City talks legislative agenda

Published 9:21 pm Saturday, October 1, 2011

City leaders on Friday discussed the list of requests they will ask the city’s General Assembly representatives to carry to Richmond on their behalf this winter.

With a handful of new senators and delegates representing parts of the city thanks to the statewide redistricting, the leaders also discussed the importance of developing and maintaining relationships with the politicians.

“The more they see our face and the more we show our presence, the more they’ll remember our face when they go to Richmond,” Councilman Charles Parr said.

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City Council members tossed around the idea of having a meeting with legislators sometime in the next couple of months to discuss the legislative agenda, which includes requests for funding, studies and changes in legislation.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve pretty much taken a defensive position in terms of trying to protect what we have,” said Sherry Hunt, the city’s chief of staff. She noted that there has not been much funding available for any extraneous items lately.

But this year, Hunt recommended, the city should ask for federal and state funding for transportation, especially to address the negative impact of port-related expansions.

Also on the agenda is a request to have city trash and roadway maintenance trucks exempted from crossing the weigh scales on U.S. Route 58. It is believed that Suffolk is the only locality in the state where municipal trash trucks have to cross state-run scales within the locality where the trash is being picked up and delivered, Hunt said. Because the city maintains its own roads, she does not anticipate any objection.

The city also plans to request a study to consider relocating the regional Department of Transportation office on North Main Street. If the study is requested, it would be one of the first concrete steps toward an ambitious plan to spark new life in the Main Street corridor.

“Looking at the redevelopment of the downtown corridor, that property is very crucial in that regard,” Hunt said.

The city also plans to monitor eminent domain and bond issuance topics, Hunt said.

Councilman Curtis Milteer inquired about the possibility of requesting that legislators make a change to the city charter that could permit an eighth borough, an at-large elected seat besides the mayor, or some other allowance that could make the next redistricting process go more smoothly.

“There has been a lot of discussion lately about the configuration of the city of Suffolk,” Milteer said, referring to the current redistricting process.

The city’s population grew by a third from 2000, requiring it to redraw borough boundaries to ensure equal numbers of voters in all the districts.

However, a number of residents are upset with how the process has gone, and some have suggested an additional seat could solve the problem. Still with seven boroughs and no power to change that number, the city’s hands are tied in coming up with solutions.

“Now is the time to act,” Milteer said. “I think that if we want to do something, let’s not wait until the horse leaves the stable before we try to ride it. Let’s catch him in the stable and hook him up.”

However, Milteer’s suggestion got no further discussion.

City staff will present the proposed legislative agenda to City Council on Nov. 2, and it could be approved as early as Nov. 16.