Todd Paris, Candidate for Salisbury City Council, Discusses Why Our Professionals are Leaving Salisbury for Greener Pastures

Posted on October 30, 2017

Todd Paris, Salisbury Attorney and Candidate for City Council

♦ Today I’m going to step into an area that is outside of City Council’s control and talk about the city’s schools and their effects on keeping and attracting professionals with high-paying jobs. I’ve already written about the Salisbury’s dire situation with violent and property crime, it’s extreme challenges with the heroin, meth, opioids, crack, and alcohol epidemic that drives crime and kills people via overdose, our 25% poverty, our Downtown businesses are under the extreme stress of carrying the Empire “bat habitat” on their backs through the Municipal District Service Tax,  the Fibrant Debacle and its massive negative effects on the city’s police and basic city services, the city’s gangs, the armies of vagrant criminals who hole up in the city’s over 2,000 vacant and abandoned houses, under bridges, and in tarp cities, the Salisbury-Rowan Utilities with their water supply suffering from toxic asbestos from old concrete asbestos water mains and hexavalent chromium a cancer dealing toxin,  businesses being robbed and suffering from pilferage, businesses and restaurants closing after a short run, and ludicrous traffic engineering.  Many of our city’s neighborhoods left out of the pie.  Broken promises about smart streets, sidewalks, and bicycle lanes.  I’ve left out a lot.  Know that I’ve mentioned many solutions and fixes and so has the RFP Editor, a staunch believer in “realistic thinking”, the most upbeat and happiest genius on the face of Mother Earth.

So today I’m going to write about the city schools and their effects on Salisbury.

I ran into a friend last week at the courthouse. He is a young well educated professional man with 3 children. They have a great house in one of Salisbury’s most expensive sub-divisions. It has a pool. He works very hard and owns a thriving local business.  He is a member of Salisbury’s most exclusive social and public service club. It is the sort of club I’d never be invited to join. Its prominence is such that even elected officials with important business will adjourn so as to not miss the meetings at this club. Perfect attendance is much prized. Each meeting is filled with bankers, lawyers, realtors, editors, and other prominent professionals. My friend announced he just moved to Mooresville and put his Salisbury house up for sale. He and his wife toured the local Salisbury public schools and found them wanting and looked at expensive local private schools and found it cheaper to sell their home and move. The business will stay here, of course as it is very successful, but in looking at the abysmal state report card grades and scores the schools in his district and the cost of alternative private schools for three children, it made more sense to move to a town that is making good decisions and has high scoring public schools.  So he’s relocating to Mooresville.

I have another friend who really loves Salisbury. His family has a street named for a famous ancestor. He is very smart and successful. However, he makes his money and works way out of town. He pays $1,500 per year just to pay for bus transportation to the private Cannon School in a neighboring county. I hesitated to guess what the tuition costs.  His children don’t go to school here anymore. I never asked why he stays here. My campaign sign is in his yard. It is quite lonely in that neighborhood.

I quickly thought of at least six young professionals in my field who work here, but have recently moved to Winston-Salem, Highpoint, Mocksville, Charlotte, Mooresville, and Lexington. I am told that most of the executives at Food Lion headquarters and most doctors at Novant work, but do not live here.

I remember a benefit event I attended a few years back where I talked to a retired doctor’s wife who told me that if her and her husband could just get half the tax value of their country club area home, they would be moving. I hear this sort of thing a lot. I have seen beautiful homes in exclusive neighborhoods languish for want of buyers for years before a reduced and below market price was reached.  It’s sad about the hard times and violence strangling Salisbury.

I have other friends who rent homes at high prices, who would buy those homes if they could get the loan. Many of them work more than one job to survive because (not counting union protected Freightliner) there are few good, high paying jobs in Salisbury-Rowan. Private schools is not an option for them. They are just as concerned about the education of their children, very motivated and just as worried about their children’s future. They are also concerned about the public schools and the quality of their children’s education. They are also concerned about crime and gangs in their neighborhoods.

It concerns me to ride through both places and see campaign signs touting leaders like Brian Miller who has had eight years and Karen Alexander who has had five years on city council to fix this town and have failed. Remember Kenny Hardin and David Post have only had two years and face a three person voting block that prevents any real reforms.

If the patient has been sick for years and is not getting better, a change of physician is in order. Here’s some medicine that may help the patient recover.

Instead of closing rural schools, instituting busing and spending hundreds of millions on new schools that we don’t need, why don’t we give motivated parents the option of choosing a better school for their children? Instead of closing underutilized and generally higher scoring rural schools and spending money on new schools we do not need, and instituting county-wide busing why don’t we let motivated parents who can arrange private transport actually choose their children’s school? If you live in Salisbury and the county’s Morgan Elementary, Rockwell or Shive have open seats and you can drive or car pool them there, why should you not have that option? This would create maximum utilization of all buildings and space and will not cost the system one extra dime.

I realize that “school choice” has been a buzz-word for racism and re-segregation for many years, however nothing prevents highly motivated parents and children of all races and socio-economic levels from using ride sharing and car pools and being able to benefit from this policy. In addition, it would allow children that have experienced bullying or other hard to solve problems at a Salisbury school to try for a fresh start somewhere else. My understanding is that a nearby county has already instituted this in case of bullying. To be fair and legal, such transfer requests must be completely race and ethnicity neutral.

Continuing to elect the same folks over and over again and expecting improvement is kind of dull-witted. We need leaders who can think and act “outside the box” to pull this city and county back from their free fall. The status quo has failed. While you may disagree with me on one point or the other, Salisbury’s situation is dire. We can’t fake it until we make it or keep hiding tons of rotten beef. Get out and vote for some new people and more importantly, some new ideas.

Jeter’s Deli and Wicked Scissors proudly display Todd Paris Signs in the Window.

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