While not full, the parking lot at the Walmart Supercenter on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in New Bern was crowded enough to cause gridlock around lunchtime Wednesday. Photos by Randy Foster / New Bern Post
Walmart’s efficiency at combining selection, services, and low prices may well be driving something else to its shopping aisles: COVID-19.
Experts in the field of epidemiology say that once a community-spread case of novel coronavirus appears, it means that the virulent, deadly virus is entrenched in that community.
Number of COVID-19 cases in Craven County. Graphic by Randy Foster / New Bern Post
Yet despite the news Tuesday of two new, community-spread cases of the disease in New Bern, Walmart continued to drive customers in search of good prices and, perhaps, toilet paper.
Gov. Roy Cooper issued a stay-at-home executive order that took effect at 5 p.m. Monday, but the order was so full of exemptions, it is virtually pointless.
Two obvious exemptions are grocery stores and pharmacies. Other things, like clothing, toys, electronics, garden supplies, and furnishings, are generally understood to be non-essential. Stores that specialize in those categories have been shuttered.
The parking lot at New Bern Mall was nearly empty on Wednesday as businesses at the mall honor a stay-at-home executive order.
That gives Walmart (and in all fairness, Target) a commercial advantage over competitors. Like all grocery stores and pharmacies that are staying open, so is Walmart, and while it’s open, it may as well sell kayaks and sun dresses, too.
The critical mass of retail goods at Walmart is creating another critical mass, one that nurtures and propagates a microscopic organism that can infect people without them knowing it, bake over a period of days while being contagious, and spread easily and widely. Most people who catch it feel fine or barely sick, but about one third of the time, people get very sick and sometimes die.
To try to keep this from happening, throughout the state, schools have shut down to on-campus teaching. Only faculty and staff are allowed on campus so that they can hold their classes online.
The faculty parking lot at New Bern High School was half-full on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, students attended class in the virtual world, using computers, tablets, and smart phones to listen to lectures and access course materials.
The student parking lot at New Bern High School was deserted on Wednesday.
Businesses in New Bern’s cherished, historic downtown were also obeying the stay-at-home order. Some restaurants struggled to remain open, offering curbside service.
The streets in Downtown New Bern, including the intersection of Craven and Pollock streets at City Hall, were quiet on Wednesday.
It is clear that some take the COVID-19 pandemic more seriously than others, and some hardly seem to take it seriously at all. Worse, they take advantage of it, meanwhile putting the community at greater peril.
Walmart and Target are not alone. Moen, one of Craven County’s largest employers, is still in business, despite shutting down for two days to scrub away potential COVID-19 contamination from an employee who contracted the virus.
Even places like O’Reilly’s Auto Parts continue to stay open (check out the lively comments among employees unhappy about that).
As COVID-19 continues to spread in the community, leaders will continue to issue stricter orders — the kind of orders that should have been issued before the virus got out of hand.
That point will level the playing field, and the petri dishes like Walmart will be forced to surrender their competitive advantage and close the remaining few gateways that allow COVID-19 to spread.
But by then the damage will have been done.
Meanwhile, life presents its usual challenges. It’s April 1 and the rent/mortgage is due. So are car payments, utility bills, credit card payments, and on, and on.
For people forced out of work because of COVID-19, these are challenging times not just for their health but for their finances.
But it need not be so injurious. The solution is really very simple. The most effective thing President Trump can do to protect the American consumer is to declare a financial holiday — no bills due, no bills paid, for anyone — not the average consumer, not the local merchant, not the hospital, not the automaker.
The $1,200 stimulus check that will arrive in two to three weeks (two to three weeks too late) is going to be chewed up by garden variety bills, when what everyone needs is financial security.
They need groceries, electricity, gasoline, and connectivity.
If that sounds too complicated, imagine how complicated it was for the federal government to conjure up nearly $4 trillion (and counting) to service this ongoing natural disaster.
Here is an exchange of emails from a friend in New Jersey. It started when I sent an email asking her how she and her family were holding up. She responded and I asked if she would allow me to run it on New Bern Post.
