All-America City reaction

I have to admit, I have been a little disgruntled by some of the negative reaction from folks from our area about Kinston being named an All-America City. In my eyes — and those of most of the nation — winning All-America City status from the prestigious National Civic League is a pretty big deal.

I estimate our comments at are running about 60/40 in support of the city winning the honor, though.

But after looking at a few of the other cities that won, I feel pretty good about the positives that posters had on our site…

Here is a look at other city’s newspaper’s reactions:

  • Statesville Record and Landmark: Evidently, skateboarding downtown is their principal beef, although there are several shots at other entities, including their senior center charging for old people to attend.
  • L.A. Times (for Inglewood, Calif.): Racism is obviously not dead in California, as this poster lets you know when he types, “See what a black president can do? Turn a ghetto into an ‘ALL America’ city. Gee, I just hope nobody buys that lie. Can you imagine tourist thinking america looks like the Hood?”
  • Arizona Republic (for Phoenix): Maybe not racism, but certainly some Haterade in Phoenix exhibited by this message board writer: “You have got to be kidding. This town is so full of crime, illegals, and misspending. If this is what America ia about we are in big trouble!” And how about this xenophobic remark: “This just in Phoenix has just been designated as an ‘All Mexico City’ We won! Film at 11, in both English and Spanish.”
  • Wichita (Kan.) Eagle: By far, the most negative comments came from this Midwestern city; a couple of examples: “This should come as great comfort to the thousands of laid-off aviation workers. The Mayor did not have time to come to your defense when the aviation industry was being demonized by Obama, but apparently he had plenty of time to travel to Florida to bask in the glow of another meaningless award.” And this one: “Boy, The loser’s must of really stunk. And how much did the little award cost all the taxpayers. I can say one thing cost so-far about 350 million. Not bad for a piece of metal. Maybe next year. We can win a award for having spent the most taxpayers dollars on things that have failed. And the city owns now.” It’s so bad that four messages had been deleted by the site as of 6 p.m. on Monday.
  • Richmond (Ind.) Palladium-Item: How about this from a commenter: “I am tired of hearing that Richmond is an All American City. If multiple empty factories exist, closed retail stores, an un-affordable golf course, a sky high unemployment rate, and a ‘drop-out factory’ for a High School are all requirements for an All American City, then what has the world come to???” Richmond was running about 80/20 negative in its comments.
  • Somerville (Mass.) News: Somerville is a suburb of Boston and had a commenter at its newspaper say this: “Can they display the award at the meeting for all the employees getting laid off? Funny how they bragged about the 311 system. It is the biggest waste of money in the City. Call 311 to say a light bulb is out ! YIKES. But congratulations on pulling the wool over the Countries eyes.”
  • The Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union, the Fredericksburg (Va.) Standard (for Caroline County, Va.) and the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal Gazette didn’t have a comment area under their stories.

So here’s the point — as I stated in my Sunday column — NO TOWN OR CITY IS PERFECT! Nowhere! Not in California, not in Massachusetts, not in Arizona and not here in Kinston!

With that as common sense, let’s applaud the people in our community who are getting out there doing their best to make Kinston a better place to live. THAT’S why we are All-America — people are trying to make us a better place to live.

Congratulations to them and congrats to us.

My Sunday column

A sneak preview of my weekly column, which will appear in Sunday’s Free Press:

Suggested headline: I’m proud to live in an All-America City! A few thoughts and observations as I try to find the shade on this scorching weekend …

n You have to hand it to Kinston Mayor O.A. “Buddy” Ritch: When he ran for mayor in 2005, he promised to try to get Kinston back to All-America status. After Friday night’s dramatic victory in Tampa, Fla., he did just that.

Ritch and the Kinston All-America committee highlighted three ways that our city is working to improve itself. The presentation was impressive enough to garner Kinston the award for the second time; the first time was in 1988.

What was also impressive about the effort was that it was privately funded. The committee worked hard to raise the money needed to send themselves to Tampa, meaning not one cent of public money was used to fund the trip. Members of the local committee also volunteered hundreds and probably thousands of hours of their own time to help shine a positive light on Kinston.

How strong was our city’s effort and presentation? Even a ridiculous attempt by anti-annexation advocates to derail the AAC bid couldn’t keep Kinston from victory.

This is a proud time in our city’s history.

However, there are those who will attempt to denigrate the achievement — but I encourage you to ignore them. No city in America is perfect, including our own. Every town has problems, whether it be crime, poverty, high taxes and outrageous power rates.

There are no shortage of people who will point out our city’s problems; thank God we have good people in our town who want to accentuate the many positives in Kinston.

And here’s another positive: We’re an All-America City! Congratulations to us all.

n On this very special Father’s Day, we decided to highlight a very special father in our very own newsroom. Justin Schoenberger — our crime reporter, Jones Post writer, La Grange news beat guy and resident Buffalo Bills apologist — is also a single father of a beautiful 3-year-old girl named Kalista.

You always hear about single mothers, who work very hard to raise their children and deserve many accolades they never receive.

