Community forum: Residents, leaders have to work together to solve problems
MORGAN CITY, La. — Area leaders and community members emphasized the importance of working together and being active participants in the community while addressing various issues Monday night at the Morgan City Rise Up! Community Forum at Morgan City Junior High School.
Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi, Morgan City Police Chief Travis Crouch, and St. Mary NAACP President Reginald Weary gave those in attendance the opportunity to present any questions or concerns they had relating to their respective responsibilities.
The event was hosted by Hoodstock, a community organization in Morgan City that promotes having “stock” or a vested interest, in residents’ neighborhoods, Hoodstock founder Courtney Long said.
Long founded the organization three years ago, which hosts its annual Hoodstock event in October. The event provides a health and wellness portion with free screenings. Political leaders and guest speakers also come to the event, Long said. The 2013 event is planned for Oct. 12 in Morgan City.
Some attendees submitted questions ahead of time, and had the option to submit them anonymously or with their names.
Grizzaffi said the bids to purchase three refurbished garbage trucks were opened Monday.
Grizzaffi said garbage rates have to increase because the city cannot afford to keep rates the same. In order to solve the city’s sanitation problems, residents also have to help by doing things such as making sure that cans are not overflowing, Grizzaffi said.
The city is looking to adopt an increase in its residential garbage rate to $18 per month at its council meeting today, Grizzaffi said.
Crouch said the department is working to get a neighborhood watch program started by going through training because Crouch wants to make sure he and his officers understand everything before they teach it. In the meantime, Crouch encouraged people to call police if they see any suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.
Weary said his organization’s underlying focus is civil rights issues, but recognized the issues facing communities have changed since the NAACP was first formed.
Weary said the NAACP is limited by its resources, though. The chapter’s main focus lately has been on its redress committee which investigates issues.
The parish chapter of the NAACP focuses on getting people registered to vote, and Weary said “your voice is your vote.”
Long said the purpose of the event was to give community members a “voice” and place to address their concerns.
Crouch also addressed the bicycle patrol that his officers began several months ago. The patrol consists of six officers patrolling once a week for about four to six hours, which is as much as they can do due to budget constraints, he said.
Crouch said anyone who knows of instances of racial profiling or stereotyping by officers should contact him. His officers stop people based on violations and not stereotyping, Crouch said. Crouch has an open-door policy and encouraged anyone who has questions or concerns to meet with him, he said.
In response to the recent ruling in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, Crouch said the state does have a “Stand Your Ground” law, but someone must fear that he or she is in “imminent danger of losing your life or great bodily harm” to take action necessary to protect his or herself. The incident must be “up close and personal” for someone to take action, he said.
Grizzaffi updated attendees of the event on some of what he has done since he has been in office and what projects are in the works. The city is getting engineering plans to bulkhead the riverfront in Morgan City from the U.S. 90 Bridge to the railroad bridge. The city is trying to make that the “focal point” when people cross the bridge and allow people to fish as well as shrimp boats to tie up at the structure, Grizzaffi said.
Recently, the city received $35,000 to help improve the Main Street area, Grizzaffi said. Grizzaffi is trying to do more work with city employees instead of hiring outside contractors and fixing roads on a “worst first basis,” he said.
Grizzaffi said the city has discussed extending the usage of the city’s pool by one hour a week to provide more recreation time for youths. He also said children need to learn how to swim with all the water that surrounds the city, and the city should try to provide swimming lessons to those who cannot afford them.
Toward the end of the forum, several community members spoke of the need for people to make sacrifices and do things to help their communities by stepping up into leadership roles including mentoring children.
Hazel Clark of Morgan City, speaking to those in the community in attendance, said that “change begins with yourself.”
Weary said the local NAACP is trying to do more mentoring in the community as well.
Grizzaffi said the Young Memorial Campus of South Central Louisiana Technical College is also a great resource for the community. He said jobs are available in the area, but people have to be motivated to look for and find those jobs.