Here is what I asked:
Thanks for the update. I wonder if you would let me post this on my website, NewBernPost.com. I think it would be educational for our community leaders, who don’t seem to understand the severity of the problem that lies ahead over the next few weeks.
I could post it with or without identifying you (I would remove anything that could be traced back to you if you want anonymity). … With your permission, I would like to share your email with my readers in the hope that local leaders will take this situation more seriously. I have been religiously following a videoblog by Dr. John Campbell, a British nurse with a PhD who has been covering Covid-19 since January.
Based on Dr. Campbell’s research and other information I have come across, I have been blogging for local leaders to be more aggressive. Their typical response is that they are following state guidelines. I don’t think state guidelines are going to be effective. Their strategy is to take action when cases arise, whereas I think by then it is too late.
Having someone from New Jersey would be very illuminating.
Here is her response to my request:
Sure, Randy–use it if you think it’s helpful. Yes, I leave it to you to change names to protect the guilty. 😉
It’s interesting because here, too, officials waited waaaayyyy too long, and even when the word came down, people were flaunting the regulations. My daughter saw lots of images on social media of friends hanging out, etc. when social distancing was mandated. The school principal had to send a letter out to address it. (I can forward, if you like.) The last week or so people have started to take it more seriously. I do think it’s a cultural thing at least in part–Americans are just too attached to the value of individualism to recognize how important the social good is, especially at a time like this.
As crowded as we are in NJ and as many cases as we have now, the situation in NYC is nightmarish.
Here’s her original email, edited for privacy, from near the front line in the war against Covid-19:
Been more or less on lock-down for about 10 days. Kids are home-schooling and (my husband) and I are working from home. (Well, I’d been doing that anyway, but now I have lots of company!)
It is getting scary, though. We have many family members involved in health care and supplies are very short. (A relative is) a nurse, has had to save and re-use face masks. (Another relative) is a respiratory therapist at (a hospital) in NYC and has been assigned all their COVID patients.
Trying to just keep up with what we can, let go what we need to let go of. (Our daughter’s) 17th bday was last week and it was a total bust–she was to have taken her road test for her driver’s license (nope) and had dress rehearsal for the school musical (nope nope). Instead of hanging with her friends she got to spend loads of quality time with her family… every teenager’s dream bday. No prom, no Memorial day weekend at the beach… etc. Small potatoes in light of the big picture, but you know the big picture can be elusive for the average teen.
It is an odd sensation. Unlike 9/11 and Sandy, where there was very little lead time and huge consequences, we’ve had lots of lead time here and the consequences are still unfolding. It’s happening all around us, but the weather is so nice it’s downright surreal, and it’s hard to brace yourself for something you can’t see or touch or smell or… anything. Also, post-Sandy and 9/11, people really rallied around each other, and some people are doing that now… but many others are too frightened for themselves to reach out to anyone else.
So that’s a little glimpse into life here right now. At times I feel normal, at other times I’m quite anxious. The unknown is of course the tricky part.
By Jim Schout | It seems to me that most of America needs to go back to work. We are faced with a conundrum of monumental proportion. We must weigh our personal health versus our personal wealth. But, it all comes down to mathematics in my view.
If we look at the math, the solution has always come down to distancing. The President asked us to distance ourselves for 15 days to allow for the virus to be evaluated through testing and the isolation of infected persons. This was an excellent plan because it allows us to see what is needed to solve the problem. And, the way to solve any problem is by defining it properly. May I try to do this for us?
If we look at New York City where the problem is most severe, we find that (as of March 24th) there are 12,305 cases in an area of 469 sq. mi. This is 26.2 cases per square mile.
For the entire state of New York, which has an area of 54,556 sq. mi., there are 23,230 cases or 0.42 cases per square mile. This is also a bad situation, but a fraction of the problem seen in New York City. Instead of 26 cases per mile, the State sees one case in every 2.35 square miles. The difference is an infection density of 600 times. So, distancing is key. High population density begets high infection rates, and that makes complete sense.
