Boston-Hill wants Greenville to be welcoming to all
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
A candidate for Greenville mayor said the City Council needs to ask if it’s doing everything it can to make Greenville welcoming to everyone.
Renee Boston-Hill, who along with Demetrius Hicks, is challenging P.J. Connelly in the Greenville mayoral race. The nonpartisan election is Nov. 5. Early voting starts Wednesday.
Boston-Hill said it seems young people are leaving the community so the City Council should explore ways to get recent graduates of East Carolina University and Pitt Community College to stay and to raise their families.
“What is it we can do as a people to say that Greenville is truly an inclusive town and a place for everybody,” Boston-Hill said. “Are we moving in that direction right now?”
Boston-Hill said she’s disappointed with the City Council’s response to President Donald Trump’s July political rally, when audience members chanted “Send her back” as the president criticized four congressman, one a naturalized citizen who was born in Somalia.
“It took me back to my childhood, in New York City. I went to a school that was only 3 percent black and those were the chants that we as 14 year olds, had to witness,” Boston-Hill said. She had to run from school to a place where she would feel safe enough to catch a bus.
“When you are thinking of one city, one community, one city, if I was a parent sending my child to ECU, after this kind of display of behavior I would be a little afraid of the climate, the environment,” she said. “I was receiving calls, ‘is that the Greenville you live in?’ It was horrible. I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed by the leadership and their behavior,” she said.
Multiple local, state and national elected officials were at the rally and joined the chant, she said.
Connelly released a statement the next day that said he was “extremely disappointed” by the chant and the city was “a diverse place of compassion and acceptance.”
Boston-Hill is skeptical.
“I don’t know if he was sincere about it or if people thought it was best for him to do that to calm the city,” she said. He did, after all, greet the president at Pitt-Greenville Airport, she said.
“I’m not putting him down, he did what he felt comfortable doing,” she said. “I’m not in a position to say if it was right or wrong but it’s what he did.”
Boston-Hill was further disappointed when Connelly left a community forum prompted by the Trump rally shortly after welcoming people to the event.
“How can you leave like that and not want to hear the (comments) of the people,” she said.
Boston-Hill said she wants to pursue the issues raised that night. She wants to find a way to include all children in recreational programming. Parents complained fees for some programming are too high so their children can’t participate.
Others said economic development efforts aren’t helping all residents, she said.
“It’s wonderful to be expanding into one particular area, but how do you make it so all areas have some kind of development locally,” Boston-Hill said. “I’m 100 percent behind growth, I’m 100 percent behind development but when people feel left out … the lack of inclusiveness is starting to grow and expand in the city,” she said.
An example is the emergence of Uptown Greenville, Boston-Hill said. She enjoys the jazz performances sponsored by the Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, but little else appeals to her.
“They are appealing to people, but we want to make sure we keep our culture diverse. As this city grows we are a very diverse city, we have so many people with so many diverse cultural backgrounds and we are not feeding into all of them,” she said.
The city should promote entrepreneurial development among a wider scale of Greenville residents. The city also should recruit businesses that pay liveable wages.
The city currently provides job training funding to Pitt Community College. Boston-Hill said she would like to see the training focused on green jobs, such a technicians who work with solar panels.
Reliable transportation is an issue that prevents people from obtaining training and steady employment.
“When you have a car and transportation you don’t think about it. You get in your car and drive,” she said. There are businesses and industries with shifts that begin and end before its 6:25 a.m. to 7 p.m., the GREAT system’s hours of operation. Routes also need to be modified so they aren’t just looping around the city, there should be buses that go across town.
“People always complain about the Uptown/downtown parking, but I think if we had a decent bus system that they can get on they wouldn’t mind taking the bus,” she said.
These changes could be accomplished if the city, East Carolina University and Pitt Area Transit System would merge, she said. Boston-Hill said she would arrange a meeting with the various transportation groups so the issue can be explored.
Boston-Hill grew up in New York and worked more than 30 years as an administrator in New York City municipal hospitals.
She first learned about Greenville from her husband Calvin, who grew up in Martin County.
When he brought her to meet his family she noticed that whether they were going out to eat or picking up medicine, they always went to Greenville.
“There was something about Greenville. I’m from the city of New York and (I thought) I could do this,” she said.
The Boston-Hills purchased a home in 2007 and traveled between Greenville and New York. When they sold their New York home in 2009, they settled permanently in Greenville.
The couple became involved in local politics when they worked on Minnie Johnson Anderson’s mayoral campaign in 2009.
Boston-Hill became involved with Pitt County Democratic Party African-American Caucus, serving as chairwoman for four years.
“I am running for mayor because I believe we need a positive change in leadership. I feel I am a leader with a passion for the people, I feel all people should feel protected and wanted. I believe local government should be transparent to the people it is serving,” she said.
Age: Not provided
Address: 1208 S. Overlook Drive
Education: Attended Queens College and Nyack University
Profession: Retired administrator with New York City Hospitals
Community involvement: Member African-American Caucus, Pitt County Democratic Party; volunteers at Jarvis United Methodist Church's first responders Thanksgiving, yard sale and foster children's Christmas party.
Online: Facebook.com/Renee 4-Greenville Mayor
Meet the candidates
Chamber of Commerce
The Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce is holding a "meet the candidates" session featuring candidates in the Greenville mayoral and At-Large District races beginning at noon today at the Hilton Greenville. Limited tickets are available. The cost is $20 per member and $30 per non-member.
The Republican Women of Pitt County will host Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly, Councilmen Will Bell, Will Litchfield and Brian Meyerhoffer, candidate Aaron Bailey and others at the group's October Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Greenville Country Club, 216 Country Club Drive. The event will be catered by GK Cafe. Cost is $17 inclusive. RSVP to Beth Capillary, 531-0788, by today.
The National Pan-Hellenic Council and Democracy North Carolina will host a forum for Greenville City Council candidates 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 24 at C.M. Eppes Recreation Center, 400 Nash St. The forum will be an opportunity for candidates running for the mayoral, District 1, District 2 and At-Large seats to share platforms and plans. The event is free and open to the public. Community members will have a chance to have questions answered during. Light refreshments will be served.
Contact Ginger Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9570.