Will common sense prevail?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 27, 2004

It’s test time down at the Council chambers when in July a mayor will be chosen by the seven council members. Will they use good common sense or play the &uot;satisfy-the-ego&uot; game? It’s bad enough that the voters that put them there have no voice in the decision; too often it a game of &uot;my turn.&uot; The &uot;contestants&uot; are not required even to pass SOL tests forced upon high school students. That person may have served but one term as a member of Council, their feet barely wet. Voters have had little opportunity to become aware of intelligence levels or leadership talent, only their ability to be elected. It is a lousy system of picking a mayor at best; Suffolk citizens can be the victims. And I’m not sure if we all could vote that we’d pick the &uot;best of the lot.&uot;

What would be the criteria if we could decide? Myra gets elected because she has over time acquired experience and knowledge and a reputation for making careful decisions.

She has no problem dealing with nay-sayers or loud critics. She had an educational background long before she ran for the job. Most importantly, she knows what she is doing and how to make an intelligent speech that is clearly understood by her listeners. Even more important is what other leaders think of her.


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A wise person once said, &uot;Without a plan to get there, how will you know if you have arrived?&uot; &uot;Our current mayor is a proven citizen leader who has a passionate zeal for planning and has 14 years of public service to the City of Suffolk. He is not afraid to step out ahead of the curve and take a strong stand, to initiate dialogue, to build partnerships, and to raise the profile of matters of importance not only to the City of Suffolk but also of other local governments.&uot; These are quotes from a document nominating Dana Dickens for the VAPA 2004 Planning Leadership Award for an Elected Official…a very high honor indeed.

Our mayor serves on the boards of many local and regional commissions and authorities and was selected by the Rotary Club as Suffolk First Citizen in 2003. He is the vice chairman of the Mayors and Chairs of Hampton Roads. He has done much to elevate the image of Suffolk and make us an important player in regional and state level politics. You can bet we are being heard. The question is whether or not our Council will think about these matters when playing the now high-stakes game of who will represent Suffolk on the large stage of Tidewater. In a few days we will have the measure of them. But don’t be surprised if the new Mayor is Bobby Ralph and the Vice Mayor Linda Johnson. Then they will have their &uot;turn.&uot;

The voters up in Richmond may have the right to elect their mayor instead of leaving it to the nine council members. The United States Justice Department approved, under the Voting Rights Act, what has been dubbed &uot;The Richmond Plan.&uot; A citizen’s commission voted 11 to 0 for this plan as the right one for Richmond, something needed to end what former Governor Wilder called the cesspool of &uot;corruption and inefficiency under the current leadership and a way for citizens to end the old politics of division and diversion and move beyond that for something that brings people together behind one leader they have chosen.&uot; The Richmond Plan might not work for Suffolk because we operate under a city manager that is paid to call the shots. The Richmond Plan calls for a &uot;strong mayor&uot; to be the boss. You can’t have it both ways but a compromise might be in order. Just let the people decide who is mayor. Things are not as bad in Suffolk as in Richmond but if the voting citizens should assume responsibility for naming the mayor it would eliminate all council temptation and force candidates to prove their worth.

The World War II Memorial is not only incomplete it is inaccurate because four very important words are missing from a famous quote by the president Franklin Roosevelt chiseled in the stone. &uot;Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date that will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph.&uot; Left out were the ending words of the quotation; Roosevelt had said, &uot;So help us God.&uot; You decide, was this a slipup or political correctness?

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