What about us? According to the State of North Carolina’s Health organization, there are 398 cases known. We are still testing and the number will likely rise,, but if we stay at about this level, that equals one case in every 135 square miles of our state of 53,918 sq. mi.. But, remember, New York is at one per 2.35 sq. mi. This is a huge difference in infection density, a ratio of 57:1. And, in Craven County we have two known cases in 774 sq. mi. of area. That is one case per 387 sq. mi. Based on this one fact, a person could spend years wandering around trying to find a single place to become infected.
The math tells me we might be ready to go back to work here. Let’s see what transpires in the next few days, but if we have isolated the known cases and we have tested all known suspected cases for 15 days, why are we worried about the future risk? As more people come to this realization, I feel we will know the right answers. New York City is not even close to getting back to work, but we might be. All over the country local Health Organizations need to be making these determinations and telling us to stop hunkering down and go about business as usual. This is not a Federal Government nor even a State Government decision. This is a City/County Government issue. Our local health experts should already understand the problem and give us direction. Why destroy our local economy if the risks are minimal and the reward is great?
Think about this. Everyone in New York City has a completely different perspective about this problem that we do. The news media is concentrated there. So, everything we read and hear is tainted by their perspective of this situation. What they see is catastrophic and it scares them. What we see is completely different. Likewise, our Governor sees what is happening In Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro and Charlotte where the problem is amplified by the density. But, what is right for them is not necessarily right for most North Carolinians.
Let’s continue to acquire data and evaluate for ourselves. We have stopped our lives for two weeks and the data is coming in hourly.What we need is to evaluate it correctly.
Jim Schout lives in New Bern, North Carolina
Contributed commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinions of New Bern Post or its staff.
Yesterday, coronavirus was declared an international pandemic. Already, there are 129,589 known cases and 4,749 deaths globally.1
Now, it’s even more critical that our government takes action to protect public health. Fortunately, legislation introduced today would provide real help for struggling families. However, Republicans in the Senate are threatening to block this urgent bill.2
Speak up to demand that your members of Congress pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The Sierra Club’s mission is to protect the human and natural environment. Our environment is more than just beautiful landscapes; it is also the world that surrounds us: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities where we live. It’s critical we stand in solidarity through public health emergencies such as the one we are currently facing.
The coronavirus aid package introduced today by Speaker Pelosi would provide critical support for working people and families. The bill would:3
• Grant temporary sick leave for the growing number of people forced to stay home from work and school.
• Expand unemployment benefits for those laid off because of the virus.
• Increase food and nutrition access, including expanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and end work and work training requirements during this crisis.
• Make free coronavirus testing widely available to adequately address the scope of the problem and better contain the outbreak.
Will you speak up now to make sure this happens?
The Trump administration has consistently attacked important safety net programs, including food assistance and Medicaid, and underfunded critical agencies like the Centers for Disease Control. This has crippled the federal government’s ability to keep people safe from the coronavirus.
Add your voice in demanding Congress place passing lifesaving legislation ahead of party politics.
The spread of this virus has made it disturbingly clear how desperately we need policies that ensure people have access to good, affordable healthcare, healthy food, and sick leave from their jobs.
We can act now to provide healthcare and aid to the millions of American families who are struggling.
Speak up to urge your members of Congress to support passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act immediately.
Thank you for showing that, even in hard times, we are stronger together.
1. “Coronavirus Cases,” Worldometer, March 12, 2020.
2. Alexander Bolton, “Senate Republicans poised to reject House coronavirus relief bill,” The Hill, March 12, 2020.
3. “H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” House of Representatives, March 12, 2020.
I am reading a prize-winning history by Philip Dray, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: A History of Lynching of Black America (2002). A Pulitzer-prize finalist, I don’t recommend the book to either the weak-of-heart or the weak-of-stomach.
