Category: Community issues

May 9th, 2020 by newbernpostadmin

The New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce is joining the county board of commissioners in asking Governor Roy Cooper to relax COVID-19-related restrictions on Craven County.

In a letter submitted to the New Bern Sun Journal, Chamber of Commerce leaders said the following:

As we are all well-aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is a serious public health crisis. Fortunately, the New Bern area responded strongly and appropriately when asked to do so in mid-late March.

Under direction from our leadership, New Bern residents have diligently shuttered their businesses, closed their schools, and practiced social distancing, all in the name of public health. Everyone accepted that these drastic measures were needed to stem the spread of the virus in our community.

For this, all of us should be thankful in knowing that we are flattening the curve and have hopefully avoided the worst of this pandemic.

Unfortunately, this has also put a great strain on our economic and mental well being. Over the past week, the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce has solicited feedback from our members regarding the reopening of the area’s economy.

While members are ready to reopen, they also understand that to do so would require that they strictly enforce social distancing and, in some cases, limit the number of customers in their facilities. They understand that they will have to take on additional burdens of cleaning and sanitizing their facilities to avoid a resurgence of this virus. They firmly believe, given the right support, the economy and health of the New Bern area can be properly balanced, and we can move forward.

We applaud the Governor’s phased approach for a gradual reopening based on public health data. However, at the Chamber, we believe that the recovery process should be enacted on a county-by-county or regional basis and not in a one-sized-fits-all model.

Everyone understands that an area like New Bern is a completely different place than a densely populated urban area, such as Raleigh or Charlotte. Rural areas, such as rural eastern North Carolina, have been fortunate to have avoided the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic but are now being forced to suffer a dire economic fate that would last well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Bern area residents and businesses have been resilient in their efforts to avoid the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials should now allow us to work just as hard to avoid the economic pitfalls that are certain to come with further shutdowns and restrictions on economic activity.

As we move into the Phases of re-opening, we are asking that Governor Cooper strongly consider this regional approach.

New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce, Lee C. Hodge, 2020 board chair and Kevin M. Roberts, president

Posted in Business, Community issues, Craven County, Economy, Economy and Employment, Health, New Bern

March 16th, 2020 by newbernpostadmin

On March 12, the New Bern Post called for local governments to take leadership in the face of the spreading and deadly COVID-19.

They said they are going enough, denied anyone local was being tested, and said they were waiting for the state for guidance.

Within two days, Craven County had one COVID-19 case and, under a governor executive order, went to distance learning for K-12 and banned mass gatherings of 100 or more.

Meanwhile, other cities, counties, and school districts in the state WERE taking local initiative.

Waiting for cases to appear is too late. The key is prevention.

According to Dr. John Campbell, If China had responded to the crisis one week earlier, it would have reduced its death rate by 65 percent.

Here is an example of a small town taking effective action 100 years ago, during the Spanish flu.

The ONLY example of local leadership is at Craven Community College. Despite no executive orders to do so, it too switched to distance learning.

New Bern and Craven County need to stop following and start leading. Lives are at stake.

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Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Community issues, Craven Community College, Craven County, Craven County Schools, Mayor, New Bern

March 14th, 2020 by newbernpostadmin

The first case of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been confirmed in Craven County, the Craven County Health Department announced Saturday morning.

The individual who tested positive for COVID-19 is an adult male who returned from international travel. He became symptomatic and had a negative flu test.

He was tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, and confirmation of positive COVID-19 test results were received at the Craven County Health Department on Saturday, March 14, 2020, from the North Carolina State Lab.

The individual has been in isolation at home since he was tested on Wednesday. Craven County Health Department’s Communicable Disease staff is working to conduct contact tracing to make sure everyone who came into close contact with this individual is quarantined. Close contact is anyone who was within six feet of the individual for 10 minutes or more.

“We believe this was brought to Craven County from abroad. We do not believe this was a community acquired transmission,” said Scott Harrelson, Craven County health director.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services website lists the Craven County case as a presumptive positive and not a confirmed positive.

Presumptive Positive is a positive COVID-19 test that still must be confirmed by another testing laboratory. NCDHHS is responding to presumptive positive cases by following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to protect public health and limit the spread of infection.

