Council candidates pledge accessibility
BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Saturday, September 21, 2019
One of the candidates for a position on the Rocky Mount City Council said he is going to have a “boots on the ground approach” in terms of being available to constituents if elected on Oct. 8.
Tarrick Pittman, who is running in Ward 1, and all of the rest of the council candidates participated in a forum Thursday at Edgecombe Community College’s Rocky Mount campus. Democracy North Carolina led the forum.
The council candidates were asked, other than council meetings, when and how they plan to be available to the city residents they represent if elected.
Pittman, who is in the computer repair business, said he has had an internship program with N.C. Wesleyan College and said he challenged two students to create a Ward 1 cell phone app.
“And through that app, they can communicate with me as the councilman, they can communicate with each other within the community,” Pittman said. “If they’re having events, if there’s crime, if there’s trouble that’s going on in a certain section of the community, they can put that information out — and once that information is out, it’ll come to me or to the neighborhood president.”
Pittman is challenging Ward 1 Councilman Andre Knight, who was asked the question just prior to Pittman.
Knight said the council has been discussing implementing constituent services. Knight said the council has taken on much beyond regular meetings and noted council members field questions from outside their wards.
“A lot of times we are bombarded with phone calls, emails, even visits,” Knight said. “And if you have a full-time job and you are considered part time, it becomes overwhelming.
“And to be effective, you need staff to help you communicate with that district meeting, ward meetings, quarterly meetings and other meetings that we currently have in Rocky Mount.”
Ward 3 Councilman Richard Joyner said, “Certainly I’ve enjoyed a rich opportunity of working with our community Ward 3 leaders and our community groups. We have had rich meetings where we are meeting every month.”
Joyner also said churches are being opened so they can serve as places for community meetings. Joyner also said the next step is inviting corporations and community stores to discuss the concerns of Ward 3 and how to address them together.
“The city has — and City Council members have — been very progressive in talking about how we serve our community in a better way. And I plan to continue to do that,” Joyner said.
Ward 3 candidate Nellene Richardson said she plans to hit the streets as she always does.
“I can tell you that what I consider bad boys, I know most of ‘em,” Richardson said.
Richardson said the reason she knows them is because she threw a block party a couple of weeks after a man was killed in the 1600 block of Hargrove Street.
Richardson also said she intends to be in contact with the community leaders.
“You can do what you want, but if you don’t actually get in there and put your hands on these people, we will continue to have the crime and the killing and everything else that goes on in Ward 3 — and the neighborhood will stay dilapidated,” Richardson said.
Ward 3 candidate Gwen Wilkins said she is not afraid to enter any community and noted she was on Hill Street approximately a day after a stabbing along Hill.
Additionally, Wilkins said, “I plan to start a Facebook page for Ward 3. I plan to do a newsletter quarterly for those citizens who do not do Facebook.”
Wilkins said she wants residents to go to what have been sparsely attended community meetings because there needs to be more participation in them. Wilkins also said she has long had the same cell number and engages in texting.
Ward 4 candidate T.J. Walker Jr. said he plans to be engaged with community associations and residents via whatever communication methods possible.
Walker said he plans to be available understanding he would be both a representative of Ward 4 and a servant of the city.
“They will not be able to say, ‘T.J. was not around,’” Walker said. “They will not be able to say, ‘We could not contact him.’ They will not be able to say, ‘He did not return our calls, our emails.’”
Ward 4 candidate Elaine B. Williams said she is going to be engaged with the community, find out their needs and address them.
“When elected, I plan to participate in the organized community groups that we have,” Williams said. “I also plan to have events that I could host throughout the ward.
“And then we could do something like newsletters,” Williams said.
Ward 5 candidate Robert Cordell noted he declared his candidacy shortly before the filing deadline.
“Since then, I’ve had all kinds of calls about all kinds of things from all citizens, especially in their ward,” Cordell said.
Cordell said he has made clear departing Ward 5 incumbent Tom Rogers is still on the council.
“But if elected, I will continue to receive the calls I know I’m going to get,” Cordell said.
Cordell also said he pledges to have some sort of community meetings for people who do not attend council meetings.
Ward 5 candidate Lige Daughtridge said he believes the standard procedures of a council member including meeting with constituents and having quarterly meetings, if possible, at various places, throughout the respective ward.
Daughtridge, emphasizing transparency citywide, also said, “We need to televise live the City Council meetings and the rest of the meetings — and record those.”
Daughtridge also said Rogers was quite responsive when he reached out to him.
“And I plan on continuing that when elected in City Council Ward 5,” Daughtridge said.
Editor's Note: The Telegram's coverage of the forum will continue on Sunday.