But on this special day, I wanted to honor Justin, who is also an awesome up-and-coming writer.

Additionally, he’s an amazing dad. Justin is a 26-year-old man’s man, but when Kalista enters the room, he becomes the perfect “daddy”.

He doesn’t hesitate to let anyone know that he loves his job, but his world revolves around that precious 3-year-old.

I also honestly don’t know how he balances his outstanding reporting and excellent fathering, but he does both in fantastic fashion.

On this Father’s Day, my hat is off to a real hero: Justin Schoenberger. Keep up the good work, young man.

n Finally, a sort of a bittersweet moment for me to end this column. In the nearly seven years I’ve had the honor of working at this fine publication and living in this All-America City and community, I’ve written several stories about Paul Novicki, a young man who overcame blindness to become an unforgettable student-athlete at South Lenoir High School, Lenoir Community College and Mount Olive College.

Our sports editor, Ryan Herman, wrote a final story about Paul as an athlete that is on Page 15 today. Ryan does a great job of highlighting Paul’s athletic career, which ended last month when MOC’s baseball season came to a close.

Although there are literally a half-dozen images that immediately come to mind for me about Paul’s spectacular playing career — which includes collegiate no-hitters on the mound, several game-winning shots on the basketball court and championships at each level he played — one stands out.

On Feb. 11, 2005, Paul hit the “Shot Heard ‘Round Deep Run” — an off-balance jumper at the buzzer in overtime that gave South Lenoir a 53-52 win against Greene Central. The amazing shot was the deciding factor that helped give South Lenoir its first conference basketball title in 25 years.

It also provided one of the best moments in local TV sports history when — immediately after Paul’s winning shot — South Lenoir’s legendary coach, Jimmy Smith, sprinted to halfcourt to start the celebration. WCTI ABC-12 Sports Director Brian North calls Paul’s shot and Coach Smith’s reaction one of his top moments he’s ever filmed.

Although it makes me a bit sad that Paul’s playing career is over, I’m excited to see how this incredible young man is going to start the next chapter of his life. How long before he’s walking a football or basketball sideline or coaching in a baseball dugout at South Lenoir?

It can’t be soon enough. Congratulations, Paul, for being the inspiration you have been to Lenoir County.  Bryan C. Hanks’ column appears every Sunday in The Free Press. You can reach him at (252) 559-1074 or at Check out his blog at

All-America City Committee returns home

Just got back from Grainger Stadium, where dozens of supporters welcomed home the victorious All-America City Committee. I should’ve probably taken pictures to throw up on here, but … I didn’t.

Anyhoo — congrats again to the committee and to Kinston! Check out tomorrow’s Free Press and for Charles Buchanan’s top-notch pictures and Chris Lavender’s awesome story.


Kinston City Manager Scott Stevens is on the phone with our own David Anderson and he’s giving us live All-America City updates.

The selection committee is announcing the cities one-by-one; here is the list so far:

  • Fort Wayne, Ind.
  • Statesville, N.C.
  • Inglewood, Calif.

A quick take: Statesville winning hurts the Kinston effort, I believe. I think it will be hard for the AAC selection committee to award two small North Carolina towns in the same year…

  • Somerville, Mass.
  • Phoenix, Ariz.

A quick take: OK, we’re halfway through and Kinston hasn’t heard its name called yet. I’ll reiterate — Statesville winning hurts Kinston. LET’S GO KINSTON!

  • Wichita, Kan.
  • Albany, N.Y.

Another quick take: Getting down to the nitty-gritty. Three left…

KINSTON WINS! With the eighth selection, Kinston is named All-America for the second time in history!

The last two AACs are:

  • Caroline County, Va.
  • Richmond, Ind.

More analysis when we get off deadline.

Morning News Report; June 19, 2009


Be sure to hang around today from 7 to 9 p.m. when you can find out if Kinston wins All-America City status for a second time. The 35 Kinstonians practiced for the final time yesterday. They performed their skit and made their formal presentation around 8:45 a.m. today.

My take: The judges are going to make the announcement around 7 p.m. today; Our own David Anderson will have that information to you ASAP at

Good luck to Team Kinston!


The United States is deploying anti-missile defenses around the Hawaiian perimeter, in anticipation of a possible North Korean test launch around July 4.

My take: Good first step. Now, do something substantive, Mr. President.


After the season finale a few weeks back on “Grey’s Anatomy”, it looked as if both T.R. Knight (Dr. George O’Malley) and Katherine Heigl (Dr. Izzie Stevens) would be off the show.

Now, it appears Knight is gone, but Heigl will still be around.

My take: Actually, if both were gone or both came back, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference to me. Both are peripheral actors on the show anyway — although the producers made too big a deal about Izzie’s cancer stuff in the final weeks of the season.

The iPod shuffle

Yanking Out My Heart — Nickelback

FutureSex/LoveSound — Justin Timberlake

Look Away — Chicago

Are We The Waiting — Green Day

The Way I Am — Timbaland featuring Keri Hilson and Justin Timberlake