Thursday, June 26, 2008

Column for June 26, 2008

Troy's critique of the Selma Strategic Plan Part 2

Last week, I offered the first part of my critique of Selma's Strategic Plan. Hopefully you have either obtained your own copy of the plan or have the Selma News edition from a couple of weeks ago in which the plan was published chapter by chapter.

In chapter two, it was said that feedback from visitor surveys revealed that visitors consider the small town atmosphere attractive. That is actually one of the things that drew me to live here in Selma. The downtown (call it "uptown" if you will, but a rose by any other name, well, you know the rest) is small and somewhat quaint. The town is not so large that one feels lost yet not so small or removed from the rest of civilization that it is totally inconvenient to the things and places I need, want, and go.

It was suggested that we reinvigorate the Community Watch Program. I have thought this same thing for years and would love to see effort in that direction. It was also suggested that we have regularly scheduled gatherings where citizens and town leaders can informally discuss their ideas about how to improve the town.

I will take that last part one step further. I had offered some time ago to host a community gathering whereby citizens could meet, have a beverage, and talk about town affairs just like used to be done in the pubs of colonial America. I also offered to have a regular monthly or quarterly forum, which I would be glad to record and put on the internet for all to hear. That would allow people who do not normally get to have their say at a town government meeting to come and talk informally and express their opinions. It would allow for question and answer sessions and for citizens to hear them at their leisure. I again make this offer, only in a more public setting such as this newspaper.

Another comment was that the gazebo area behind town hall could be developed into a town commons area. One use that I have pondered for that area for several years is to have a regular weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly prayer gathering. This would work well in early spring, autumn, and winter, especially. In summer, it may be wise to take such a gathering indoors. I again volunteer my time to gather with others of faith and prayer in a non partisan and non denominational setting to gather for the expressed purpose of praying for our citizens, our town, our county, our state, and our nation. If people are interested in either of these offers, then simply contact me via this newspaper, at telephone 965-9695, at PO Box 822 in Selma, or via email at

Chapter two goes on to comment that the Parks and Recreation Department does an excellent job of organizing and managing events. I have to give credit where credit is due, as well. For such a small department, Joe Carter and his crew do a fine job with what they have to work with. I have seen towns with about the same population do more in terms of actual parks and programs than we do in Selma with the same or even less staff. However, these other towns also have a lot more facilities and budget with which to work. Those same towns also have a few less major events throughout the year than we do in Selma.

In terms of economy and commerce, it is true that Selma draws antique enthusiasts, since that is the theme of downtown. I can not say with total agreement as the plan has stated, that this brings a sense of unity to the downtown area. I have heard widely differing opinions from different shop owners over the years. Some are still here, others have come and gone. I will say from observation that if there was more unity, then perhaps more shop owners would join and participate actively in the Selma Development Partnership. There are a lonely few that show up each month, ergo, I am dubious as to the sense of unity claim. I myself have joined and try to attend meetings as often as I am able.

My main gripe about the concept of looking for grants for all sorts of programs and improvements in town is that if they are grants from the state or federal governments, they are tax dollars. If there are grants from private (non governmental) sources such as foundations or private industry, then I say go for it. Governmental grants are better than loans, if I have to pick the lesser of two evils. The lesser of two evils, however, is still evil. Governmental grants are essentially paid via laundered tax dollars. Loans, however, get paid back so we are taxed twice for their implementation; once for the initial funding, then for repayment.

There are so many other things upon which I have commentary, but again, I have come to the end of my column for the week. Since I doubt that the editor of this publication would like to have a full page of my commentary at any one time, I will have to continue with chapter three next week. I will be serving on jury duty that week, so I am hoping I will have the time needed with which to craft the column.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Column for June 19, 2008

Troy's critique of the Selma Strategic Plan

I waited a couple of weeks to allow the Selma Strategic Plan to be disseminated before I made my commentary thereon public. I figured I would allow people the chance to read it in a previous edition of this very newspaper and download copies from the internet. Also, the town council has formally accepted the plan, so now would be an appropriate time to "add my two cents worth". I downloaded my copy as soon as it was available, printed it out, and got out my red pen to start scribbling notes in the margins.

I am not seeking to criticize any one or even the concept of having the Strategic Plan, though I am proffering my critique. I do seek to add some insights and suggestions for carrying out such a plan for Selma. I found a few things I would like to see added and taken into consideration.

