Where we (I) stand

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 3, 2006

Some people seem to be operating under the impression that I, and the News-Herald (more I than the News-Herald, I guess), are somehow haters of everything our now former council and city manager have done.

This is a misconception I believe spawned by somebody looking for someone to blame for their failure to accurately read the tea leaves.

For six years the News-Herald and I have editorially supported every growth control measure that has come out of city hall n as recently as a few weeks before the election when we ran an editorial praising then-Holy Neck Councilman Calvin Jones for voting against the revised Comprehensive Plan.

Email newsletter signup

At every opportunity n and there have been many during that time n we have lauded improvements to downtown Suffolk, the expanding economic base, etc. I’d challenge anyone to prove otherwise. Sure, I may have taken a few jabs at missteps along the way, but when it came to the big picture, this newspaper was always on board editorially with the plan and I’d challenge anyone to prove otherwise.

Up until this year, we even supported every real estate rate tax rate proposal that came out of city hall, all of which amounted to large increases in peoples’ real estate tax bills.

But that is when times were good, or at least that’s what we were led to believe. Turns out the only thing good was a real estate bubble that enabled people to use their homes as ATM machines and buy properties using risky, nothing down, interest-only or 50-year mortgages to get into houses they couldn’t afford, so they didn’t really notice or care about the extra $25 or $50 a month they were paying on their house payment.

Once that bubble popped and there was no more money to get out of their homes, people started hurting. Throw a little $3-a-gallon gas on those flames and you’ve got people genuinely scared about not being able to pay those mortgages.

So, amidst all that, here comes our city proposing a tax rate that would result in a more than 20 percent increase in people’s real estate taxes. I just couldn’t get my hands around that one. As it turned out, a lot of others couldn’t either.

Not only in good conscience could I not support it, but felt it my duty to attempt to communicate to people what was going on before the election n basically, that if it’s rampant growth that keeps you awake at night, vote for the incumbents; if it’s worrying about being able to stay in your home and feed and clothe your family, then you might want to consider supporting one of the challengers. While there was no guarantee your tax burden would be reduced with a new council, there was practically a guarantee, based on what they had done in the past, that your taxes would go up substantially if you re-elected the incumbents.

Could we not have just pulled back from the spending spree for one year to see how things were going to shake out? Spending had far outpaced residential growth for a number of years. There should have been enough cushion available to give folks a little air.

If that means I’m a rabid, city government hater, then so be it.

Anyway, the News-Herald and I, regardless of who is at the controls of this city, will continue to support efforts to control growth (that doesn’t cost anything) and to foster continued economic progress for our community (which does typically cost something), as long as it’s a prudent investment and fair to all concerned, and that includes those picking up the tab for it.

Suffolk is a wonderful city with a bright future n one that is no less bright than it was two months ago, or even two days ago.

And for those who find themselves on top now, I would suggest extending an olive branch to any and all who oppose you now or have done so in the past. All glory is fleeting, as the Romans said, and those now “out” will be back “in” some day.

Andy Prutsok is publisher of the News-Herald. Contact him at 934-9611 or at andy.prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.