Mr. Dray does not attempt a complete account of all lynchings in the United States, and North Carolina and New Bern, are, fortunately, not mentioned often, but when they are, at least in three incidents, mistakes of either omission or commission are made. New Bern is mentioned as follows:
In 1919 a lynching occurred of a man accused of murdering someone at the Roper Lumber Company, then on North Craven Street. But the lynching did not subsequently occur in New Bern, as Dray relates. The suspect was hustled to Onslow County for safekeeping where a mob, nevertheless, killed him in his cell by shooting.
Not mentioned is an incident occurring in 1905 and recounted in John Green’s A New Bern Album (1985.) A black man accused of attacking a woman in Clarks was taken to the Craven County Jail, then near the courthouse at the corner of Broad and Craven.
In the early morning hours a mob overcame the sheriff, took the victim to the old Neuse River bridge (then at the foot of Johnson Street) and hanged him from a bridge trestle (and shot him repeatedly).
A more egregious error in the narrative, at least in my opinion, is Mr. Dray’s telling readers Strom Thurmond was a NC Senator.
Pardon me- Mr. Dray’s book may have earned a Pulitzer nomination, and I very much think it deserves it, but putting Thurmond in North Carolina also earns Dray’s proof-readers and editors, not to mention Dray himself, dunce awards.
Our senators have included some of the worst- let’s not add to the historical record one of South Carolina’s own.
Residents in the Ghent neighborhood are begging for help from City Hall to do something about cars using residential streets as cut-throughs, raising the question, why wouldn’t City Hall help?
Could it be that City Hall doesn’t want to be seen as responsive when residents ask for help? That’s actually been an argument (“We don’t want to help you because then we’d have to help everyone”).
Could it be that City Hall thinks that throttling back on Ghent cut-through traffic will only push the problem elsewhere? (That actually happened recently when through-traffic was blocked and cars — temporarily — used nearby streets as a detour until they found that First Street is faster).
The real reason is something else, a mile away and an apparently unrelated issue — Farmers Market.
Farmers Market sits on a piece of prime real estate valued at $471,880, according to the county tax office. But that tax value figure belies its true value.
Located on railroad frontage and fixed between the N.C. History Center and Downtown Proper, this 1.2 acre parcel has been occupied by New Bern Farmers Market since 1984 (note: typo corrected from 1994).
The property was acquired by the Redevelopment Commission and then sold to the city for $10 in 1978. The enclosure on the property was purpose-built for the Farmers Market.
Farmers Market was originally seen by City Hall as an asset that attracted people downtown during a time when Downtown New Bern was getting back on its feet following years of decline.
The waterfront along the Trent River, once teeming with industry, had become derelict, nothing like what it is now today, and Farmers Market was one of the first improvements that helped downtown revitalization.
The city charged Farmers Market $1 a year to use the property, but when Dana Outlaw became mayor, something changed.
Outlaw, the son of a former New Bern city manager, started ridding City Hall of what he perceived as surplus properties.
He also ended city contributions to non-profits that had been helping the city in numerous ways, such as Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation, which was primarily responsible for downtown’s turnaround, and New Bern Firemen’s Museum, which was in a city-owned building and also charged $1 rent.
The city sold the Dunn Building kitty-corner from City Hall and moved offices around to other city-owned buildings, including a former elementary school on First Street between Spencer Avenue and Trent Boulevard.
City Hall owns other properties — numerous houses that it foreclosed on when cash-strapped owners were unable to afford repairs and then the demolition costs when the city bulldozed the houses, and a large parcel of wetlands between the Pembroke Community, U.S Highway 70, Carolina Avenue, and Trent Road that it is selling part of to the New Bern Housing Authority to build low-income apartments.
City success in the real estate business is hit and miss. The houses in its inventory earn nickels on the dollar when sold compared to the cost the city incurs in legal fees, demolition, and marketing.
It has been having trouble selling the old Firemen’s Museum on Hancock Street, and when a group of artists offered to rent it from the city, the city stole the idea but then failed at starting its own artist studio.
That wasn’t the first time City Hall tried to muscle in on the success of local non-profits.
