Harward starts own department

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 29, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

He’s a fixture at most Suffolk City Council meetings.

He’s frequently spotted at city-owned or -leased buildings – schools, the voter registrar’s office, public garages – measuring the structures or counting parking spaces.

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So it should come as no surprise when William Harward shakes your hand and hands you a business card emblazoned with the city emblem.

Or should it?

Harward, after all, is not a city employee. The 67-year-old retired car dealer is a citizen passionate about his right to voice his opinions – all of them – to city lawmakers.

At first glance, the business card looks official. The city emblem in the upper corner is the same as it appears on City Manager R. Steven Herbert’s business cards and letterhead.

The card further identifies Harward as a &uot;City of Suffolk taxpayer&uot; representing the city’s &uot;Department of Public Concerns.&uot;

Harward – a regular speaker at council meetings – is on a mission. He wants a real estate tax reduction, he wants the Suffolk Public Schools to stop charging high school students $20 annually to park at schools and he wants the city to stop &uot;wasting&uot; his tax money.

&uot;I want to make a change,&uot; the Manning Road resident said. &uot;City government has got to be more responsive to people’s needs and wishes.

&uot;It needs to be more spending conscious and do a better job watching over taxpayer dollars.&uot;

Between council meetings, when Harward visits various city buildings to research his information he discusses, city employees pepper him with questions about what he is doing.

&uot;They would want to know why I was measuring their building,&uot; he said. &uot;I got tired of explaining so I had these business cards made up.

&uot;They’re great!&uot;

But the city isn’t quite so enthusiastic about Harward’s cards.

Even though the card doesn’t identify Harward as a city employee, people who don’t look at it closely could easily be misled, said Dennis Craff, a city spokesman.

&uot;That would be my main concern,&uot; Craff said. &uot;Even if he is not representing himself as a city employee, people may look at the emblem and assume he is officially representing the city.&uot;

According to the city code, the emblem may be used for – but not limited to- city letterhead; local car and bicycle decals; city vehicle identification decals; uniform patches; the city flag; book covers;

business cards; embroidered medallions; certificates of appreciation; and engraved awards.

Also, the code states that people or organizations wanting to purchase a copy of the city emblem must make the request, including its intended use, in writing to the city manager.

&uot;I don’t think the city manager approved its use for Mr. Harward’s business cards,&uot; Craff said.

Craff would not say whether the city intends to pursue action to stop Harward from distributing the cards. &uot;We are looking into the situation,&uot; he said.

Harward said he has not heard anything from the city.

Furthermore, he questions why he – as a taxpayer – shouldn’t have the right to use the city logo.

&uot;Shoot fire! This is my city and my city emblem,&uot; Harward said. &uot;After 35 years of paying taxes in this city, I own it.

&uot;We taxpayers own this city. A few people who work in city hall do not own this city government.

&uot;Somewhere along the way, they have forgotten this. I’m going to remind them.&uot;

For more than two decades, Harward said he paid little attention to how city government operated. That changed in the late 1990s, he said, after he had to jump thorough countless hoops to deed each of his daughters a piece of property to build homes on.

&uot;It was ridiculous,&uot; he said. &uot;Up until then, as long as they left me alone, I left them alone.&uot;

These days, Harward is determined to keep his eye on city hall and to continue fighting for a tax reduction.

&uot;If it takes until I die, we will get a tax cut,&uot; he said. &uot;It is going to happen, even if it takes me digging through every file and measuring every building in this city.&uot;

With a slight grin, Harward acknowledges that city leaders probably consider him a pain in the neck.

And that’s fine with him.

&uot;I intend to irritate them and agitate them until they start using good business practices,&uot; he said. &uot;Shoot fire! At my age, if I’ve got an opinion, I’m going to say it.

&uot;As long as I have freedom of speech, I intend to use it.&uot;