Funding Country Music While Residents Live in Fear
by Lewis Loflin
86-year-old Annie Bell Smith was found strangled in her apartment at Springdale Village apartment complex, an area known for it's high crime rates and drug problems. She was found dead Sunday July 10, 2011. She was found by her pastor when he came to pick her up for church. She "spoke" her mind and the police are closed lipped on details. In fact they are clueless and asking the public for help.
This is the latest of a number of murders in the Bristol-Kingsport area due mainly to drugs. It's unknown at this time if this killing is related to robbery, etc. Like about half the murder victims in Virginia she was black and most of the killers of black people are also black. By all accounts she was an outstanding member of the community and everyone should pray for her family.
Springdale Village is a 136 unit Section 8 public housing unit. It seems the press and police have failed to mention that fact. Like most public housing it's riddled with crime and residents often live in fear. Her friend Martha Lindsay says of the place, "It ain't safe here" as she screamed back (at) a statement a neighbor made while being interviewed by the press. Further she said, "We don't feel safe here at night time." (BHC July 12, 2011)
Complaints varied from burned out lighting and simply locking doors instead of fixing them, to no lights in the parking lot. Lindsey and other s kept their doors locked even when they went out to get the mail. This from the press sums up the situation in much of the public housing in Bristol:
She (Lindsey) said Smith dealt with this problem by keeping the door locked - even when she left her apartment for a few minutes to pick up her mail from the mailboxes at the bottom of the building's stairs. Smith also never opened her door to strangers at night...and often placed a microwave stand in front of her door to serve as one more added measure of security.
But there was one kink in the armor Smith built up around her and her Springdale Village apartment. Every evening before Smith went to bed, Lindsay said, the 86-year-old woman would open her door, step outside, grab her welcome mat and take it inside before it was stolen or got wet in the rain.
Lindsay's certain whoever killed Smith used this ritual as a chance to get inside her apartment. It all happened sometime after 5 p.m. Saturday, she said, because that's when Smith stopped by to tell her she had picked out the outfit she planned to wear to church.
Crime is simply out of control around most public housing because of a lack of police presence or real security of any kind. At one time Bristol, Virginia opened an auxiliary police station in Rice Terrace as I remember to put officers on patrol and track the numinous people on probation in the area. That ended when a Federal (state?) grant ran out. Otherwise it seems people are dumped into these places simply to be ignored and forgotten.
But instead of a little funding to get the needed security in these often dangerous public housing units, they waste a fortune on tourism scams, corporate welfare, and culture and entertainment for the affluent. No worse example of this is the demand of the so-called Birthplace of Country Music Alliances to get $100,000 each for five from Bristol Virginia and Tennessee to staff and operate a bogus country music museum. Costing $10.8 million most of it public money, it's being placed in an abandoned garage near city hall.
To quote John Rainero in the Bristol Herald Courier July 13 when he went before local politicians:
"I won't say that the heritage center won't happen without this support, but it definitely will happen with it. The money would go for staffing, marketing and development during those first few critical years of operation. This isn't just us asking for this money, we have funding sources who want to know what kind of community support we have; what kind of city support do we have?"
$1 million over five years can put some real security in the problemsome public housing units and provide safety for the residents Annie Smith. Public officials don't want to hear that because these people mean little at the country club. Mayor Ed Harlow of Bristol, Tennessee "predicted the two councils would weigh options" even though he admits there's no money in the budget.
This is the typical example of social apartheid in Bristol Virginia/Tennessee where public funds that should go for the public good is diverted to special interest pork benefiting mainly affluent and well connected. Police protection is a vital public function, funding a country music museum in an abandoned garage isn't.
More on this story from the Bristol Herald Courier http://www2.tricities.com/news/2011/jul/12/shock-not-surprise-over-ms-annies-death-ar-1166481/.
My suggestion to fix this is simple: enforce a curfew on those under 18 from 9 PM to 7 AM unless accompanied by an adult guardian. Also keep those that don't live in the complex out of the area during curfew and enforce rules barring those that aren't registered as tenants from occupying the units. Most important is police patrols and substations in the projects themselves to keep close track of who is wondering the streets.
Is this a violation of civil rights? No it isn't. We had to follow such rules in the military and if these people want to live in taxpayer funded housing they have to live by the rules. If we had this Annie Smith would likely be alive today. But who cares about an elderly black lady when we are renovating vacant garages?