Opinion: Questions and Concerns for The New Bern Board of Aldermen

Photo of community event held in the Talbot's Lot in New Bern, NC
Community Event in the “Talbot’s Lots”

The question being considered tonight is whether or not the City of New Bern should sell a special piece of land in the heart of downtown. A second questions is – How does the city pay for what it thinks it wants or needs at this time. This second question is “age old” and has and will continue to be asked. Communities will always be searching for ways to pay for desired growth…but at what price?

At some point, community “growth” overwhelms what was “special and desirable” about a place and people no longer find their community desirable, and choose to leave…communities become villages, villages become towns, towns become cities, cities become metropolises and that “specialness” of place is lost. People leave and look for that “specialness” elsewhere. I think there are some here that can relate to that feeling.

New Bern is one of those “special places.” A unique and desirable place that enjoys a sense of community. It is a “special place” with diversity of people, spirit, energy, and talents. A place that has overcome challenges throughout its history.

It is a special place where residents share the joys of life and help each other, weather the storms, fires, floods and sicknesses that have come and that will come again.

The third question is – As growth in New Bern continues to be considered and planned for, will New Bern continue to be “special” and “desirable,” or will it “grow” into something different…something less special and desirable? We hope not. We always want to make it better.

Each of you has been chosen as a leader from our communities to share ideas, questions, and concerns. Your responsibilities are much more than trying to find answers to the second question mentioned earlier, “How to pay for what we think we want or need?”

Those ideas, questions, and concerns we share should also consider the long-term effects they may bring to our town and whether or not they help to keep New Bern “special,” “desirable” and “unique” years from now, when we are no longer here. What do we want our town, this “special place” to be like for our children, our grandchildren, our greatgrandchildren, and those who continue to live here, long after we are gone? Long after we have made decisions about ideas, questions and concerns?

Will the decisions made here, at this time, be ones that will better serve the communities of people we represent for now, and years to come…or will the decisions made here at this time, serve only a few with special interests? Will our visions and decisions for the future of New Bern be something our children or our grandchildren will be proud to say…”My father or my grandfather, my mother or my grandmother helped make this happen in our town.” Will that thing that you helped make happen in our town, through your decisions and your votes, be something that you will be proud of in years to come?

You are all chosen leaders from our communities. Good leadership is not always easy. It sometimes requires making difficult decisions. It sometimes requires not agreeing with the opinions being declared as “What’s best for New Bern” by someone assuming to know what’s best and using their assumed “Positional Authority” to make such declarations.

The last question – Do you have the strength and conviction as an elected community leader and alderman to vote your conscience for what you believe is the right decision…the decision whether to sell this special parcel of land in the middle of our downtown, or to hold onto it and consider other possibilities for its use?

There is no urgency to sell this lot as some have declared. It’s been sitting vacant for 22 years with no urgency to sell.

It’s been used by the community during those 22 years as a gathering place for public events.

What will the legacy of your decision tonight mean to the city in the long-term?

If this lot is sold to a private individual, the city will lose any opportunity for future considerations. Expected revenues from the sale of this lot are not urgently needed at this time. The city has over $67 million in available funds and over $800 thousand in funds that are reserved to be used for the Municipal Service District (MSD) downtown. Money received by the city for the sale of this lot would just be added to double the available reserved funds for the Municipal Service District downtown.

Who and What are the real issues driving the sense of urgency to sell this lot?

I am asking you tonight to vote not to sell this choice piece of property in our downtown. I am asking you to consider other community inputs for possible uses that would include all of our citizens…uses that could be a “Corner Stone” in keeping with the specialness of our town.

I am asking that you vote to keep New Bern a place where all people desire to be in, and work in and share in the joys of living in this “Special Place.”

By Ben Bunn, Resident of New Bern for most of my 75 years