August 25, 2022
A town hall meeting held at the E.P. Robinson Community Center on Jackson St. in Monroe, LA, hosted by District 4 Monroe City Councilman Carday Marshall, Sr., did not appear to go as planned. Marshall and his council colleagues are holding town hall meetings in their respective Districts throughout the city as they try to keep their constituents informed of what is going on at city hall. Marshall brought two representatives from Mayor Ellis’ administration whose task appeared to be for one thing and one thing only. After Marshall extended greetings to those residents/voters in the audience, he let the two female representatives talk about what appeared to be their mission, highlighting downtown Monroe. According to a concerned citizen, Vernon Hall, the two representatives spoke about economic development in downtown Monroe but did not offer anything about the rest of District 4. District 4 is vast, stretching from downtown Monroe to the Swanson Youth Center. Hall, who was present, said that the ladies “came for something but with nothing to give” as they stayed on what the city was doing in the downtown area. Those in attendance listened, Hall said, until one audience member said, “tell us something about the rest of the southside." At this point, audience members were told to refer questions about other matters concerning the southside to Councilman Marshall. That appeared to have rubbed some people wrong as frustrations began to mount. Marshall would address the audience, saying that a South Grand St. project is slated to start, as work on the Georgia St. pumping station is proceeding on schedule. Marshall noted that the Georgia St. project has money concerns, but he is confident that the project will be completed as scheduled. Marshall also mentioned that there were talks of a housing development to begin at Plum and Georgia St., where the streets intersect. The area is right by the railroad overpass on Plum St. leading to Jackson St., where it has been vacant for many years.
According to Hall, the residents appeared attentive as they wanted to hear more. Hall said it was as if they were being told a "tomorrow” speech, but from hearing so many things coming out of city hall, District 4 residents want to see something now. Hall framed that by saying, we can do better for tomorrow by doing something today, which is the sentiments of many Districts 3, 4, and 5 residents as they watch another multi-million economic development project begin in downtown Monroe, while residents in Marshall’s District wait.
“What we are getting is crumbs from the table," said Hall. “Others are experiencing tax dividends from the economic table while Districts 3, 4, and 5 are told that better days are coming. How long must we wait, is perhaps a better question."
Many southside residents/voters believe that they are hearing empty words from people sent by them to change things from what they were at city hall. Residents/voters at Marshall’s town hall meeting appeared to grow weary of hearing about making downtown attractive” while neglecting the rest of District 4. Hall said that there is “real anger” from Districts 3, 4, and 5 and Mayor Ellis is aware but is not being accessible to citizens.
It is not the mayor who must take a stand, as Districts 1 and 2 look good, but leaders from Districts 3, 4, and 5 must be held accountable for no southside improvements. Many wonder if there is an invisible line they will not cross for fear of a backlash from those who wield power within the city and outside. There are those who wonder if they are being played. Many residents that attended the District 4 meeting might not be convinced that those days are over. A vision, some may say, is needed for Districts 3, 4, and 5, as one can hope a change is needed the next time votes are cast. Listen to the people, Hall would say. Perhaps what is needed is a straightforward, tough, dignified, but respectful talk toward leaders of Districts 3, 4, and 5 because Districts 1 and 2 seem to have no problems moving forward. Bring Mayor Ellis to the town hall meetings, or is that asking for too much?