East Ward meeting held

by Keith Barber

Winston-Salem City Councilman Derwin Montgomery listens to a constituent’s concerns during a community meeting last week. (photo by Keith T. Barber)

Forsyth County Commissioner Walter Marshall was the first to speak up during a “Talk of the Town” meeting for residents of the Winston-Salem’s East Ward at United Metropolitan Baptist Church on Oct. 4. Marshall first complained to Winston-Salem Police Chief Scott Cunningham that he believed the police department was discriminating against Winston-Salem State University football fans by issuing an inordinate number of parking violations during Saturday afternoon games. Marshall said the police department was “exempting” Wake Forest fans that park along Deacon Boulevard.

Cunningham rejected Marshall’s claim, saying the police department doesn’t play favorites. Cunningham acknowledged that police officers issue more parking citations outside Bowman Gray Stadium during WSSU football games than they do at Groves Stadium because of the different parking facilities at each venue.

“We posted all the roads around there [with no parking signs] based on citizen complaints and citizen traffic safety issues, so the fire trucks and everything can get through,” Cunningham said. “There’s more criminal enforcement, more arrests of students and that kind of thing up in the Wake Forest area with the drinking and the partying. We enforce the law the same in both areas. There just seems to be more parking problems around Winston- Salem State, and more youth and drinking problems around Wake Forest.”

Forsyth County Commissioner Everette Witherspoon interjected, arguing that the police department is engaging in selective enforcement of parking ordinances.

Witherspoon said when Bowman Gray Stadium is being used for its other purpose — NASCAR racing — no parking tickets are issued. Witherspoon noted that WSSU football fans are primarily African-American while NASCAR fans attending races at Bowman Gray are mostly white.

Assistant City Manager Martha Wheelock disputed Witherspoon’s claims, stating that parking tickets are issued at all events in the city and offered to show Witherspoon documentation of how many tickets are issued at specific venues.

Marshall then launched into his second complaint, which centered on Lakeside Villas Apartments. Marshall called the 357-unit apartment complex on Walkertown Avenue an “eyesore.” Marshall complained that the apartment complex was in such a severe state of disrepair that it was lowering property values in the neighborhood. Marshall asked Winston- Salem City Councilman Derwin Montgomery, who represents the East Ward, why his constituents in the Walkertown Avenue neighborhood were being neglected.

“Why are you letting these people violate all these housing codes?” Marshall asked. “Why do you maintain a slum?” “The city is enforcing housing codes,” Montgomery said.

“No, you’re not,” Marshall replied. Ritchie Brooks, the city’s director of housing and neighborhood services, told Marshall that every unit in the complex had been inspected in the past three months. Brooks did not mention that nearly a third of the units in the complex had been deemed unfit for human habitation after an August inspection by the city’s inspections division, according to the city’s website. Marshall claimed Lakeside Villas Apartments had been in a state of disrepair for two decades. Every time a citizen complains about housing code enforcement, all they receive is another “lame excuse” from city officials, he said.

“You don’t give a damn that property values are decreasing,” Marshall declared.

Montgomery said the code enforcement issues associated with Lakeside Villas were much worse in the past, and conditions have improved since the new owners, Vastu Investment LLC, bought the property. Montgomery said he’s met face-to-face with the owners and learned that they purchased the property sight unseen without realizing just how bad living conditions were for residents.