Letter to the Editor: Manteo’s future

Published 4:29 am Thursday, October 24, 2019

To the editor –

Manteo’s motto is “Preserve and Prosper.” Well, you got the “Preserve” part down. Couldn’t do better if you started pumping embalming fluid through the water pipes. But the “Prosper” part; not so much. With exceptions, entrepreneurs with fresh ideas and wares to market don’t seem to have much success getting a toe-hold. Shops open and close and the sleepy “downtown”, often inundated, snoozes along. Along the more visible highway, derelict structures and ill-maintained eyesores dot the view, providing an uneven, unwelcoming introduction to those who actually find their way here. Manteo’s motto REALLY should be “Manteo – whatever you can get away with.”

Town administration struggles to address issues that have existed for a long time. The Manteo Town Common envisioned by Mayor Owens may, one hopes, provide a spark of enthusiasm that will once again revitalize efforts in the center of town to refresh and reinvigorate. Since most folks seem to want to be able to park directly in front of their destination, I’m not convinced that the proposed 65 parking spaces will resolve that particular issue. Moreover, I’m concerned that, once parking – the most important feature of the project to most Manteans – has been provided, the remaining phases of the project will languish. Opportunities like this don’t happen very often, so electing a supportive Board of Commissioners should be important to voters who care about this and other upcoming issues. For that matter, it behooves every taxpayer to monitor the status of the investigation under way to uncover what seems to have been open theft of spoils from dredging a couple of years ago. Vigilance and personal involvement are key aspects of citizenship. EVERY VOTE COUNTS. Remember, Richie Burke sits on the Commission as the result of a coin toss. If YOU sit on the sidelines, you are complicit.

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I came here with boundless hope and made a considerable investment in my home and my community. Not every position I’ve taken has been generally welcome; individual character can be easily impugned and wrecked at the click of a button in this era of antisocial media, and that has happened to me. Additionally, I personally have been harassed and verbally attacked repeatedly, and the security of my home has been breached. In April, an annoyed, indignant police office told me that Manteo is a small town, and we need to get along, so if we need to “look the other way sometimes, we do.” You can understand what a sense of security THAT engendered.

As a newcomer, I could hardly claim the historical perspective of the citizens whose families have been here since dinosaurs roamed the island. To paraphrase a former mayor, Manteo welcomes newcomers, as long as they don’t tell “us” what to do. To him, and to all Manteans, I say that once someone commits to live here, invests in property, and pays taxes; THEY ARE US. Manteo is a quaint waterside town. So is Portsmouth, and it’s deserted. Take a lesson.

So, as I take my farewell of Manteo, I ask you folks with bunker mentality, busily protecting your own turf: where is support for entrepreneurial investment; where are those good Republican traditions of free enterprise – of rising tides (oops, forgive THAT metaphor) lifting all boats, of economic opportunity trickling down? If there were more commerce in Manteo; if there were more restaurants; if there were, imagine the prospect, “flag” hotels and national eateries alongside local establishments – maybe even, horror of horrors, with drive-thru windows; a little healthy competition might lower prices. That, in turn, might help to bridge the huge income gap and provide steady employment with good pay and benefits – the kind of job you don’t throw over the minute there’s a good surfing day on the beach, the kind of position that might put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of those who now scramble between two or three jobs. You might see pictures in the local paper of veteran employees receiving 20-year pins who don’t work for the schools, the government, or the occasional real estate company. Think about it: the schools have trouble attracting teachers because they can’t afford to live here. Stop talking about the need for affordable housing and DO something about it. Engage the members of the steering committee of Manteo’s twenty-year plan review and tell them your vision for the 21st century and beyond. They need something to consider at their meetings other than defending their own personal agenda.

There are unique attractions on Roanoke Island to entice visitors: among others, the wildlife refuges visitor center, the aquarium, the Elizabethan Gardens, and, of course, The Lost Colony. Folks who have milked the 82 year-old cash cow that visitors to the play represent had better hope that, with advancing technology and changing coastlines, they never FIND the lost colony somewhere else, or that cash cow will quickly run dry. In the original script of the play, Paul Green has Sir Walter Raleigh say to Queen Elizabeth I: “Question: Shall England be an empire or an island?” To candidates for the Board of Commissioners I say: “Question: Shall Manteo be a mecca or a mausoleum?”


– John Adams