It#8217;s crunch time in historic old Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 3, 2006

A few years back, Suffolk council members formed into teams &uot;A&uot; and &uot;B.&uot; Will it happen again? This time the &uot;B&uot; team could consist of members whose last names begin with that letter. Barlow, Brown, and perhaps Bennett. On the &uot;A&uot; team we could have P, G, M, and, golly, it’s her turn, &uot;J&uot; being elected by the &uot;A&uot; team to be Mayorette.

Leroy Bennett is flexible; he often holds his cards so close to the vest you don’t get a peek until he completes his sentence. Often his discourse starts out in one direction and then switches during the back half. How Charles Brown stays elected is a mystery, because during the tax wars he stayed on the side of the city manager’s tax-heavy budgets, insisting city progress, no matter the costs, is first and foremost. Yet he continually insists on affordable (subsidized) housing that I imagine he figures will be paid for by affluent taxpayers. I can see that endearing him to his constituents. At any rate, we must deal with his eloquence for another term.

Is it a slam-dunk that (City Manager) Steve Herbert will be moving on, and perhaps any weaker members of his staff … I can name one. If this occurs, the council will again spend thousands of our taxes on separation costs and another search of the nation for a replacement, unless it already have one in mind that is right under its noses.

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And I hear the &uot;move on boot&uot; is already in place for a handful of other Suffolk employees. If that’s the case, I hope careful thought has been applied, because we have many key staff members we would be foolish to lose. And it is currently unknown how many might voluntarily leave if Mr. Herbert exits.

Any action to remove Mr. Herbert is surely due to his daring move to thwart council members who had requested a drastically cut budget. That appears to be his number one thumb of the nose.

Pressure could also come from citizens who have other reasons for angst. Not everyone wanted a tax-financed cultural center, and many still believe the Hilton took too many millions out of the tax pot. Others think it a bad deal to kick the Virginia Department of Transportation off the roads … right or wrong thinking on their part is not a factor; they were opposed.

My fear is that a new council will loosen plans to control residential growth. Hopefully Finance Director Christine Ledford will educate the new council so they will better understand the budget process. The last council meeting was an embarrassment.

Wasn’t it council action led by Linda Johnson to wiggle thousands of new homes into the Capital Plan on top of the large inventory of already approved residential plots in the loop?

Joeseph Barlow and others supported it. This appeared to be &uot;cronyism,&uot; or at least it allowed the perception that one has only to get the ear of a council member to make things happen. And we must carefully watch proposed changes in the &uot;family transfer&uot; rules, allowing them to be more palatable and even more of a sham.

The replacing of council members with two new faces and ideas is considered a whopper change, and there is no doubt Suffolk is headed in a new direction. Over the past few years, there has been much influence exerted by &uot;downtowners.&uot; But one replacement is a downtowner … the other is not, but they rode into council on the same horse. This bears scrutiny.

It looks like Charles Parr, Jeff Gardy, Bennett, and Johnson will fight to keep the old bridge intact in spite of Chuckatuck’s Barlow’s foot-dragging. What motivates him to take on 4,200 who signed petitions to keep it? There will be a fight to put it back in use. It takes but four votes on Council who have residents of Driver and Chuckatuck at heart. And where is (State Delegate) Chris Jones?