Steve Mensing, Editor
♦ Salisbury faces another extremely challenging year in 2017. Likely little improvement if any from 2016 where violent crime in Salisbury exploded with 10 homicides and plenty of shootings, stabbings, and armed robberies. The city’s 4 public schools continued their woeful D grades from the State Department of Education. Those letter grades are all important–it makes many parents decide not to attend city schools as well as serves as a further turnoff for economic development. 27.2% of the city’s population lives below the poverty line. A high probability exists that percentage will climb higher next time its counted.
The “big 3” statistics make it almost impossible to do economic development and to keep the working class and upper income people here or attract new persons the city. Those three statistics are devastating and they impact Rowan County’s statistics, dragging it down as well. Salisbury, N.C. Statistics:
As usual in the late fall of 2017 the latest FBI crime statistics for 2016 will appear. Murders, rapes, assaults, shootings, and armed robbery stats will likely surpass last years. Break-ins and car thefts will no doubt show a spike. The city would be wise to respond by paying police a competitive wage, recruiting more experienced police and investigators, and fielding more patrolmen. This is a must do. But the Fibrant debacle is taking big gulps from Salisbury’s ability to provide city services. In the city’s current financial condition it will be forced to substantially raise taxes and fees to meet its public safety obligation or else face more residents packing up and leaving for safer communities elsewhere. There is some question whether Salisbury is solvent enough to meet those obligations without city halls use of “magic math” and hiding important data from the public. Salisbury’s city hall usual choice to hide “negative” information from the public rather than fix its massive problems has never worked and has just created worsening conditions.
Predictions for the City of Salisbury 2017:
• Same old same old category: the city of Salisbury government will typically run a series of community meetings throughout Salisbury where they will allegedly “listen” to their residents. The city government has their own agenda and any “listening” they do is generally feigned. Their “listening” is to pacify folks’ anger and frustration. Their “listening” seldom passes the action test. They will give you the Salisbury runaround and do nothing actively to respond to citizens concerns and requests unless it fits their agenda. They will say: “We’re taking your requests seriously” or “You made a good point–we will give it full consideration and get back to you.” “Excellent ideas–we’re studying this very carefully.” But taking action on it? Nada. They may even get you to form small groups at different tables and use divide and conquer techniques with city staffers altering your ideas on paper or leaving them out entirely. Or they may pack the meeting with their friends. But actual listening or taking all important action? Not really.
• Not much change here: better homes in Salisbury will continue to tumble in price as more people move away to safer less impoverished places with decent public education. The working class is melting away. Good paying jobs are scarce in the Bury.
• The Empire Hotel, last opened as a flophouse in 1963, now a decrepit eye-sore waits patiently for demolition in the South Main Badlands and for the alleged hordes of interested developers who never materialize. The great expense of gutting the moldy interior and abating the Empire are prohibitive. The structure will sit idly by with its “promise” to buy it and develop it by someone who allegedly took a wrong turn and was charmed by Downtown Salisbury. Good luck. After reading the laundry list of hurdles by the developer most people believe the Empire will remain in its current state well past 2017 contributing to the South Main Badlands blight and to the heady Municipal Services District tax–the highest in North Carolina.
• Downtown will continue as a hodgepodge of vacant store fronts, musical chair businesses that close with rapidity, little parking, an excessive municipal Service District tax, and few people venturing into the ghostly confines. Vibrant? The motion detectors aren’t picking up any lifeforms. Little real attractions and a lack of safety means no people. And sadly when the new Wallace Educational Forum opened with its dome no one dined or shopped Downtown to the tune of $5,000 per person per annum as we predicted. They were all out in the field or lunch bagging it.
• Fibrant continues an unqualified debacle mulching the Salisbury’s city services and police department. No need to beat this dead horse. TWC stepped up their residential speeds to 300 Mbps at prices less expensive than Fibrant and better marketed. Want a gig? AT&T Gigapower offers their gig at $70 month. And Spectrum is taking over TWC and changing its policies and prices in 2017. Their prices and services will eat Fibrant’s lunch. Fibrant TV is blown away by AT&T U-verse, DirecTV, TWC now becoming Spectrum, and DISH. VOIP phone? Fibrant is non competitive in price with most VOIP phone providers and the reality that many people just use their smartphones. Fibrant has virtually no marketing while the incumbents flood every possible medium. Fibrant is eating the City of Salisbury alive and has greatly harmed the city’s ability to provide basic services and police. Fibrant borrowed $7.6 million dollars from the water and sewer funds and not paid it back. This puts them in a tenuous position with the bond raters.
• The traffic calming and bike lane project on East Innes ground to a halt after the city noted the lack of Downtown bike traffic.
• Salisbury will continue to suffer under a major epidemic of meth, heroin, crack, opioid pills, and alcohol. This epidemic fuels much of the city’s crime.
• Salisbury and Rowan County will continue to experience massive retail leakage to the internet and to the brick and mortar chain stores in Afton Ridge, Concord Mills, Huntersville, Winston-Salem, and Mooresville. Also spendable income is Salisbury will continue to drop in the city as the middle and upper class move away.
Should Salisbury seek disaster relief?