No more time for easy solutions

Published 7:56 pm Saturday, March 26, 2011

To the editor:

I have for years talked about how local government spending has grown beyond our means to keep up with it, and these hard times now make it painfully apparent to all.

It is even more painful when some on council simply state that there now is no other way to proceed but to raise taxes and harm the people in these challenging times. We hear claims from a wounded budget monster that if you and I do not keep feeding it as we have for so many years, terrible things will happen. They will cut police and fire protection, and crime will escalate and we all will be less safe.

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Well, that is not the only course to chart — and in fact, it is time to show that the Queen has no clothes. It is time to break the learned behavior of city staff taught to always demand more.

It is just not true that real reductions are not available. The painful and difficult decisions to go without that most of us now must make in our daily lives must become a reality for local government, too.

It is lazy to claim simply that a growing city excuses the demand for more money than we now take in from the people. The reality is that Suffolk’s municipal staff and especially City Council must learn to live within their means, just like we all do. If the council and the Staff do not understand this mandate, or if they do not have the capacity to follow it, then they need to be replaced.

The tyranny of taxation is real and does real harm to the individual, but the damage can be compensated for if those taxes are used for the common good.

The real question is: What is that common good? Is it to pour our scarce dollars into such things as: The Suffolk Cultural Arts Center, which so few actually use or benefit from? Groups that have no real function on behalf of the city of Suffolk, some of who hold the average citizen in true disdain, like the Hampton Roads Partnership? Projects like downtown’s Hilton Garden Inn and Conference Center, which by most claims has been a terrible deal for the average citizen?

We have come to a critical juncture, when citizens of Suffolk must consider whether they will continue to accept higher taxes and more spending brought on by shallow thinking and bankrupt planning.

I would plead with my fellow citizens — and most especially our representatives on council — to resist the easy and even lazy method to just agree blindly with Mr. Rose, Ms. Seward and the city management team, who contend that raising taxes is the only solution.

Higher taxes are not the only solution to the city’s budget problems, and the claim that there is nowhere else to cut spending is just not true. Council should set priorities and take strong action to reduce government. Members should accept nothing less than the protection of the citizens who look to them for leadership.

It is time to for council members to come forward and resist the easy solutions, because we all cannot afford them any longer.

Roger A. Leonard