Published 1:12 am Monday, September 17, 2007
journey to a better place for all
Every day we read newspaper comments on varying positions related to issues and initiatives in our community. People in coffee shops and other gathering places debate and complain about tax rates, utility rates and the rising costs of city government. Discussion abounds on the use of city property, the future development of downtown and the most appropriate use of waterfront property. All these are important issues, but one issue doesn’t get enough attention in Washington’s journey to becoming an ideal community for all its citizens.
That issue is poverty.
Today, nearly three of every 10 persons in Washington live in poverty. The 2000 census showed our town’s poverty level — 29 percent — to be worse than Kinston (23 percent), Farmville (21 percent), New Bern (19 percent), Tarboro (15 percent), and Nashville (11 percent).
Ten of every 10 persons in Washington should engage in eradicating poverty, a condition that infects lives with hardship, anxiety and self-loathing. We must not deceive ourselves — though the impoverished suffer most, all of us are hurt by costs and events stemming from poverty. We must find a way the three in 10 can travel from poverty to prosperity.
This remark may point the way for that journey: “Success is the intersection of preparation and opportunity.” For personal financial success, preparation means education, and opportunity means job availability. Efforts are under way in our community to pave both of these avenues to success.
Preparation: Beaufort County Community College, Beaufort County Schools, JobLink, employment agencies, and more than 20 local businesses formed a partnership named the Workforce Development Committee. Its mission is to prepare both students and adults for employment in our community. Its work serves three groups — people who need good jobs, local businesses that need good employees and prospective businesses that need a trainable workforce.
Opportunity: In a guest editorial several weeks ago, Tom Richter shared with WDN readers, information presented by the N.C. Rural Center. The information included five objectives of economic development and 21 strategies for attaining them. Richter noted with civic pride how many players in our community have addressed these strategies — “The county, the towns, the EDC, the Committee of 100, the county schools, the community college, Downtown Washington on the Waterfront, the chamber of commerce, the Workforce Development Forum, the arts council and the Realtors Association (just a start!) are consciously addressing most of these areas of concern.”
Widespread success will require widespread participation. Every citizen of Washington could take pride in joining the effort to raise the quality of life for those in our community. To engage every citizen, we must begin with outstanding leadership. Our next step must be to elect city council members committed to working with our mayor in improving education and increasing job availability. Our city council should plan and lead steps that will move people from poverty to prosperity.
In the year ahead our mayor and city council should:
Ecclesiastes states: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” The time is now. This is the season to build an ideal community. We have talented people, a strong infrastructure and a wealth of undeveloped assets — all the ingredients needed to make it happen. The process begins when you enter the voting booth on Nov. 6.