Salisbury, N.C.: Big Ticket Issues in Salisbury’s 2017 City Council Race

Posted on April 23, 2017



Steve Mensing, Editor

♦ In Salisbury’s free fall into bottom rung city over the past decade, Salisbury sadly became known for its crime, it’s soaring poverty involving around 25% of city’s population, the city’s public schools grading badly (All Ds) on the state education report card, and 16 unsolved murders. The city’s municipal broadband fiasco Fibrant owes $7.6 million dollars to the water and sewer fund, drained the city’s finances, rendered the City’s Police Department City impotent through gross understaffing, and shrunk core city services like the streets and trash departments into erratic non-performers.

Up until last year the city council and their finance staff saw fit to mislead the public that Fibrant turned the corner and showed a small profit. When the city finally fessed up about Fibrant being an abysmal failure and losing somewhere in the vicinity of $3,000,000 per year, the public was shocked. Meanwhile when the spring and summer arrives with its sirens and gunfire, city properties turn into a green hell Amazonia of towering weeds and “railroad” Locust tree saplings. And trash and garbage, piling up for over a week or two, leaves a heady aroma in many neighborhoods forgotten about by city hall. Somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 vacant houses and buildings exist in Salisbury (in a city of 14,000 dwellings.) Many inhabited by squatters, criminals on the run, and vagrants addicted to heroin, meth, crack, opioids, and alcohol. It’s no wonder why a recent statistical jump exists in vacant structure arsons.

The Big Ticket Issues in the Salisbury, N.C. City Council Race (2017):

• City Hall’s lack of any transparency and its adherence to make believe municipal and state laws has confounded the public. Bad government practices and corruption can be hidden where truth doesn’t penetrate and public information requests often went unanswered until Attorney Todd Paris began threatening lawsuits. The Rowan Free Press and other city dwellers hold stacks of unanswered public information requests. The city of Salisbury is in violation of state statutes in its attempts to thwart honest government and transparency. This must end. There are many in the city who hunger for the day the LGC takes over the city government and a forensic audit is done on various city departments going back years.

• Salisbury’s high FBI violent and property crime UCR statistics make the city among the state’s more dangerous cities (per capita). Denial can’t hide the murders, the break-ins, the armed robberies, and the street beatings anymore. All of Salisbury’s communities struggle with safety issues. 16 unsolved murders speaks volumes.  Only recently the latest police chief fessed up to the towering violent crime and gangs. What action, if any, will he and a broke city take on these monumental challenges? The pattern is to forget about promises the day after a city election. “We’re working on it.” “Oh that’s a great idea!”

• Our police are understaffed and are grossly underpaid which means experienced officers get recruited out of our police department. Its said an estimated 75% of the police force left the Salisbury Police for greener pastures and higher pay over the last 5 years. Former Chief Collins admitted this. What is left behind are inexperienced officers and substandard crime scene investigations. What police officer would want to work in an environment where outstanding and honest police officers leave and get blackballed as “troublemakers”.

• The Salisbury Police appear to be underreporting Salisbury crime in a big way. This is accomplished by the downgrading of a crime report to a lesser offense and by an understaffed police department ignoring calls to certain crime-ridden communities like the West End. If no police officers show up, then no crime report is filed. It creates the illusion of a drop in crime.  Crime is rising in Salisbury and no end is in sight.

• The city’s municipal broadband network Fibrant owes $7.6 million dollars to the water and sewer fund and the 2014-2015 budget audit cites Fibrant as having a $12.6 million negative balance. Salisbury’s city council saw fit to mislead the public that Fibrant turned the corner and made a profit through hiding salaries and other shell games. Fibrant is a drain on the city’s limited resources and it impacts the city’s ability to provide services. Fibrant was kept on life supports by bleeding the city’s water and sewer funds. Now city hall is running a “10 gig” ruse. Spectrum, AT&T Gigaverse, DirecTV, Dish, and MagicJack Go, AT&T U-Verse are devouring Fibrant’s lunch. Salisbury is hyper-saturated with private broadband companies. Many folks in the city use their smartphones to get on the internet and many people in the city simply don’t have a computer. Fibrant simply can’t keep up with latest technological advances which are wireless. Fibrant’s marketing can’t compete with the private giants who tower over them. Marketing more to businesses? What businesses? Fibrant is a consumer nightmare. Besides it’s high cost, it has hidden costs in the general and water and sewer funds. It costs a police department, streets maintenance, trash pickup, a humongous debt, and lost city employee jobs. It is an infectious parasite crippling a city and its citizens. Many are urging folks to end their subscribership to the debacle and let the city belly up so the LGC can take over and responsibly manage a drowning city.

• Last year it was revealed that Fibrant, during its initial rollout, hired an outside contractor to place its fiber optic up on the poles. The contractor did a sloppy job and failed to follow specific National Electric Safety Code standards. Besides being out of compliance with their pole attachment agreement with Duke Energy, Fibrant, due to their violations, endangers Duke Power lineman and others who work on the lines. The City of Salisbury has yet to fix this very expensive safety hazard said to cost several million dollars to repair and are liable for any harm these violations may cause. The City of Salisbury also spent many thousands of dollars in legal fees (taken out of the water and sewer fund) to deal with Duke Energy. This siphoning slams utility bill payers in their wallets and purses.  The incumbent city council knows all about this, but chose to cover it up.

• The city’s U.S. census shows somewhere in the vicinity of 25% our citizens dwelling in poverty. This places tremendous stress on the city and county systems. Numerous approaches exist for creating jobs and business even in areas with poverty, high crime, low performing schools, and limited spendable income. The city is not currently utilizing any of these common solutions.  They are paralyzed to take useful action.

