David Purtell: Don’t forget about the rest of Salisbury

Published 11:37 am Sunday, October 26, 2014

City officials, community and business leaders came together Thursday to celebrate another year of success in downtown Salisbury.

The beer flowed, and guests filled their stomachs with tasty food. Awards were handed out, and the winners were lauded for their efforts to make downtown a popular destination for the city’s residents and visitors.

Everyone was in a cheerful mood during the 34th annual Downtown Salisbury Inc. Meeting. And that’s fine; the people who work hard day in and day out to make downtown a happening place deserve a pat on the back.

But questions come to mind. Is the rest of Salisbury getting the same attention from those entrusted with the care of the city as the downtown is? Are city officials working to make the whole city a place where people want to live and visit?

At a housing advocacy meeting on Oct. 16, city residents listed several concerns about their neighborhoods and the city. The issues ranged from abandoned homes where drug use is prevalent to crime, trash in yards and graffiti.

Scattered across Salisbury are several hundred vacant homes, many left unkept. Neighborhoods with a high number of vacant homes have more reports of crime then ones where most of the homes are occupied.

In the past two weeks, two men have been shot to death in the city, according to police. And just down the road in Spencer, the community is recovering from a double homicide earlier that occurred this month.

Census data show that someone who lives on the west side of Salisbury is likely to be African-American and have an income that is a lot less than the mostly white folks who live on the north and east sides of town.

As the philosopher and activist Cornel West says: You can’t just pay attention to the vanilla side of town, you have to know what’s happening on the chocolate side of town, too.

No city is perfect. And having a vibrant downtown is important. But to make strides toward progress, city officials, and residents, must work together to make sure the interests of the entire city are kept in mind.

A public input meeting regarding the city’s housing and community development plan will be held Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at City Hall at 217 S. Main Street.