Experience, urban areas focus of forum

Published 10:07 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The incumbent and three challengers for the Whaleyville Borough City Council seat met in a forum on Tuesday at Suffolk Church of God.

Councilman Curtis Milteer, who is running for his 10th term, told the audience of about 15 that he is the most experienced candidate.

“When it comes to our future, we can’t afford to take a chance on inexperience,” Milteer said.

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His challengers pushed back, though, noting that they have experience in other areas.

LaTroy Brinkley noted that he serves on the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority commission and also on the Suffolk Clean Community Commission. Milteer appointed him to the latter.

“You have to start somewhere,” Brinkley said.

  1. Harold Faulk pointed out that Milteer appointed him to the Economic Development Authority eight years ago, and he is now the chairman of that body.

“I have some experience,” Faulk said. “Not as much as Councilman Milteer, but I do have experience.”

Vanessa Harris, a funeral home owner and middle school teacher, said she has a different kind of experience.

“This is true — I have no experience with the city of Suffolk, but I have experience with people,” she said. “It’s not about what I want, it’s what the people want. I believe in having a listening ear.”

The candidates faced a variety of questions that revealed the mixed nature of their borough — part rural and part urban, low-income communities. They answered questions about land use valuation for rural land, as well as problems plaguing the urban areas.

Problems in the South Suffolk and Saratoga neighborhoods took center stage.

Saratoga residents complained about a recycling center — they call it a junkyard — in their neighborhood and asked the candidates what could be done about it.

“It’s due time” to do something about the center, Brinkley said. He said he would support efforts to get rid of the recycling center and find a better use for the property.

Brinkley said elected representatives pay more attention to the more affluent areas where their supporters live.

“They pull stronger in that area than they do in the less-fortunate areas,” he said.

Milteer said the city has been working with the owners to find a solution to the problems caused by the facility.

The candidates also addressed concerns from the South Suffolk area, such as the need for lights and open ditches.

“We need to facelift South Suffolk,” Harris said, encouraging constituents to join civic leagues and attend the meetings to make their voices heard. “It’s time.”

Faulk said he would advocate for regular town hall meetings in his borough if he were elected. And while he couldn’t promise specific improvements, “I guarantee you it will be on record downtown” that he tried to get something done about them, he said.

All four of the candidates said they support keeping the land use taxation program, which allows farmers to get a lower tax rate on land, as long as it is staying in production continually.

“It does reduce your taxes tremendously,” said Faulk, who is a farmer.

The candidates talked about their plans to reach and develop youth.

Milteer touted the $3.3 million Whaleyville Recreation Center that opened last year.

“Never before has that amount of money been spent in that area,” he said, adding that he hopes to get organized sports going there.

Brinkley said young people in the downtown area are in need also.

“They need some sort of entertainment in the downtown Suffolk area,” he said.

Harris said more programs are needed, and she supported getting the faith community involved with having programs for children.

Faulk said he would support a review of options to identify and address the needs.

In closing the forum, Pastor Aaron Burgess of the Suffolk Church of God encouraged attendees to pray, do their own research and vote accordingly.

“We are better together,” he said.