The name of the project is perhaps misleading. The document is not actually a plan so much as it is a list of suggestions for the town for inclusion in a future plan. The 38 page document I have in front of me contains mostly suggestions for improvement after listing some strengths and weaknesses in the town. There is nothing wrong with that per se, and I am glad to see some honesty on the part of the plan makers.

To be quite honest, and I have written about this previously on the internet, I am glad to see that council member Cheryl Oliver has been doing a lot of work on this plan. When she ran for council last year, and I am being blunt about this, I truly felt that though likeable and intelligent, she was lacking on knowledge of the issues facing Selma. This is no slight to her, since she had not been long returned to Selma to reside here.

The only way anyone becomes informed on the issues is with time and with active participation. That is the only way I got to know anything about Selma, by the choice to get actively involved, read, listen, and find out for myself. That made me a better citizen. By her participation in a project like this, I am sure that Ms. Oliver has become a more informed citizen, and just as importantly, a more informed elected representative. That is good for the constituents of Selma as a whole.

I see that Pat Weaver also had a lot to do with the document. I have seen Pat and her husband, Ken get involved with our town. I have had a few conversations with Pat in the past. Perhaps some of our citizens have seen Ken speak at citizen's forums at council meetings. I also serve on the Planning Board with Ken. It is good to see Pat and Ken both becoming involved more in Selma. I do wish that more people would do as they have done and get more involved.

So begins my critique. Chapter One states the mission of the planning committee and the report. It has the obligatory information about who, why, etc. Not much to comment upon except that I did not find the "plan" to contain much in the way of laying out an actual plan, as stated earlier. Still, the document has value.

Chapter Two probably could have been eliminated altogether. The stating of the town's history is not planning or a necessity to a plan, in my opinion, but it was nice to get a refresher and the information out there. I will comment on the town's history and its benefit later.

As to the section "Location", I am perplexed about one sentence. "This makes Selma quite appealing to residents, businesses, and tourists." I have never considered Selma a tourist destination. Sure, we have The Rudy Theater with the fine performances put on there, but other than shopping for antiques, that is about it. I do not consider antique shopping or catching a show to be tourism. That is mission oriented, short-term visitation.

Unfortunately, the one thing that makes Selma an ideal location for travelers on I-95 to stop for a break, being midway between New York and Florida, is the same thing that brings us problems. There is a significant drug trade along I-95 between Miami and the Northeast Corridor. Selma, Kenly, and other towns along our stretch of the interstate are unfortunately both the benefactors and victims of that desirous geography at the same time. We get both the visitors desired and undesired at the same time. I guess we have to take the good with the bad.

I have to chuckle a bit at the idea of a Vick's Museum. Smithfield's great claim to fame is being the birthplace and residence of Ava Gardner. Quite honestly, with Ava having been of a generation earlier than my own, I was not familiar with her so much until I started working and then living in Johnston County. I have one or two of her movies on the shelf, but that is about it. I can see some dedicated fans or movie lovers stopping and seeing the shrine to her in downtown Smithfield, but it is hard to imagine people stopping to see a shrine to VapoRub.

I personally had no idea that the salve my mom used to smear all over my chest and under my nose was invented in the town where I reside until just a couple of years ago. I worked in this town for several years and later lived here a while before I finally found and took the time to read a history of the town. I had no idea that I could look from the end of my drive way and see the building where that smelly stuff was invented. Now that was cool, I thought.

I don't think that we have the original apothecary of Lunsford Richardson laying around anywhere for us to set up. I would personally be amazed if Procter and Gamble would be interested in setting up a museum to their product, but you never know. Perhaps a few well placed VapoRub vending machines in Uptown would be fun and useful. The Vick Building is perhaps the only truly historic building in town, in my opinion, but I will write more on this concept later, as I am out of space for this week.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Column for June 12, 2008

I read with disgust a recent commentary by T.D. Jakes, senior pastor of The Potter's House of Dallas, Texas. You may have seen him on television. His commentary was about the pending nomination of Barack Hussein Obama for Democrat candidate for President. Jakes says that it is an "historic accomplishment". No doubt. Never before has a Black made it so far in a Presidential campaign. Let me say this straight up. I could not care less about the color of a man's skin if he is running for President of the United States of America. I care about his beliefs. I would probably vote for Condi Rice if she was running. I would vote for Allan Keyes over most other candidates in a minute. What I care about are a man's principles and leadership.