Confirmed Positive is a confirmed positive case, meaning that the test has been confirmed by the CDC lab.

Craven County Schools was made aware of the case Saturday morning.

“At this time, we know of no connection of this person to our school system,” school officials said in a news release. “

Craven County Health Department’s Communicable Disease staff is working to conduct contact tracing to make sure everyone who came into close contact with this individual is quarantined.

Close contact is anyone who was within six feet of the individual for 10 minutes or more. Craven County Schools has been working for weeks on plans in the event of school closures. As soon as we have additional information, we will release it.”

The Epiphany School for Global Studies, the largest private school in Craven County, has suspended on-campus courses effective Monday, and will be holding classes online starting Wednesday for the next two weeks at least.

Unofficial reports of a COVID-19 case have been spreading throughout New Bern for several days.

CarolinaEast Medical Center denied that there were any cases, suspected or otherwise, at the hospital.

The hospital has imposed visitation restrictions, however.

There are no approved treatments and no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. However, there are known methods to reduce and slow the spread of infection.

Individuals can practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes.

Community-based interventions can also help slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes measures collectively known as “social distancing.”

Social distancing measures aim to reduce the frequency of contact and increase physical distance between persons, thereby reducing the risks of person-to-person transmission.

These measures are most effective when implemented early in an epidemic.

North Carolina is at a critical inflection point where we may have the opportunity to slow the spread of this epidemic by taking proactive steps now.

The Craven County COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Team is following the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) recommended mitigation measures.

NC DHHS is making the following recommendations to reduce the spread of infection while North Carolina and Craven County are still in an early stage in order to protect lives and avoid strain on our health care system. NC DHHS is making these recommendations for the next 30 days and will re-assess at that point.

The following recommendations pertain to persons statewide.

1. SYMPTOMATIC PERSONS

If you need medical care and have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or suspect you might have COVID-19, call ahead and tell your health care provider you have or may have COVID-19. This will allow them to take steps to keep other people from getting exposed.

NC DHHS recommends that persons experiencing fever and cough should stay at home and not go out until their symptoms have completely resolved.

2. HIGH RISK PERSONS WITHOUT SYMPTOMS

NC DHHS recommends that people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should stay at home to the extent possible to decrease the chance of infection. People at high risk include people:

  • Over 65 years of age,
  • or with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes,
  • or with weakened immune systems.

3. CONGREGATE LIVING FACILITIES

NC DHHS recommends that all facilities that serve as residential establishments for high risk persons described above should restrict visitors.

Exceptions should include end of life care or other emergent situations determined by the facility to necessitate a visit. If visitation is allowed, the visitor should be screened and restricted if they have a respiratory illness or potential exposure to COVID-19.

Facilities are encouraged to implement social distancing measures and perform temperature and respiratory symptom screening of residents and staff. These establishments include settings such as nursing homes, independent and assisted living facilities, correction facilities, and facilities that care for medically vulnerable children.

4. SCHOOLS

We do not recommend pre-emptive school closure at this time but do recommend that schools and childcare centers cancel or reduce large events and gatherings (e.g., assemblies) and field trips, limit inter-school interactions, and consider distance or e-learning in some settings.

Students at high risk should implement individual plans for distance or e-learning. School dismissals may be necessary when staff or student absenteeism impacts the ability to remain open. Short-term closures may also be necessary to facilitate public health investigation and/or cleaning if a case is diagnosed in a student or staff member.

5. WORKPLACE

NC DHHS recommends that employers and employees use teleworking technologies to the greatest extent possible, stagger work schedules, and consider canceling non-essential travel. Workplaces should hold larger meetings virtually, to the extent possible.

Additionally, employers should arrange the workspace to optimize distance between employees, ideally at least six feet apart. Employers should urge high risk employees to stay home and urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.

6. MASS GATHERINGS, COMMUNITY, AND SOCIAL EVENTS

NC DHHS recommends that organizers of events that draw more than 100 people should cancel, postpone, modify these events or offer online streaming services. These events include large gatherings where people are in close contact (less than 6 feet), for example concerts, conferences, sporting events, faith-based events and other large gatherings.

