District 3 residents started arriving early at Broughton Community Center for the latest town hall meeting. Extra chairs had to be brought in for the bigger-than-expected crowd. These residents aired their concerns as District 3 Councilwoman Kasha Williams, and Mayor Jay Dean paid close attention and gave responses as needed. Jesse Bradley is not new to Longview. Born in Hallsville, he has lived in South Longview since he was 22, and had a powerful motive for attending the town hall meeting. He considers himself a neighborhood watchdog.
“I have lived at 2208 South 13th Street for 40 years,” he said. “Someone has to stay on top of what is going on this side of town.”
He brought up the perpetual drainage problems along Iron Bridge Creek.
“The concrete is breaking up, and needs to be fixed,” he said. “I am staying inside all the time because of mosquitoes. The city is not spraying the area, so I cannot come outside.” Dean reminded his listeners of previous work the city did along Iron Bridge Creek. Bradley’s neighbors are dumping such trash as tires and baby diapers into the creek.
“Nothing is going to change till some people call us and tell us so we can issue tickets,” said Dean.
“The city has not done anything,” said Walter James of 202 Virginia Street as he complained of water collecting on his street. He said that when officials visit Virginia Street to assess the flooding they tell him they have no access to Virginia Street.
Dean also spoke of such legalities as property owners having to give waivers to the city, and, most importantly, “the dollar priority goes to those who have water coming into their homes.”
Brenda Woolridge has lived for 40 years on 13th Street. She brought up the subject of slum lords and their tenants. Although she keeps her yard immaculate, Woolridge reports some of her neighbors trash their yards. She has spoken to the landlord about the problem, and was amazed when he told her that as long as they pay their rent he is not bothered by what they do. Woolridge wanted to know if the city can issue citations to slum lords and their trashy tenants.
“People here have pride,” she said. “We have this problem everywhere in the city, but when it comes to addressing it on the Southside-nothing gets done.” Preservation Longview founder Victoria Wilson is interested in turning the old fire station on Mobberly Avenue into a museum.
The station was built in 1936. Fire Chief J.P. Steelman said the station was abandoned in the ‘80s, that part of the plumbing has been stolen, and that the station has fallen into disrepair.
“It is a matter of funding,” said Wilson. Michigan native Marsh Johnson has lived in Longview for 20 years. She has a passion for young people, especially those in District 3.
“We are not offering young people anything,” she said. “We are sending them away. We are telling them Longview does not care. Longview will die as a city if it does not retain its youth.” Dean agreed that Longview youth need an outlet, and pointed out that his own two daughters had to find jobs outside the city because of a lack of opportunities in their fields.
“Until we can bring [in] additional businesses to pay a reasonable salary we cannot do anything about the situation,” he said. He recalled his children wanting to get together with their friends, but telling him, “Daddy, we do not have anything to do.”
Dean does not believe it is the city’s responsibility to construct amusement parks and such destinations.
“The city cannot provide destinations where people can go and have fun,” he said. “Private businesses have to do that.” He declared that the city’s goal is to improve the quality of life for all its citizens.
“Jobs, enhancing the quality of life, giving 25- to 30-year-olds things they want that are in other cities of our size is important,” he said. Other points of discussion were junk cars in front yards, fallen tree limbs following storms, tennis shoes on power lines (indicating gang activity,) and safety and overall physical enhancement of District 3.
“Kasha is doing a fantastic job,” Dean told his listeners. “She is showing leadership because it is to her credit that $30 million of the $52.2 million of the 2011 bond election is being used to fund projects in District 3.” Mayor Dean reminded the residents that District 3 is in the older part of town, and will have to be rebuilt piece by piece.
“We have to keep chipping away at it one at a time,” he said.
Williams made it clear she loves serving her residents.
“There is a lot of work to be done, and I remain committed to working with you and finding solutions to our problems, “she said. She assured them that although things are going well, measurable improvement cannot come overnight.
“We live in a right now society, but have patience-together we will get the job done.”
By Joycelyne Fadojutimi