Prosperity Project Still Being Blocked

Today’s Charlotte Observer (July 22, 2012) has an excellent article about Mary Zigbuo’s work as a missionary with the United Methodist Church to address the extensive poverty in Anson County. It includes the following quote:

“Anson’s statistics are staggering: One in five people live in poverty. The unemployment rate in May was 11.7 percent.

“You’re talking 45 minutes south of Charlotte,” said Owen Furuseth, a UNC Charlotte geography professor and expert on rural land who, like any good teacher, gave me a history lesson: The reason, he said, is because of geography and predates the Civil War.

“Anson is more like the Deep South – the cotton belt/ black belt counties – than anything you’ll find in the Piedmont,” he said. “The land is flatter and more fertile and lent itself to larger plantations. Anson is over 50 percent African-American because of the large slave population. Today’s poverty is a legacy of all that.””

I couldn’t resist commenting as follows:

The article is wonderful, as is Ms. Zigbuo’s attempt to help people learn how to help themselves, but the history lesson is somewhat misleading.

In the fifties, or at midnight, Anson may be 45 minutes from Charlotte, but if you plan to go to the Charlotte airport from Wadesboro, you’d better allow at least three hours because the Monroe parking lot very effectively blocks economic development by providing random shutdowns of traffic.

Anson is not poor because of the African-American community. It is the white plantation-mentality leadership in Anson and Union that has worked to prevent the completion of the Monroe Bypass that bears the primary responsibility for the extreme poverty along the 74 corridor all the way from Monroe to the coast. Prosperity can’t make it past the intentional roadblock maintained by the “best people in society.”

During the time former Senator Aaron Plyler was one of the most powerful people in Raleigh, Union County was dead last in the whole state in per capita highway funding. He was Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and able to have his political allies named to the DOT Board, but while Pamlico County, with a population less than 15,000, enjoys mile after mile of five lane highway (four lanes plus a center turn lane), thanks to Senator Plyler and his friends, there are too few roads wider than two lanes in Union County, a county of over 200,000.

I was very pleased to help get the Death Highway reworked to stop the carnage, but despite my best efforts, the opponents of opportunity have been very successful in blocking the road the people of Union County paid for years ago, the Monroe Bypass.

How is it possible (absent political corruption or extreme incompetence) that despite being one of the fastest growing counties in the state, Union County doesn’t have a single inch of interstate quality road and there are NO plans to build any because the toll road authority has planned a tolled bypass that doesn’t meet interstate standards? (Why don’t the plans tie in to 485? Could it be because that would require interstate standards and eliminate some interchanges?)

And now there’s another hold up because DOT lied to the courts. If the folks there are really that incompetent, why wasn’t someone fired? Or was the real intent to continue to block the Bypass, until the connected developers figure out how to kill it altogether so they can open the 218 corridor to more development?

Instead of building the Garden Parkway toll road, the state needs to build the Monroe Bypass and fill in the other missing links needed to complete an Interstate Highway linking Asheville and Charlotte and Wilmington. If the state would stop building roads for insiders and build roads for the public, maybe they’d be built where needed for a change.

Perhaps if the public would pay a little more attention to their government they might get it to work for all of us instead of the least honest among us.

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