Which brings us to the old Power Plant between First Street, Rhem Street, and Park Avenue.
After years of industrial use, the 3.8 acre parcel is an environmental nightmare beneath a thin layer of asphalt. No one in their right mind would ever buy such a property, given the high clean-up costs, although the county tax office values it at $339,720.
Stuck with surplus property that it could never sell, leaders at City Hall came up with an idea that they thought would kill two birds with one stone.
They would move, voluntarily or otherwise, Farmers Market from its attractive property downtown to the Power Plant property, once the city completed various improvements to accommodate Farmers Market needs.
The First Street property is a turd, but they would make it a shiny turd.
Unsurprisingly, members of the New Bern Farmers Market and downtown businesses and visitors resisted the idea. The timing wasall in the Farmers Market’s favor.
Even if City Hall evicted the Farmers Market at the end of its lease, the Farmers Market had a one-year extension option that, if it exercised the option, would have them being evicted the month before municipal elections in 2017.
The city backed down and granted another 5-year lease, but this time increased the rent to $500 a year (ed. note: corrected from per month).
Meanwhile, City Hall hunkered down. It claimed that instead of there being a farmers market-style City Market, it would partner with Craven Community College to hold courses at the newly branded VOLT Center.
But secretly, some city leaders held on to the idea of a farmers market, seeking grants and other funding using a technique called fraud. At least one grant application withheld key information, not the least of which was the implication that New Bern didn’t have a farmers market and City Market would fill that void.
Chemical contaminants and misleading grant applications aside, City Hall faced other obstacles in creating a new farmers market to put the existing one out of business.
The old electric generation plant, located between Country Club Road/First Street, Park Avenue, and Rhem Street, has access issues.
First, Country Club Road/First Street was butt ugly.
In fixing that problem (you may have guessed already, the city got someone else to foot the cost, namely N.C. Department of Transportation, aka state taxpayers), street engineers employed a concept called “Road Diet,” which is the latest thing at street engineer cocktail parties.
They took the street, a four-lane monstrosity with occasional sidewalks and plenty of eyesores, and spiffed it up, turning it into a two-lane street (with center turn lane), bike lanes, and sidewalks on both sides.
That led to another problem. N.C. DOT said it would do the work, but resisted the idea of there being an entrance to City Market off First Street. It would be too close to freeway onramps and offramps, they said.
That forced City Hall to figure out a different way for hundreds of visitors to get to their future farmers market, which left one choice: Rhem Street.
Rhem Street is one block long and located within a commercially zoned district, although there are just as many houses on Rhem Street as there are businesses.
The two main ways to get to Rhem Street are from Country Club Road, and from (drum roll) Second Street.
See what they did there?
To put New Bern Farmers Market out of business, City Hall has to keep Second Street open to commercial traffic, even though Second Street, just two and one-half blocks long, is located entirely in a residential district.
Connecting the dots, it leads directly back to the property on which New Bern Farmers Market is now located.
For some reason, forces inside City Hall want New Bern Farmers Market off the property on South Front Street really, really badly, either by moving it to another location, or by putting it out of business.
The question is, who wants that downtown Farmers Market property so badly that they have City Hall in their back pocket, fighting fiercely to get it done?
The answer is reached the old fashioned way: Follow the money.
Ever since Jeffrey Odham, then a candidate for Ward 6 alderman, ran on a campaign of running city hall like a business, I was apprehensive.
Once he took office, I started to see exactly what he meant.
He wasn’t talking about a business that puts customer satisfaction first. He was talking about the American concept of business efficiency — low cost, high profit, declining customer service, cut-throat competitiveness, and poor responsiveness to customer needs and wants.
There are numerous examples that bear this out.
There’s the example of City Hall pushing the Firemen’s Museum out of its old location on Middle Street into the old fire station on Broad Street. This was part of a push by the Board of Aldermen to get rid of surplus properties, even if the property is being used for the betterment of the community.
Once the Firemen’s Museum finished moving, the old building sat vacant. Despite some initial interest from buyers, the city was simply unable to sell the building.
