Something happened in Southeast Raleigh on Jan. 31 that I haven’t seen in quite awhile, if ever.
Raleigh’s District C City Councilman Corey Branch brought the city to the community with a two-hour Southeast Raleigh Town Hall Meeting at Chavis Park Community Center. He hosted another on Feb. 2 at the Barwell Road Community Center.
“The goal is to share some services – not government-led programs, but services by the community for the community – that I think people are not aware of,” said Branch, elected in 2015. “But I also want to have a conversation to look for solutions to some of our challenges.
“It’s about the community being more forward-thinking; being proactive as a community with the government assisting, not always leading.”
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As civic engagement reaches new highs worldwide under a new presidential administration and trickles down, Southeast Raleigh is facing a full agenda of issues such as gentrification, homelessness and hunger, affordable housing, bus stop shelters, police relations and so on.
“After the election, my husband and I decided we want to get more involved in our community,” said Monica Taylor, a 14-year Southeast Raleigh resident. “We have to come to the table to come up with solutions. It’s important.”
With a standing-room-only crowd of about 75 people at Chavis, Branch was flanked by Mayor Nancy McFarlane, City Manager Ruffin Hall and a couple of other city officials and staff.
Branch shared updates on GoTriangle regional transit; how long we’ll smell the stench of the waste treatment plant as repairs are made along Interstate 440; lighting along the I-40 corridor; sidewalks along Rock Quarry Road; flooding at area community centers and centers with nonexistent to outdated facilities – from tile courts to no air conditioning.
News of tile courts and hot gyms stunned Raleigh newcomer C.J. Dale, who chose Southeast Raleigh as home.
“How has it has gone this long?” he asked. “In a beautiful city like this, we need to expedite these updates as soon as possible.”
With that, Wanda Hunter, questioned the city’s checks and balances on state and federal funds for housing, and on parks bond expenditures.
Housing, she said, remains sub-par, despite grants and expenditures. And reallocation of parks funding never seems to return to the parks that generate the money because of need, she said, pointing to a yet-to-be-granted request for outside restrooms at Chavis Park.
Branch assured the group that parks issues are being addressed as updates get underway.
In talking economic development, Branch pointed small business owners to resources such as the Office of Historically Underutilized Businesses, or HUB; the newly unveiled Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center; and Launch Raleigh. All help entrepreneurs and small businesses toward impacting area revitalization.
And he also admonished poor attendance at Community Advisory Council meetings designed for gathering and exchanging information important to the community.
Taylor voiced a long-standing concern in Southeast Raleigh.
“How does the word get out,” she asked. “A lot of us want to be involved with things going on in our community, but we just don’t know about them.”
She added “we have to remember our audience,” noting that not everyone has internet access.
Branch conceded concerns about access to information, saying the city website is being updated to be more user friendly. He also noted the need for other ways to disseminate information, he said.
“Communication is the key to being a successful city,” he said. “It’s all about collaboration. Our issues are too great for one entity to fix everything.”
Teamwork was a strategy offered by resident Kandra Gardner.
“What is going to move our district in progression is thinking outside of the box?” she said. “We have to unify to make changes.”
In a room of people full of various talents and passion for different issues, Gardner said, information sharing is crucial.
“This can be a team effort,” she said. “Decide which position on the team you can play, and when the ball is passed to you, be ready to shoot.”