— Bill Bowman, publisher
I’ve remained present for individuals and groups throughout our district, focusing on the priorities you wanted to be established throughout my term, and I have challenged conventional governing and openly discussed concerns so that my constituency base could be well-informed not only about pending decisions but to be knowledgeable about procedure, so that no member of government at our level could use misleading tactics to gain their trust all while circumventing their voices.
Through my tenure, residents remind me that they want the city’s help to restore safety and beautification within its borders, and they want the property values of their homes to stop declining and experience an upward shift. They deserve to be well supported by their tax-funded city services and well represented by their council member in public and behind closed doors. In response, we (city council) worked to increase (police) patrol, ensuring these residents remain safe. I continue to make sure our staff remains responsive when concerns are raised regarding any other issues like trash collection, speeding and other nuisance activity.
Additionally, I advocated for a homeownership program that would specifically target our aging neighborhoods to create a more dominant presence of owner-occupied homes. As a result, the “Neighbor Next Door” program was created, and I was able to partner with members of the council to secure $400,000 in operating funds in our current budget. Police officers will be incentivized to purchase homes in designated areas through a $20,000 forgivable home loan, and I’ll be working to expand this program to teachers through collaborative funding with Cumberland County and am hopeful this will happen within the first 12 months of the program.
Residents across the city, and most certainly in my district, have expressed multiple concerns for pedestrian safety and stormwater solutions. Under the leadership of Councilmember Johnny Dawkins, I have worked to shape a city-funded stormwater infrastructure repair program, which to date, has $2.2 million allocated this year alone for repair projects on private property. This is a big deal because we are finally showing a serious commitment to investing in our infrastructure.
I am also an advocate for sidewalk installation along heavily walked routes. My family and I walk along Rosehill Road, Ramsey Street, McArthur Road and Country Club Road often for health and recreational purposes. I am familiar with the dangers faced by our lack of sidewalks. I have been pushing for increased funding and an expedited schedule for completion of this work. During the recent budget process, there was hesitation on behalf of a member of our board about having conversations — public conversations — regarding infrastructure and public safety bonds before the election due to the possibility that it could become a focal point, which could present challenges during some re-election campaigns. Bonds are usually secured through an increase in taxation. While I was not advocating for an increase in taxation, I did feel we owed it to the citizens of this community to look into options for repairing our streets and installing sidewalks. I addressed these concerns in writing to that member and cc’d the mayor pro tem. The member took no responsibility for their actions or the outcome. I was the only person to vote “NO” for the current budget, and the primary reason was because of the refusal to consider the most pressing needs of the community at large where sidewalks and street resurfacing is concerned and the two-faced way “no new fees” was highlighted by some, knowing that their intention is to raise fees in this off-election cycle budget.
Without fail, I continue to work to ensure the installation of crosswalks and other safety measures to protect our walkers, as is evidenced by my most recent request to consider options for resurfacing, which this time was unanimously approved by council.
I have confidence in each of you that when it is time to decide how to move forward with the work at hand, we will continue as partners. My proven record of leadership, commitment to open and transparent communication and ability to gain support from my peers has helped keep the needs of our district and our city and it’s citizens at the forefront and gives us confidence as we look ahead to the next two years.