All quiet on the downtown front

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2006

If there is anything happening at Council meetings, the word is not getting out. So, we imagine it is still in the feeling-out process, two new men on board and a lady mayor, all attempting to figure out where we stand financially?

Big audit going on, not necessarily an annual event, but when you change the guard, it is best to take a hard look at the books.

So, while things are quiet here, I looked for excitement in our neighboring cities, starting with the one that has fabricated a formula to make their city bigger in area than ours. Hah.


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This, for example, would not happen in Suffolk, but a lady at the beach, who really cares about wildlife, that’s animals, not partying, was voted 6 to 5 by their council to move her home operation out of the residential area. Someone had complained; it happens in every city, including Suffolk, that it was inappropriate.

Not so, said her neighbors, who signed a petition in her favor. Hundreds of people over the years had brought her baby birds and injured animals of all kinds, and she had spent her own time and money to restore them to good health. She has been doing this for many years with no complaints, but now has six months to pack up.

Heartless council, one measly complaint and she is out? Not fair, but it nearly happened to me.

Many years ago, up in Michigan, I wrote a weekly column about our town’s happenings. Two dear ladies didn’t like what I wrote about our school board, called the newspaper’s owner and denounced my effort at the truth. Two dear ladies out of several hundred in our town, and they actually believed they were significant enough to have me rousted. It didn’t work, and I wrote columns for many more years. But I digress.

And get this; Virginia Beach is spending $483,258 to bring a &uot;copy&uot; of the famous Magna Carta to their Contemporary Art Center of Virginia. Good for tourists they say. Part of that outrageous amount, $225,000, will be spent to make the Art Center worthy of displaying such a forgettable document. This original copy is on loan from the Lincoln Cathedral in England. I faintly remember that this document meant something important, but I’d settle for a copy of that copy printed in the Suffolk News-Herald. Virginia Beach Councilman John Uhrin, said, &uot;Less than half a million for that kind of history sounds like a good deal to me.&uot; This gives you an idea of how cavalier some council members can be about spending citizen’s money.

And up in Richmond, their audit found their Industrial Development Authority had made some loans without knowing enough about the borrowers and didn’t keep close track of the money it was owed. The audit found 13 percent of their IDA loans were behind in payments, and, worse, had made loans to entities related to officials and contractors. All but one of it’s board members resigned, and Mayor Doug Wilder called for the IDA to be dissolved after the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported it could not account for more than $240,000 in loans.

Over in Isle of Wight County, the school board is in a tizzy. The arguments going on between members are far too complicated for us to unravel; most of it, I think, is about firing or not firing an assistant superintendent. It is causing bad feelings and most votes taken are 4 to 1 … you can’t call that school board a rubber stamp. Not good they say; it should be five to zero.

School Superintendent McPherson is frustrated and happy to join the board in attending a one-day training session at the &uot;Virginia School Boards Association Center for Board Development&uot; in Charlottesville. Did you know that school boards could be trained? Do you suppose there is a school like that for council members?