Gauging public opinon

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 12, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

I appear to have really missed the mark on the Nansemond Indian issue. Not since I supported the Russians in the 1980 Olympic hockey finals have I so badly misgauged public opinion.

After City Council issued its ultimatum to the tribe in early June to take it’s offer to lease eight to 10 acres of Lone Star Lakes land for it’s Mattanock Town project or leave it – the tribe wanted free and clear title to 104 acres – I wrote an editorial urging the tribe to take the offer and that both sides in the matter are being unreasonable.


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A few days later Robert Pocklington wrote a column blaming City Manager Steve Herbert and &uot;weak&uot; City Council members for the Mattanock mess, a car lot going on the old Obici property, and the 9.11 suicide attack on the World Trade Center.

Pocklington’s arguments were compelling, although several City Council members have confided to our reporters that they were indeed in Suffolk on Sept. 11, 2001 and can prove it.

Anyway, readers’ response to Pocklington’s comments was tremendous.

&uot;It’s the best writing I’ve ever seen in the News-Herald,&uot; one caller told me. I politely thanked Mrs. Pocklington for her opinion, but told her I was too busy to talk.

That weekend, copies of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association’s question and answer sheet about the project were being distributed in stores throughout Chuckatuck. A clerk at the 7-11 told me what it was and asked if I wanted to see it. &uot;We need this,&uot; she said.

Apparent massive public support for the Nansemond would seem to put City Council backs against the wall. The bottom line is that Mattanock Town could be a great thing for the Nansemond, Chuckatuck and all of Suffolk. And what’s 104 acres when you consider the big picture? Not much. It would be a grand gesture.

City Council needs to do what is necessary to make Mattanock a reality, and members appear to be moving in that direction. That’s not to say that a blank check should be issued, but make it happen while making sure the interests of all citizens of Suffolk are protected. Council directed city staff to resume negotiations with the Nansemond and Councilman Calvin Jones has volunteered to participate on behalf of Council. Good for Calvin. It’s the right thing to do.

Four years from now, in time for the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, I predict Mattanock Town will be open for businesses, just as surely as we’ll have a luxury hotel at Constant’s Wharf.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the Suffolk News-Herald. You can reach him at 934-9611, or via e-mail: