City presents wish list over breakfast

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 6, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

It was standing-room only Friday at the Holiday Inn, where more than 150 people ate breakfast and chewed the fat with their local legislators.

The annual legislative breakfast, sponsored by the city and Suffolk Tomorrow, gave leaders a last chance to share the city’s &uot;legislative wish list&uot; with state lawmakers who will be heading to the General Assembly in January.

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Mayor E. Dana Dickens III applauded the state’s plan to do a comprehensive overhaul of the Virginia tax code.

&uot;There will be winners and there will be losers …if the tax code is restructured,&uot; Dickens said. &uot;It will be looking at long term sources of revenue that will take care of citizens to long time to come.&uot;

Dickens believes the General Assembly’s decisions on land-use issues are critical to the city’s future.

&uot;Suffolk is fastest growing city in the state of Virginia,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s good news and bad news.&uot;

Approximately 1,200 new rooftops went up in the city last year and an estimated 1,000 new students joined Suffolk Public Schools annually recently, Dickens said, adding, &uot;With rapid residential growth comes the risk that people are moving in faster than we can accommodate them with our services, especially schools.&uot;

Approximately half of the city’s new capital budget is earmarked for school construction/renovations, he said. That’s not even touching on the facilities that residents will expect: libraries, public safety buildings, recreational facilities, and the like.

&uot;We are asking the General Assembly to give us a mechanism that will let us prevent that kind of spike in development,&uot; Dickens said.

Although several legislators attending the breakfast indicated that the tide may be turning on the state’s floundering economy, none would voice optimism. Even if the state’s financial picture is turning, it will be hard to climb from the state’s $1.3 million deficit, they said.

&uot;There is a slight upturn but it isn’t nearly healthy enough,&uot; said Rep. Louise Lucas, whose district covers a small portion of Suffolk.