By Lynn JonesTurpin – For years, residents and business owners in the northside Soutel/Norfolk corridor have attended community meetings to ensure their neighborhood is on the list for city revitalization funds. Currently the Sherwood Forest/Paradise Park Community has been in a panic with the city’s proposed Soutel Drive street reduction dubbed the Soutel Diet. The Soutel Diet plan designates that the thoroughfare be reduced from four lanes to a two lane street. Past meetings with council persons told residents that the neighborhood did not require a reduction of lanes, but an increase in funds for the area’s small businesses to rejuvenate their storefronts.
Currently, the Soutel/Norfolk corridor is under the jurisdiction of District 10 Councilwoman Brenda Priestly Jackson. According to community Eunice Barnum, “Priestly was in attendance at one of the community meetings and was opposed to reducing the lanes; she said ‘that they had fought to get the four lanes in the first place, and we weren’t going backwards,’”
Now residents are confused that Priestly-Jackson has become a champion for the Soutel Road Diet.
“We keep calling down to her office and we never received a response on next steps or a meeting to further discuss this issue that has residents in an uproar. They think we have no sense on the northside and they can do want they want without residents input,” Barnum said who also the local hom-owners association president.
In frustration, residents in the area took to the streets to protest the plans and voiced their opinions with many noting that their city council representative does not have their best interest at heart and are neglecting this area of their district. Protesters collectively agreed that they are tired of not being included on community decisions, “They’re making decisions about us without us,” said protester, member and resident George Grant Sr.
Currently, the activist have a petition on www.change.org and over 250 signers have signed the petition in opposition of the lane reduction on Soutel Drive. The residents are also continuing calling, and emailing the elected officials to whom they say are unresponsive. At press time Free Press reached out to City Councilwoman Priestly-Jackson for input and did not receive a call back.
“High Crime, failing businesses, empty buildings, and blight. This used to be a center of commerce. If they want to help our community, they need to figure out how to invest in it, not reduce and isolate its residents,” said Stanley Scott.