Pine Bluff City Council members mostly expressed support for the contents of Mayor Debe Hollingsworth’s State of the City Address on Monday and stressed the need for civic unity to move Pine Bluff forward.
Hollingsworth said Monday that investing in youth education and improving quality of life are key to creating a community that is attractive for investment and job creation.
Reacting to the speech Tuesday, Ward 1 Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. said: “We must work together. I’m going to quote from the Bible for one second. In 1 Samuel 30:6, it says that David was greatly distressed and he encouraged himself in the Lord. In Pine Bluff we must encourage ourselves. The devil is trying to stop us, but we are our own worst enemy. It’s like we have too much negativity among us.”
Holcomb said all citizens of Pine Bluff, regardless of race, must realize that the success of the city depends on everyone working together.
“We must encourage ourselves,” Holcomb said. “We can’t make it without each other, black and white. We need each other. We might as well face that. We need each other. In order for this city to be what it needs to be, we need [the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff] and we need [Southeast Arkansas College]. We need the mayor and the city council to work together.”
While acknowledging that universal agreement is difficult, Holcomb said that everyone must at least respect each other.
“In order for business and industry to come to this city, we must carry ourselves in a respectful way,” Holcomb said. “The mayor has given us her vision for the city and it’s up to us as a city council and as a city to follow her lead.”
Ward 4 Alderman George Stepps said that Hollingsworth should have done more to acknowledge the work of the Carl A. Redus Jr. administration in laying the groundwork for the bond projects that are now coming to fruition.
“While I appreciated the mayor’s speech, I do believe that she should have given credit to the previous administration for getting the bond measures passed so that these projects could begin,” Stepps said. “The tax was passed in 2011. The projects that she talked about in her address were already in the making. This was one of the things that the previous administration started.”
Ward 3 Alderman Bill Brumett agreed with Hollingsworth that Pine Bluff is moving in the right direction.
“I have been very involved in the city image campaign, trying to rebuild the image of our city,” Brumett said. “We’ve got some very good people involved in that project. We want to stop those people who are out there talking bad about our town. The way we do that is to confront them and tell them that we’ve heard enough and aren’t going to listen anymore.”
Brumett said that the best way to counter negativity is to become educated about the positives of Pine Bluff.
“We have the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Railroad Museum,” Brumett said. “There are people who come from all over the world to see that museum. I have seen people enjoying Saracen Landing and we have realized the vision that we had for that place and what it could be.”
Brumett said that Regional Park has top-notch amenities that should be talked up.
“Harbor Oaks is one of the premiere public golf courses in this state,” Brumett said. “The softball complex is one of the best of its kind in the state, and work has been done to improve it recently. The picnic area and the boat landing are also being enjoyed by our residents. Even so, all some people want to talk about are the negative things and I’m tired of it.”
Ward 3 Alderman Glen Brown said that he is waiting to see if promises made by Hollingsworth come to fruition.
“The verdict is still out on the mayor’s plans for Pine Bluff,” Brown said. “I think that the theme of the mayor’s address is fine, but most of the time politicians tell you things that they are going to do, but then once they get into office, things don’t happen. Seeing is believing for me. When it happens, you can believe it.”
Ward 2 Alderman Wayne Easterly said the public should know that the council is not in as much disarray as is portrayed.
“I am very proud of the projects that we have started and the ones that we have completed,” Easterly said. “From the perception out there, you would think this bunch was in the back room in a boxing ring having a fight all the time. There are differences, but I can assure you that we have moved forward. We on the council will continue to do the things that need to be done to keep Pine Bluff headed in the right direction.”
Ward 4 Alderman Steven Mays said he appreciated the work done by the Hollingsworth administration to reduce crime in Pine Bluff.
“Our Citizens on Patrol and Neighborhood Watch groups are working hard,” Mays said. “People talk about taking back their community but then sit back watching the thugs and thieves just take over. I urge you all to join a Neighborhood Watch group.”
Mays said it is his love for Pine Bluff and its people that motivates him to work hard for the city.
Ward 2 Alderman Charles Boyd said he also does his best to counter negative comments directed at Pine Bluff.
“When people say negative things, I am always the first to defend Pine Bluff, the city where I live and the city that I love,” Boyd said. “We are striving and moving forward in a unified manner, I think.”
Ward 1 Alderwoman Thelma Walker said she is a strong supporter of the Neighborhood Watch programs in Pine Bluff.
“I support the Neighborhood Watch programs and I think we should get the younger generation involved as a way to support their community and as a way to build pride in the community,” Walker said.