• Working class folks, both black and white, are pulling up stakes and moving out of Salisbury to safer and more livable cities and towns elsewhere. The census shows our educated young are moving away for better jobs, safety, better amenities, and more fulfillment elsewhere.

• The city’s public schools graded no higher than D on the state education report card. The public schools suffer from behavioral problems, safety issues, hard drug abuse, all too common illiteracy, and gang activity. The school system superintendent pleads for another 5 years.  Parents are moving away or putting their youngsters in the state’s Virtual School N.C. Connections Academy, private schools, or homeschool them.  Are the city school’s problems even fixable at this point? Behavioral problems, safety issues, illiteracy, and hard drug abuse are granite mountains to move.

• A major substance abuse epidemic exists in Salisbury. Many are afflicted with alcoholism, heroin, meth, opioid, and crack abuse which impacts crime and families in a major way. Examining arrest reports shows that many persons arrested are in possession of hard narcotics and drug paraphernalia.

• The issue of being strongly bound to the visible “status quo” of old Salisbury real estate and banking families with a history of placing their self-interests, control needs, and greed above the interests of residents and taxpayers living in Salisbury and Rowan County. Establishment money determines most of the priorities in Salisbury in order to assure their continued power and control.

• The Downtown with its South Main Badlands and decrepit Empire Hotel is in dire need of bulldozing. The South Main Badlands with its expanding array of vacant storefronts is an unappetizing picture of blight.

• Salisbury received a downgraded bond status from Moody’s and Fitch bond rating services due to $7.6 million big gulped from the water and sewer funds. Today that bond rating has become even more precarious owing to discoveries of a $12.6 million dollar negative balance in the audit of the 2014-15 budget, Fibrant’s costly violation of its “pole attachment agreement with Duke Energy”, and Fibrant’s failure to comply the National Electric Safety Code. Fibrant owes so much money and they are being trampled by an army of top-flight private broadband providers: Spectrum, AT&T U-Verse/DirecTV, DISH, MagicJack and others with immense marketing power.

• Lack of transparency in city budgeting. City Hall has spent over a million annually to subsidize Fibrant at the expense of city services. Fibrant subscribers are getting an approximate $28 per month subsidy at the expense of city taxpayers.

• Economic development is limited due to Salisbury’s poverty, lack of spendable income, badly performing schools, and FBI UCR crime stats. Its even difficult to find employees here who can pass a drug test or who are not saddled with felony records.

• Some folks wonder why our inexperienced police officers are not getting trust and cooperation from the Black community. The lack of trust runs deep and from experience. Black persons are put in harm’s way if they go to the police because in the past officers have blown informants cover. Gangs have far more presence in some black communities than the sporadic police patrols that often fail to show for calls after shootings, murders, and robberies. Black persons have been victims of some Salisbury Police officer’s excessive force. Do Police officers still routinely search Black person’s without “probable cause” in Salisbury? Ask our Black citizens.

• The covert targeting of “have not” neighborhoods for gentrification and “shrinking” of their city services.

• The City of Salisbury government has not complied with EEOC hiring guidelines and clearly discriminates in minority hiring.

• Salisbury’s aging, hazardous, and poorly maintained infrastructure suffers from the city’s money being “big gulped” by Fibrant.

• Downtown needs to do something different to be a draw. Too many vacancies and too few people going there means the current formula is not working. The exorbitant municipal district tax, to keep a decrepit former flophouse afloat, adds to the burden of attempting to do business.

• City Hall suffers a major disconnect with its communities outside of the historic district, Downtown, and the country club. Many citizens are angered about city hall’s inattention and a lack of city services to communities outside of the historic district, the Downtown, and the “country club”. A lack of public playgrounds, sidewalks, and safety are well noted in underserved communities such as the West End. Is your community receiving full city services? Adequate police patrol–trash pickup–pothole repair–city property properly maintained?

• Salisbury’s estimated 2,00 to 3,000 vacant, neglected, and abandoned houses create major blight throughout the city. Although new code enforcement rules are in place, can a city hurting for money actually start implementing code enforcement and clear away some of the obsolete structures?

• The city suffers from undeniable gang activity. City Hall is behind the 8-ball with creating recreational facilities and activities for youth. How can the city replace gang culture with something better? There’s nothing better than something better to do.

• A dreadful traffic light system coupled with closed streets add to the city’s multiplying traffic difficulties. This harms the chain store and restaurants tax base where ever it occurs.

• Ask yourself if cronyism isn’t rampant in city hall and that city council’s friends get curb service? How many of you or your neighbors tasted a city hall vendetta? How about the Vanderford Spite Hole? Or a median planted in front of your business because you didn’t play ball? Or favoritism shown in zoning?

• The unchecked build out of public housing created by a city hall more focused new construction favors for cronies then they are for economic development and better paying jobs for poor and struggling families.  Thoughtless city planning creates a city with large numbers of poor with little spendable income which serves to repel industries and good paying jobs from coming to Salisbury.  Hence no good paying jobs and the cycle of poverty renews itself.  Why would city hall be gung ho to forcibly annex a Prison High Rise and poor neighborhoods to whom they will not provide basic services. It’s all about getting more grant money for crony construction with no regard for the city’s healthy economic ecology.

• The city’s long standing inequitable exchanges with the city’s forcibly annexed neighborhoods is in need of change.

• City Hall’s conceding public housing to outside private entities which means some of our poor families are kept from residing in newly constructed public housing because they can not pass a credit check.

• Unabated toxic areas in many sections of the city create public health concerns. How about asbestos and hexavalent chromium in the water supply?

• A crumbling water and sewer system needing many millions to fix and upgrade.

**This article will be upgraded and any issues missed will be added.**

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