A unified Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 3, 2006

As relatively new residents to Suffolk and the Tidewater area (my wife and I moved here a little over three years ago after living for the same amount of time in Norfolk) we have thoroughly enjoyed living in this part of Virginia.

We have especially enjoyed living in Suffolk with its still reasonable cost of living (as compared to much of Hampton Roads), the rural character, the history, and the wonderful small towns which dot the farming landscape.

In many ways Suffolk is a microcosm of the greater Hampton Roads region and its seven cities.

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This is both a positive and a negative.

Hampton Roads has a huge variety of people and places which make it appealing, but we quickly learned that there is a long history of the seven cities competing and fighting much more than working together and getting along.

Several months ago I spoke briefly at one of the contentious city council budget meetings about this very issue: the idea that there is a greater Suffolk that goes beyond any one borough.

The example of Hampton Roads is one we should avoid.

While recent years have seen what appears to be a little thawing the in the often icy relations between the seven cities, the signs and results of conflict are much more apparent.

Hampton Roads is the largest metropolitan area in the nation without a top tier professional sports team.

The repeated failure of the light rail, competition over water and land, and the lack of coordination on planning and controlling development are a few of the many negatives of a large area splintered into opposing parts such as Tidewater.

This is a fate Suffolk should work hard to avoid but which some seem to want to cultivate.

One of our favorite activities is to go for a drive on the weekend, and Suffolk is one of the best places for that where we have ever lived.

We often head down Carolina Road to see the farms and out of the way places like the remains of the little town of Somerton near the North Carolina border.

Sometimes we drive out highway 58, past the perfectly intact and impressive mid-twentieth century Lipton Tea headquarters, Lake Meade and the many stores to the farms beyond.

Some of our favorite trips are to the small towns which are still such a vital part of Suffolk and have so much to offer.

Whaleyville is showing great signs of rebirth with its rebounding downtown and their annual festival.

Chuckatuck has that old intersection which I have always thought would make a great area of small shops it they could be restored; there are a few stores there now.

And, of course, like many we have headed up to the center of growth in Suffolk and seen a movie at the Harborview theater.

Sadly, these drives have been curtailed a bit of late with gas prices so high.

What our weekend drives showed us were the great assets of our city.

What Suffolk needs to avoid, but which many seem to desire, is competition between all these great places.

Recently the finger pointing and the criticism from both the citizens and city council of Suffolk have been fierce.

Are there problems?

Of course.

This is not a call to paper over legitimate complaints or shortcomings.

But, imagine what Suffolk could be if it worked as a unified whole to solve the problems rather than framing every debate in the format of borough versus borough.

Each time we have an issue (taxes, schools, crime, development) let’s avoid the negative first reaction of &uot;my neighborhood, my town, my borough.&uot;

Instead, let’s approach it as one great city and look to what would be best for the whole and for the long term.

Marcus Pollard works and resides within the city of Suffolk.