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Wake's Top Priority for 2008: Fighting Poverty

Posted February 4, 2008
Updated February 5, 2008

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— Sounding more like presidential candidates than county officials, the Wake County Board of Commissioners set fighting poverty as its top goal for the coming year.

Poverty topped dealing with the drought, transportation strategies and school finance and construction among the board's annual priorities, which were identified during a retreat on Friday.

"Our county is a wonderful place to live, and it's our job to continue to plan for the future and work together collaboratively for the benefit of our countywide community," board Chairman Joe Bryan said in a statement.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, about 74,000 Wake County residents live in poverty – about 9 percent of the county's population.

That ranks as the fifth-lowest poverty rate in North Carolina and the lowest in the Triangle region. By comparison, Durham County's poverty rate is about 14 percent and Cumberland County's is at 18 percent.

Still, Wake County officials said they want to move more residents to middle-class existence. They have crafted a plan dubbed "Middle Class Express" – the campaign bus tours of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also use that moniker – to keep people out of poverty as the county grows.

The eight-track program includes traditional economic development actions like finding employment, offering financial-literacy lessons, improving education and offering skills training. It also includes concepts such as adjusting people's mindsets, adopting healthy lifestyles and building families and community.

County spokesman Wil Glenn explained that some of the programs unrelated to employment are necessary by noting that people need more than a job to attain middle-class status.

The program is based on one the county's human services director, Ramon Rojano, implemented in Hartford, Conn., where he oversaw health and human services for 15 years before coming to Raleigh last year.

Anne Burke of Urban Ministries of Wake County, which helps low-income residents, applauded the county's move.

"There's plenty of room for improvement for all of us in this community," Burke said. "The more we can provide better services to the people who move here (and) who live here, the more productive they'll be in turn and give back to the community."


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  • lornadoone Feb 5, 2008

    Many people in poverty will balk at others trying to help them get out. It's a mindset, and until people want their minds to be changed, nothing is going to change.

  • moreupset Feb 4, 2008

    The only way our counties, cities, and government can fight poverty is to stop hand outs. Why would anyone seek a minimun wage job if they receive free health care, education for their children, food stamps, etc. while sitting in front of a TV at their free housing?

  • djofraleigh Feb 4, 2008

    Being in Wake County myself, I would like to know the criteria for being in poverty in this county, wouldn't you? WRAL - Let's include that figure in this story, please.

    MY GUESS is a single person making $7.50/hr (Burger King), which would be $16,000/year at 40hrs/week ($1,000/month), which would mean about a fourth of income to a shared apartment for a $250/month, bus fare of $30/mo, taxi fares of the same, food at $370/month, and about $10/day for all the rest. People can do it if careful. How they have cars, cell phones, new clothes, movies, music, get on line, on cable, or live alone, I don't know. That's entry level salary. I remember living in rooms, shared houses with 4 other adults to get by. Now, have a child, alone, and there is the source of almost all poverty in Wake County among people 18 - 40. Wake County could pay cash to girls under 21 who will take a birth control shot every six months, or whatever it is. Pay all takers. Men can lose out. that's my plan #1.

  • superman Feb 4, 2008

    People need to get off their chairs and find a job. Wake Tech provides training for people who want to improve their lives. Sorry to say-- but we determine our own destiny. Nobody has given me anything-- I work and save and do for myself. Basic life skills begin at home and learned from their parents. Some people just dont know how to manage what they do have. How many poor people you see wearing gold jewerly and using food stamps at the grocery store.

  • Timbo Feb 4, 2008

    I can't believe that they are hiring some out of state minority person to "attack" poverty in a county that has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. WTH? Is someone just trying to give government jobs to their friends? Who OK'd this? they need to fire him/her.

    "But where are the clowns? Quick, send in the clowns. Don't bother, they're here."

  • colliedave Feb 4, 2008

    They in no way can reduce poverty. What they need to do is to create an economic environment that allows business to thrive so it can hire people. They can see that faith-based programs give people the education they need so they have the skills needed to get good jobs.

    Speaking of education they need to see the school board returns to neighborhood schools instead of busing the skulls-full-of mush across town to achieve a racial balance.

    What is needed is not a racial balance but an educational balance that ensures each school has the tools needed to teach its students how to think for themselves. But they won't do this b/c having people who think instead of feel would vote them out of office.