Let them eat steak

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2002

I applaud Suffolk City Council for going ahead with its ritzy goal-setting retreat at the Tide’s Inn in Irvington over the objections of editorial writers and virtually every resident of the city, none of whom obviously know squat about representative democracy.

It’s vital that our elected representatives, some of whom have been in office for well over a month, have the opportunity to relax and de-stress. And the environs of Suffolk are simply not conducive to that – there not being a single resort or four-star restaurant in the city.

I believe it was Thomas Jefferson, or perhaps Marie Antoinette, who once observed &uot;a person can’t be expected to effectively serve the public interest without an occasional sauna, back rub and a decent piece of grilled salmon or crab and beef tenderloin-stuffed chicken breast in a waterfront setting – all paid for by the rabble.&uot; This is Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.A., not Soviet Russia.

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Nonetheless, in a feeble attempt to appease the critics, council set aside the real goals they had planned to discuss – coming up with ways to cut police officer and firefighter pay in order to fund limos and chauffeurs for themselves and top city staff members (not just chiefs of police), giving themselves another pay raise and generally stopping the public from having any voice in the operation of the city, all part of the 2018 comprehensive plan

– to focus on what they hoped would be perceived as more altruistic ones. Among them:

nHelping make the schools in Suffolk &uot;second to none.&uot;

Oxford University in England is generally accepted to be the best school in the world, so look for council members, in a joint retreat with the School Board, to go to Great Britain in the fall to learn firsthand how Oxford functions.

nExpanding the city economy by creating more jobs and attracting different businesses:

The resort community of Biarritz in Switzerland, our reporter was told, has been phenomenally successful at diversifying its economy and attracting jobs so a Christmastime trip is planned. The entire Economic Development Authority will accompany council members.

nBuilding Confidence in Government

This one will be a bit tougher to accomplish, but our city council is up to the task. It’s not generally that well known, but polls show that people in Monaco are more confident in their government than people are in any other country. There’s likely much to be learned from the royal family so arrangements are in the works for a mid-summer ’03 retreat.

So it’s obvious that allegations of extravagance are groundless. Trips such as these are necessary so that our elected officials can clear their heads and focus on the big picture without being bothered by citizens who act as if they have some sort of right to criticize what they do.

Let’s face it, city business cannot be conducted properly in a non-resort setting. It’s that simple. And Suffolk does not have a resort of its own. I don’t know about you, but it does my heart good to go to the treasurer’s office a couple times a year and write a big fat check to help fund these retreats. It makes me feel like that in some small way I’m doing my part. Besides, I’d probably just squander it on stuff like food and clothes for my family anyway.

Believe it or not, things could be worse. Who knows? If we balk at coughing up a few measly thousand dollars a couple times a year to fund the luxurious retreats, council’s liable to turn around and build their own resort right here in Suffolk. And that could cost us millions. Imagine that.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the Suffolk News-Herald.