City board took first step toward healing city

The vote to disband the Redevelopment Commission was a glorious victory for some; but for others, it was a crushing defeat. The Redevelopment Commission members have worked tirelessly to develop a plan to ‘do something’ with the Spencers complex. And there were several attractive choices to beautify the area and make that part of town a showplace of what Mount Airy could be. So where did they go wrong?

As I see it, the first mistake that was made was no checks and balances. One group said we think the whole west end is ‘blighted’ and needs to be fixed. Another said those are our homes and our businesses—-they may not meet appearance commission standards but they belong to us and we have a right to maintain them as we see fit. Still others tried to soothe both sides and get them to talk and work together to get the best solution for all involved. The Spencers and Koozies properties were considered the initial problems but the RDC decided that more needed to be done. A power struggle set in and the time for the City Commissioners to step in and maintain control was missed.

The second mistake was that both ‘sides’ dug in their heels. The whole west end needed to be cleaned up! It did not matter that the Spencers property being cleaned up would be a vast improvement. What mattered most was that the RDC said it all needed to go—-we know best! The ‘other side’ said we think you are trying to take our property if we do not bend to the will of the RDC and we will not stand for it! You cannot tell us what to do with our property—-this is still America. The City Commissioners again missed a chance to rein in both sides.

And the fight continued through an election that got down and dirty. Friends could not speak to each other because they were on opposite sides of the issue. Our city became divided over aesthetics—-what looks good to you doesn’t necessarily look good to me. The voting public gave their opinion by reseating the incumbents and choosing a new Mayor. And those Commissioners have had to listen to the bickering from both sides. Both sides have been passionate about their opinions with numerous speeches and threats of lawsuits and loss of millions of dollars in grants. When the City Commissioners took action on Thursday, January 21st, they answered the question of what now; but they can’t stop there.

Now is the time for representatives from both sides to sit down with each other for an honest discussion without threats and with civility to decide not what is best for each group—-but what is best for the City of Mount Airy. It may take a large room with armed guards and locked doors to make everyone stays but the time has come! It’s time to lay egos aside, aesthetics, too. It’s time to stop hurting feelings and to stop wearing our feelings on our sleeves. It’s time to work together. And I think our City Commissioners started that process Thursday night.

Elizabeth Martin

Mount Airy

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