Salisbury-Rowan needs leaders with vision

Published 12:54 am Sunday, October 19, 2014

By Esther Atkins and Emily Perry

Special to the Salisbury Post

The quality of life for our citizens has deteriorated over the past few years, and disaster is a surety if we do not change. Going to the polls is a huge step in turning that corner. We shudder to think where we are headed if we don’t go to the polls. Is Ferguson, Mo., in the future of Rowan County? The cause may be different, but the results will be the same. Voting is crucial.

Here are a few things to think about as you go to the polls.

At a recent conference, it was discussed that Charlotte is a gateway city. Neighboring counties are collaborating and partnering to ensure that their citizens are prospering from this growth. Is Rowan County engaged in this process?  Where are our true leaders? Sadly, our county commissioners and the city council cannot come together for the betterment of the citizens. So how can they play nice with others?

Approximately 907,000 low-wage workers are affected by the state ending its Earned Income Tax Credit. Added to this mix is the cutting of unemployment for over 800 Rowan County citizens, the inability to attract new businesses and young families to the area. Even when we are able to attract young families, particularly African-Americans, we do little to motivate them to stay. We have three colleges in the area with students graduating every year. Why are we not able to attract more to stay? Is there any question as to why we cannot increase our revenue without drastically increasing taxes? It doesn’t help that our leaders have made very poor business and management decisions over the years.

North Carolina is one of 21 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. An estimated 318,710 poor and uninsured adults would be eligible for Medicaid if the state would expand it.  Did our leaders have the foresight to protest these actions, or are they once again in reactive mode? It’s funny that the people deciding who should be insured, have insurance.

Do you realize that all the elementary schools in the Rowan-Salisbury School System are Title 1 schools? According to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s website, “this program provides financial assistance to schools with high numbers of or percentages of poor children to help ensure that all children meet challenging … student academic achievement standards.”  It is good that our government is assisting our schools in providing for poor children.  What is it saying about our economy when our schools have such high percentages of poor children?

Then there are returning veterans who made such sacrifices to protect our country, only to come back home to food stamps and unemployment.  How strong are the programs that exist, or should exist, to help them successfully transition back into society?

Also, with the salary of North Carolina teachers ranking 50th in the United States, there has been an exodus of our most qualified, creative and dedicated teachers from the state. Three months into the school year, our schools still have vacancies that have not been filled.

We have students graduating from college that cannot find jobs and are saddled with huge loans to pay. Long gone are the days when students can work their way through school without some assistance. They need help and we must invest in their future; thus solidifying our own. Knowing this, it is hard to believe that politicians are not supporting the push to lower interest rates for school loans.

Those living in the more affluent neighborhoods should not rest on their laurels because they too are impacted by what happens in the less affluent neighborhoods.

When a community is disenfranchised, poor and hopeless, their attention eventually turns to those that are affluent. Do we need to mention Ferguson (again) and other cities that are experiencing increased violence and demonstrations?

The issues we have outlined in this letter to the citizens have caused a small group of people to come together from various backgrounds and political affiliations to educate our communities on their civic responsibility. It is time that we hold our leaders accountable for the state of our communities. We need leaders with vision for the future. They need to be planners, doers and forward thinkers — not just for some but for all of their constituents.

We should not hear another leader say that they are not aware of the problems facing their communities. We should know that local officials are willing to question the actions of the state when it negatively impacts their citizens.

Let us not forget the famous ending of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863, “…and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Esther Atkins and Emily Perry live in Salisbury.