It is with amazement that I see a "Bishop" (I hate titles in the Church. Bishop is the latest fad. Before that it was Apostle. Before that, Prophet) giving such accolades to a man simply because he is of the same race. Two things, Mr. Jakes. First, Obama is half Black, since you are paying attention to race. He is not fully Negro. Does that matter, or are you just happy to claim someone as one of your own if he has any Negroid blood in his veins? If we all go back to Adam and Eve, and again down through the lines of Noah, as his "faith" teaches, then we ALL sprang from a common ancestry, just different genetic combinations. It is with great wonder that I look to see how simple yet so complicated it is for genetics to propagate under God's plan and create all varieties of people.

Here is an absolute apostacy of a quote from Jakes. "However, what I really hope people take away from that night is that this is not just a victory for African Americans, it is a victory for democracy that proves that our country provides possibilities for all people. It is also a sign that a metamorphosis is in progress. Today we saw that Americans respect experience, but are interested in change. I hope that we can somehow merge the best ideas of our differences and emerge with a president who epitomizes our highest and best ideals."

Here are some problems with that quote. First, it is not yet a total victory for anyone. It is potentially a nomination and it is not yet secure, but most likely will be. Second, it is not a victory for "African Americans". Personally, I despise that term since it is a misnomer. Not all Blacks in America came from Africa or from ancestors that came from Africa. Furthermore, there are millions of Whites in Africa, as well. I do not consider myself an "Anglo American" or a "Franco American". I am an American. Period. Should White men and women who immigrated from South Africa or other nation on that continent also be referred to as "African Americans?" If my French ancestors were native to French colonies in Africa, then later immigrated to North America, should I start referring to myself as "African American"? Why so many terms by which Black wish to be referenced? There was Black, Colored, Negro, now "African American". Choose one and stick with it. Thus, I refuse to use the term in every day vernacular, just as I refuse to use the term "gay" to refer to homosexuals. Both are hijacked, inaccurate terms arbitrarily and autocratically derived.

Third, we do not live in a "democracy". We live in a representative republic. There is a huge difference. Mr. Jakes should know that, but he instead perpetuates the lie of us being a democracy.

Fourth, Americans DO respect experience. Barack Hussein Obama just has very little of it to be taken seriously as a candidate by everyone who will not vote for him. That has been a major topic of discussion since he announced his candidacy. Mr. Jakes, to WHAT experience do you refer?

Fifth, we can not "emerge with a president who epitomizes our highest and best ideals" in this election cycle. None of the three candidates (stooges) reflect that statement. If Obama epitomizes our highest and best ideals, then the United States must be a Socialist nation and no longer exists in its original form as bound by its Constitution or foundation. Wherein does Barack Hussein Obama reflect the highest ideals of America? He wants to socialize medicine, he refuses to meet with our military leaders in Iraq, he wants to raise taxes, and turn a Republic run on capitalism into a Socialist Utopia.

Another quote by Jakes is "I congratulate not just Sen. Obama on his victory, but the country on this landmark event that has shattered a past all too often filled with reasons to separate us as opposed to a voice of reason to unite us."

Mr. Jakes, it is not the color of Obama's skin that divides him from those of a different skin tone. It is his politics, his beliefs, his lack of experience, and just plain being an inappropriate candidate for President. The only people who are united are those who put their skin color ahead of their principles, or are liberals and therefore have no sound principles.

As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, T.D. Jakes of all people should be absolutely disgusted with the racist, hateful, and theologically errant pastor, Jeremiah Wright's teachings. As the leader of his home, Barack Hussein Obama chose Rev. Wright to be his spritual mentor, perform his marriage ceremony, baptize him and his children, provide spiritual nourishment for his family, and to sow into that infertile ground with his money and time. Nobody can convince me that you can go to a church for two decades and not understand the sort of philosophies perpetuated by the leader of said church. To deny that is a blatant lie and is of the Father of All lies. For T.D. Jakes to endorse this behavior, indirectly endorse these values, and to approve of a man who has been thusly indoctrinated is just plain wrong and antithetical to the Gospel he claims to represent.

I have no problem congratulating Barack Hussein Obama on his accomplishment. It is indeed an historic event and great accomplishment. However, when men of principle fail to exhibit the very substance for which they purport to stand, it disgusts me. I am a man of faith in Christ before I am a White man or an American. My faith determines my principles and my identity, not my skin color. I have had problems with the theology of T.D. Jakes as it is. This obviously shows more problems with Jakes' theology. Disgusting.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Column for June 5, 2008

Holy cow! I actually agree with Obama on something...sort of.

