`Those People’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I’m one of &uot;those people.&uot; We are many. We’re the ones referenced by Councilman Curtis Milteer at last week’s Suffolk City Council meeting during discussion of a proposal by Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett to double the proposed capital budget allocation for the Huntersville community from $50,000 to $100,000.

Bennett rightly noted that Huntersville, among the city’s oldest black communities and located within the vibrant and immaculate Harbourview area, is dilapidated and neglected.

&uot;This neighborhood is different than others (in the city),&uot; he said. It is an area where everything has been forgotten for the past 30 years…The community just about needs to be rebuilt.&uot;

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Bennett’s remarks came on the heels of an appeal by Huntersville resident Malachi Pork (What a wonderful name) for some city aid.

&uot;We’ve come up here before council almost 10 years now and haven’t had a sidewalk or anything put in the budget,&uot; Pork said. Good for him.

That’s where it got ugly.

Milteer not only opposed the proposal, he said he &uot;would jump off a building&uot; before supporting it.

&uot;Let’s be fair,&uot; he said. &uot;Those people never come to downtown Suffolk. We have plenty of neighborhoods in Orlando and Saratoga that need help.&uot;

Apparently worried that he was going to be upstaged for the title of Most Deranged Comment, Charles Bennett chimed in that Pork and others in north Suffolk are too stupid to realize that their land is valuable and that they should sell it and move.

I’ve lived in north Suffolk for almost two years and I, as well as many others, come to downtown Suffolk every day to work, but Milteer is correct in that many people there do not. And why should they? They have four-lane, high speed access to Churchland and Chesapeake Square, less than half the distance they would need to travel to get to downtown.

My drives downtown each day are often nightmarish. Just Friday morning, for example, traffic on Wilroy Road was backed up from the light at the industrial park to Nansemond Parkway because a city garbage truck was stopping every 20 feet to pick up trash. One would think it wouldn’t be too much to ask for trash trucks to stay off major two-lane thoroughfares like Nansemond Parkway, Wilroy Road and Washington Street during the times people are trying to get to work.

Then there’s the day care center on Pinner. That place drives me nuts. Traffic is held up daily with people closing down a lane to drop off children. On Friday, not only did a woman block the lane, but she stopped to talk to a passing motorist, allowing cars to pile up in both directions. It’s ridiculous that that situation be allowed to exist.

But that’s OK. I made my choice and I’ve learned to live with it. It’s the height of arrogance, however, to criticize people for taking advantage of conveniences available to them. They’re already being soaked in property taxes, go ahead and waste your gas driving out of your way to come downtown to shop. It’s not easy to get downtown from some parts of our city and I would advise people against trying.

On that same topic, while I see Milteer almost daily tooling around downtown in his caddy, I’ve yet to see him a single time in the Food Lion on Route 17 buying groceries, or picking up his prescriptions at Bennetts Creek Pharmacy, and until he starts, he should keep quiet about the shopping habits of others.

As for Brown’s remarks, most of us who live in north Suffolk are not real estate speculators. We moved there to make our homes and raise our families. We do not want to move and resent being told that’s our only alternative and we’re stupid if we don’t.

Many have long suspected that there was a prevailing school of thought among our elected officials to put downtown ahead of the rest of the city. If there was ever any doubt, the Huntersville discussion removed it. They not only favor downtown, they apparently harbor a genuine disdain for any other part of Suffolk. To them, it’s &uot;us against them,&uot; with them being anyone who lives in Holland, Chuckatuck, Driver, Burbage Grant, etc. Milteer literally said he would rather plummet from a building to a horrible death than help &uot;those people.&uot; With that being the case, it’s time for those on council who represent &uot;those people&uot; to start acting like it; start standing up for them; and stop rolling over for everything the downtown bloc wants. Linda Johnson tries her best but she’s helpless by herself.

Milteer, Brown and the rest of the downtown first crowd should remember that it’s the soaring real estate taxes paid by &uot;those people,&uot; as well as the jobs and investment that companies are making in &uot;those places&uot; that are largely making possible improvements to the downtown area. &uot;Those people&uot; aren’t looking for special treatment, though they have every right to. After 30 years they’ve learned to keep expectations low. A little gratitude and respect, however, is not too much to ask. But we’ll probably see council members flying out of buildings before that happens.

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