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Maggie Blackwell: You don’t know me

Writer

Maggie Blackwell is mayor pro tem of Salisbury.

Maggie Blackwell is mayor pro tem of Salisbury.

By Maggie Blackwell

Special to the Salisbury Post

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, twenty-three citizens spoke at City Council during public comment, all regarding one topic: they requested that Council overturn police ability to use No-Knock Warrants in our city.

Public Comment is one of the most powerful tools in a citizen’s toolbox to effect change in any community. And an organized effort like this one, when all citizens ended with the same 30-second plea for the community, is quite effective in getting the attention of your elected officials.

This was not the group’s first visit to council — in fact, they have spoken out on the same topic several times since the death of Ferguson Laurent in a raid on his home during a no-knock warrant.

I heartily applaud the organization of the group and encourage them to continue in their peaceful efforts to get what they want — but ask them to understand that council is hampered from taking any steps until the investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation is complete. We have taken the proactive step of asking the N.C. Attorney General if we even have the authority to do so.

In the interim, however, I would ask all citizens to consider your appearance at Council from our vantage point.

You don’t know me.

When you call me a racist, a “sheet-wearer,” you don’t know me.

When you threaten to “come after the Country Club,” you don’t know me. Fact is, not a single council member lives in that neighborhood.

When you stand up from your seat and point at us in a threatening manner and say, “You better do this,” you are not encouraging me to see your point of view. You are frightening me, not with your color, but your aggression.

Your City Council puts in countless hours to make our city more livable. One of us serves on the board for Communities in Schools — which tutors your children in our public schools.

Another of us has served as a tutor in our at-risk schools for nineteen years — at Knox, Overton and Henderson Independent schools. One of us serves on the Board for the Mini Funk Band, an almost-free music program for at-risk children. We serve at the community college, at our historically black college and our other local private college.

One of us works to bring legal justice to under-served neighborhoods.

We coach Little League. We work to bring jobs to our area. We help the homeless. We answer calls in the middle of the night — from citizens who are afraid to call 911 and ask us to do so for them. Most of us work hard to return your calls, emails, texts, and social media the same day you send them. We strive to treat you with kindness and respect, even when you do not do the same.

Each of us serves as council liaison to four or five city boards and commissions –— groups of citizens who are working to make our city a better place to live and work. We spend hours meeting with them at their board meetings and additional committee meetings, as well.

Several of us do this while balancing a full-time job and family.

Most of us put in 20 hours or more most weeks for our city — your city — doing the best we can with what we can do. Most of us don’t brag about our hard work behind the scenes.

We’ve gotten potholes repaired, drainage fixed, neighbors’ houses fixed, crosswalks at colleges, additional bus routes added, cars out of the yard, neighbors’ yards mowed — in all quadrants of the city — all behind the scenes with no fanfare at council meetings. It’s all in a day’s work.

We asked for this job and our citizens blessed us with their votes so that we have the honor of serving you. We’re not complaining. But calling us racists crosses a line.

Do we have problems? Certainly. Can we do better? Without question.  I encourage you to continue to come to Council and share your questions and concerns.

But please don’t attack us.

You don’t know me.

Maggie Blackwell is Salisbury’s mayor pro tem.

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