest concern is that if this council moves forward with these plans to take this monument down and “store it for safe keeping” as council member Blackwell stated, we’ll never see it again. And to me, that would truly be a miscarriage of justice. That monument has stood for over a hundred years. It’s been a defining piece of this city’s skyline, and it’s been a memorial to our war dead since 1977 when it was rededicated to the memory of ALL of our war veterans. In spite of what some believe, that monument does indeed have “value”. And the messages inscribed on it are messages of hope and honor, not oppression and shame. Those who look upon that monument and see ugliness and hate, see those things because that’s what they CHOOSE to see. And that my friends isn’t a problem caused by that monument simply *being* there; it’s caused by a lack of understanding and a lack of knowledge. Taking that monument down won’t solve a single problem we have in this city. It won’t feed a single hungry person, nor house a single homeless person, nor help a single struggling family put food on the table.

The ONLY thing that will be accomplished by removing that monument from its rightful resting place, is that we’ll be hiding a portion of our local history from future generations. And to what benefit? What will we gain from taking down a monument that has stood all these years? The hatred that exists in the hearts of some people in this town, won’t be erased by taking down that monument, and not a single person will be better off afterwards. Let’s at least be honest about what’s happening here and not try to pass it off as something it’s not. What it’s NOT, is “doing the right thing”. What it IS, is allowing Andre Knight and those who agree with him, to have a “victory”. At taxpayer expense!


Posted in Battle Park & the Monument | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Secret Garden ll on Tarboro Street at Five Points Celebrating A Small Downtown Business

I know everyone’s mind is on the results of the state audit. The impact of this opening  salvo produced nary a resignation, no one took responsibility for anything, and the piece de resistance, refutable evidence was ‘racially motivated and fueled by white supremacists.’ One of my favorite quotations is, ”We have investigated ourselves and found ourselves to be innocent.” As incredulous as I am over last Tuesday’s special meeting, we have to remember that we have real people, with great financial investment in their small businesses downtown. They  believe in Rocky Mount and its future. They are the future! We can let the shame of all this define who we are or find a way to pick ourselves up and rally around the possibilities Main Street is about. The Secret Garden II  is the perfect example of  a great asset that needs our support and appreciation.

“The walls behind the counter had deep floor-to-ceiling shelves for vases and jam jars and scented candles, and there was an old wrought-iron revolving stand for cards. But most of the space in the long, narrow shop was taken up with flowers and plants. Today there were fifty-two kinds of cut blooms, from the tiny cobalt-blue violets that were smaller than Lara’s  (Javelin Guilford) little fingernail to a purple-and-green-frilled brassica that was bigger than her head. The flowers were set out in gleaming metal buckets and containers of every shape and size. They were lined up on the floor three deep and stacked on the tall three-tier stand in the middle of the shop.

The plants, huge leafy ferns, and tiny fleshy succulents, lemon trees and jasmine bushes and freckled orchids, were displayed on floating shelves that were built at various heights all the way up to the ceiling. Lara (Javelin) had spent weeks getting the lighting right. There were a few soft spotlights above the flower displays, and an antique crystal chandelier hung low above the counter. There were strings of fairy lights and dozens of jewel-colored tea lights and tall, slender lanterns dotted between the buckets. When they were lit, the cast star and crescent moon shapes along the walls, and the shop resembled the courtyard of a Moroccan riad- a tiny walled garden right in the middle of the city.”  ― Ella Griffin, The Flower Arrangement

I have borrowed this excerpt from Ella Griffin’s novel. I  added Jay’s name in parathesis. The Secret Garden is a magical place like the one described above. A place where floral creativity abounds, friendships develop, people arrive at happy and sad times, and those in between. You always feel welcomed. I love the Five Points location at 115 Tarboro St. There is parking on the street or behind the building. I recommend parking around back where you can see a new world being created. There are other businesses in the area. Check them ALL out!


Posted in Economic Development in Rocky Mount NC | Tagged , , | 4 Comments


Corruption in the city government is a behavioral consequence of power and greed. Generally, even with a rulebook against it, corruption is covert, opportunistic, repetitive, powerful, and reliant upon dominance, fear, and unspoken codes; a silent threat. The findings of the State Auditor’s report underscore the behavioral consequences of corruption and the use of fear to achieve personal gain at the expense of taxpayers. Sadly, deceit was at play in the hands of the previous Mayor and the entire City Council of Rocky Mount. I say the entire City Council because while some members benefited from the corruption the others looked away. Thus, complicit by their silence.

On a basic level, we all understand the importance of voting for those we believe in. We hope they will represent our best interests in all city matters. In actuality, we have no real way of knowing what they engage in behind closed doors. Will they fairly represent us when it comes to what is best for our street, our neighborhood, and our city? In simple terms–we elect those we believe in, trust, and HOPE they will do what is right.

This scandal involves numerous city officials and council members who disregarded our HOPE and our Trust to do that, which is Right. Unfortunately, there are greater consequences that accompany this betrayal.

Once a state audit occurs, the finding validated, and charges entered against the perpetrators, seismic effects are felt in the city. Generally, these come in waves starting at a local level of distrust in the city government and city officials, the reluctance of banks to fund redevelopment projects, and the careful accounting of all existing and previous grants involving the private foundation, state, and federal funds. Moreover, the city will be put on both a written and an unspoken watch list that all foundations, state, and federal funding agencies are aware of. In short, the city’s creditworthiness will come into question. As a result, obtaining funds will become more difficult, and more questions will be asked—remarkably similar to an individual having a bad credit report—the city will face intensified scrutiny until it cleans up its act.

