I love Hickory. I wake up each morning and have my coffee as I watch the cars drive by on 127. I find as much peace in this activity as some do watching waves crash on the sand. I'm happily raising my kids here, and they are thriving in this environment. My husband and I see so much beauty here that we create a regional magazine dedicated to showing the beauty that is here. I can walk to the SALT Block, Downtown, the Y, and stores in Viewmont. My road is tree-lined and we are happy here.
But I only have to walk a couple of blocks before I feel markedly unsafe. There are parts of my own Ward where I can't canvas alone. In these parts of town, even the sidewalks are crumbling. Kudzu covers whole lots, including ones owned by the city. Our crime rates (violent and property crimes combined) are worse than 97% of cities. If that feels unbelievable to you, it's likely because you live in a safer part of Hickory, but please remember that the law of averages means the bad neighborhoods are practically war-zones. Our wages are stagnant. We've been labeled as having the 5th worst opioid problem in the nation, and that doesn't even take into account the "meth". Affordable housing in safe neighborhoods is hard to come by, and our homeless problem is clearly something we need to take action about.
Maybe you live somewhere that feels like the first place I described, and maybe you live somewhere that forces you to feel the realities of the problem in the second paragraph. I'm not coming in riding a magic bullet. I don't know how to fix all the problems we have.
But I do know that ignoring the problems won't solve them. I do know that you have to look problems square in the face to solve them. I can't fix these massive problems by snapping my fingers, and I don't have all the answers, but I can make some promises:
1: I see you. I see your struggles.
2: I'm dedicated to making Hickory better for everyone.
3: I will try to improve the problems of wage stagnation, homelessness, drug use, lack of affordable housing and even the kudzu and sidewalks.
4: I will point out the flaws in the system that have allowed for such rampant inequality and uneven growth.
5: I will highlight solutions.
6: I will fight for them.
I have a feeling that if you've only been in the nice neighborhoods here, you'll think I'm on about nothing. If that's the case, I invite you to take a slow drive through the neighborhood you normally avoid. Keep this in mind: crime doesn't stick to one place. It's already left the confines of the neighborhoods where it lived for many years. It's already in nice neighborhoods that are near the others. It's creeping in. And we can't fix the crime unless we improve the quality of life for those committing the crime. The new City Walk and Book Walk, while celebrated, will connect these many neighborhoods, and many people suspect it will spread the pockets of crime to much larger areas, and to avoid this, we'll need to lower the crime rates generally speaking.
I want Hickory to be wonderful when my kids are adults. I know you do. It's going to take some concerted work, NOW. Join me, please, in improving this place we love.