7. MASS TRANSIT

Mass transit operators should maximize opportunities for cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces. People should avoid using use mass transit (e.g. buses, trains) while sick.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency related to COVID-19 on March 10, 2020 which activates the State Emergency Operations Center. This declaration makes it easier for local agencies to coordinate a response to COVID-19.

Craven County Emergency Management is maintaining situational awareness by closely monitoring the updated guidelines from the North Carolina Emergency Management State Emergency Operations Center efforts through the Web EOC system and the North Carolina Division of Public Health.

Craven County Emergency Management is actively participating in implementing the new emergency medical services protocols that went into effect last week.

Craven County Emergency Management has also implemented Emergency Medical Dispatch protocols to screen 911 medical calls to aid emergency medical services response and they are participating in all conference calls with State of North Carolina Emergency Management.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 or COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a new virus first identified in Wuhan, China. Common symptoms are similar to the flu, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

Coronaviruses like COVID-19 are most often spread from person to person through the air by coughing or sneezing, through close personal contact (including touching or shaking hands), or through touching your nose, mouth, or eyes before washing your hands. The best way to reduce your risk of becoming infected with a respiratory virus, such as COVID-19, is to practice good hygiene:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.
  • People who are sick should always cover their coughs and sneezes using a tissue or the crook of their elbow; wash your hands after using a tissue to wipe your nose or mouth.
  • People who are sick should stay home from work or school until they are well.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your unwashed hands.

Craven County citizens are encouraged to use reputable sources of information to learn more about coronavirus.

Reputable sources of information include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NC Division of Public Health websites and the NC Division of Public Health’s Coronavirus call line 1-866-462-3821.

Craven County Government COVID-19 updates will appear on the Craven County website at www.cravencountync.gov, on the Craven County Facebook page @cravencounty and the Craven County Twitter account @cravencountync.

Residents are also encouraged to register to receive notifications via the Craven County website and to register to receive emergency notifications via text, email and phone calls through the CodeRed Emergency Notification System.

For more information on COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health website at https://ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus.

Posted in Community, Community issues, Craven County, Craven County Schools, Education, Health

March 2nd, 2020 by newbernpostadmin

Tried By Fire, Inc. invites women, and supportive men, to participate in a special “Make A Difference Day” on Saturday, March 28 from 9 a.m. to noon at 524 Roundtree Street in New Bern.

The morning will be focused on clearing out debris and overgrown vegetation at the future site of “My Sister’s House.”

My Sister’s House will provide affordable and supportive transitional housing for up to six women coming out of prison. A safe, decent and affordable home is essential for human survival and dignity. Upon release from prison, women have identified housing as one of their most urgent needs to meet the challenges of re-entry into the community. Significant barriers exist for these mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, etc. due to stigmatization and policies barring them from most federal housing assistance programs.

Transitional housing exist in the area for men returning to the community from prison, but there are no such facilities for women within Craven County or the seven surrounding counties of Pamlico, Carteret, Lenoir, Jones, Onslow, Pitt and Green.

“We are very excited to begin working on the renovations to this property in the Duffyfield community,” said Bonita Simmons, executive drector of Tried By Fire, Inc.  “We want to make a difference with a visible statement that we are committed to improving this two-story home and we look forward to being part of this neighborhood,” said Simmons.

Volunteers should wear close-toed shoes and bring work gloves. Rakes and brush trimmers are also recommended.  Renovation of the two-story home, built in 1941, will begin within the next few months. Licensed contractors will be hired to replace the roof, electric, plumbing, and HVAC systems.

The bulk of the interior and exterior repairs will, however, be completed by volunteers under the supervision of staff from Habitat for Humanity of Craven County.

“Once actual repair work can begin, our ‘Sisters Helping Sisters’ campaign will recruit volunteers to make this home a reality for post-incarcerated women,” Simmons said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the volunteer coordinator at deedradurocher@gmail.com or 252-670-1907. For more information or to make financial or in-kind donations is asked to contact Bonita Simmons at triedbyfire1@yahoo.com or 252-637-2339.

