Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Elizabeth City - We Try Harder

Elizabeth City, NC
36 17.920 N 076 13.09 W

We are all familiar with civic boosters.  That is, those people (and/or governments) who labor to make their locality be as prosperous and attractive as possible.   I have to say, we never saw any place that tries harder at civic boosting than Elizabeth City (EC).

For boaters, it started with "Hospitality Harbor" and "The Rose Buddies."   They installed free docks at the heart of the city waterfront and invited cruising boaters to stop there.   The Rose Buddies were a group of volunteers who greeted boaters, passed on information, and hosted wine-cheese parties every evening if enough boats were around.  Prominent among the Rose Buddies was Fred Fearing; an outstanding personality that Libby and I were proud to call our friend until he passed away a few years ago.

The mayor and former mayor are also actively engaged in making boaters feels welcome.   How often have you visited a city and had the mayor come out to shake your hand and wish you welcome?

It is not just boaters.  the civic boosters also work to keep the downtown alive.   Like most American cities, the downtown is under pressure.  Stores can't compete with big box stores and go bankrupt.  The public's tastes in retail shopping change.   It is almost normal to see downtowns filled with vacant store fronts and to exude the aura of decay.  (Burlington, VT with Church Street is a very notable exception which EC can never match.)   But EC seems to be at least partially succeeding.  It's downtown is hardly thriving; there are some vacant store fronts. But it seems to be succeeding more often than failing.  It is my guess that civic boosting had a lot to do with that.

I think the only opportunity that EC has not exploited is  to promote the fact that EC was the home town of Edward Snowden.   Of course, today Snowden is a highly controversial person with the people viewing him as a traitor and the other half viewing him as a hero.   I remind you that Martin Luther King was once in exactly that state regarding public opinion.  Today, almost every city (including EC) has a MLK boulevard.  If the feds catch Snowden and put him in jail I expect that he would be like Nelson Mandella, growing in stature and power every year he is incarcerated.

Hats off to Elizabeth City.

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