Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines discussed the progress made by the city over the course of 2022 during his State of the City address on Wednesday morning at City Hall. Joines said that the past year had been defined by the power of a united community, one that is linked with a “clear mission of a strong economy” that benefits all of its citizens. Joines also noted that the year was “propelled by a fierce devotion to public service, reducing poverty, addressing gun violence, creating affordable housing and growing the economy.” Joines communicated the city’s goals for this year, saying that he believes Winston-Salem to be in a strong financial position.
“We have programs in place to address housing, we have an effective economic development program, but we’ve got to deal with gun violence,” he said.
Joines said that the city is well-positioned to attain their goals by remaining unified.
“Working together, the city working with the county… we can get things done,” Joines said.
The city will also be hiring a new city manager after Lee Garrity’s retirement this June.
Celebrating economic gains, a focus on affordable housing
Joines applauded the city’s increase in jobs and economic development and reiterated Winston-Salem’s reputation as a “City of Arts and Innovation,” pointing out that keeping the economy healthy has been one of the city council’s top priorities, as well as his own. More than a thousand new jobs have been created in the last year, he said; and that the year had ended with a 3.3 percent unemployment rate, he said. Similarly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics pointed to an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent in Winston-Salem.
An increase in affordable housing and reduction in poverty was also noted in Joines’ address as he mentioned that three years ago, the city had identified a need for 16,000 new units in the community over the next 10 years, setting a goal of 750 new units per year.
City council unanimously approved setting aside $30 million from ARPA funds and some state funds to be used exclusively for affordable housing. While only 450 new units were created last year, Joines said that the city would “continue to push hard on development of affordable units” and work on hitting their goal of 750 new units this year.
Joines also said that funding has been approved for a nonprofit organization that will be transforming an old motel into 100 new housing units for permanent supportive housing.
Joines noted that the city had run a successful eviction-prevention program through a grant from the federal government. By expending $11.7 million, they were able to help 2,595 households stay in their homes. Joines added that the city had been recognized by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for having “one of the best programs in the country.” In an article from January, housing advocates told TCB that illegal evictions had been on the rise in the city.
Joines mentioned that while the poverty rate had dropped from 26 percent to 19 percent, the number was still “way too high” as one out of five citizens is living below the poverty level.
One win Joines pointed to was the fact that 449 students took part in Forsyth Technical Community College’s free college program last year. The program invites graduates from Forsyth County high school schools to attend the college cost-free, including tuition, books and fees.
Sustainability, leaf collection, policing remains top of mind
The city remains committed to sustainability, Joines said, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030, with total elimination by 2050, mentioning the fleet of hybrid buses that are currently running. A plan to bring an in-house recycling system is also a priority, Joines said.
Responding to criticisms around leaf collection, Joines said he city will develop a new protocol for leaf pickup, citing the “perfect storm” of equipment supply chain issues and bad weather that negatively impacted collection over the last several months.
Gun-violence reduction remained a major concern for the city as Joines mentioned the influx in gun violence since the start of the year, noting that 11 homicides have occurred in the city already. However, Joines applauded the police department’s efforts as well as the new technology housed in their Real Time Crime Center.
On the horizon, Joines said that “reducing gun violence is at the top of the list for this year,” and that he wants the city to explore more ways of getting funding for social programs that will help get to the root of the violence.
Recently, the city announced that it would be implementing an alternative response model for some mental health calls in which trained social workers are dispatched rather than armed police.
“You can’t police your way out of this situation,” Joines said, “there must be a community-wide effort to work on this.”
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