You can’t grow and become a great city if you leave entire segments of the community behind.
I remember those words from our City Council’s budget message for the 2012-2013 city budget.
Sadly, we have continued to see that the current structure with nine single-member districts has precisely done that over the past 20 years. By only focusing on the needs of nine individual districts, not enough attention is given to the major issues that face our entire city.
Some of those big issues are complicated and expensive. When the council only gives its attention to issues that only face a few districts, it makes it increasingly difficult to gain support from other districts that fight for their own issues.
Fayetteville’s growth is not keeping pace with the rest of the larger cities in the state. At the same time, this structure leaves entire segments behind, often our poor and powerless.
The continued shortage in sworn police officers, still over 50 officers, or more than 10% of the staff, threatens our citizens. But especially the ones in those neighborhoods that aren’t getting the coverage they deserve. These citizens are more likely to have an encounter with a police officer who is tired and stressed from overtime.
In a city with 45% Black registered voters, why are 81% of the murder victims this year Black?
We have identified over $100 million in stormwater needs to protect us from the next Hurricane Matthew or Florence. Again, this year the City Council failed to add to the stormwater fees to help address these significant issues. What parts of our city are likely to be impacted by a flood? It is most often those living in the low-lying lands, often our poorest and most powerless.
There is no better example of this failure than Shaw Heights. Stuck right between our city, our state university, and the most significant economic engine in southeastern North Carolina, Shaw Heights continues to be an unincorporated area. Shaw Heights residents are deprived of essential city services like sewer and urban police protection.
If Shaw Heights had a different demographic, it would have been annexed years ago. But it doesn’t, and we should be ashamed to perpetuate a system that continually overlooks the least of us.
Ironically, some defend a system of nine single-member districts as better for the vulnerable and poor in our community. The facts tell a different story.
Let’s have six city council members directly accountable to those who fear the next flood.
Let’s have six city council members directly accountable to those who worry about the crime in their neighborhoods.
We can’t become a better city by continuing to leave people behind.
Maybe you would like to vote for six members of the City Council instead of the current 2. In that case, I encourage you to sign the VoteYesFayetteville petition and give every citizen the right to vote on this critical issue.
Bobby Hurst is a former member of Fayetteville City Council.