The choice on Tuesday is simple … if you#8217;re not me

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

Well, here we are, just one week from Election Day. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Make no mistake, this is the most significant local election Suffolk has seen in a long time, with Tuesday’s vote likely setting the course for our city for years to come.

The two big issues n at least in the eyes of the candidates and pundits n are the city’s smart growth strategy and the tax rate. Some will have you believe that if the incumbents lose, real estate developers will have an office in city hall next to the mayor’s; on the Wednesday following the election dozens of trailers will be moved into position beside all of the schools to handle the overflow of students; and that the 2026 Comprehensive Plan and the Unified Development Ordinance will be ritualistically set afire at the first City Council meeting in July.

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This is nonsense, of course, and is merely a scare tactic designed to drive turnout of smart growth supporters, much like the gay marriage thing was hyped to help scare the fundamentalists to the polls to vote Republican in 2004.

As a disclaimer, I should say upfront that I’m a supporter of smart growth. It makes sense to me from both an economic and environmental perspective. Growth, in and of itself, is not always a good thing.

Be that as it may, I know, too, that not all Suffolkians share that view, and that those critical of it are not sinister, stupid or misguided, but are good, caring, hard-working members of our community who simply believe in private property rights and are entitled to their opinion.

Still, the four council members up for election n Charles Brown, Bobby Ralph, Calvin Jones and Joe Barlow n have consistently provided the one-vote majority necessary to keep the city on the path that officials set nearly 10 years ago. If even one of them falls on Tuesday, it’s going to completely alter the dynamic on city council. I’m not sure what that means for Suffolk, but it will be fun to see how things shake out.

I think the path the city has been on is a good one, at least as far as the growth thing is concerned. Like no small number of you, however, judging by the turnout at the public hearing on assessments at last week’s council meeting, I’m less than thrilled at the 20-plus percent increase in real estate taxes we seem to get hosed with each year. Those aforementioned incumbent council members have also consistently provided the majority that has kept the real estate tax rate from being reduced by a significant amount.

The best way to judge what a person is going to do in the future is what they have done in the past.

So the choice for voters n at least those other than me n on Tuesday is relatively simple. If Smart Growth and staying on the current path is the most important thing to you, then you should vote for the incumbent in your borough. On the other hand, if getting the tax rate lowered by a significant amount is your top priority, you might want to consider one of the challengers.

Whatever your position, I urge you to go to the polls on Tuesday. A big turnout one way or the other should make clear to officials once and for all what the people want.

Andy Prutsok is publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or at