A strong city, indeed

Published 9:24 pm Thursday, May 10, 2012

Considering the event was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, organized and directed by the city’s Department of Media and Community Relations and fronted by its top elected and appointed officials, it was unlikely that the Suffolk State of the City address would feature anything that could potentially be construed as a negative portrayal of Surprising Suffolk.

As with each of these events around Hampton Roads, the State of the City provided an opportunity for the mayor to brag about the good things that are taking place in the city, a chance to utter the platitude, “The state of the city is strong,” a chance for everyone involved to walk away feeling good about their city.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Sure, there are plenty of things for Suffolk citizens to feel frustrated about. The list of disappointments when it comes to city government is too long and too well known to delve into here, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that there are many reasons to be proud of this fine city; many reasons to be glad to live and work here, as opposed to anywhere else in Hampton Roads; many reasons, even, to credit the city’s elected and appointed officials.

Suffolk has benefited from some very positive economic announcements during the past year. Those announcements represent new jobs coming into the city, giving its residents a chance to work near home, without having to cross jammed-up tunnels or bridges. And they represent a lot of hard work on the part of economic development officials, who work hard to sell Suffolk to people who’ve never been here and have no knowledge of the quality of life available here.

Suffolk has benefited from great bond ratings, meaning that when the city borrows money it gets lower interest rates, and taxpayers pay less to service those loans. Such low interest rates are the result of prudent financial management and are highly coveted in these times of widespread financial duress.

And Suffolk has benefited from an increasingly improved quality of life. From new sidewalks in some parts of the city to new and improved fire stations in other parts, from expanded recreational options to a burgeoning arts community, Suffolk boasts a growing variety of life-enriching opportunities for its citizens. We might not all agree on the timing or funding of those things, but it’s clear they all improve the city’s image among visitors and the lives of those who take advantage of them.

Many of us might have preferred Suffolk officials to have avoided the cliché when talking about the state of the city, but it would have been hard to avoid the truth: Suffolk is a city on the way up, and even our disagreements over the path it’s taking to get there do not change the fact that much of what’s going on in the city is extremely positive.