June 25, 2019
My friend, Vicky Auchincloss is exactly the type of person The Partnership for Prosperity needs: she’s white, of a certain age, affluent, intelligent and knowledgeable, has lived overseas and knows how poverty affects other countries and how they deal with it. Her special interest is the how the jitney van services in South Africa, which she and her family have visited several times, meet the transportation needs of workers who have to travel some distance from where they live to where they work.
But most importantly, she’s concerned and willing to engage. So concerned she needed no persuasion from me to attend the forum on transportation needs the Partnership held last Thursday, which welcomed her advocacy of alternative ways of providing transportation between work place and home.
I suggest she’s typifies the kind of person who needs to be involved with and support the Partnership because unless the 75% of Winston-Salem’s more economically secure citizens understand the impact that 20% living in poverty has on the place where we all live, there is no Partnership.
Now, before someone points out that I am doing a tremendous injustice to the (estimated) 70,000 Winston-Salem citizens working either as paid staff or volunteers on programs and activities run by churches, public schools, institutions of higher education, Not for Profits, individuals, businesses, and government that are intended to ameliorate poverty, I would say three things: First, Winston-Salem is blessed with people who want to “pay back,” and who can rely on sophisticated volunteer management practices to make sure their contribution makes a real difference.
The second thing I would say is that number of involved citizens is really about 244,605 because, as one transportation expert said at the meeting Thursday, it “takes a village” to meet the transportation needs because improving public transportation, which so many in the city never use, will take some of their money (i.e.: taxes, or donations to organizations ((like the Shepherd’s Center)) that already provide transportation services to those in need) because, as the same expert said, “the Federal government is not likely to do more than it already is.”
Third, there is a growing need for transportation services that will stretch the budgets of government and Not for Profits and will require creative solutions, such as what Vicky advocates: the introduction of on-demand privately operated jitney-like services that scuttle around places where people need rides, some on scheduled routes, others roaming to be hailed. Imagine her delight when she met Courtney James at the meeting, who, with her husband, runs “Employee Transportation,” which does about the same kind of thing as they do in South Africa, only without any government assistance. As the expert said, “You’ll never get the Federal government to subsidize jitneys.”
Another expert guest at the meeting made the suggestion that churches could fulfill some of the unique transportation needs because they have vans that may sit idle during the week. This suggestion was instantly challenged by another expert, who lamented that his organization has been in conversation with the churches for twenty years about that very thing only to have the lawyers tell them they can’t cooperate because of the “liability” issue, the very same issue that precludes most churches from offering routine child care. (Speaking of liability, Ms. James has to carry about a million bucks of liability insurance just to stay in business.) It is unfortunate that the more than 400 churches in this city are precluded from doing more good works because some way can’t be found to relieve them of the liability issue. This makes our churches the most underutilized asset in the community.
Another idea that died aborning was the use of school buses in after hours to transport people to wherever they need to go. Again, regulatory and budget issues are the STOP buttons.
Want a really wild idea? How about the off-duty police officers giving rides to work in their squad cars? How about the optics of that! Seems consistent with “Protect and Serve.”
Anyway, you get the idea. If the transportation issues affecting a large segment of our citizenry are going to be solved, they need all the outside the box thinking John Railey and Chanel Nestor can get.
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