Politics, propriety and public administration

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2005

With so many of our local decisions directly driven by politics rather than good administration these days, is it any wonder that there is so little trust of the abstract issues of government?

The administration of our city seems to be driven by the politically expedient need, rather than what is truly good for the entire city.

The latest example of this thinking is the significant push to take over road maintenance and the millions that accrue there to, from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

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While this issue has been talked of for some time, it is clear that we now have only a vague plan as to how it will be done by city hall.

While our city manager recently blamed VDOT alone for the closure of the King’s Highway Bridge, clearly the most relevant issue that lead to this fiasco was the city’s request for realignment of the new bridge.

If this request from the city had not been pressed so hard a few years ago, we would most likely have already started construction of the bridge by now, but we do not hear much of that…

As with so much in Suffolk these days the real issue in play in such a sordid episode is not really an effort to inform, but rather efforts to play politics and to deflect blame by our city administration for their expedient needs.

Another sad example of this can be found in how senior city staff plays with the issue of real estate tax policy and any possible tax reduction due to the 16 percent assessment increases we recently suffered.

While most neighboring cities are looking at applying some equity here, our city administration has established an early disdain for any reduction at all and holds a strong taste to spend it all.

After the last city council meeting, the city manager could be heard expounding vigorously that a tax reduction could not be allowed, there was just to much spending to do from his perspective.

The informed observer could only construe that we will see much more spending for projects like last year for: hotels, marinas, golf courses, country clubs, land speculation, and of course our new forty six million dollar entertainment facility at Driver.

With such failures in mind, it is clear that a reordering of these priorities is necessary in the local administration of our city.

With a VDOT road plan sure to pass at the next council meeting that is so ill-prepared due to the failure to place forward any detailed budget, facility plan, or priority process to ensure that the funds accrued are shared fairly, it is apparent that the only priority is the money.

The real question in most people’s mind; is with a track record of failed fairness in the past, why should we expect fairness in the benefits described for the VDOT road money bonanza?

It is time to understand that these and other issues cannot be dealt with just every four years at the polls.

As such, it is imperative that every citizen attends the next meeting of city council on April 20, where we will hear discussions of the VDOT road proposal, taxes, and other important issues.

We discuss these issues over coffee or with our neighbors over the fence, so why not with those who make them for us at city hall?

To do less, insures that we get the government that our present city administration wishes for us, rather than what we want.

If you are concerned about these prospects, please come down to city hall on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and see the process for yourself.

I encourage you to do so as the only real way to modify the processes of those in power.

Reasonable change will only occur from direct involvement in these decisions by the citizens, not from watching it happen from the sidelines.

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