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Residents sound off to council

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff WRiter

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A community activist earlier this week addressed both the current and future Rocky Mount City Council, given what he said is confusion and distrust throughout the city.

Warren Daughtridge, representing LoveRockyMount, provided ideas and thoughts for the proverbial municipal suggestion box during the public hearing phase of Monday’s regular council meeting.

Daughtridge called for transparency and an open dialogue by bringing city residents together with the intent of eliminating any source of confusion or misinformation.

“The current reliance on social media to trade both barbs and opinions is only making matters worse — and fueling the fires of unadulterated hatred,” Daughtridge said.

Daughtridge said he believes if Rocky Mount is going to unite, then the city officials who are sitting in the council chamber and the new ones who might be elected will have to be the ones setting the example for those who elect them to lead the citizens.

LoveRockyMount has nearly 1,200 followers, with Daughtridge telling the council the purpose is to join hands to lead the way in bringing together diverse citizen groups to foster open dialogue and honest conversations.

He told the council, “When the dust settles after the election, we will still be here,” in reference to the Oct. 8 contest.

“We will still be on a mission to provide a forum to bring people together to better understand each other and to help those in need,” he said.

Before his three-minute time limit at the podium expired, he left the council with a few possible topics for future discussion, which are:

The performance to date of the Rocky Mount Event Center in the context of the facility’s budget.

Why Rocky Mount could not get input from all sides prior to entering into an effort to secure a proposed hotel and parking garage and mixed-use complex adjacent to the event center.

Finding out a short-term and a long-term plan to address the issue of gangs in Rocky Mount.

What he called “Edgecombe flight,” a reference to people pulling out of the Edgecombe County side of the city while the Nash County side of the city has dramatically changed through the years.

“This isn’t about white flight,” Daughtridge said. “This is about all flight. Let’s talk about what’s causing it — and let’s try to find out how to fix it.”

Daughtridge was one of many who approached the podium at Monday’s council meeting, with the public input phase featuring new and regular speakers.

One of the new ones was La Wanda Pulley, a family nurse practitioner who has a medical clinic southwest of downtown.

Pulley told the council that she has seen 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment documents and said that Rocky Mount has a major problem.

Pulley expressed concern about the presence of gangs, along with truancy and violence.

“We’re failing our youth,” Pulley said. “We’re failing them in education. We’re failing them in the opportunity to become productive citizens.”

Pulley said she believes the community and the council need to develop a pact, comprised not just of council members and police officers, but also of local service organizations and schoolteachers.

She said she would like to see a plan put into action so young people can become productive citizens.

She made clear she is particularly concerned about juveniles unlawfully absent from school, regularly disobedient and beyond the disciplinary control of parents or guardians.

“And they are regularly found to be in places that are unlawful for juveniles,” she said.

She also made clear everybody has to get involved to fix the problem.

“It’s not my problem or your problem,” she said. “It’s our problem, because whether or not you look at it as a problem today, these students today or these juveniles today, they are the Rocky Mount of our future.”

Dr. Kim E. Koo, a regular at council meetings, reminded the council that in 2007, when the late Fred Turnage was mayor, the council in office supported the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. The agreement called for reducing carbon emissions below 1990 levels.

Since then, Koo said, except for crews picking up recyclables, she has not seen the city government put weight behind joining other cities in the agreement.

Koo stated she believes the global environmental crisis is the most important problem facing humanity in the 21st century, although she noted young people, to their credit, now are taking the lead in the environmental justice movement.

“I’m urging City Council to form a commission on climate change and a commission on youth. Both are related and separate,” she said. “The commission on youth should also be involved in rooting out causes for the continued violent deaths in our neighborhoods — and finding ways to remedy that. The solution is definitely not to put them in cages.”

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