Benjamin talks crime, education with Ward 4

Published 7:24 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2019

During Selma City Councilwoman Angela Benjamin’s quarterly Ward 4 meeting Wednesday, most of the conversation revolved around concerns related to education and crime.

Selma Board of Education member Brenda Obomanu addressed those in attendance and discussed ongoing concerns in Selma City Schools.

First and foremost, Obomanu said the school board is working to help students in math and reading.

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“Math and reading hurts everybody,” Obomanu said. “It’s not just a R.B. Hudson problem or a Selma High problem, it’s a Selma City Schools problem.”

Obomanu discussed plans to bring in specialists to deal with students’ social and emotional issues and also brought up concerns related to attendance.

“If your child is absent from school a lot, how are they going to keep a job, how are they going to survive in life?” Obomanu said.

Citizens lamented the lack of parent involvement and the dangerous situations that some students face just trying to walk to school each day.

“No excuse is a good excuse,” Obomanu said of the school system’s inability to address students’ travel needs. “If we’re going to do this, we’ve got to have some kind of practice and policy in place.”

Also on hand for the meeting was Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier, D-Selma, who briefed residents on issues at the state level.

Sanders-Fortier discussed the statewide increase to the gas tax, which could be as much as 12-cents over time, and noted that metropolitan areas of the state will likely get a larger share of any new revenues.

“We do have challenges,” Sanders-Fortier said. “It won’t have the kind of impact in our area that we would like for it to have. It’s a challenge for us in ways that it’s not for metropolitan areas.”

Sanders-Fortier noted that she is one of only eight Democrats in the state senate.

“It’s important for you all to know that so you know what we’re up against,” Sanders-Fortier said. “If it’s based on numbers alone, we’re not going to be able to do the things we want for our community.”

Also in attendance was Agent Dwight Brown from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) who has been working in Selma since November and is establishing a task force to tackle violent crime in the city.

“We’ve got ingenius techniques that we’ll keep quiet,” Brown said. “Even if [criminals] know about it, if we’re doing our jobs, there’s nothing they can do about it.”

Brown called on the community to support the efforts of the ATF and other law enforcement agencies, noting that he is working to establish a hotline so residents can provide tips anonymously.

“It takes all of us,” Brown said. “We can’t be afraid. It’s our community.”

Citizens asked how Brown plans to fight crime in the city.

“I think my plan is sustainability,” Brown said. “We want them to be afraid to do what they do.”