City#8217;s lawmakers should explain their positions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2008

To the Editor:

After attending the redevelopment forum held at the Sportsman’s building located on South Street, it became clear to me that top city officials are unwilling to address citizens’ concerns and answer questions about the redevelopment of the southside area.

The major flaw with their so-called forum is that none of the City Council members or Housing Authority commissioners made themselves available to answer policy-related questions.

Those of us who live and own property within the southside area should be able to ask questions of our elected and appointed representatives.

Everyone who attends city council meetings knows that they will not answer a question from a citizen.

Therefore, we need them to make themselves available for questions and answers, somewhere at sometime.

Their meeting on South Street was a missed opportunity to make clear their positions and reasons for supporting Mayor Jim Councill’s dream redevelopment plans for their community. Many citizens in attendance felt that the forum was a waste of their time for this reason.

Councilwomen Mary Hilliard and Raystine Johnson should talk to the community and let us know what their official positions on taking our homes and churches actually are.

Councilwoman Rosa Lawrence made a statement in the New Journal and Guide that she wanted to see southside ward representation on the revitalization and redevelopment committee. A position which southside voters support and agree with her. She also said that she believed redevelopment is inevitable.

I disagree with her inevitability sentiment. The taking of our homes and churches is a decision that all the council members have made and can change if they want to. There are options that the city can pursue that can eliminate blight and do not require the housing authority to take whole areas. The city could develop a spot blight policy. They could also seek community rehabilitation grants as another option.

What we need is for Johnson, Hilliard and Lawrence to show leadership and to be our advocates on the council. I’m saying this with the assumption that Johnson, Hilliard and Lawrence have changed their minds and now agree with the southside community that our homes and churches should be left alone.

The best I can tell from the public record, Vice Mayor Johnson and councilwomen Lawrence and Hilliard are in support of the Housing Authority’s plans on Bank Street. They support Mayor Councill’s initiative to develop a dream redevelopment plan for the southside, and they have made no objections to road widening. Johnson has been the lone vote on council against eminent domain as a Housing Authority commissioner, and City Council member.

We should demand that the city clarify their positions, and give us their reasoning.

Thomas H. Councill Jr.