Left out on a limb

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 24, 2003

A year or so ago a city employee in the Economic Development department was given an impossible task: could she find a way to develop the tourism industry in Suffolk? It was not to be a separate department, only an extension of economic development. No one can complain about the results of that department, many of our industrial parks are bursting at the seams and more industry arrives at a rate sufficient to keep our ribbon cutters busy. It takes only land, water, sewers, tax breaks, and transportation to lure a business. It takes one hell of an imagination to lure tourists.

An item top city officials said was absolutely necessary for drawing tourists was the Hilton Hotel. Travelers would desire an upscale place to headquarter while visiting the many historical sights in our city. It was touted to be our tourist centerpiece. So where is the hotel? On the drawing board, and it will be 2005 before the first tourist can move in. And the much-heralded Mattanock Town? At first the boys downtown were ecstatic, what a draw that would be. They didn’t want it to go to Chesapeake. Two years later, where is the village? On the drawing board with the city manager and his assistant stymieing the plan because they suddenly have decided they want a marina there. All of a sudden it becomes part of a work session scheduled for sometime in September.

So the director of tourism, because of those two direct city failures, is expected to work with what is left and she has done an excellent job in calling attention to whatever is of significance in Suffolk. I said it couldn’t be done; there was nothing here worth seeing. She has proven me wrong and the Visitor Center provides evidence that the people will come. It’s too damn bad that those who placed her in such a position have not delivered, and left her out on a limb.

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A very bright young man I know earned a full four-year scholarship to M.I.T. In a recent conversation he acknowledged he has not attended classes so far in his first year. Of course I gulped in wonderment. But then I realized that what I have been saying for years is true. You can pass many college and university classes by using a laptop and a small library of CDs. You study at the rate you can absorb the material, test your memory, do it again if necessary, without ever listening to a professor who loves the sound of his own voice. In this case a difficult engineering degree. M.I.T. is no easy education mill and diplomas are not handed out like candy. You must prove your knowledge or you don’t move on. The next step is to avoid tuition, room, board and the commute by staying home.

Here’s a tip for you who may have committed a felony and are on a wanted list. Stay away from the boardwalk at Virginia Beach. It is the only city on the planet that insists upon having cameras located in strategic places that will put your face on a screen at the police station. I have no idea how many people are involved in watching those many screens, or how fast they can get someone in the vicinity to put the cuffs on you.

Those who watch the screen must have memorized the faces of the wanted, how else could they pick one out of the multitudes parading back and forth on the concrete? And how great must be the temptation to moon a camera, I doubt if rear ends are on file, they tend to look alike. One girl said he tested the system by taking a wanted poster off the post office wall and holding it in front of her as she walked along. Before she got to 16th Street she was hit with a stun gun and manacled to the rail while they searched her bathing suit. Finding nothing there they decided they had the wrong man.

VDOT is back saying they found the money to replace the Kings Highway Bridge but won’t say where they will put it. Both sides have until October to prepare their cases when debates will be allowed once again. I suspect VDOT has their mind made up and just wants to see a good clean fight between both parties. Several Chuckatuck businesses have a stake in it, plus those who might have to travel further if it is relocated.

My main concerns are Fat Boys and the post office, both are important to me. I don’t have to stand in line at either place and the ambience is one of friendliness.

Robert Pocklington is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be contacted at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com