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City Council candidate P.J. Ricks says listening to ‘gatekeepers’ is key to solving city problems

SALISBURY — For Patricia Jones “P.J.” Ricks, community gatekeepers are the people who “quietly but very strongly and very effectively” serve their communities.

“The gatekeepers are the people in whatever group that you’re talking to or talking about or trying to plan a program for that can help you because … they’re in the trenches of whatever it is you’re trying to do,” Ricks said. “So if I’m talking about a youth program, it doesn’t do me any good to talk to the people on the advisory board. I need to talk to the youth.”

She said that should she be elected to a seat on the Salisbury City Council, she would want her policy decisions to be influenced by gatekeepers of whatever community she is trying to serve, whether that be youth, senior citizens or professionals.

“And don’t get me wrong. Just because youth say, ‘Oh, I need five skating rinks in Salisbury,’ does not mean that they will get everything that they need and/or want,” Ricks said. “But it does mean that they had a say-so.”

She said council members should be able to go to community committees run by gatekeepers to hear their concerns.

“Not bring them to us, but go,” Ricks said. “It might even be me setting up some place where I can be there … once a month. Where people can come in and say whatever.”

Ricks said that for communities she is not familiar with, she would need the gatekeepers to educate her on what those communities need.

“It may be in a church, it may be in a synagogue, it may be in the Hispanic community. … I would need that person, that gatekeeper, to introduce me and the council to the people in that community,” Ricks said.

On schools

Ricks, who was a teacher in Charlotte for nearly 20 years, said people should not tell the school system what to do.

“We’ve got to help the school accomplish its goals, not ours,” Ricks said. “Yes, we may have a mutual goal of pulling up our students and helping them with test scores, but test scores are not (everything).”

Keeping with her philosophy of listening to gatekeepers, Ricks said the City Council should go to the Board of Education and ask its members what they think all schools need most, as well as which schools need the most.

Ricks said several underutilized resources could help children succeed.

“We’ve got retired teachers, retired businessmen, retired nurses. We’ve got people who are not working right now for whatever reason that could help our schools,” Ricks said. “We can go in and read for an hour.”

On Fibrant

Ricks said Fibrant can be fixed if it is marketed differently.

“It’s been marketed to single homes,” Ricks said. “We also have to market it to hospitals, schools, colleges, apartment buildings, places that have more than just two or three or four people in that family.”

Ricks said there also needs to be a lower rate for lower-income families.

“Now, you say, ‘Wait a minute, hold up, this family is getting the same services.’ But you’re making money from both of these families where you weren’t making money but from one before,” Ricks said.

Ricks said new businesses should be offered discount rates and that, if new businesses are offered incentive packages to come to Salisbury, Fibrant should be included in those packages.

“We’ve got to bring in money to reduce that $3 million debt. And we’re not doing it,” Ricks said.

On crime 

Ricks said that because Salisbury is on Interstate 85, it is in the path of drug traffickers moving between Miami and New York City.

“And the drug explosion is not unique to Salisbury. But we’ve got to cut off the dealers and the supply coming in,” she said.

Ricks said police should focus enforcement in areas of the city where they know drug deals and crimes are happening.

“Now, don’t get me wrong, there are drug deals going on in every community here in Salisbury. And I don’t want to imply that it’s on one side of town,” Ricks said. “If we actually go where we’re having drugs, crime most and we concentrate on that area, then sooner or later the crooks are going to say, ‘(No), this is too hot for us.”

Ricks said the city also needs more programs that allow “youth to see our police differently.”

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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