Letter – City Council faces a conundrum on Port 460 rezoning

Published 5:39 pm Friday, August 26, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

To the Editor:

The debate about whether to approve the U.S. 460 warehouse complex raises a conundrum. Both sides have passions and facts that counter each other.

We can talk about new tax revenue but wonder if that means the citizens will see their taxes decrease. We can talk about new jobs but note that there are not many Suffolkians in need of a job and ask whether the wages will be sufficient to allow them to rent or buy any of the new apartments and townhouses springing up all around the city. We can talk about improved roads but reject the cost and inconvenience of their construction, or the nature of the increased traffic on them. Some say the trucks are coming anyway, the other says they don’t need to stop here.

Email newsletter signup

One side says this development is growth the other says this is not sustainable progress. One side says this will help Suffolk, the other asks how the life of the citizen is actually improved by this. Point, counterpoint, how does the City Council decide? We elected them to represent us in questions such as this and this is, therefore, their job. Maybe.

In May 1787 delegates met in Philadelphia and over the next few months crafted and then signed the Constitution of the United States. It is the foundational document of our country. It established our democracy. And it’s first three words are “We the people” written in very large letters.

So here’s the conundrum: what do the representatives do when “we the people” give them clear guidance on our wishes in a particular matter? The issue arose at the recent public meeting where the issue of the complex was raised.

On Aug. 17, “we the people” came to a public meeting in order to debate the question of developing an area of land within our city in a particular manner. A citizen petitioned City Council to change the law in order to sell the land – changing the law requires council approval. Hundreds of “we the people” showed an interest this matter by attending the meeting to debate it. And what is clear from the debate is that we told our representatives, “no” we do not want you to change the law in this matter. There can be no doubt that was the message sent to the council. The people’s stance was clearly shown when virtually all of “we the people” raised our hand when asked during the debate who opposed the measure. Indeed, as noted in the News-Herald, the only attendees in favor of the petition was the gentleman making it and his team.

So what should the City Council do? The power they wield is ours, we cede it to their office, not to them personally, in order to use it on our behalf. In this matter, “we the people” have told them we want to make this decision ourselves and are telling them what we consider to be on our behalf.

Council members may think we are wrong, and maybe by some criteria we are. But that is their personal opinion. By other criteria we are right.

Almost all the time we have to compromise with our fellow citizens to get there. And in those cases, City Council is tasked to be the umpire. But not this time in this matter. At a public meeting to debate the issue “we the people” spoke with one voice. We gave our representatives direct and unequivocal direction. So to me the real question council has to decide is not whether to approve a zoning change, but rather whether they are representatives of the people or their rulers.

S. Gallotta