Time to think as a region

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Staff report

Former Mayor E. Dana Dickens III said Monday that a sense of regional citizenship is essential to any effort to move Hampton Roads’ economy forward.

Like it or not and for good or ill – we like it and think it’s good – the communities and the people of Hampton Roads have to begin thinking and acting more as if we are a single entity, rather than some sort of loose confederation.

Email newsletter signup

A group called the Future of Hampton Roads is trying to make that happen and appears to be headed in the right direction. After a year of preparation in which it held three forums which invited 1,200 participants, and extensive surveys and research, FHR is holding what will likely be the first of many meetings this week at which leadership organizations such as Suffolk Tomorrow will begin laying the groundwork to accomplish that goal.

FHR board member Jim Babcock, who spoke to an audience of city officials and civic leaders Monday at Obici Hospital, said the group will be specifically analyzing how Hampton Roads is organized regionally with goals of accelerating economic development; identifying additional regional cooperation opportunities to save tax money and making decision-making faster; and creating a stronger regional voice for the region, particularly in the General Assembly.

This will not happen overnight, but as Babcock noted, he hopes that the effort being undertaken at least makes incremental advances.

Babcock made it clear that what FHR is not seeking is merger and consolidation of municipalities. First off, it will never happen. There is simply too much political power that would have to be surrendered and too much loyalty to one’s own city. Be that as it may, there’s no escaping that in the big picture what benefits Suffolk benefits Norfolk and what benefits Virginia Beach benefits Portsmouth, and so on. We need to put old disputes and petty jealousies aside for the good of all of us.

We enjoy a good life in Suffolk and Hampton Roads, Babcock acknowledges as much. But what’s wrong with trying to improve it? The future of Hampton Roads and Suffolk is bright, but who’s to say it could not be much better. This is an effort we hope all of Suffolk gets behind. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.