So that’s how they pay for things

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 6, 2005

The local bar was so sure its bartender was the strongest man around that they offered a standing $1,000 bet. The bartender would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass, and hand the lemon to a patron. Anyone who could squeeze one more drop of juice would win the money. Many had tried over time, including professional wrestlers and bodybuilders, but nobody could do it. One day, a scrawny little man came in, ordered lemonade and said in a squeaky, annoying voice, &uot;I’d like to try that lemon bet.&uot;

Everyone sniggered, then burst into loud laughter. When the noise died down, the bartender said, &uot;OK,&uot; grabbed a lemon, and squeezed with all his strength. He then handed the wrinkled remains of the rind to the little man.

The laughter turned to total silence as the little man clenched his small pale fist around the lemon and six drops fell into the glass. The crowd cheered wildly; the bartender paid the $1,000, and asked the little man, &uot;What did you do for a living? Are you a lumberjack, weightlifter, or what?&uot;

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You guessed it; he assesses property.

March 13, 2005, is a day, which should be a national commitment to Sunshine Week. Several journalism organizations are pushing the idea of &uot;freedom of information.&uot; This means that the press should have access to all government information, including at the local level. What it means is that city hall should have no secrets, school systems should have no secrets. And citizens should not have to pay money to get relevant info. There are limits to this, of course, but all agenda items paid for by the taxpayers should be available to the press or individuals. This means that anyone paid by the government, and this includes council members, should willingly, and without hesitation, answer questions posed by citizens and the press. I can think if a few questions that haven’t been answered.

This could start with the mayor who ideally holds office hours so taxpayers can confidently expect true answers. And we do have an expensive public relations director whose function is to convey answers that affect the relationship between citizens and city hall. From time to time, we hear complaints by Suffolk residents about not getting answers. Sunshine Week could be the beginning of a changed attitude about what citizens are entitled to know. Yes, there is a Freedom of Information Act, but governments can make it not worth the effort. Maybe a little Sunshine will help.

One could go either way on the subject of referendum to decide whether or not the city should take the reins and piggy bank from the Virginia Department of Transportation. I’ve heard it solemnly stated that only the people are capable of deciding the issue…not seven council members. And I’ve heard it just as seriously stated that to hand the decision off to the public would be dereliction of council duty. &uot;What are we being paid all this big money for?&uot; &uot;Aren’t we the most informed,&uot; one of them might ask. And other prudent lenders of opinion agree that the people should decide. That’s fine if only &uot;informed&uot; persons were to vote on the subject, but then most likely only informed persons would take the time to vote. So, there you have it.

The wisest naysayer was Mr. Willis, who suggested, and he is correct, that VDOT, at the insistence of the Commonwealth, could pull the financial rug out from under the city at anytime after the signature ink dries. I’m positive VDOT doesn’t have the power to sign an oath in blood not to make any financial changes down the line.

Doesn’t this fracture you? A very prominent high-end snob store put out an ad stating that the original piece of goods was $129. Let’s say it’s a woman’s blouse. But currently the price is only $32.25, and on top of that, we are reducing it another 30 percent or $9.27, so your price is now $22.58. When you add it all up, you have saved $106.42. Does this give you a clue as to the worth of the material in the blouse, or the original greed on the part of the store? This leads to the contention that only a fool buys anything at &uot;retail.&uot; I have knowledgeable friends that hit only the clearance racks anywhere. One says, &uot;Follow the rules of gravity…what goes up that high will sure as rain come down.&uot;

How come glue doesn’t stick to the bottle?

Robert Pocklington is a regular column for the News-Herald. Reach him at