Council begins to set legislative agenda

Published 9:26 pm Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One day after the nation voted in a new president, city officials were planning a political takeover of their own.

City Council heard from Whitt Clement, a former secretary of transportation who now works out of Hunton & Williams law firm.

The firm was hired to represent the city’s interests on the state and federal playing fields through intensive lobbying efforts.

Email newsletter signup

Or, in the words of city Chief of Staff Sherry Hunt “cut through the red tape, open some doors and advance our legislative agenda.”

During the City Council work session, Clement highlighted the priorities for the city in the upcoming year.

The first and most predominant priority was a no-brainer.

“You can’t look over transportation,” Clement told the Council members, “even though y’all know full well where we are in Virginia with transportation funds.”

Among the biggest points under transportation, the city wants continued state transportation construction funding, federal and state funding for bridge replacement, rail enhancement, rail relocation, rail preservation and rail safety and to explore local authority options to create revenue (tolls, impact fees, etc.)

Clement was honest with Council, saying he could not promise “a white rabbit out of the hat” solution, but that does not mean they should not keep pushing forward looking for such funding.

Suffolk’s list went on to name getting proportionate lease payments for the Health and Human Services Building, protecting the city’s budget and strategic planning against unfunded mandates, changing the provisions for family transfers and lifting restrictions on the Driver Naval Radio Transmitting Facility all as top priorities.

Also, the city wants to monitor some statewide issues that could come back to affect Suffolk, including the impact fee authority and cash proffers, water quality budget issues, groundwater regulations and legislation concerning the Miss Utility markings.

Clement said he and his staff understood where the city was coming from on these topics and “has no problem putting (their) best effort forward.”

From here, Council has until Nov. 13 to review and provide input on the legislative package as it was presented Wednesday afternoon. At its next meeting on Nov. 19, the Council will vote to adopt it, at which point Clement and his team take over and take to the Virginia General Assembly Session, which convenes Jan. 14.

Councilman Charles Brown thanked Clement and his team for all of their work, and then commended City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn for her work to bring the legislative professionals to Suffolk.

“We’ve got to have experts in order to be able to file these things,” he said. “I’m anticipating good things in the future.”