A full schedule and more…

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

Roger Leonard

Since the beginning of the year, the number and scope of issues either under review or being contemplated by the City Council are truly at unheard of levels.

The intensity of these reviews are such, that in the next few weeks and months, several new public meetings are planned.

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These will include meetings to finalize the Comprehensive Plan review, a public review to gauge support for directly electing the Mayor and a decision on taking over road maintenance from VDOT.

To deal with it all, the City Council and senior city staff are planning on holding a retreat at the new Hilton Garden Inn.

The council will be among the first patrons of the new facility and given the efforts of such a retreat, this is most likely, as it should be.

Even so, there will most definitely be many more city spending opportunities for such uses of the Hotel in the near future.

The plan is to &uot;fluff-up&uot; use of the facility and to spend as heavily as possible to &uot;support&uot; the Hotel (with even more of our money).

This issue is yet another story, but today we are going to examine the significant number of issues on the City Council’s agenda and where they might go.

It is clearly apparent that our fast growing city is in the pangs of &uot;teething pains&uot;; as it matures into an active and vital member in full standing of the wider Tidewater Metro Area.

We are fortunate to have Mayor Ralph, an unusually progressive thinker who truly wishes to include us in the dialog, as our council leader.

Some past mayors have been less interested in the thoughts of those governed and would not have even tried or cared to involve the citizens in such policies.

An example of such conduct was the way the UDO was pushed upon us in a silent &uot;stealth-mode,&uot; to stifle the comments of the populace by keeping them in the dark.

With our present schedule however, it is evident that there will most likely be several areas of change in the near future for our fine city, and as it should be.

The mayor and present members of council should be commended for their efforts to include us, as we all move forward.

It should also be noted however, that with so many detailed issues on our plate this dynamic time foretells the potential for many significant changes in how our city is managed, how millions of dollars will be spent and for what benefit.

This process will also reshape many of the power bases that exist in the city as the political and monetary muscle of the local government is realigned.

It is also evident that some of the topics under review will channel public funds and political influence into potentially new areas and to new people.

It is also quite evident that as these complex and powerful issues are dealt with, there will be a real challenge to develop consensus on and off council to make the hard decisions ahead.

The question of the hour will be; can these issues be distilled into a simple enough context that the populace and their representatives can digest them?

One broad example of this effect includes; how difficult it is for some on council and even the senior city staff to really grasp the most intricate aspects of the major issues under review.

A specific example includes the process of changing the VDOT Road Maintenance arraignment and how it will most likely lead to significant changes beyond just road maintenance.

This change will lead to a follow on plan to take over road construction to resolve in some fashion the problems we suffer due to our recent explosive growth and associated traffic issues.

By reprogramming some of the savings from the city’s capital and operating budgets for line items already listed to enhance VDOT/Road issues, some construction could occur to solve these stalled projects.

The informed observer could note that there is four to five million dollars per year, that could be reprogrammed to such uses by reassignments from the VDOT Maintenance funds to like amounts now in the city budgets.

By this example and the lack of any substantive discussion of such, it is clear that not all of the facts are known or being revealed.

The first shows a lack of understanding and the second shows the potential of other agendas.

Even so, it is clear that this New Year holds many new and fascinating issues that our local government must grapple with.

It is also clear that some are up to the challenges of such reviews and others will just never get it.

While it might be gratifying to have some absolutes in these issues, in government especially a representative democracy like ours’, such is usually not the norm.

It is comforting to know that the mayor and others on council are at least interested in what we think.

The most effective way to enhance this positive effect is to talk with your representatives regularly and let them know what you think about the issues and policies of the city.

Our representative form of government can only perform properly, if the governed are active members of the dialog we are observing and the changes we are in pursuit of…

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at RogerFlys@aol.com