The public forum

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 30, 2004

Watching the town meeting on TV, where one could voice opinion on the new city budget, revealed one thing to me. Those who will benefit the most from money being spent to upgrade downtown are all for the new budget plans and why not? It’s that &uot;village&uot; concept and they honestly believe they come first. But, add up the dollars &uot;invested&uot; in downtown and compare that amount to that projected to be spent on all the other communities combined.

It was easy to spot those favorable to the budget even with the mute button pushed…they wore suits and spoke in glowing terms about the progress of the butterfly emerging from the cocoon.

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Milteer was impolite to say people who don’t shop in the village do not deserve neighborhood upgrade. I guess this means that blacks in Huntersville are not the same as folks in Orlando and Saratoga. Does he mean that what a community gets depends on how many trips to the village the residents make? For my shopping purposes it’s less traffic and shorter distance to Smithfield or the fast increasing stores on Godwin. The only downtown lure for me is Pisces where fresh fish means fresh fish.

A minority of Council members is suggesting more money be spent on Suffolk’s &uot;fringe&uot; but they don’t have the courage to demand it. Most have voiced agreement with the budget, saying they buy the theory that improving downtown will automatically improve the neglected neighborhoods. But I know what they say under their breath. They appear to hunch their shoulders and accept the city division of money…millions in the village, $50,000 max anywhere else…but for how long? We hope our Finance Director is not basing our city’s ability to annually borrow $18 million on a continual 6 percent annual increase in assessments. Unless &uot;Smart Growth&uot; has something to do with &uot;price them out.&uot; City fathers discuss rising assessments with apparent glee, but just can’t say the words &uot;tax relief.&uot; They still think everyone who came to live in Suffolk is a land speculator itching to sell and move on…except those reveling in the Village.

We must congratulate Council for agreeing to construct sidewalks on both sides of Main from the Hilton all the way up to Elephants Fork. They had to drop the sidewalk width from 12′ to eight to qualify for federal funds, or is it state money? There must be tons of dollars up there somewhere. If you want to go crazy just let your mind run up Main, as you know it, and finding an eight-foot path in front of all those businesses, across all those driveways. I’m betting the under half a million funds won’t cover it. Next question, will city workers do it or a contractor? That project will be fun to watch and we should pray that after completion they don’t decide to run a sewer or waterline under it.

Which council member will be the fourth to say &uot;no&uot; to taking maintenance of our roads from VDOT? I’d guess six of the seven are already in their minds using the gain to fix up their bailiwick. I suspect the boys down at his borough’s Hardees are convincing Calvin Jones they have a better deal now, but I doubt if the good old boys are thinking in terms of the city overall. Mr. Dickens is still concerned about a major storm costing us millions. It’s frightening that it takes only four votes to say &uot;no&uot; to the extra millions now being divided up among other cities. I suggest they have a closed meeting to iron out the pros and cons and take a secret vote. There will be public condemnation and castigation if this goes down and it’s better that we don’t know who did it.

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Hats off to the city and Department of Parks and Recreation for the Christmas Parade. Most of us current residents come from small towns elsewhere and miss the hometown ambience. I grew up in one where to see the fire truck with siren blaring was a thrill.

We like to see scouts marching; it gives us hope for the future. Life is not worth living without high school bands, and dancing class kids struggling through a mile of wearying march, flagging at the end but will do it again next year.

Horses hooves clicking on the pavement is a great sound and we all look for the man behind with &uot;pickererup&uot; tools at the ready. We usually ignored the &uot;celebrities&uot; in convertibles, we didn’t know who they were anyway, but dreamed dreams when the various &uot;Queens and courts&uot; went by in formal dress…would we ever be made king or queen of anything?

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at