Changing course takes as much courage as `staying’ it

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I couldn’t help but see parallels. Late Thursday morning I had the television in the office tuned in to President Bush and Iraq Prime Minister Ayad Allawi having their Rose Garden news conference.

In the face of increasing criticism, as well as hard evidence of a mounting insurgency, increased violence and associated American deaths, the two leaders were struggling to put the best possible face on the situation in Iraq.

It was clear a long time ago that the Iraq plan – assuming there ever was one, which is questionable – is deeply flawed and that a course correction is necessary. You wouldn’t know by listening to the news conference, however. The bad news has been exaggerated and elections will be held on schedule.


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The news conference was still unfolding when I left to attend the weekly Suffolk Rotary Club meeting. The program was Suffolk Mayor Bobby Ralph.

Mayor Ralph focused on the city’s accomplishments in developing the downtown area – and they are many – and briefly touched on the tremendous economic development the juggernaut that is north Suffolk.

Clearly, it’s a good time to be in Suffolk, for many people.

The mayor attributed the success to the 1998 Comprehensive Plan that outlined how growth would proceed, where new businesses and industries would locate and where, if not how, new houses would be built.

Yet, despite the plan’s obvious successes, there are underlying problems that are likely directly attributable to the plan and there appears to be an insurgency of sorts taking root against it – and it has mostly to do with available housing.

Increasingly, the city’s growth policies are coming under attack, and it’s not just the usual crowd of &uot;crackpots&uot; and &uot;naysayers&uot; that write letters to the editor and appear before City Council during late appearances.

This insurgency was evident at the last city council meeting at which the proposed rezoning on Turlington Road to accommodate the proposed 191-home Mill Stone subdivision on Turlington Road was narrowly defeated.

After two years of virtual solidarity on nearly every issue, the 4-3 vote was the first indication that maybe all is not as rosy as officials would have us believe.

Council members Curtis Milteer, Linda Johnson and Charles Brown were passionate in their support of the rezoning despite reportedly intensive lobbying efforts from the other side.

You can bet that Milteer,

Johnson and Brown, didn’t simply come to the conclusion on their own that there’s a housing crisis in Suffolk. They are responding to the legitimate concerns of their constituents.

Yet, like the Rose Garden press conference, there was no mention of any of this during the mayor’s Rotary remarks. Things in Suffolk are proceeding exactly according to plan.

The decision to invade Iraq may well have been the right thing to do. I don’t know. Regardless, Iraq is a different place than it was 18 months ago. The players have changed as have the needs and expectations of the Iraqi people. The Bush administration appears to refuse to acknowledge this, preferring instead – whether out of arrogance or fear of being perceived as weak or even wrong – to &uot;stay the course,&uot; regardless of the impact of that decision on the lives and safety of Iraqis and Americans alike.

Suffolk’s leaders should not make the same mistake.

This newspaper and writer have long been supporters of the city’s efforts to control and limit growth and will continue to do so. Be that as it may, a lot has changed since 1998. Suffolk is not the same city. Its residents have different needs and face different challenges. As such, the plan should be altered to reflect that.

I realize, of course, that the city is in the process of reviewing the comprehensive plan – periodic reviews and updating are required by state and federal sources that fund redevelopment efforts.

If it’s a sincere review, the new plan will likely yield substantial revisions to reflect Suffolk’s changing needs.

If not, then heads are in the sand. It took vision and courage to craft and implement the 1998 plan in the face of virulent criticism. Those same qualities will need to be summoned now to make corrections.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at andy.prutsok@sufffolknewsherald. com.