Do remarks show where sympathies lie?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 18, 2004

Suffolk City Council and city staff come under frequent criticism from those who live in Suffolk’s hinterlands to the north, south and west for what they claim is a single-minded focus on downtown.

Poor Public Works Director Eric Nielsen recently got an earful from Whaleyville residents. Nielsen was there to provide the community with information about the proposal for the city to take over road maintenance from VDOT. It wasn’t Nielsen they were mad at, just what he represented – three decades of perceived neglect.

The charge is always denied by officialdom, which points to various village initiative plans and the fallback rationale of the tremendous economic growth engine that downtown can become, filling coffers with tax money to address needs in other parts of the city.

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We like to give officials the benefit of the doubt and let’s face it, a plan was adopted five years ago that called for development downtown, and along the Route 10 and 17 corridors while preserving open space in the rest of Suffolk.

However, after last night’s meeting, and what some council members said, we wonder whether those who feel neglected or persecuted had their feelings validated.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett pleaded with his colleagues to up the allotment for Huntersville’s initiative plan in next year’s capital budget from $50,000 to $100,000.

&uot;This neighborhood is different than others (in the city),&uot; said Bennett. &uot;It is an area where everything has been forgotten for the past 30 years.&uot;

He didn’t get a lot of sympathy.

Former Mayor Curtis Milteer said

he &uot;would jump off a building&uot; (he really said that) before supporting the proposal because those people never come to downtown Suffolk.

Councilman Charles Brown’s feeling on it was that if Huntersville residents didn’t like how they were being treated, they should sell their homes and relocate.

Tough crowd.

Granted, most of Suffolk’s blighted neighborhoods could put up a good argument for increased funding and officials do need to be fair in doling out the largesse. Still, is it too much to ask for our elected representatives to at least feign concern for what people living in our community are facing? We think not.

After the comments last night, you can rest assured that the next time Nielsen, or someone else from the city goes to Whaleyville and says, &uot;We’re from downtown Suffolk and we’re here to help,&uot; that they are likely to be met with even more skepticism and resistance, apparently not unjustifiably.

– AP