Monday, March 8, 2010

Letter to editor - stand up

Letter to the Editor of Daily World Newspaper Helena-West Helena, Arkansas


Dear Editor


This is NOT a political Letter.  I am not running for anything.

This is a call to all of the citizens of Helena-West Helena to tell our City leaders that they are embarrassing our city and we have had enough of their “BAD ACTING WAYS”. We need you to STAND UP and GET INVOLVED. Our city is the laughing stock of the whole United States.  It is not just one person either. It is all of us.  It's the Mayor, the City Council and the citizens of our city for putting up with it.  If you listen closely, each one is angry about not getting their way.  I don't want to hear it and I don't care.  What about the City's way?

The Mayor of our City is the Honorable James Valley, I live in Ward 2 and my Council Representatives are the Honorable Jay Hollowell and Honorable Joe St. Columbia. I have tried to talk to the three of you privately, and I have also talked to other council members and community citizens. But my words are already being twisted and I am already hearing that I am taking sides or I just want to protect the mayor.  This is not the truth.  I will work to support anyone who is elected to serve whether I voted for them or not and I encourage all citizens to do the same.  I grew up with Arnell Willis; James Valley was a member of my church and Joann Smith and I are fellow Rotarians. I will not publicly endorse anyone.  But, I will VOTE.  I have tried to do my duty as a citizen and support Mr. Weaver, Dr. Miller and Mr. Valley, those who have been in the office of mayor, since I returned home to Helena in 2002.  I believe you should respect the office and encourage the office holder.

You can say what you want to say, but you know as I have told you, my stand is for all of you to act with dignity. We are fortunate to have such a diverse and intelligent group of officials but somehow you have gotten misdirected.  And I don’t think it is too late to change.  Acting with human dignity and common courtesy does not mean that you are agreeing with or supporting a political opponent.

If your choices for mayor or any other positions were elected, then the other side will be acting the way you are acting now.  Then the same problems will exist with new faces.  This city cannot afford to wait any longer.  We need to be able to promote this city to companies and tourist today.  Everyone should be doing as I am doing, talking to your representatives.  We should be telling our elected officials, that the citizens of Helena-West Helena are in charge; you are only empowered to work on our behalf. You should let your city councilperson know that being elected to the city council is a privilege and not a rise to the throne.  No one city council member speaks for the whole city.  Your city councilperson should be speaking for your ward as a part of the city council so we all can get better services and live well.

At Eliza Miller High School, Mr. Seaton taught me how to use “Robert Rules of Orders when conducting a meeting, if he were to look down on the council meetings today, I'll bet it would be something a kin to Jesus whipping the moneychangers out of the temples.

We as citizens must stand up and say “enough” to our elected leaders must do better.  There is a lot of beauty in this town.  So, let' s show the good for a change. Let's stop talking about what we used to be and let's become what we ought to be.  But it will take working together.

I am sick and tired of hearing about “the Black vote”, “the White vote”, “the Black Folk”, “the White Folk”, “Yawl” or “They”.  This may be breaking news to some of you, but the Civil War is over.  And it seems everywhere else in America has progressed beyond the civil rights movement except Helena-West Helena, Arkansas.  I am interested in our city's growth and getting things done.  Let the young people wear their pants down and show their “A--es” because our leaders are showing theirs, which look even worse.  There are factions in this city that have been fighting so long that they don't know how to get along.  Since we are ranked by the Federal Government as one of the poorest counties in the United States, it seems to me that the fighting is not doing any good because nobody is winning.  Does anybody know what the score is anyway?  The song says “you look like a fool with your pants on the ground.”  I say we look like fools just fighting round after round.  What’s the fight about anyway?

This is an open letter and invitation to all citizens to join me.  Start by knowing who your city representatives are and demand that they represent you with dignity.  Look around the city and demand that your representative bring your ward's problems to the attention of the city council.  Do not be satisfied with a ditch for your drainage system.  Demand that the Helena Bridge is lighted for safety and attracting tourist.  We need jobs.  The Hewlett-Packard Company just moved into Conway.  We need to be talking to them about spin-off business that can be located here.  We have the resources.  But no company is going to come here and deal with a dysfunctional government.  No company is going to deal with “grown folks” acting like kids.  No head of any company is going to relocate their family to Iraq.  Because we are poor doesn't mean we are stupid or have to accept bad behavior.

Now, let's look at ourselves.  No company is going to come to a community where the citizens do not show signs of respecting its on community. We need to demand that we give good customer service with a smile in our stores.  Making the excuses that, “that's the way it is here” or they “ain't gonna” change is a reflection of you.  We are sending the message to our youths that the way to solve problems is come across the table and beat up whoever doesn’t agree with you.  And only go along when you get your way. Where are the ministers of the 108 churches we have here in Phillips County? 

I don't have all the answers to all our problems.  But, this is one answer to one problem.  Working with one idea doesn't mean excluding another.  Those of you who are already saying “that ain’t gonna work” please move over and let the others at least try.  Those of you who are saying “somebody ought to do something” take your on advice and do something besides talk.  Take the advice of Sarah Peoples, and  “Paint the Town Proud”.  Sarah graduated from Central High School and went off to Arkansas State University and was faced with other students telling her that she couldn’t be from Helena-West Helena because nothing good comes out of Helena-West Helena.  This is what your actions are facing our young people with.  To those on the outside, the face of our community is our government.  To those visiting our town the face is the people they see in our stores and on our streets.  No wonder our young people do not want to return home. Everybody may want to leave here, but everybody can't leave here. There are a lot of great people from here and that's exactly where they are, away from here.  We must take pride in our home.  And we must hang out the welcome home signs in our hearts.

Some one will probably write a rebuttal letter to the editor.  I bet it will be full of excuses, finger pointing and reasons for keeping thing the way they are.  And I bet they will not acknowledge that the problem I am talking about is the way we are going about conducting our city's business.  Get it through your head I am not saying this is the only problem. No one is above the law.  If somebody is breaking the law, let's prosecute.  I'm not saying agree with everything but I am saying for the greater good, compromise sometime. 

Back in 2002 when I was working in support of consolidation, a city official told me that I should go back to where I came from.  I did just that.  West Helena is where I came from.   I was born and raised in the new addition section of West Helena, Arkansas.  Educated at West Side Elementary School, Eliza Miller High School and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

After a career in Corporate America I returned home in hopes of living out my Golden years in an environment that one dreams of. But when I returned home, I was met with jealousy, hatred, division, poverty, hopelessness and just plain misery. 

Do you think our city deserves better?  Then let's demand our leaders do better.  And while you're at it, demand that you do better yourself.   Who will join me in taking back our city?  Businesses should be calling the Chamber of commerce and citizens should be calling the newspaper and radio stations and demanding good behavior from our government.




George Bingham, A concerned private citizen of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

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