August 12, 2022 8:00am

Affordable housing, worker shortages and National Black Theatre Festival

The results are in

Photo of Mary Giunca
Winston-Salem, NC Correspondent

Welcome to our August Power Poll. Thanks to all of you who roused yourselves from the torpor of dog days to answer our questions.

Our first question asked how concerned you are about teachers, nurses and law enforcement being able to find affordable housing in the area.

A majority of you, 48%, are very concerned. A little over a third of you, 37% are moderately concerned. Twelve percent aren’t concerned, while 3% of you have no opinion or don’t know.

I’ve always thought affordable housing is one of our strengths. In fact, it’s a big reason I’ve stayed here. When a friend got a job at the Charlotte Observer around 2005, she found a small, cute house to rent in one of the historic districts for $1,000 a month. I knew that even though she had gotten a nice raise, most of the extra money would go for housing. I wondered how she’d ever save enough for a down payment on a house in Charlotte (long story short, she didn’t). Meanwhile, I’d bought a Victorian cottage downtown for well under $100,000. With housing prices what they were in Charlotte even back then, I knew I’d struggle to find something I could not only afford, but that had the beadboard ceilings, wood floors and fireplaces of my house here. Twenty years later, I’ve outgrown my house, and have no doubt I could sell it quickly, but fear I couldn’t find anything I liked as well in the next tier up.

A couple of comments took issue with my focus on teachers, nurses and law enforcement. Ken Carlson, a partner at Constangy Law said, “Teachers, nurses and law enforcement may of course, be affected by the lack of affordable housing, but most concerns over this issue involve those of our lowest income levels. And that is an extreme concern for our community, including me.”

Bill Apple, mayor pro tem of Kernersville, agreed with Carlson, “ … in that I believe that my concerns about affordable housing are certainly there, but they certainly are not limited to concerns for the listed occupation/professions. Hence my “no” response to that particular question.

Rogan Kersh, provost at Wake Forest University, said that he appreciates Carlson’s comment. “And the reason I am very concerned about these professions as well: N.C.’s shamefully low levels of teacher pay.”

Thanks to the three of you for your comments. The question certainly wasn’t meant to minimize the struggles of people who make much less than the generally middle-class wages of the professions I mentioned. My reading on inequities of all sorts over the last few years has left me with the strong sense that the forces that have decimated the working class over the last 40 years are now coming for middle class people. So, inherent in my concern for middle class people in jobs like the ones I mentioned, is the understanding that the working class are in even worse shape when it comes to housing and have been struggling for a long time.

The second question asked about the difficulty in finding workers in local businesses. Are we following national trends or are we having less trouble? I felt like this was a good group to ask.

A majority of you, 45%, said you’d had some trouble finding workers. A smaller, but still significant group, 29%, said that you’d had a big problem finding workers. A lucky 16% aren’t having any trouble finding workers, and 9% don’t know or have no opinion.

Our final question asked about your participation at last week’s National Black Theatre Festival. The largest group, 45% have never attended the festival. The second largest group, 27%, didn’t go this year, but have been in the past. Seventeen percent of you attended between one and three events this year and 10% attended more than three events.

Zina Johnson, community assistant liaison for the city of Winston-Salem, said, “The NBTF generated a great deal of revenue for the city. It would be nice to see more events come to the area. I frequently visit Raleigh and Charlotte for entertainment.”

I agree with Zina that NBTF is great for our city. It’s always fun to see the energy attendees bring to downtown if you work near the Convention Center and hotels where they’re likely to gather.

This was possibly the first year I didn’t attend any shows or the free drumming/dance sessions since the festival began here in the late 1980s. A painfully sprained ankle kept me home this year. Theatre is my favorite of the performing arts and I’ve always loved the shows, so I wish I’d hobbled out.

I’m sure we all have our favorite cultural events. For me, Bookmarks, NBTF and RiverRun International Film Festival, consistently deliver outstanding cultural opportunities of the sort that you’d expect to find in larger cities. I guess I feel like it’s my civic duty to support them so they don’t pick up and move somewhere else, so I always try and attend at least one program at each.

That’s it for this month. As always, feel free to email me comments, ideas for questions or constructive criticism.

If you know of people who might be interested in participating in Power Poll, please email me their name, position and email address. I’ll add them to the database.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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