My Turn: To make good decisions, you need good data

Published 12:54 am Monday, September 12, 2016

By Kenny Hardin

Data scientist W. Edwards Deming said, “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion. Since the last City Council meeting, I continue to hear that revitalizing the downtown area, repurposing and filling up vacant buildings will improve the economic climate of other communities beyond the downtown.  That sounds wonderful, but no one is showing me specific data and outcomes to prove this.

What I find more disconcerting is the indignant attitude in responses I’ve received since the meeting. Downtown supporters seem to be upset with my request for clarity.  All because I didn’t go along with the charade, I’ve been told my position and concerns are illogical, irrational and I don’t support business and growth. It’s like people are saying how dare he question us and have the audacity to ask for specificity. Evidently, those folk have never met me before.

Quick question — do planes fly in uncertain weather?  Do physicians conduct surgery without having all the medical history and facts? If you go to the doctor because you’re ill, would you ask questions about a diagnosis you weren’t fully comfortable with?  If your bank said there was suspicious activity on your account, would you ask for more details?  Show me how I acted any differently.

Instead of being open and receptive to listening to the opinions and concerns of others, the arrogance of those supporters determined that if you don’t agree with their position, you’re anti everything. God forbid someone has an independent thought.

As Councilman Post said, the data was flawed and the supporting information was too general.  I could not in good conscience arbitrarily support giving away large sums of citizens’ money based on the flimsy information provided. I care little about anyone being upset or offended about my asking questions.  Moving forward the questions will get harder. I’ve asked the city manager to have DSI and Rowan Works present their relationships with the city at the next meeting.

If someone can tell me what the economic plan is for the rest of the city, I would appreciate it.  I fail to see how bringing in low wage restaurant jobs to an area that is not conducive to all populations will help other distressed neighborhoods. We need industry and high/living wage jobs here. How will filling up those empty buildings reduce crime and shootings elsewhere in the city?  How will bringing a beer brewery fill up 2,000 vacant homes and empty buildings outside of those eight blocks? Where is the economic development for the western part of the city?  Why should I have to drive 20 miles round trip in this city for service, dining and social activity? Do the people living in the southern end of the city not deserve equal attention and development? I’m not in favor of subsidizing a lifestyle for an area that, via the numbers reported, only 26 percent of the people in this city will use. I had all those questions and concerns when I didn’t vote in favor.

What is there in the downtown area that draws people of color to the area to shop and dine?  I received a call several weeks ago from a black female entrepreneur who was offered rental space over the phone, but was denied 30 minutes later when she showed up in person. About two months ago a white female professional in our city emailed me exasperatedly saying she was tired of blacks complaining about the downtown and wanted to know specifically what “They” wanted.

I reached out to about 30 black professionals and asked their views.  The responses ranged from no relative shopping stores, no relative music/nightlife, to many saying they just don’t feel welcomed in the area. I like high fashion clothing, ties and shoes, but there is nothing that compels me to shop or frequent the area. So, is it truly for all people?

As for the unprofessional exchanges amongst council members, I’ve had conversations with the mayor and others on the council about the lack of respect demonstrated at meetings.  I find it interesting people are more offended by my speaking out about the abhorrent behavior than the behavior itself. It’s as if some people are still holding on to vestiges of the era when white people felt blacks had no rights they were required to respect. That’s an antiquated mindset best left in the past as respect begets respect. It astounds me how people feel they can approach you disrespectfully; direct incendiary language and offensive nonverbal cues at you, but then act as if they’ve been victimized when you respond similarly.

I was elected to the council by the people and I will serve all of the people.  I will not go along to get along or be in anyone’s pocket. I care little about how I’m perceived or if I’m liked as long as things are being accomplished fairly and equitably. Instead of wasting energy trying to find a reason to paint me negatively and create division, answer the people’s questions.


Kenny Hardin is a member of the Salisbury City Council.