Testing the waters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2005

There are several issues that are of great concern for the citizens of Suffolk, but two issues seem to only get lip service from our city council since their earlier pronouncements.

These concerns seem destine to be ignored by city council due to the leadership we now suffer and the impact such might have on the power some on council and staff wields.

These two issues include the direct election of the mayor and the right of the citizens to weigh-in on advising our local government, via a voter referendum.

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While many citizens are not missing many soccer games, movies, or dinner parties to attend the city council’s meetings at seven o-clock, they still are interested in these issues and much more than the council gives them credit for.

Another issue that is taking on unusual proportions; is the matter of real estate taxes and the effect they are having for most of us who own our homes and businesses.

In reality, all of these issues are linked and have become the real focal point for more and more citizens.

These issues must be viewed individually to understand how they are linked to the same objectives and purposes.

To take them in their functional order, I will highlight why they have been so utterly suppressed and for what purposes.

The direct election of the mayor may by itself have little impact or effect, however when one understands that this issue is the by-product of a system that has a closed purpose of control, it becomes all-important.

With a closed, unobserved political parody that is conducted behind closed doors as several of our seven members of council jockey for position as our mayor, we see some real power politics and deals emerge.

The reasons for such antics, is to line-up the four votes necessary to secure the mayor’s seat.

Some on council have obviously made deals with the devil, so to speak, to control the outcome of such pandering and it has shown how dysfunctional our city council has become.

As we suffer under this situation, the control of the few extends even further, by the lack of any check on political power.

This is due to the fact that there is not even a practical process to express our point of view to them, due to the lack of any provision for referendum.

Several months ago there was some measure of concern by some on the city council for a method to allow for a voter referendum.

Since that time, there has been little if any further comment of such and it should be of concern to the citizens.

With such a method allowed by law; to include the direct involvement of the citizens in the decision processes of major community issues, we have a more functional local government.

The failure to have a referendum mechanism can be tied directly to the issue of the election of the mayor and highlights by such, the fact that there are few on council who have taken much concern for the wants and needs of the citizens of Suffolk.

If there was a process to directly elect the mayor, it is apparent that such an office holder would want to have a support tool by referendum.

This would empower the populace in support of their champion, their Mayor; over the power politics.

Such is seen in Richmond as their new Mayor has sorted out bad politics from the people’s business and we need a similar same solution.

In addition, these two issues have allowed the abuse of real estate taxes; by permitting the city management to manipulate the process to spend more and more on politically driven prerogatives.

This has never been more obvious than in the last few years, as the imbalance in downtown spending continues.

Such has clearly been enabled by the lack of the citizens to respond due via a weak system of checks and balances.

To restore such balance, it is imperative that during the upcoming session of the legislature there be two requests to change the charter of the city of Suffolk.

The first is to allow for voter referendum and the second is to allow for the direct election of the mayor every two years.

These two issues can insure that there is direct accountability for taxes that have driven the unending need by management to spend all that can be raised.

Another issue that is of note at the recent council work session, was a pronouncement by the consultant hired by the city to devise a plan for the development of the southern part of the city.

One of the most fanciful comments was that there will be significant growth at our &uot;Executive Airport&uot; due to mini-jet aircraft that will provide &uot;air-taxi&uot; service at the cost of a first class airline ticket for travelers.

Further, a result of this significant demand coming in just the next two to three years, it was imperative to keep residential development away from the airport, specifically the recent &uot;Mill-Stone&uot; development on Rt. 13 and Turrlington Road.

As a pilot and aircraft owner for the last 30-plus years, I was astonished by how naive the planner’s comment was and it reminded me of the statement that; we would all be flying to work with the airplane in our garage by now, as predicted in the 60’s.

This industry speak is nothing less than nonsense and it appeared that it was being used to steer growth as city management deemed necessary.

It is clear that this fanciful point was being used to mislead the facts about the airport, that to date has gone nowhere… It is important to ask city management; why not lead by merit rather than fiction?

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