Posted in Community, Community issues, Craven County, Habitat for Humanity, Housing

February 26th, 2020 by newbernpostadmin

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica

Retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Bob Verell makes his way back from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall after playing taps Nov. 2, 2017, at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in Tupelo, Mississippi. Verell, a Vietnam War veteran, served as an infantry platoon sergeant in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Gross)

Volunteers needed for traffic and parking control

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Replica and Mobile Education Museum, a three-quarter size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will be displayed at Lawson Creek Park in New Bern from March 24-29.

Called “The Wall That Heals,” the replica was unveiled in Washing on Veterans Day 1996 by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

It is designed to travel to communities throughout the nation. The exhibit features a three-quarter scale replica of the Wall, and a mobile Education Center. Since its dedication, the Wall has been displayed at almost 600 communities throughout the nation.

If you can’t attend during the New Bern appearance, here is the 2020 touring schedule.

Volunteers are being sought to assist with traffic and parking control. Two types of positions are available:

  • Front Gate, requiring minimal standing and walking.
  • Parking/Traffic Control, requiring significant standing and walking.

All volunteers must attend a briefing at Lawson Creek Park at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 25.

To volunteer, follow this link.

Posted in Achievements, Activities, Community, Community issues, Education, Events, Marines, Veterans

February 12th, 2020 by newbernpostadmin

Block Party to make it all happen—Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020 in Vanceboro

The Craven Resource Council was forged with four primary goals in mind

  • Building relationships between community residents and partner stakeholders.
  • Raising awareness about community resources.
  • Identifying and addressing resource gaps
  • Maximizing the reach of partner agencies.

The council is the result of a collaborative relationship between Habitat for Humanity of Craven County, Twin Rivers Opportunity, and Vision Forward and has since expanded to include other non-profit groups, City and County agencies, and other organizations.

The Craven Resource Council will host their second community focused event on Saturday, Feb. 29, in Vanceboro, at the large field adjacent to Kite’s Grocery Store. The block party will be held from 1-4 p.m. and will have activities for children and parents, games and prizes, music, as well as snacks and refreshments.

Antoinette Boskey, Neighborhood Revitalization director at Habitat for Humanity of Craven County, said, “This is going to be a great opportunity for us to learn more about this area of county directly from residents whom we welcome to be a part of helping us fill these gaps in their own community. All the partner agencies are excited about the opportunity to connect with the community and learn from them how we can truly reach each of our missions.”

If you are an agency interested in joining this exciting collaborative group or have any questions about this upcoming event, please contact Antoinette Boskey at 252-633-9599 or via email at aboskey@cravencountyhabitat.org.

Posted in Achievements, Activities, Community, Community issues, Craven County, Education, Entertainment, Events, Food, Habitat for Humanity

December 23rd, 2019 by newbernpostadmin

Editor:

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.

John Phaup, New Bern

Posted in Commentary, Community issues, Crime, History, In Box, Opinion

July 23rd, 2019 by newbernpostadmin

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 was  all 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.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Business, Commentary, Community, Community issues, Craven Community College, Farmers Market, Mayor

July 23rd, 2019 by newbernpostadmin

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.

City Hall refused the offer, and instead tried to go into the art studio business itself. But it couldn’t find any takers and the old museum property continues to gather dust.

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 not forget the city’s habit of tearing down houses of poor people and then foreclosing on the properties when the owners couldn’t pay the demolition costs.

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.

Posted in Aldermen, Board of Aldermen, Commentary, Community, Community issues, Economy and Employment, Mayor, New Bern

June 20th, 2019 by newbernpostadmin

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)
  • 49th – Quality of School System
  • 52nd – High School Graduation Rate
  • 34th – Violent-Crime Rate per Capita
  • 72nd – Housing Affordability
  • 48th – % of Families Living in Poverty
  • 31st – Unemployment Rate
  • 45th – Divorce Rate
  • 24th – Playgrounds per Capita

Full report here:

Source: WalletHub

 

Posted in Achievements, Commentary, Community, Community issues, Craven County, Craven County Schools, Crime, Economy, Economy and Employment, Education, Infrastructure, New Bern, New Bern business and commerce, Opinion, Politics, Public safety, Retirement, State news, State politics

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