03/14/08 — Goldsboro disbands resident group

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Goldsboro disbands resident group

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on March 14, 2008 2:02 PM

District 1 resident and Mayor's Neighborhood Committee member Frankie Anna Lewis wants to know why Goldsboro officials are not continuing the group organized to bring residents' concerns to the city leadership.

Mayor Al King said he originally set up the neighborhood committee last May to give residents a chance to improve the city by working together. But that is not what ended up happening, he said.

So he sent a letter to the committee on Feb. 15, saying that it was being discontinued.

Mrs. Lewis wanted to know why, so she stood up at a recent City Council meeting to ask the mayor his reasons for dismantling the group and to ask him to re-establish the committee.

The committee came about as a result of the Neighborhood Meetings held by council and city leaders to try to get feedback from residents about what they felt were top priorities in their neighborhoods.

From those gatherings, members were appointed to an advisory committee, which was supposed to continue the discussion.

"We started out small," Mrs. Lewis said, with only one or two people on the committee. But then, as the Neighborhood Meetings went on, the committee meetings "were well-attended and productive," she said.

Mrs. Lewis said the committee accomplished many great things "in a very short time period."

Members helped with signage, lighting, mosquito control, keeping drains clean, ditch cleaning and other items in the city's neighborhoods, she added.

She said the letter the mayor sent cited one of the reasons for dismantling the committee as "concerns recently expressed with the members of the group."

"We do wonder and ask why is it being discontinued ... and just what are the concerns?" she asked.

The committee asked city officials questions about the budget, staff and city projects, none of which were answered, she said.

"We have the right to ask questions," she said. "Yes, even pointed, detailed questions without reprisal."

She said members of the committee had questions about money budgeted for municipal elections and the State of the City Address.

Mrs. Lewis said she felt the committee's questions were the basis for the mayor's decision to dismantle it.

She said she hoped King would change his mind.

But the mayor said no.

The committee, he said, wasn't doing what it was supposed to do.

"To me, it's purely simple. They weren't accomplishing the goals that we, the council, wanted them to. We wanted people from various neighborhoods to tell us things that we didn't know, to tell us what needed fixed, what needed done," he said.

He was hoping the committee would be like the Central Heights community where they got together, helped themselves with what they could and called upon the city for what they couldn't accomplish alone.

"They are a good example," King said.

But the Mayor's Neighborhood Committee didn't do that.

"They got way off track," the mayor said. "From what I know, the majority of the people on the committee didn't want to go the direction that others went."

He said that city officials didn't need people questioning how the city was run. What they need are people who will join in and help make the city a better place overall.

"We don't need people to question the city or ask us to give them a written report. We are asking them to help us help them," he said.

The questions were not the demise of the committee, like Mrs. Lewis assumed, the mayor and City Manager Joe Huffman said.

"They are allowed to view our budget, and ask us questions," Huffman said. "It's public knowledge what we put in the budget. We are an open book."

And as for money set aside for municipal elections and the State of the City Address, Huffman said it was a necessity.

"We have to have money for the elections because the county charges us to run the elections. It's a law that we can't run our own elections, so the county runs it for us, and we have to pay them for that and for the people who help," he said. "We never know what it is going to cost because it is based on how many elections we have to have."

And the State of the City Address is a brand new event that the city is throwing this year -- a sort of State of the Union Address for Goldsboro, informing residents what city officials have done over the past year and what they hope to do in years to come -- and because it is new, Huffman said they didn't know how much it would cost to organize it.

But as for the committee, its fall came from being counterproductive, the mayor said.

"It just wasn't what we had hoped it would be. It wasn't what we really wanted," he said. "So I talked with Joe and Tasha (Logan, the assistant city manager), and we thought it best to abolish it."