Rock Hill Municipal electionS Oct. 15

2 of 3 Ward 5 candidates address district concerns at forum

adouglas@heraldonline.comOctober 1, 2013 

Campaign signs for Ward 5 candidates in Rock Hill.

RACHEL SOUTHMAYD, THE HERALD

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed neighborhoods as a part of Ward 5. The Rock Hill City Council district Ward 5 includes many neighborhoods along Albright Road and Saluda Street in southern Rock Hill. Ward 5 also includes parts of downtown Rock Hill and homes near South Pointe High, Saluda Trail Middle, Oakdale Elementary and Sylvia Circle Elementary schools. Some neighborhoods along Crawford Road and Heckle Boulevard are also in Ward 5.

Two candidates running for Rock Hill’s only contested City Council seat spoke on Tuesday night about the need for a fix to long-standing stormwater drainage problems in the city, better community relations with police officers and an approach to absentee landlords.

Ward 5 candidates Mildred A. Moore and Ann Williamson-Morrison participated in a political forum, hosted by the Rock Hill chapter of the NAACP and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.

Nikita Jackson, a candidate also vying for the council seat, chose not to attend the question-and-answer forum at Emmett Scott Center.

Last week, Jackson said she would probably not participate because two members of the groups that organized the event each gave $100 to one of her competitors, which she thought could give them an advantage at the forum.

Ward 5 includes many neighborhoods along Alrbight Road, Saluda Street and Heckle Boulevard. Parts of downtown Rock Hill and many homes near schools such as South Pointe High, Saluda Middle, Oakdale Elementary and Syliva Circle Elementary are also in Ward 5.

The three women – all Rock Hill natives – are running to replace Councilman Osbey Roddey, who is not seeking re-election this year after 24 years on the council.

Rock Hill will hold its municipal elections on Oct. 15.

On Tuesday, Moore described herself as a “political news junkie,” who has been watching Rock Hill City Council meetings for at least 20 years.

When she looks at Ward 5, she sees many good aspects, Moore said, but also sees many areas that need help to improve.

For decades, residents in the area have complained about improper stormwater drainage, resulting in standing water in streets and yards.

Moore said on Tuesday, “It’s amazing to me we’ve been complaining for this many years.”

Stormwater drainage problems need Rock Hill elected officials’ attention, she said, but other issues need solutions, too.

For example, she said, “slumlords,” or absentee landlords, create safety and appearance problems in Ward 5 with abandoned homes and overgrown lots.

Dealing with landlords is nothing new, Moore said, and the city employs inspectors to try to cut down on the problem of dilapidated properties.

But “we need to step up that program, especially in Ward 5,” she said.

Williamson-Morrison agreed, adding that residents often see broken windows, abandoned cars and unkempt yards in Ward 5.

If landlords don’t comply with city clean-up rules, she said, they should be fined and held accountable.

As a landlord herself, she said, she holds property owners to a high standard of keeping up buildings and land.

Williamson-Morrison described herself on Tuesday night as someone who’s served the community for many years on boards and commissions, adding that she’s most interested in helping Ward 5 residents learn to help themselves.

If elected, she said, she’d consider the entire city’s interests when making decisions but focus mostly on Ward 5.

The biggest problem the ward’s residents need help with, Williamson-Morrison said, is convincing city leaders to put money toward fixing stormwater drainage systems.

As part of Rock Hill’s stormwater advisory committee, she said, she’s already working toward finding a solution.

Both candidates agreed that some road and sidewalk improvements are needed in the ward, but the process of upgrading streets is difficult because not all Rock Hill roads are owned by the city.

Many of the crumbling roads or those without sidewalks are the state’s or York County’s responsibility, they said.

Moore and Williamson-Morrison also agreed that the Rock Hill Police Department could do better with community relations, especially in Ward 5.

Williamson-Morrison said some police officers might need more people-skills training to better serve the public, and she’d like to see officers walking in neighborhoods and introducing themselves, rather than driving through in patrol cars.

Moore said Rock Hill may need to hire more officers to improve on the department’s service and focus more on the fact that officers are needed to “serve,” not intimidate residents.

The city should also take a second look at bringing public transportation, such as bus service, to Rock Hill, both Moore and Williamson-Morrison said.

Both women remember the old city bus line from the 1950s and ’60s, and Williamson-Morrison added that public transportation should be thought of as a service, not a way to make a profit.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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