Don’t ever say John Q. Pothole can’t get government to act.
I recently called Durham’s One Call to report a series of ugly, awful, bumpy potholes/ruts near the corner of Old Chapel Hill Road and Southwest Durham Drive. I learned later this is a state- maintained road. But wait, the plot thickens.
I wasn’t really trying to make a mountain out of a pothole, but the horrid cracks sat smack dab in a prominent turn lane for a year, maybe longer.
Victory was achieved the day after the printed column ran. And get this: both the city and the state are taking credit for a “cold patch” repair. The city told me it was a “mission critical” pothole, and its folks go out to fix those for the state on certain roads – under a contract. Later, an NCDOT maintenance engineer reported that the state did cold patchwork on said potholes.
Um, OK, I guess. But they both missed some spots. And without further work, these ruts will return.
So thanks, but y’all put a Band-Aid on out there, no more.
Government not working
Let’s shift to something far more serious, a crisis where Band-aids have no business.
Yet it seems as if small-time, small-town adhesives are what the city often applies to the ever present problem of so many guns, so much violence, so many injuries and deaths, in parts of Durham.
And when I say “city,” I mean everybody.
A mini-Baltimore comes to mind when I think about sections of Northeast Central Durham. Maybe the steady, sad news from that city will help Durham better address the gun violence here, much of it committed by and against young black men and teenagers ages 15-34.
Our numbers, the toll, is terrible. Multiple times the national average, according to a federal report submitted to the city.
It’s both tragedy and travesty. You’d think Durham would really get the depth of the problem and not need a report to tell them. You’d also think thousands of residents in the affected communities would clamor for change constantly in ways that demand a high-powered, high-level, no-rest approach. I’ve yet to see that.
We’re a gritty city with great brainpower, yet, as that Office of Justice Programs diagnosis showed, we lack coordination, collaboration and communication. Those three C’s spell a continuing clear and present danger. After decades of it.
One signature failing: The VCRR (known by almost no one as either the VCRR or the Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable), was established in 2012, as the report says, to “enhance current efforts to reduce gun violence.”
The panel, I was told, is made up of key law enforcement and criminal justice officials, two elected officials, city and county staffers, and one or more people from the East Durham Children’s Initiative.
Even with that kind of make-up, the federal report still took the VCRR very much to task for remarkable shortcomings.
My interpretation: The VCRR, despite its elite membership, hasn’t done much that matters.
I wanted to learn more about the under-the-radar group. The answers weren’t as concrete as the recent response to the potholes on Southwest Durham Drive.
Here, relevant excerpts from an email exchange with an official in the city manager’s office.
(Q): “I'd like to know how many meetings the VCRR has held since its creation. And, when those meetings were, and preferably how long those meetings lasted, and an attendance roll of some sort. I’d also like to see minutes.”
(The city): “The Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable … is scheduled to meet monthly. It has not been the group’s practice to select officers or create meeting minutes.”
(Follow-up): “Have there been any meetings? I still don't know how many VCRR meetings there have been, and what was the average number of people in attendance.”
(Reply): “As previously mentioned, the Violent Crime Reduction Roundtable is scheduled to meet monthly and usually does unless there is a scheduling conflict for most attendees.”
Operative word being: “usually.” I was eventually directed to the Office of Justice Program’s authors on several other questions. I’d already contacted them to no avail. So, we still know little about the VCRR and its input or output. Maybe it’s because, as the Office of Justice Programs report stated, it has “no mission or clear purpose.”
Seriously? With the years of blood on Durham’s streets, all the lost young lives and shattered bodies? With so many permanently damaged, grieving families? It appears the strongest local group created to address gun violence is virtually no force at all.
This group’s abdication is a genuine “mission critical.” Heck, the Durham pothole repair patrol could do better.
You can reach Tom Gasparoli at email@example.com or 919-219-0042.