You go away for a few days and look what happens

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 3, 2006

We just took a week to visit Florida and see Cirque Du Soleil La Nouba in its own theatre. Bought the best ticket ($101) but it would have looked better on TV. Of course the weather was warmer in Suffolk, but there we had palm trees. The trip was made worthwhile by an afternoon in a wildlife preserve the size of Rhode Island .… zillions of waterfowl; and I counted six gators from four feet to 12 … it’s no place to go wading.

When we returned, I picked up the Friday copy of the News-Herald and was amazed at the amount of news on just that one day. Top left was a picture of Steve Herbert in an article about the sale of the Obici 25-acre tract sale … an item we bought for a paltry $4.5 million.

He dodged, saying straight out that we made a profit or broke even, or something less. He phrased it however as though we did all right. We will see.

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The drawing of the project looked like they had jammed a lot of stuff in a small area called &uot;mixed-use&uot; supposedly costing $45 to $50 million. I see it as a high-priced ghetto, but then I am used to lots of space.

Anthony W. Smith, developer, put a nice spin on it by declaring it would serve as a bridge between the &uot;high-growth corridor along Route 10 and our historic downtown.&uot; Somehow he expects the place to create a level of excitement and pull people into the glorious Hilton and downtown. And park where?

Then there was this minor note that someone would provide a few billion to build a new Route 460, 55 miles of divided four-lane concrete. When I read the word &uot;private funding&uot; I saw &uot;public tolling.&uot; If this ever comes about, I hope they will leave the old road in place for us slower drivers that hope to live a bit longer and avoid having an 18-wheeler or two ground us to dust. Will this mean fast-food outlets and rest areas placed along the autobahn will hurt small town businesses? Surely many dollars will be diverted from local cash registers; Chuckatuck, Windsor and other villages will become quiet neighborhoods.

And then there were none … decals faded into the past. Hooray, no more need for razor blades and curses. They will find another place to stick the $20 penalty for owning a car, but there will be no more delinquents standing in line at city hall to buy a cute little picture. Any 2005 decal removed in mint condition will be worth big money one day. Sorry, you had your chance and blew it.

Calvin Jones faced the Senate to plead our case for impact fees, a heroic gesture. And he has the support of our Sen. Fred Quayle, who brings a bill for consideration. The Senate is easy, but it’s a different story in the House, where many delegates are there to defend the developers who help finance their campaigns. It will not get by that bunch this year.

It is now the time for Council to do its &uot;satisfy the constituents&uot; dance —— make a lot of noise about the killing assessments and tax rate, demand this or that and then settle for what the city manager determines is necessary to complete his &uot;lowest possible spending plans.&uot; We are already being pandered to when Councilman Curtis Milteer wants only a 5-cent reduction. As usual, Councilman Charles Brown utters platitudes, Linda Johnson sounds tough, Leroy Bennett agrees with both sides; Calvin Jones takes the high road, Joe Barlow and Mayor Bobby Ralph will see it the way Herbert does. It is already plain that 5 cents is as high a reduction we will ever see, and that’s not in the bag. You have a telephone; use it.

Milteer says cut the tax first and then make the budget fit. Ralph wants to see the spending plans then figure how to fulfill them or find some easy way to slash a buck or two from the spending so it looks good. If our assessments are up 24 percent, like Portsmouth’s, and a nickel cut in the tax rate holds up, we will only create more unaffordable housing.

I repeat, get on the phone with your borough chief.

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