Then a group of artists who had been forced out of their previous studio approached the city about renting the old museum property.
That brings us to another example, one of cut-throat competitiveness.
The artists wanted to rent the building for the non-profit rate (usually $1 a month or a year) or if not that, as low as possible, and in turn would provide numerous services and amenities to the community.
Something similar is happening with New Bern Farmers Market. The city tried to force it from its city-owned location on South Front Street to the old electric generation plant off First Street. City strong-arm tactics to get its way failed but only due to the proximity of municipal elections, which would occur at precisely the same time City Hall would be evicting the Farmers Market. Rather than face the wrath of angry voters, city leaders extended the Farmers Market lease for five years but increased the rent from $1 a month to $500 (the only example of the city charging a non-profit anything other than token rent).
City Hall plays the long game, however. If it can’t get New Bern Farmers Market to move, it plans to start its own, fraudulently going after government grants to help pave the way, with the ultimate goal of putting New Bern Farmers Market out of business so it can sell the property on which it operates.
Let’s also not forget the draconian utility deposits the city imposes on people having a hard enough time as it is keeping up with high utility costs.
Let’s not forget the place where you pay your electric bill. Until complaints came to light, they locked their doors 15 minutes before closing time and even closed their public restrooms.
The pettiness just keeps on coming.
These are not the only examples of City Hall being “run like a business,” they are just some examples.
Except where the law requires public participation, City Hall treats city residents (those without wealth, at least) as annoyances. City officials treat citizens disdainfully and ignore their requests whenever the law allows it.
Paradoxically, city workers continue to provide high levels of customer service despite what their management forces on them. Utility workers, police patrolmen, firefighters, desk clerks, street workers and more, they all get the job done.
My belief is that a city should not be run like a business, but should be run like a cooperative.
Citizens are stakeholders, not customers. The money they pay for their rents and mortgages, along with taxes they pay for goods and services, fund an organization that provides for the safety and well-being of these stakeholders.
They are represented by a board of directors, which in this case is the Board of Aldermen. It is each board member’s responsibility to interpret and represent the needs and wants of their constituency to the city executives that carry out those tasks.
But that’s not how it has been working.
Instead, ambitious city officials have been launching a series of vanity projects that will look good on their resumes and that they can point to with pride when it comes time for asking for raises.
Meanwhile, New Bern becomes less and less affordable, with some of the worst housing affordability rates in the state. That should worry everyone.
If entry-level workers can’t afford to live here, New Bern won’t have the entry-level workforce that is the foundation of New Bern’s commerce and tourism.
It takes a community to be a community, but go ahead, Alderman Odham and the rest who stand behind him, keep running the city like a business, searching for profits, and discouraging “undesirables” from living here.
City Hall may play the long game, but it doesn’t play the sustainable game.
New Bern Post welcomes letters and posts them whenever possible.
A syndicated newspaper life-coach warns against “getting catfished.” Every ready to learn new slang, I brought the question of what this phrase meant to a reference librarian. She said getting catfished means that one person in an on-line communication has adopted a false identity or is being less that truthful in personal matters.
The source of the phrase, according to the librarian, is that one party may be expecting a flounder, but, alas, pulls up a lowly, bottom-feeding catfish (who happens to be ugly as well.)
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that flounders are also bottom-feeders and not really that handsome, given two eyes on one side of their face, I must protest.
Making catfish the subject of phrase such as this, is, well, slanderous, unfair and cruel.
Catfish happen to be delicious, either filleted or made into a stew and by that time their appearance and what they eat is largely forgotten.
Does no-one even think about a catfish’s feelings? Relationships are often something to stew over but I don’t think that is the reason catfish were chosen for this slur. I suspect catfish bigotry from that segment of the elite which may not know the difference between a hook and a sinker, but are only too willing to go to the natural world for fishy metaphors.
New Bern received a mediocre score for family friendliness in North Carolina from WalletHub, a website that produces data-driven articles ranking various subjects in various categories.