The state audit is not about race. It is about accounting practices and cronyism. It is about breaking the rules and the trust of voters and taxpayers. Moreover, it is about North Carolina’s State Auditor Ms. Beth A. Wood doing her job in an unbiased and professional way in response to over 200 complaints. It is an embarrassment for Rocky Mount that Ms. Wood has been called a racist in print in spite of her CAREFUL and PRUDENT investigation. This outrageous mistake is rather like watching a bear in a cage get angry after it has been poked with a stick.

Main Street is proud of North Carolina’s State Auditor for doing her job in a productive and professional manner. It was predictable, however, that the cry of racism would be raised in order to discredit Ms. Wood’s investigation while obfuscating the truth over a myriad of crimes. A line in the sand is drawn. The idea that wrong is wrong is one side of the equation. The other is an unwritten rule that if you are black you do not call out another black man or woman. Now we have a perfect example of ‘being between a rock and a hard place.’  What does one do? Only when everyone is brave enough to call something WRONG regardless of who is at fault can the reality of corruption be irradicated. The quicker these matters are attended too, the harsh scrutiny we deserve will come to an end and the Rocky Mount world can spin once again on the right axis.

This piece has been written in collaboration with a mentor from the world of urban planning who knows a lot about this kind of “stuff.”  This duet confirms what I believe: Alone we know so little, but together we know so much.




Posted in City Government | 7 Comments

Adding to the Discussion: Randy Adcox FB Conversation – Not To Be Missed

The Clock that presides over the City Council Business

So by now, most people in our fair city have had an opportunity to see and hear the results of the state auditor’s investigation into our city government. And except for those who refuse to acknowledge the obvious, there’s almost unanimous consensus that there’s been some questionable (if not outright criminal) decisions and actions taken by some in our local government over the past several years. And while the spotlight is rightfully focused on council member Andre Knight, there’s certainly plenty of blame to go around for the inexcusable “writing off” of close to fifty thousand dollars in utility bills, as well as the blatant disregard for city rules and regulations concerning meal allowances and “per diem” in general, as revealed by our city manager’s meal purchases. And questions still abound about grant monies and how they’ve been used (or abused) over the years. If there ARE criminal charges that arise from this state auditor’s investigation, they’ll likely occur due to alleged misappropriation of state and possibly federal grant money over a period of several years. This is believed to be the area where there’s the most evidence of *criminal* activity, as opposed to merely “bad decisions” by some of our city council members.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this whole sordid mess is the attempts by some to write the whole thing off as “racially motivated”. As if only WHITE people would care about an elected official who ran up forty-seven thousand dollars in utility bills, and then had them wiped clean by pressuring those who work for the city, to erase them from existence. And the idea that it was only WHITE people who talked with the audit investigators and revealed where to look to find the *evidence* of wrongdoing, is ludicrous. The state auditor’s team didn’t enter city hall looking for only WHITE people to interview; they went in and made themselves available to ALL city employees, many of whom are minorities. And they also received anonymous phone tips and emails, many of which almost certainly came from minority city employees either current or former.
And right on cue, we’ve heard from the race-baiters. Those who immediately reach for the “race card” whenever a black official is accused of wrongdoing, are as predictable as the rising and falling of the tides. They refuse to accept any other possible explanation for the criticizing of black leaders, and fall back to the tired and worn out position of “this is an attempt to silence or otherwise diminish black leadership”. These people couldn’t care less about whether someone is innocent or guilty; their primary goal is to shift the focus and blur the lines between what is, and what is not “normal”. Rather than call out those who’ve openly and blatantly abused their elected positions for decades, they instead prefer to provide “cover” for the accused and silence the accusers with proclamations of “they’re just all racist, white supremacists”. It’s so utterly tiresome and pathetic. And it WON’T WORK this time!
If there’s been anything positive that’s come about as a result of this investigation, it’s the number of people who’re suddenly paying attention to local government again. But, there’s also an apparent lack of understanding by some anyway, of the hierarchy within city hall. The city manager, Rochelle Small-Toney, is the defacto “head” of our city employees and oversees all the departments therein. She, however, actually works for the City Council, whose job it is to make the major financial decisions of the city, including funding city improvements, new projects, etc.. The City Manager is *hired* by the City Council, and it’s only the City Council who can *fire* him/her. The Mayor’s office, while certainly an important position in our local government, is really little more than a figurehead when it comes to any real “power”. Aside from potentially casting a “tiebreaker” vote, there’s not much more our mayor can do to “control” our city council. I’ve read several posts on Facebook recently, where someone has asked, “Why didn’t David Combs just put his foot down, and stop this madness while HE was in office?”. Still, others have called on our current mayor, Sandy Roberson, to “fire ’em all!”. The truth is, neither mayor had/has the legal authority to control or dictate the actions of our city council. Sure, they can speak up or voice opposition, but there’s little else our mayor can do under our current form of city government to effect the actions or behavior of our city council members.
In the end, justice will be served. In our “gotta have it now” world, that justice may not come as quick as some would like, but it WILL come. And those who have abused their elected office, will one day have to answer for their sins. For some of these people, the “sins” they eventually will have to answer for, will be far greater than simply abusing their elected office. When phony men who go around under the guise of being a pastor, and then lie, cheat and steal from the people who elected them to office, they’ll one day answer to a much higher power than anything us mere mortals can muster. And that day of reckoning will surely come to some of these folks. Count on it!

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