Celebrating the Beginning of the 5th Year on Main Street Rocky Mount

I’m touching a brick wall to honor the workman, the results of their labors, and the enduring quality of what still stands.  To my way of thinking, touching an old brick wall honors the past while believing in the future that is being created in Rocky Mount.

July 27, 2015 – It began like this –

“In launcing this new blog, I hope to make an enthusiastic contribution to the new chapters that are being written about this place we call home.  The theme of this site is Honoring the Past, Building a Future. I will be writing about places and people, past and present, places like The Rocky Mount Mills and the Historic Districts that are pearls of great price in our midst.  I invite you to come and stand with me on Carr Street and listen once again to the echo of children’s laughter, and to the sound of the katydids in the trees.

A doctor will tell you they don’t know why attitude is important in getting well, they only know that it is.  A positive attitude is paramount in the day to day efforts of building the future here in Rocky Mount, NC.  The on going creative process takes time and patience while keeping our eye on the prize.”

Evan Chavez – Rocky Mount Mills – The poster child for the preservation, restoration and repurposing of this historic place that has given a new definition to what it means to be successful.

I celebrated two of the anniversaries writing about Evan Chavez.

“The first post I wrote for Main Street Rocky Mount, July 27, 2015,  featured Evan Covington Chavez. I said then and I say now, that this bright and capable woman is the poster child for this blog because she holds in her hands a two-sided coin. One side represents the past, and the other, the future. She is Capitol Broadcasting Company’s Development Manager for the Rocky Mount Mills. I think of Evan stepping onto a bridge that is under construction, and when the bridge is complete, she will have helped span the gap between once upon a time and what will be. Her dedication and hard work guarantee that her name will be remembered when the future story of the Rocky Mount Mills is told.”

The City Council Chambers

Though I am a political junkie, it was not my attention to write about politics on the blog. The day came, against the advise of others, when I acknowledged that the path to the future kept landing me on the rocks of City Government.

Post 9-25-19

“The Siren call lures nearby sailors to crash upon the rocks of the islands of dangerous creatures. It is their enchanting music and singing that calls them. I am lured by the story of Main Street and the significance of commercial and residential architecture. The corollary danger for me started with my research and learning. The more people that took me under their wing to talk, the more I grew to love the possibilities, yet ended up crashing on the rocks of City Government. I found that possibilities are mismanaged, certain members of the City Council rig the system, talented and good people leave or are pushed out, and we have an investigation into maleficence and the skullduggery of leadership that casts a wide net of consequences.

Crashing on these rocks, my writing on the Main Street blog shifted to finding answers that explain the state of things downtown and in the surrounding areas of neglect. I hate having to grapple with the possibility that we will never have real prosperity; the prosperity of spirit in people’s lives in Rocky Mount because certain members of the City Council game the system for their own benefit.”

Lunch at Barley and Burger – A Place to Celebrate the blog’s anniversary.

 

With this anniversary, I return to the image of Peter Pan coming to the front of the stage. Because Tinker Bell’s light is fading, Peter says to the audiance, “Clap if you believe.” The clapping revives Tinker’s light and she lives on. As we begin another year together, I ask again, “Clap If You Believe!”

 

 

Do You Want to Buy An $18 Million Parking Garage Available On The Rocky Mount Monopoly Board?

For the fun of it, let’s play Monopoly!  On the Board, one of the things we can buy is a parking deck. A deck we are told that will be great for Edgecombe County. Consider a few of the following things before plunking your Monopoly money down.

  1. This parking deck has 700 spaces.
  2. You currently have 328 spaces being used for the Event Center.
  3. The hotel wants 140 spaces.
  4. Building the parking deck On Top of our existing  328 spaces
  5. Net gain 232 spaces.
  6. Parking deck total cost (including the acquisition of land, but not including consultants) $18,350.000
  7. Cost per new space, $79.095

I highly recommend that instead, you consider building surface parking across the street from the Event Center. I don’t see how, but let’s say that costs $1 million. This hotel, parking, mixed-use project is being touted as great for Edgecombe County. Makes you wonder how many times residents of Wards 1,2,3, 4 will stay in this proposed hotel? If they park in the parking deck, they will have to pay to do so.

It is a false premise to say that building the hotel is an economic driver. A hotel does not bring restaurants and shops and living above the store apartments. It is having these things in place that result in needing a place to stay. If this project is really good for Wards 1-4,  spend the $1 million on surface parking and invest the rest of that $18,350.000 in these Wards that have the most distressed housing, missing sidewalks, potholes in the streets, unkempt parks, crime, and slum landlords.

The party line is that Nash County is responsible for these poor conditions, and the plight of these Wards. This is an unexamined idea! You have to ask why Wards 1-4 look the way they do if the majority vote on the council holds the power?  This majority, had they wanted to, could have directed city resources into these Wards, having the best sidewalks, tree-lined streets, liveable and safe housing, the best parks in the city rather than the worst. This is within the purview of the City of Rocky Mount. Wards 1-4 are the Gateway of Rocky Mount and should be seeing growth. Will the October 8, 2019 election finally be the end date when the citizens of Rocky Mount are no longer willing to be disrespected by the leaders who say they want to help them?

September 19 -6:30, at a Meet The Candidate Event held at ECC, the contested Council Seat in Ward 1, held by Councilman Knight since 2003,  spent his time defending himself and the current Council for all the great strides they have made. There is little correlation, however, between those words and tangible results in Ward 1. The winner for the evening was Tarrick Pittman, who is running for Mr. Knight’s seat. A retiring, quiet, gentle young man, he stood head and shoulders taller than all the rest with his articulate, well planned, plans for Ward 1 and his work for the entire city. An impressive resume, his technological expertise informs his approach. He is a bright, new hope, and Monopoly player for Rocky Mount. Next time we’ll talk about buying a Monopoly Utility Company with the money we saved by providing surface parking. A parking deck might be nice to have, but repair and replacing infrastructure is a must-have. 

