Sunday column: Everything’s fine and …

It’s not that we ask a “ton” from our elected officials. At least not the local ones.
Talk to your constituents every once in a while … show up to your meetings … offer your insights and speak for the people … attend a few ribbon cuttings … get countless free lunches …
And on the rare occasion when you’re asked to offer your ideas on ways to improve your district, ward, city or county, take the time and make a list. Don’t just show up to the meeting, smile and say everything’s dandy.
Everything’s not dandy. There’s not a place in the world where everything’s dandy. Even Cary — the safest place in the world to some — had a murder this weekend.
I’m going somewhere with this, I promise. I’m not just trying to break a record for use of the word “dandy” in a column.
At this past week’s meeting of the Sanford City Council, Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive asked the councilmen to bring a list of improvements — or accomplishments — they would like to see within the next year. I’m not entirely privy to the mayor’s purpose of this lift, but the timing does coincide with the Community Visioning Initiative to be hosted Tuesday by the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce.
Six of the seven councilmen were present at the meeting this week, with Ward 5’s Linwood Mann out because of an illness. And for the most part, the answers were solid.
Ward 4’s Walter McNeil said he would like to see beautification projects to help people’s yards and the condemnation of blighted houses in his district so they could be brought up to standards. Ward 1’s Sam Gaskins wants more lighting for the greenway project, sewage extension and telephone poll work. Ward 2’s Charles Taylor had a list of projects … among them pocket parks in the historic district, accountability on rent home occupants and media training for all councilmen.
Mike Stone doesn’t have a “ward,” as his seat is at-large, but he still came with ideas to deal with what he called three “huge” crime areas, parking and paving issues and more. And as stated earlier, Ward 5’s Mann was absent.
But two councilmen, Ward 3’s J.D. Williams and at-large Councilman L.I. “Poly” Cohen offered no plans, no ideas and no solutions for the meeting.
“I don’t have anything at this time,” Williams told Olive in this week’s public meeting.
“Not right now; it looks pretty good,” Cohen said when Olive asked if he had anything.
Had our council meeting had more than the typical dozen or so who usually attend present at this meeting, you probably would have heard a collective “thud” from jaws hitting the floor. Luckily, you can see all the answers for yourself at the city’s Web site, http://www.sanfordnc.net.
Going back to what I stated earlier, we don’t place a lot of demands on city councilmen, though the job itself is pretty demanding. As voters, though, we want to know that the men and women we elect to office are fighting for us.
I don’t live in Ward 3, but looking at the ward map for the City of Sanford, what immediately sticks out to me is that his district covers a good portion of East Sanford … a part of the city where blight and crime are a little more prevalent than in other areas.
Thornhill Mobile Home Park is in this area … the same place where a 33-year-old Sanford Police officer was shot five times (and lived) while on routine patrol. Our report of the shooting spawned quotes from at least one neighbor (too frightened to give her name) saying she feared for her life living there.
All of this known, a much better answer from Williams would have been — “let’s look at crime.”
Sure, it’s just words and not action. “Action” in this case is much more complicated.
But it’s better than nothing. Even Stone (the at-large councilman) put “East Sanford revitalization” as one of his goals.
And one may use the “at large” title as an excuse for Cohen’s non-answer (correction, he had an answer … everything’s fine). But it’s no excuse.
Along with Gaskins, Cohen is the rookie of the bunch, having just been sworn after last year’s election. You’d think somebody new to the council would bring new ideas.
In our editorials and endorsements leading up that election, we called for candidates who could bring something fresh to the board. It’s still early, but answers like that show we aren’t getting that yet from Cohen.
This isn’t personal to either man. I do not know Williams very well, and I only know Cohen from my discussions with him during the last election cycle.
Perhaps they didn’t take the mayor’s request seriously, and I know I’m not taking all of their accomplishments into the equation.
But this was a time to show they were fighting for us.
Unfortunately, very few of us think everything’s dandy.

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