For those who did not attend the “called meeting” of citizens at the Sheriff’s Department training facility last evening, reading the Virginian-Pilot lead story today gives an incomplete understanding of what transpired. In the first place, the meeting notice that came to us through “a friend of a friend” did not refer to a recall campaign but rather to addressing a crisis of leadership in the city. The first portion of the gathering, in fact, concerned establishing a political action committee — working title, “People for Portsmouth PAC” — to recruit, vet, and elect to local office candidates who take “the long view” of resolving the perennial fiscal, social, and economic challenges that face our city.
Dr. Pam Koeppel, who has served Portsmouth in a number of volunteer capacities, including her current position as a commissioner of the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority, opened the meeting. At the outset, she clearly stated that her presentation would not be about a recall effort; that would be a separate discussion afterwards. Then she described in a few sentences some of the key considerations that motivated the formation of the PAC. She credited Captain Lee Cherry of the Sheriff’s Department with helping to make the meeting possible at the chosen location. A particularly interesting aspect of her presentation was the assertion that the PAC would be seeking qualified candidates without regard to ethnic, religious, or political affiliations.
Although PCW did no formal polling of those in attendance, our clear impression is that a significant portion came out to learn what was afoot. Many of those we recognized, citizens from across the city, took no stand for or against the recall idea but listened attentively during both portions of the meeting. We left with no clear idea of how many would become involved with either the PAC or the recall.
With due respect to Mr. Robert Marcus, the spokesperson for the recall, our considered opinion is that it will just squander resources of human energy and money that would be better deployed in supporting worthy candidates for mayor and city council in 2016. We predict that if the 8,000 or so signatures needed to force a recall vote are collected and certified, a majority of the electorate will not, for reasons having little to do with his performance on the job, vote Mayor Wright out of office. Additionally, despite Dr. Kloeppel’s efforts to place a wall of separation between creation of the PAC and Mr. Marcus’s recall campaign, the latter may well undermine the credibility of the former as an inclusive undertaking. We counsel all our fellow citizens to consider carefully the ramifications of adding their signatures to a mayoral recall petition.