Despite my new pacemaker, yesterday, as I watched video of the Robert E. Lee monument come down, my heart felt broken. Here is the scaffolding during construction in Richmond in 1890. On May 7 as many as 10,000 citizens put their hands on ropes and hauled three large crates a mile and a half to the empty tobacco field above the city now known as Monument Avenue. Inside the crates from the sculptor’s studio in France, the massive statue would soon appear over the skyline of Richmond and become part of the psyche of Virginia. The monument helped the growing perception of Lee as “the Commonwealth’s greatest son. People saved pieces of those ropes the rest of their lives. In Virginia, Lee tributes included the naming of 5 high schools, two elementary schools, an Army base and a university. The Lee mansion overlooking Arlington National Cemetery is a Park Service memorial that draws at least a million visitors a year. (Pictures and some text from an article I saved written by historian Edward Ayers, who teaches at the University of Richmond)
Like Rocky Mount’s monument, both statues are hidden away and still risk complete demolition in the dark of night. In the midst of a budget meeting of the city council, the fate of our monument was decided. This is another example of the devastating highjacking of America.
An Explanation: The reason you find the subject of removing monuments on Main Street is my way of circumventing my Facebook page where I was writing and wanted to use these photographs. I was kicked off before I finished. I would have said, “What the heck just happened?” But in commenting on the tragic Afghanistan withdrawal, at least three time, the same thing happened. It finally dawned on me that certain words trigger the take down. Miss Pollyanna here, was given a dose of reality. It makes things seem all the harder in this fight to save America from itself. Which leads to the next subject.
Why is everything in Rocky Mount so hard? The revitalization of Main Street and beyond continues to be hard! The decorum on the Council, the fostering of racial divide that reins over the Council meetings, make everything hard! The politicalizing of decisions continues to make things hard. The struggle over who will be allowed to buy the commercial buildings, invest in residential housing, who is welcomed and who is not, makes everything hard. The deliberate sabotaging of investment in order to retain control allowing doggy business practices to continue….this makes living in Rocky Mount all the harder. Because we have several people on the Council and in City Management who look through the lens of the past, this view is interjected into the matters at hand during a Council meeting. It should prompt the Mayor, who does have the power to take charge, ask, “What does this have to do with the issue under discussion? We are here representing the taxpayers of TODAY, who all want a good education, safe neighborhoods, decent housing, and to benefit by our deliberations TODAY.”
Once again, we are presented with a fait accompli. I often imagine Mr. Knight, Mr. Blackwell, and the City Manager, staying up all night to come up with things like a revised development agency. You see, we need this. Never mind the plan in the drawer, bought and paid for, forget the kicked to the curb Main Street Program that requires accountability and record-keeping. Who needs the input from the hard-working and dedicated Downtown Merchants Association or the Central City Revitalization? It’s too sensible to bring the downtown investors and business owners into the mix.
For years, the “My Will Be Done Agenda” has gotten away with bending the regulatory role of government to line their pockets and to take care of their cronies. In their wisdom, they let roofs fall to the floor, ignored the broken glass windows, and the peeling paint on the boarded-up facades. This new agency has been birthed in greed to maintain control over Main Street. These same people with a new scheme left the historic downtown’s significant commercial architecture to disintegrate. Now they require a new agency and hire to do their bidding.
The only plans they ever have are the ones that cost the taxpayers, involve grants they finagle, or a project they believe will benefit them personally. We had plans that didn’t suit the “My Will Be Done” agenda. The typical treatment Chris Miller received in voicing her objections before the 4-3 vote comes from those who have conflict of interest and have lost their right to make decsions on behalf of the community.
Believe me, this new agency doesn’t care about the collective buildings on Main Street, that bear witness to the past and are the future. “It connects us in time and space to those who went before us even as it represents our legacy to those who come after.” Blair Kamin – Chicago Tribune Architecture Critic
The ‘My Will Be Done’ plan hasn’t a clue or passion for a holistic approach to preservation, restoration, and repurposing historic downtown. I don’t underestimate the ideas of the marketplace that are positive and have gained a foothold that we must support. We cannot contemplate the thought that once again we will be bemoaning the results after the fact. I ask that at least, Preservation Rocky Mount, Historic Preservation Commission, Merchants Association, and Central City Revitalization discuss the responsibility we have to do what is best for Main Street despite these new efforts to control how the emerging scene continues.
If there is as much as $20k available for a mural, that money should NOT be given to an organization that can very well pay for their own projects. Not having this kind of money, it is easier to rely on”their guys” on the Council. The laughable bit is that if they were providing the money, I doubt the project would cost $1000.
