Residents discuss community needs

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Calls for unification and self-respect underscored requests on avariety of topics during a concerned citizens’ meeting Monday nightat Alexander Junior High School.

Rose Byrd, mediator and organizer of the event, said the meetingwas the first in a series to seek ideas on how the community canimprove. She hopes to meet quarterly.

Questions from citizens were addressed by a panel that includedthe Rev. Dr. Larry Jointer of St. James M.B. Church, BrookhavenSanitation Dept. Superintendent Willie W. Smith, Valerie Moore withthe Brookhaven Parks and Recreation Department, Ward One AldermanDorsey Cameron, Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates, Brookhaven PoliceChief Pap Henderson and Jail Warden Ralph Boone.

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Residents asked a number of questions on a variety of topics,but two dominant themes underscored comments by panelists andattendees alike – the need for the community to unite on pettyissues and to be assertive.

“The day for people to just give us things is over. We have tostand up for ourselves,” said Cynthia Williams, who had asked toaddress the audience. “We have to help ourselves. Where we have tostart as a people is to take pride in us – start with helpingus.”

First Street used to be lined with businesses, she said, butmajor developments on the west side of the city made it easier toshop there. Thus, those businesses withered and died as residentsof the east side community began to support other areas.

She said the community needs to support existing businesses onthe east side and work to make the community more appealing toprospective owners. Residents who see a need in the communityshould ban together to meet that need.

Jointer said that not only would the community have to supportsuch businesses, but to attract them the community must work tomake the locations more appealing to potential business owners.

“We have to police our property,” he said. “We have to do morethan pass by and say someone should do something about it.”

Bates and Cameron said the city is doing what it can to clean upabandoned lots and remove junk vehicles from yards, but it is along process.

“You can’t just go on a person’s property and remove their carsor tear down their homes,” Cameron said. “It has to be done legallyand it’s a big problem.”

Many of the questions Monday revolved around the creation of acommunity center.

Bates and Cameron said they have fought for one in the communityfor many years, but their efforts have not been enough. At onepoint, they said, the city had allocated $350,000 toward building acenter, but a $750,000 construction cost and a split in thecommunity about where the center should be located caused the planto fail.

“We’re still fighting that thing about the community center. Ibring it up every year,” Bates said.

Jointer admonished residents to stop being selfish andself-centered and expecting government to provide for all theirneeds.

He said he was also upset when he learned Brookhill On Natchezwas developed while they were fighting for a community center onthe east side. However, further investigation revealed the city hadnothing to do with the private development.

It should serve as an example of what can be accomplished whenpeople of like mind decide to pursue a goal together, he said.

“We’ve got to stop wanting someone else to do things for us,”Jointer said. “We’ve got to start doing things for ourselves.What’s stopping us?”

He urged residents to form a community fund that could besupported by churches, businesses and individuals to build arecreation center.

A sign-up sheet for potential volunteers and sponsors wascreated, but received few signatures Monday night. Byrd vowed tocontinue to stress the committee at future meetings.