In ranking North Carolina cities for “2019’s Best Places to Raise a Family in North Carolina,” New Bern ranked 56th out of 87 cities. The top-ranked city was Cary, while coming in at 87th was Laurinburg.
In Eastern North Carolina, Havelock — you read that right — was the highest rated city in the survey, coming in at 35th. Other Eastern NC cities were Wilmington (44th), Greenville (53rd), Jacksonville (59th), Wilson (70th), Elizabeth City (75th), Tarboro (77th), Goldsboro (81st), and Kinston (84th).
Taking just Eastern North Carolina cities into account, then, New Bern ranked fourth, just behind Greenville and ahead of Jacksonville.
The rankings took into consideration 10 metrics, of which New Bern did better than average in just three: violent-crime rate per capita, unemployment rate, and playgrounds per capita.
New Bern ranked low in several categories, including percentage of families with children under age 17, median family income, and high school graduation rate. It rated near the bottom — 72nd — in housing affordability.
New Bern appears at the top of many lists, from Top Charming Small Towns to Top Small Retirement Towns, but these are typically niche categories. Raising a family is about as fundamental to a city’s purpose as you can get, and New Bern’s ranking, indeed rankings of all Eastern North Carolina cities, should raise some red flags and help policymakers in making decisions.
The data used in these rankings is entirely publicly available, and is the same information that companies look at when determining expansion and relocations.
True, New Bern is constantly looking for ways to up its game. But take one example, the planned Martin-Marietta Park. New Bern already ranks high for playgrounds per capita (24th in the state). Martin-Marietta Park won’t move the bar one iota in rankings such as these, even if it’s a park that is physically larger than most of Craven County’s smaller cities.
The focus should be where New Bern and Craven County are average or weak — median family income, quality of school system, high school graduation rate, poverty rate, and perhaps foremost, housing affordability.
Here are specific rankings for New Bern:
Raising a Family in New Bern (1=Best; 43=Avg.; 87=Worst)
64th– % of Families with Children Aged 0 to 17
57th– Median Family Income (adjusted for cost of living)
Craven County commissioners will be reconsidering a short-sighted decision to end curbside recycling following backlash from citizens upset by the decision.
Commissioners made the decision on April 15 rather than double the fee due to cost increases.
This is one of those no-win situations for the board, a majority-Republican group with two newcomers (E.T. Mitchell and Denny Bucher) hesitant to raise taxes or fees because, well, they’re Republicans.
But here’s the thing: ending curbside recycling forces people to do one of three things: discard their recyclables with the regular garbage; make trips to county convenience centers to drop off their recyclables; or toss their recyclables into the woods or by the side of roads along with their other garbage because people like that suck.
For those of us who actually try to be law abiding and who care about the environment, throwing out recyclables with the regular garbage actually violates county rules that forbid recyclables from going into the landfill.
On top of that, citizens would be charged $3 for every 33 gallons of recyclables they illegally send to the landfill.
On top of that, the amount of materials going into the landfill would increase significantly, reducing the life of the landfill. You want to talk about spending taxpayer dollars? Try expanding landfills or opening new ones.
The good news is, commissioners are going to reconsider their decision.
The Board of Commissioners will hold a special called meeting Friday April 26 at 10:30 a.m. (I know! The time sucks!) in the Commissioners’ Board Room at the corner of Broad and Craven streets. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the decision made by the board on April 15 concerning the curbside recycling contract.
So here’s the other side. If county commissioners vote to continue curbside recycling, they will be accused of increasing taxes and fees by the usual group of folks who can’t see past this evening’s episode of Hannity.
The reason recycling has become an issue is because China has stopped accepting U.S. recyclables. We as a nation do a terrible job of separating our recyclables and properly preparing them, and the Chinese have decided it’s not worth the effort and expense to process it.
I know this doesn’t apply to New Bern Post readers, who statistically are better educated about such things and care about the environment. But, sad to say, you are in the minority.
If you want to make sure county commissioners do the right thing and continue curbside recycling, show up at Friday’s meeting.