by Curmilus Dancy II - The Political Agitator
Councilman Reuben Blackwell do you feel the Rocky Mount City Council being a 4 - 3 black majority council has been effective since the make-up of the board changed in 2003?
Reply:This City Council, elected in 2003, has been one of the most effective in recent history. We have accomplished some landmark achievements which go unheralded and uncovered by the media. If the media has covered our accomplishments, they rarely, if ever, give credit to the Council for our innovation, courage and insightful planning. I often wonder if the City Council’s aggressive and proactive role in major policy and program development is not reported because the media does not understand what we do or if they are less interested in covering our overwhelming successes than they are in bringing life to controversies which attempt to erode the perspective of the public in our vision, intent, professionalism and impact.
This Council oversaw and adopted the most comprehensive review of our building codes in the last 20 years… the new Land Development Code. We have crafted, and now are funding, a new and dynamic vision for Downtown Rocky Mount. We are investing and are encouraging others to invest in millions of dollars in downtown projects including: the Douglas Block renovation, sidewalk improvements, bike paths, treescape and landscape improvements, a multimillion dollar loan pool to acquire and renovate downtown structures and have hired a recruitment specialist through the Rocky Mount/Edgecombe CDC for business development in downtown and in Edgecombe County.
This Council completed and funded (to the tune of tens of millions of dollars) the visioning of the Imperial Center, the Sports Complex and renovations to the Stith-Talbert Park. We ensured that funding was allocated to pave the long-neglected walking track at the South Rocky Mount Community Center and are working now to upgrade both the SRMCC and the BTW Community Center. We tackled the unpopular issue of replacing the MLK Statue and are close to realizing a new statue replacement strategy. We have also ensured that while we completed renovations to Sunset Park and the new fishing park where the old Bob Melton’s restaurant was located, we invested in inner city park areas that have been neglected for 20 years.
Our Council has aggressively attacked crime and dilapidated housing in the inner city. We doubled the budget to condemn and demolish unsafe and unsavory houses in this budget year. This Council has appointed a Housing Advisory Committee to inventory the state of housing in Rocky Mount and to help the Council develop strategies to improve housing stock throughout inner city communities. We have doubled the number of sidewalks paved in traditionally black neighborhoods and in major corridors throughout the City. We have addressed trash pick-up and effective servicing of homes in inner city neighborhoods as well. We gave the City Manager permission to hire five new police officers and have supported crime control and eradication measures in sectors of the City where we have had the highest crime rates.
While this Council did not create the utility bill crisis for the average consumer in the inner city of Rocky Mount, we are aggressively addressing issues that impact the consumer’s interface with the City. We have been the motivation behind a much more conscious effort from City staff to work with utility customers that are past due on their bills. A customer service position is now headquarted in the Human Relations Department to help these customers. We are also allocating resources to the improvement of housing in the inner city, understanding that better built and insulated homes use less energy and cost less to live in.
We also have placed issues of diversity and equity at the highest level of our consideration. We work closely with the City Manager to ensure that hiring, promotion and pay increases are fair and equitable. We individually address complaints of discrimination with the Manager’s office as they are made known to us and are working to ensure that the impact of institutionalized sexism, classism and racism in job placement and development are overturned through sound policy development and practice. For the first time in this City’s history, we have an African American Chief of Police and Human Resources Director.
As a final note, this Council has funded more economic development projects than any Council in history. We have provided cash incentives totaling over $1.9 million which we anticipate will deliver thousands of jobs for our constituents and multiple millions of dollars of investments and tax revenues for our City. In summary, this current City Council has provided proactive, comprehensive and energetic leadership for all of Rocky Mount, while we have attempted to increase the quality of life for those citizens residing in our inner city communities. Rocky Mount has prospered under this Council’s leadership as we have sustained existing partnerships and expanded the table to include all citizens.
- Reuben Blackwell
- Rocky Mount City Council, Ward 2
TPA - Councilman Blackwell thank you for your response. I would like to thank you for all that you have done and all that you will continue to do. You are definitely not a "Safe Negro." When I say "Safe Negro" I am talking about black elected officials, community leaders and others who are suppose to be looking out for the best interest of black folks. Many times the "Safe Negro" will sit on various boards and will not speak out on issues. I can truly say that you do not fit that description because you made it clear on where you stand in your response. I can also add that I know where you stand and that is for whatever is in the best interest of the people.