Welcome to Suffolk

Published 8:48 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2011

When members of the Suffolk City Council meet the city’s new General Assembly delegation for dinner at the newly renovated Obici House tonight, there will be two ways that city officials can look at the situation: On one hand, Suffolk is blessed with a powerful lobby in Richmond by virtue of the fact that no less than eight different senators and delegates represent the city in the General Assembly. On the other hand, only one of those legislators, Del. Chris Jones (R-76th), has any direct connection with Suffolk, which plays a minor role in each of the other legislators’ districts.

Of course, there will be plenty of bluster by legislators about how glad they are to be representing the fine people of Suffolk and just how important are the needs of those people and this city. These being politicians, there’s likely to be some mention of how proud the city must be of the fine, recently re-opened facility where the meeting is being held and possibly even a mention of Amedeo Obici, its namesake and original owner.

But council members hearing from legislators newly elected to cover slivers of Suffolk would do well to see how many had to print Google maps to find the place. And the city’s new legislators, some of whom now represent Suffolk only by virtue of the jot of a redistricting pen, must surely forgive its citizens for being a bit wary of the new relationships.

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Suffolk officials will tell the legislators their hopes for the General Assembly session that starts in January. But they will almost surely weigh any supportive statements they hear against the reality that Suffolk, with the single exception of Jones, is a small portion of each senator’s and delegate’s territory and, hence, is likely to account for a similarly small portion of their attention.

Even so, there’s an opportunity that goes along with having so many legislators “on the team,” as it were. Within reason, city leaders should be able to get support — even sponsorship — from someone for just about any legislation that won’t break the bank, likely the most prominent limiting factor in the Assembly this year. With four legislators in each house to help carry Suffolk’s agenda to Richmond, the city’s voice might not be the strongest in Richmond, but it should not be in danger of going unheard.

City officials are smart to plan this legislative get-together, especially this year. We hope their guests from Richmond feel welcome here and find reasons to get to know the city better than they’ve ever known it.