Posted on Leave a comment

Salisbury’s Environmental Preparedness

downtown salisbury nc ideas from Salisbury City Council candidate Jonathan Barbee

Salisbury's Environmental Preparedness

As a Salisbury City Council candidate I am concerned about the environmental preparedness of the city and its resources & services. In its current state, Salisbury has been a leader in environmental preparedness in the area, in my opinion. This is in large part due to our outstanding emergency services, water department, & experienced city staff.

When most people hear environmental preparedness, they immediately think about climate change, when in fact it’s one of many issues facing the environment. One thing I think turns a lot of voters off to talking about the environment, is that it has been politicized to include the catch all phrase “climate change”, which most people relate to fossil fuels and energy production.

Why experts concerned about the environment would let this one politicized area of the science dominate discussions is beyond me. As a younger generation candidate concerned about the environment, I know that it includes so much more than energy demands. That is why I wanted to take time to discuss some environmental issues that directly relate to Salisbury that aren’t often talked about, but I am very passionate about.

Water Quality

Salisbury is a historical city and has had a cutting edge water department from its inception. We have the highest quality of water anywhere in the area, and at the most competitively price rate of anywhere in the area. Keeping this high standard of quality requires constant planning, maintenance, & upgrades.

Another factor in achieving the highest of water quality standards is keeping the water source site properly dredged and maintained. While Salisbury-Rowan Utilities does an excellent job at identifying the problems & presenting solutions, it seems to always get politicized into the catch-all phrase of “climate change”.

While climate change does play a part in nearly everything to some extent these days, silt at the pump site seems to always be the topic of concern expressed by SRU engineers. Removing the silt through dredging and/or upgrading stormwater systems are both large capital expenditure items, which seems to make climate change the political football to kick the issue down the road some more.


The first line of defense against silt & debris is the stormwater system. Salisbury’s stormwater services has also done an excellent outreach program to educate the community on how the system works & the importance of keeping it clean. However, with the increase in taxes on residents water bills for stormwater services, it makes asking for additional funding challenging.

Reducing debris and silt can be made easier with the stormwater system, but Salisbury lacks proper curb/ gutter & drains around major waterways like Towne Creek & Grant’s Creek. While vegetation is good for erosion control, gravel & stone work better for filtering debris & silt in man-made trenching beside roadways & natural runoff areas.

Current rules require private developers to implement these systems, in addition to providing sidewalks to improve walkability. That only solves half the problem, as city/state right of ways are some of the worst areas for stormwater drainage & walkability. I feel these are all environmental issues facing Salisbury, and a more tactical approach to seeking state & federal grant money can help fill the financial gap in implementation.

Air Quality

Another financially devastating burden is to be labeled as a municipality that has poor air quality. Salisbury businesses & residents have experienced overreaching regulations & penalties that have made economic growth slow. Major employers must meet certain environmental standards of their own, and having a low air quality rating where their facilities are located limits the industries that could operate within the air quality zone.

Oversight in past planning & premature implementation of monitoring left little room for existing industries to comply. It’s one of my main goals to bring more attention to this issue in order to make Salisbury more competitive in attracting more industry. It’s also important that we find industries & businesses that align with these environmental goals.

The transition from manufacturing to more technological industries & the  mass exodus of the textile mills makes these goals more possible. For example, the company securing my website has also made it possible for me to host my website at net-zero carbon emission. We have a great tree canopy & natural landscape area program already, and paired with new industries, this would vastly improve the air quality in Salisbury.

Public Health

Water & air quality are important environmental factors that affect us all, however, the real public health crisis in Salisbury right now appears to be the homelessness issue. One could argue that Covid-19 is the leading issue right now, limiting what our community can do, but it is in fact homelessness that magnifies the issue next to all else.

This is also a vulnerable population to Covid-19 & other diseases, oftentimes paired with mental illness and/or alcohol/drug addiction. Mental health is not a new issue like Covid-19, but a lack of education on the importance of physical & mental wellness in the county school system & other community outreach. This is also an area of the population that contributes to the litter problem, another issue I will expand on in another post.

Like with other environmental issues, many like to equate homelessness to race or income inequality, when it seems to me that mental illness, drug addiction, & homelessness doesn’t discriminate on any metric. Being the most well-rounded candidate in the field, I feel I can transcend these political boundaries and initiate positive change.

In Summary

I feel being the most well-rounded candidate gives me an advantage over other candidates, as I feel I can keep policy discussions on policy rather than catch-all political phrases. Properly identifying environmental issues seems to be the major hurdle Salisbury, NC. is facing.

We have an excellent engineers in parks & recreation, public services & Salisbury-Rowan Utilities that present both problem & solution. In turn, Salisbury-Rowan Utilities & city employees covers what the City Council fails to act on. It’s my goal to build better relationships & communication channels between the Council & key environmental resources.

It’s my official position that our city staff does an incredible job given the resources they have to work with. If elected to City Council I will strive to highlight & get these important services & standards more resources by building a working environmental plan that benefits everyone.