Taxpayers do not approve of this latest scheme. Read the comments on Concerned Citizens who have far better suggestions for the use of this money. What about the house pictured above in Ward 1? There are plenty of houses in Wards 1,2,3,4 that sit boarded up and abandoned that continue to be neglected by their Councilmen. Even worse is the condition of the housing people are living in.
I will take our local Black Lives Matter Action Committee seriously when they think bigger for the community than a mural on the street. When they mentor young people who need someone to believe in the possibilities of their lives. I’ll believe the Committee when all this posturing and bluster translates to action and real help. If the September 13th City Council meeting approves as much as $20k for Mr. Blackwell’s son, rather than doing the right thing, it will be one more unforgivable decision for the “My Will Be Done” Agenda that has little to do with other black lives that do matter. Wouldn’t it be grand if for once right prevails.
When I read the erroneous remarks from the City Council meeting that keep declaring there is no difference between Main Street Accreditation and Affiliate, I repeat, there is a difference, dagnabbit! An Affiliate status has resources that help new communities get started with this successful program, BUT, Accreditation comes along later when you submit the yearly paperwork proving that you are following and achieving the Programs guidelines. If that is accomplished and you are given accreditation status, you become eligible for grants that affiliation cannot participate in. No accreditation, no money. If you missed my recent blog about this subject, CLICK HERE
In March I attended the NC Main Street Program in New Bern, NC. Kevin Harris was the only one from our City Government. I met the whole planning and development staff of other counties. City Managers attended. CLICK HERE for the post I wrote -We’re On The Road to New Bern.
This isn’t the TV show, Kids Say The Darndest Things. It is the reality show on City Council where those who are committed to the MY WILL BE DONE agenda make no room for this valuable and proven program to assist cities in reinvigorating historic downtown. To insist that there is no difference between an affiliate designation and an accredited status hopes you aren’t that interested in the first place or likely to give much thought to what losing our accreditation may have cost us. It isn’t that the MY WILL BE DONE agenda doesn’t know better, they don’t want you to know better. Here is what you hear.
“But it seems to me there’s really not a big difference between being accredited and affiliate”, Knight said. “And plus all the work that we are currently doing downtown and what we are proposing to do downtown, I think would be more than an A-plus once these projects come into fruition.” The City Manager said, “I agree with you., the paper seemed to have been hung up on accreditation versus affiliation when, in fact, there’s really no difference at all.” This is wrong.
Here is the point of accreditation and what it means to have lost ours.
“Accredited communities are eligible for occasional funding opportunities through the National Main Street Center, that are only available to accredited communities, such as the National Park Service Main Street Façade Improvement Grant program that Lenoir, Elkin, and Elizabeth City received – $46,000 each for façade improvements in downtown; the Grills Fund for COVID recovery initiatives, that New Bern received; and from time to time, other opportunities that may arise. Accredited communities are eligible for awards, like the Great American Main Street award. Goldsboro was a runner up for this award a few years ago and it is a national recognition. Goldsboro received another grant for around $35,000. Again – only accredited communities are eligible.” —Elizabeth (Liz) H. Parham, Director, NC Main Street
To think that the City of Rocky Mount continues to be in the hands of but a few. What a power trip it must be to know that MY WILL BE DONE continues without a judgment day, allowing the MY WILL agenda to continue on. For this, we are facing immeasurable damage to our reputation, credit ratings; bullying, and deflection go on. If only our lost accreditation were a single problem before us. Alas, there is much more.
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!
“If you can not explain it now, to those involved, and present, here on the mid-watch, then how will you ever defend it later when called to account at the long, green table.”
‘The long green table’ is associated with a Naval Court Martial or Court of Inquiry. The purpose of a Naval Board of Inquiry is to examine all particulars concerned with the event in question and to determine facts and cause, corrective action, and disciplinary action called for by the findings and suggestions of the inquiry. Traditionally, the accused sat at a table covered in green felt. The green felt was used in wardrooms on ships to help keep objects in place when the ship pitched and rolled.
The May 15, 2020, State Audit Report findings are indefensible. They always have been. There is no acceptable explanation that can be offered. Those involved who now sit at the long green table have no recourse but to resign their various positions. In my opinion, there is no, come let us reason together. Not until the citizens of Rocky Mount have been satisfied that justice has prevailed and there is a reason to think that restored trust in good government has a chance.
It is obvious there are people who can’t bring themselves to accept and declare that wrong is wrong. It is as simple as that. Sputtering that it is the Report that is in error, racially-based…..yadda, yadda, is nonsense. If a wrong is only wrong to some of us, you get what we’ve got. There isn’t any come let us reason together UNTIL the wrong has been made right. The home-court needs a new floor before play can commence. Everybody that comes to play understands and is committed to the rules, plays for Rocky Mount not as an individual player out for his or her own gain, but as a team player that has reasoned that to live a life of possibilities that come true, everyone must agree on Right and Wrong.
“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.