The Waynesboro City Council comprises of members who are elected by city voters and empowered by the city charter and the Code of Virginia with the responsibility of establishing laws in the city, adopting an annual budget and setting tax levels to fund maintenance of the city infrastructure, schools, public safety and other functions.

On the surface, much like a new book cover of a book that has never been opened, city council appears to be honoring their civic obligations. They have and continue to work to beautify areas where tourist and the wealthiest Waynesboro residents matriculate and comigrate while continuously neglecting portions of the community where everyday people live and strive to survive and take care of their families as best they can.

There has been a tremendous amount of focus on taking advantage of “The Virginia Main Street” revitalization program, which is commendable. What many Waynesboro residents, who lack the financial influence to garner the respect and attention of its city council take issue with, is the lack of push to revitalize Waynesboro’s Port Republic Historic District by pursuing Historic Preservation Tax Credits. The lack of focus and or real concern for the residents of Waynesboro’s Historic Port Republic District is one of the leading causes of discontentment with city council members.

It is unethical and downright cruel to take advantage of the loyalty that many residents feel towards its community which has kept them from speaking publicly against its city council members. Speaking against your local government is not a desired thing to do, however, in times like these it is often a necessary thing to do.

So many suffer in silence waiting for its elected officials to act honorably and just. To date, they have been waiting in vain. It’s true that there are residents that live paycheck to paycheck and below the poverty line, but they too pay taxes and help to keep the economy growing. Affluent residents alone can not maintain Waynesboro economy.

They may keep the downtown restaurants and businesses in business, but they are not the sole contributors to the sustainability of Waynesboro’s economy nor are they the sole contributors to its continued growth. It is the contributions of Waynesboro’s “everyday people” that sustains and supports its economic and social growth. For that reason, it’s not too much to ask of city council members to include “all” of its residents when determining economic needs and efforts to revitalize.

Then there is the issue of social growth which deals with how one develops the ability to deal with other people and different groups in society. The ability to do this requires “cultural intelligence” … The ability to rely on the same pool of voters every year is coming to an end. Even longtime political participants (voters) are tiring of the Status Quo. They too are demanding a real show of trust and community engagement beyond the monthly city council meetings … a demand for a city council that demonstrate the ability to have diversity of thought and social responsibility while at the same time achieving unity in actions. To demonstrate concerns not only for business organizations and affluent residents but also to everyone who impacts the economic and social sustainability of the Waynesboro community at large.

Canned speeches and statements to situations that are of great concern to Waynesboro residents will no longer be acceptable. In truth it never has been; residents have been living in a state of

expectancy; not wanting to speak against its elected representatives. However, as the sidewalks continue to crumble, playgrounds and communities are passed over for revitalization, a vital bridge that many residents and businesses depend on remain closed and efforts to evoke racial divide tries to take root, is it not fair to believe that city council members are purposely disregarding the concerns of residential areas where citizens lacking wealth and influence reside?

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Sharon Fitz, co-founder and CEO of RISE, is a community activist.

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