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Editorial: Local crime issues deserve serious attention by elected leaders

How is our city really doing?

Judging by the Salisbury mayor’s comments in a recent story about progress on the city council, our city has made significant strides in quality of life during the past year. On the same day, two people were killed and one injured in separate but related shootings.

How should we judge the shootings in context with the achievements our city council cites as progress? Just a few months ago, a youth football practice in the West End was halted because of a nearby shooting. Is that progress? No.

Recently, the City of Salisbury and Rowan County took two steps to combat violence — a reward for information and agreement to allow sheriff’s deputies to work overtime as police officers. However, the underlying issues that create the crime gripping our city won’t be solved by either of these measures. As we celebrate unity, it’s time for our elected leaders to do what we put them in office to do — make our community a better place to live. That requires a continuous focus on the critical issues rather than dwelling on a moment of unity.

First, there’s the City of Salisbury, which routinely celebrates its downtown and neighborhoods nearby but seldom seems to dive deep into discussions about improving the entire city. Salisbury is more than a historic downtown, and too often our city leaders get caught up chasing small victories while our neighbors to the south reel in huge wins. On Monday, Kannapolis was faced with whether it even wanted to give approval to a 1,000-job project. In Salisbury, a 1,000-job-project might result in a multi-day celebration.

Jobs are part of the complex web of items that lead to a decrease in crime, and county commissioners deserve a bit of attention too for their narrow-minded focus on economic development. Additional jobs and investment may lead to an improved quality of life, but that takes time. Salisbury sits within Rowan County and commissioners, too, should devote some immidate attention to permanently solving problems that create crime. There’s been limited attention paid to social issues since 2014, when Greg Edds, Judy Klusman and Jim Greene were elected to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

Crime can’t be solved by the city council alone, and neither the council nor county commissioners have sufficiently focused attention on the issue. The best way elected leaders can help is complicated. Understandably, it will take some time. Filling budgeted, vacant police officer positions is one way to immediately provide some relief.

Another area we might start is the city’s finances because there’s one item that looms large — Fibrant. The municipal internet, TV and phone service hasn’t panned out as expected. Councilman David Post, who seems to be the only honest voice on the issue, has estimated the annual losses in the millions.

As Fibrant drains from the city’s finances, we’re left without critical funding to address education-, economic- and crime-related problems in the City of Salisbury. Instead, the money gets funneled into debt payments and operating costs. Meanwhile, the Salisbury City Council is arguing about $40,000 sent by county commissioners to build a dog park. Mayor Pro Temple Maggie Blackwell said the money came with “strings attached.” Kenny Hardin asked for more professional courtesy immediately after.

It’s time to talk about serious issues, and that conversation shouldn’t come in the form of one of the city’s forums that often attract voices not plagued by Salisbury economic- and crime-related problems.

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