At a recent city council workshop, a council member made two remarkable and laudable comments: “We want to make sure that all we do is with our citizens in mind” and “We want to promote the well-being of our city.”
However, the council’s decision, which was made without citizen input or approval, to spend $5.5 million dollars to build a new city hall calls into question if the council is truly practicing what it preaches. Is this new extravagant city hall being built “with our citizens in mind” and “promoting the well being of our city?” For certain, the decision was made without any consultation of the people. However, is this building the greatest priority of the people of Laurinburg?
There are several critical issues that are of a far greater priority than a new city hall.
First of all, the city has the 4th highest violent crime rate in the state. Youth are being beaten and slaughtered on our streets. One 25 year old was gunned down recently. Children at birthday parties are being shot at, bullets have hit police cars, gun shots are heard nightly, bullets have penetrated roof tops of homes, while rapes, armed robberies, assaults, and drug trafficking are rampant. The five gangs in the city are proliferating. Will the new city building solve this? What could be done with $5.5 million dollars to address this critical issue? What could this money do to expand and help our great police department?
Secondly, Our downtown is full of empty and decaying buildings. It looks like a ghost town. $5.5 million dollars could do much to revitalize, promote, recruit and bring new businesses and jobs into the downtown. It could help create festivals and activities that would make people want to come and spend money downtown. Downtown could become a destination again. A revitalized downtown would create much needed new tax revenues for the city.
Thirdly, Our city has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. $5.5 million dollars could do much to develop job training programs, recruit new businesses, and companies to invest in Laurinburg. This would bring much needed jobs to our people plus increase revenue through taxes for our city.
Fourthly, Our citizens are under one of the highest tax rates in the state. The utility rates have skyrocketed. People are having to choose between paying utilities and medicine. Will the new city hall bring these rates down or increase them in order to pay for this new building? Our people are struggling financially.
Finally, Will the new city hall have space for recreation and activities for our youth? Recreational opportunities are almost non existent for our young people. Gangs are stepping into the void and offering a place and purpose to them. As a result, we are losing a generation of youth. We have young gangs roaming our streets late at night, harassing elderly residents, fighting, shooting and creating mischief. Several citizens have asked the council to address the need for a city recreation building to provide positive alternatives for our youth and to initiate a late night curfew to hold parents accountable for their children. Creating productive space and purpose for our youth is of a greater need than a new city hall. The council has refused to take action on these.
The city does need adequate space to conduct business for the city. The council would have been wise to request citizen input on how to best address this issue. Proverbs 15:22 states, “Plans go wrong for a lack of advice, but many advisers bring success.” Our citizens have much wisdom. Some have pointed out empty school buildings, office complexes, and empty corporation buildings that could be easily rehabbed for much less cost than $5.5 million dollars. This could give all city departments the space they need to do their jobs. A partnership between the council and the community could produce what is needed by the city and the citizens at a fraction of the cost of a new city hall. Currently, citizens feel that the council does not want their input. Yet, it is the citizens who will have to pay the bill.
Is the council practicing what it preaches? Is it making sure that all it does is with our citizens in mind and to promote the well being of our city? Spending $5.5 million dollars on a palatial city hall while ignoring our citizens, their input, their partnership and their needs of far greater significance is not practicing what is preached! I call on the council to get its priorities in order. The needs of people are far more important than buildings. Seek the partnership of the people who elected you. Seek to serve them and do what is best for them and our city. Practice what you preach.
I encourage our citizens to call, email or write their council members and express their feelings on this issue.
Michael Edds is the senior pastor at East Laurinburg Pentecostal Holiness Church.