Stepheny In A Rocky Mount State of Mind – Reguarding The City Council

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “How about a glass of sweet tea!”  (Edit by SFH)
― A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

I had a glass of sweet tea with a friend today who I deeply respect. It prompted this post. I always learn something new from our conversations.  I am at a disadvantage at times because we have a realist talking to a Pollyanna. When we discuss Rocky Mount politics, and we always do, our brilliant analysis turns out to be a simple reality – FOUR votes on the city council!  After all the work, investment and dreams poured into the revitalization of Rocky Mount, FOUR can trump anything.

The rationale behind this latest project of the hotel and the $18 million parking garage seems to be: we have been denied a hotel and garage for too long, so we shall have it now. This regardless of the concerns raised about costs and questionable projection figures. I hardly find this a persuasive argument against a less expensive means to an end. We better all agree about the urgency of  Richard Worsinger’s comments; that $62 million is needed for our water and sewer system infrastructure.  This should be sorted out ASAP or risk, “We could become another Flint Michigan!” A hotel and parking garage don’t seem important in light of this news.

It is a shame that when questions are raised by those with opposing views to the city council, there is a knee-jerk reaction. The only possible reasons for objection are racial. This accusation has worked beautifully to shut people down; a diversion from the real issues of transparency, accountability, and leadership.  But, as witnessed by groans and ‘enough already,’ one evening when one of the councilmen started in with that rhetoric, no one is intimidated anymore.  We all want the same things and that does not preclude a hotel and retail shops, but an 18 million dollar parking facility is out of the question.  The answers to all these decisions are found in the Main Street Program Approach and without the drama.

In another blog post, I mentioned I was reading Charles Krauthammer’s book, The Point of it All, which I have finished. Krauthammer’s view is a satisfying end to this sweet tea and delightful conversation kind-of-day. It provides this Pollyanna the inspiration to keep the faith with the future that is being built today on Main Street and beyond in spite of our realities.

Here is a nation founded on the edge of civilization –a tiny colony, living on the outskirts of the civilized world –that at a time when it needed it miraculously produced the greatest generation of political thinkers in the history of the world. Then a century later, when it needed a Lincoln to save the Republic, it found a Lincoln. In the first half of the 20th century, when it needed an FDR to get through the Depression and defeat fascism, it found him. In the second half, when it needed a Reagan to revive the country, he was there.

There is something about the American spirit–about the bedrock decency and common sense of the American–that seems to help us find our way, something about American history that redeems itself in a way that inspires all. Otto von Bismark said, “God looks after children, drunkards, idiots and the United States of American.” I think he still does. I hope he still does.”                Sept. 18, 2011, from an address to Hillsdale College                                                                                                                            

PS: Lord, we add to Bismark’s list,  Rocky Mount, and our future. Look after us too. – SFH

‘Planting Your Flag in the Ground’ – Another City Council Meeting

“If you have eyes to see past the broken glass and boarded facades, if you look up as I do, you will see what I see. Commercial architecture holding the heartbeat and stories of Rocky Mount.” -Stepheny Houghtlin

This quote of mine is one approach to preservation. There are many avenues to pursue when considering what you are interested in.  PRM had a meeting this past Wednesday, Feb 13th, which I led. No preservation was done! It was more like giving a sales pitch (for Saving Main Street) to a group of enthusiastic salesmen hoping to ignite their excitement and have them want to sell my product. Wonderful people were there; the best and the brightest as a matter of fact.  We’ll talk more another time about connecting the dots from A– an interest to B – a plan to D- something gets done.

Wednesday night I was reminded of an AA story that says when someone gets up to give a talk at a meeting, they give three speeches…the one they prepared, the one they give, the one they revise on the way home. I was so busy with the sales pitch that there was no time to talk about the real matter at hand that not only effects Saving Main Street, but supports continued revitalization. This takes strong, honest city government that equates to good practices, a city government that does their job with competence and for the good of the taxpayers. There is no saving anything without that.

For the last three weeks, I have been involved with hundreds of others in what is called civic engagement. As hard as the Council has tried to deflect the issues at hand by bringing up extraneous topics, or pinning the public concerns on what was called a dark shadow, no one is having this kind of diversion anymore.  Whether at home or from a seat at City Hall, we are now focused on what is germane, expecting good governance and an end to the long list of what has gone wrong. The plan the Mayor spelled out last week is not good enough. It is more messing about with a myriad of issues that must be taken care of to the satisfaction of the community.

Two doors down from Davis furniture on Main Street we have this!
Why fire hasn’t struck or the facade come down on Main Street, is a mystery.

The flag that I have planted says we need leadership that will provide the will, enforce the ordinances we have on the books, stabilize the facades, put first things first before expecting me to celebrate a new motel that has obviously taken precedence over  Main Street – again. Why would we put another large project like this in the hands of the current Council and Management until complete order has been restored? Still, I believe we are closer to righting wrongs than before because of this groundswell of public engagement, and talk of new leadership running for seats on the Council. We need policies and procedures that safeguard us from any further graft and corruption and then Preservation will go forward. Plant your flag in the ground beside mine asking for a resolution so we can get on with getting on.

“You must learn how to extract things of value out of things that seem totally worthless.” Pastor Sunday