Perceptions of impropriety

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2005

Have you ever had the feeling that something just ain’t right downtown? I guess it would depend upon where you live in the great 430. Those living in the inner city are pleased with progress there. Down south, that’s from the edge of the &uot;village&uot; to the Carolina border, is there a deliberate plan to prevent landowners from capitalizing on the ever-increasing value of their property?

Many down there believe it. Our UDO plan seems to prevent the same kind of growth there that is taking place up north. Or is it absolutely necessary to prevent such growth because there is insufficient profit in it, tax-wise, to provide more sewers, water, roads, and schools? Perhaps, but our Councilman Milteer and others have challenged the idea of no growth. Do they perceive impropriety? Let’s shorten it to &uot;PI.&uot;


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I were a supporter of the Indian Village I’d be a bit concerned because the Mattanock Indian Village business plan keeps failing the city test (rightfully so) and the seed of a marina appears to have sprouted mighty close to where the village would be. Remember when a concrete slab and a parking lot were sufficient to launch boats? Now it’s $1.6 million planned. PI causes many Native Americans to be suspicious.

But when did PI begin? It didn’t happen overnight. Remember the money spent on a nationwide search for a replacement for Myles Standish? And then the person Myles had &uot;groomed,&uot; who was there all the time, was selected. Was that search to fake us out…did eight thousand go for naught? And was there a PI when the idea of a Hilton Garden Inn was born and had to struggle to survive citizen doubt and criticism?

If I was a developer, downtown or otherwise, I might sniff PI when it comes to selecting one to build up the 25 city owned acres on the Nansemond. PI certainly came about as the result of the &uot;deal&uot; officials tried to push through when the Jefferson School came suddenly on the market at a reduced rate and the banking relationships of those connected with it. And PI resulted from kicking out an outstanding councilman and mayor…anyone not residing in the downtown should have been suspicious of that action.

Or PI could be the result of city officials not keeping the public fully informed, example: what is the status of our imbroglio over the crooked, meaning not straight, seawall? Are we out a million or not? Hundreds more find a PI in the VDOT takeover…or the city being in any kind of business.

There are citizens unhappy that the King Highway Bridge fell from usage and they blame the city because it wouldn’t spend the money for repairs. They say the city can always find a million or so for this or that but not unless it enhances the downtown. And how did it come about that the Center for Culture should be awarded six plus million of our tax dollars? Perceptions of iImpropriety are abundant.

All of these, I believe, are opportunities for PI to creep in. Or is my imagination running askew? Perhaps I form conclusions too quickly and easily.

I move about a bit and frequently pick up grumbling from the citizenry. This could mean that a communications director is necessary, or failing to do his job, or those doing the grumbling are either correct or inflexible. But it is impossible to satisfy everyone, even half, most of the time. But until we perceive that the city keeps us honestly and fully informed, the dissatisfaction will continue to escalate. Officials must go out of their way to avoid the PI. That means, no surprises by top officials or members of our collectively weak council. All is not yet right in River City.

There is a time when the city spokesman might better be silent…as when it was decided officials and the city council would be joined by members of various city boards to attend a private celebration of Independence day from the roof of the Hilton Inn… enjoying a thousand tax dollars worth of hors d’ oeuvres. It hardly creates warmth toward our &uot;leaders.&uot; Were you invited to view the fireworks from there?

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