Residents need to look closely – there is an option

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 14, 2006

With City Council elections fast approaching, it’s time that residents of a newly and continually revitalized downtown take a close look at their options.

The downtown district stands out with particular importance to me and the readers of this publication. I own a business on Main Street in the Historic Downtown and have listened closely to the commentary these past few years regarding the wave of the new businesses on our downtown streets.

I live one block off Main Street with my wife and children, and over the past few years this community has become our home. However, our current representative, and mayor, is a rather invisible member of the district he so luckily represents. I haven’t seen his face in person since I opened my business almost two years ago, and the West End Civic League had lost track of their representative for nearly four years. It seems hard, if not impossible, to represent a constituency you never see.


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Aside from that, Suffolk seems to be thriving cosmetically. However, recent evidence of teenage gun violence, downtown outcry over lack of recreational facilities, high and escalating assessments, and a below average public school system all have been met with relative silence, if not aggravation at these issues having been brought up in the first place.

For our mayor, these social issues are either an enigma that he and council cannot solve, or an inconvenience that they simply would rather ignore. Neither prospect impresses me very much.

The fact remains, though, as I watch a rescue truck struggle to reach a patient in the medical office next door to my shop, our mayor is out of touch, even with departments within the city. I asked the ambulance driver as he finished rumbling over the $60,000-dollar curbs on Saratoga Street, “Did the city find out whether your trucks would be able to run in here.” And when I asked the firefighters the same question, their resounding answer was “No.”

No one consulted the departments, but we gained six parking spaces. that’s roughly $10,000 per space. With money like that to throw around, it is truly a wonder to me and many others here in downtown why services such as parks, recreation, police, fire and education lag so far behind other cities in the region. Thankfully, this year, we have an option.

While one cannot deny that downtown is truly seeing a renaissance, it is my belief that more attentive leadership will help fill in the cracks left behind by our current representative.

Unlike Mayor Bobby Ralph, Charles Parr, this district’s new choice for city council, is a highly visible member of this community, living, working, playing and building relationships with all members of this community, not just the rich insiders.

Parr has run his business on these downtown streets for countless years, a business that demands caring for people in their most painful time, a business in which one must view everyone with compassion.

These real, human relationships Parr forges with the people of this community, the same people he does business with, his neighbors, the same people he prays with every Sunday on Main Street here in our downtown — these relationships make a true leaders.

This election we have a choice — one to build a city of bricks and mortar and closed-door dealings — or two, to build a community of flesh and blood. You decide.

Jeff Jones