I will admit that I would rather be stabbed to death with a plastic fork than vote for Barack Hussein Obama. The same for Hillary Clinton, for that matter. I am almost that way about John McCain, as well, though my feelings about his candidacy are not quite as visceral. I find him repugnant to my sense of decent government nonetheless.

Imagine my surprise when I found something about which I agree with Obama…well, almost. I believe in equal opportunity critique, and find just as many problems with so called conservatives as I do with liberals. One recent issue that came up was whether or not our President should be willing to sit down and have discussions with representatives of other nations deemed to be our country's enemies.

A couple of weeks ago, Barack Hussein Obama was quoted as saying "I want everybody to be absolutely clear about this because George Bush and McCain have suggested that me being willing to sit down with our adversaries is a sign of weakness and sign of appeasement." He believes that a President should be willing to sit down and have diplomatic discussions with adversarial regimes. Personally, I believe that he is 100% correct.

Thomas Jefferson had the same viewpoint as Obama, just with a slightly different end goal, I suspect. The United States negotiated The Treaty of Tripoli with several nations in 1797 in an attempt to end the Barbary Pirate conflict. Prior to finally voting for Lee's Resolution for independence on July 2, 1776 and the initial signing of the Declaration of Independence two days later, the Second Continental Congress drafted and sent The Olive Branch Petition to King George III of England in 1775. I have taught extensively on and love that portion of US history.

Obama said that sitting down and talking was the method of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and he is correct. The 1986 Reykjavík, Iceland summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in comes to mind. There were Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty talks (SALT) in 1969 in Helsinki, Finland. There was SALT II in 1979. We also had START I and START II (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) in 1991 and 1993, all with the Soviets and later with what became Russia.

The United States has a long history of having talks with our adversaries. I find it amusing that as much as the Republican presidential candidates kept referencing Ronald Reagan during the debates, they refuse to follow his lead in dealing with nations such as Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. I only wish that Reagan took that lead with other nations, as well.

Having dialogue with your adversaries does not show weakness nor legitimize their positions. It shows your willingness to be reasonable while being strong enough to stand for your convictions. That is, provided that you do not acquiesce.

For over 50 years, the US has had a failed policy of cutting off Cuba with a futile embargo. We have nixed all travel by US citizens to the island nation, as well as all trade. While we maintain the position that trade with China will bring about reform and a penchant for our way of life and freedom, we still snub Cuba. Personally, I believe that if we showed them freedom, American goods and ingenuity, and exported our values, then there would come reform from the bottom up. Instead, we have helped that nation remain in the 1950's. I heard one reporter describe his recent visits to Cuba as being "a scene right out of The Godfather, Part 2". I am very familiar with that movie, considering that The Godfather is my all time favorite movie, and I have seen the trilogy many times.

Here is where I differ from Barack Hussein Obama on his position of dialogue with our adversaries. I do not believe for one minute that Obama has the best interest of the US in the forefront of his mind. I believe that he is an appeaser with a soft spot for Islamic terrorists. From my readings and hearing, Obama believes that our own nation is inherently the source of evil in this world while he is soft on Islamic nations who perpetrate violence on the rest of the world. He has already had meetings with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran. I doubt that his meetings had the same tone they would have if I was the one meeting with him.

The difference between Obama's example of Ronald Reagan and myself is that Reagan "carried a big stick" into his meetings and spoke from a position of power and confidence. I personally have no problem with letting someone like Ahmadinejad know that if he messes with us or our troops in Iraq, that I would not hesitate to turn the sands if Iran into a sea of glass and bomb all of Persia back into the Stone Age. Sure, a good portion of that backwards, Third World nation is there already, but I would oblige further should he attack or meddle with the United States.

Though I agree with Obama that we should always be willing to talk with our adversaries, I do agree more with the Teddy Roosevelt philosophy when he quoted loosely from an old African proverb. In 1901, Roosevelt said we should, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." I do not necessarily agree with his foreign policy of "Big Stick Diplomacy" as it was used (I will not get into a long winded discussion of The Monroe Doctrine or Roosevelt's Corollary), but I do believe that we should always negotiate from a position of authority, power, confidence, and with a perspective that will always put our own nation's interests first. I doubt Barack Hussein Obama has that capability.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Fan mail and hate mail about my last column

I apparently hit a nerve with my May 29th column. Just a few hours apart, I got some fan mail and some hate mail. Here are both. The fan mail is shorter, so I lead with it.

Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2008 15:49:15 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Janie"
Subject: tired of paying-----
Glad someone is speaking up about these kinds of things. The gov. certainly is not listening tho. I wish they could get hold of some of this wrong doing. I had a hard time getting to whePre I am but I worked hard and did it. So can others. Thanks for speaking out. Janie Corbett Wilsons Mills

And now the hate mail, to which I wrote a LONG response and offered to print her letter as a rebuttal column one week.
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2008 19:58:53 -0400 (GMT-04:00)
From: "jennifer"
Subject: tired of paying for others

Mr. Laplante, I would like to start off by saying that I too love in Public Housing so may not reach the criteria necessary for you to even read this e-mail. I will however write and send it to you for my own benefit. I moved into housing as a single mother of three children recently divorced with only a high school education. During my stay in public housing I have obtained an associate degree and a bachelor degree with the help of Financial Aid, Loans, Scolarships and work study programs. I have not once been without a job since I was fifteen and worked throughout my college career. That having been said I graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work this past May and have gained employment in a field relative to my degree but due to the lack of experience on my part still strive for better paying employment. I cannot afford to move out of public housing even on my income which is higher than most of my fellow project buddies. I personally know the family whose home was broken into. The family has a set of twins both suffering from cerebral palsy. Can you imagine? My sister lives next door in the same set of projects as me and she also has a daughter with cerebral palsy. I personally have no children who suffer from any disease, but I can tell you that my sister pays the full amount of rent which runs about the rate of a house in our neighborhood. The only benfit is the utilitiy costs are substantially lower. Both my sister and I strive to move out of public housing where our homes are entered weekly, our children are not allowed any outside toys, no pools, no tramploines, no sport equipment, we cannot put up border, plant flowers, get satellite without permission, and have any personal privacy. I have no central air, no dryer hook up, and my clothes line is under some trees in a neighbor's yard where birds do there buisness on my clothes daily. My son has been stung by a bee that hid
in his underwear of the line. He has also been biten by a spider that caused him to have his leg sliced open to drain the poison. None of this compares to living in fear that someone that is in our same project will break into our home while we are gone to steal the few possessions we do have not to mention the fear of a home invasion from these same thieves risking the lives of our childre or ourselves. I have so much anger and rage toward your comments about us having to shop in thrift sotres because we cannot afford to have nicer things. Who would choose poverty of prosperity. So many of these families have obstacles you cannot even imagine. Regardless of your claims of poverty, I cannot believe you have endured the lengths of which so many of us in these neighborhoods have. I feel that you have been spoiled by life and are in a position to judge freely because you pay taxes. Had you lived in the years of the depression and seen the government create these programs that helped so many American's to survive. To benefit from these programs should not mean that the person should live the most impoverished life available. You should be ashamed of yourself and your printing of such comments in my opinnion. Who am I though, just an educated poor person striving to gain the luxury you have. I still have so much I would love to say, but I truly believe my experience and beliefs will be waisted upon your ears and eyes. I am just greatful that there are people out there that are not so spoiled by there lives to see that everyone deserves to have a little luxury in there lives that last so short and that there children should not have to be clothed by the local thrift store just because they recieve a little help in this harsh world where they were blessed with two severly sick children who will not recover and will continue to be sick. Diapers for life, specializes equipment, nurses, docters visits, drool that dosen't stop, the lack of speech, feeding tubes, a trach in the throat, and so much more than you can imagine and your worrid about tax money. Money can't buy you or those three babies health or happiness. You disgust me with your thinking. Write a letter to George W. Bush and complain to him about feeding and fighting for the Iraqi people and the war. There are levelsor castes in every society. The rich, the middle class and the poor.It has to be that way according to some philosphers. You should be glad you don't have to work the fields for the fruits and vegetables you eat or for the cotten that your clothes are made of. Be happy you don't have to flip the burger that your family eats on a trip out. Be happy you don't have to wash the nice vehicles of those who come to the car wash. Be happy you have what you have and leave those of us just struggling to have a little of what life has to offer alone. I hope that you are not angered by my opinnions and I hope I sounded a little knowledgable on the subject. I hope these things for myself though not for you. You already have to much luxury in life.

Jennifer Williams