Among the principles that inform the political philosophy of PortsmouthCityWatch.org, these two are key: 1) conduct the business of the public in public, and 2) afford the public abundant opportunities to weigh in before deciding public policy. We are opposed, therefore, to the Portsmouth School Board taking up during the summer retreat scheduled for today and tomorrow two action items that we believe should be considered in a regular or special meeting. The items in question are the adoption of the revised student code of conduct, item 7.3, and the approval of a contract for transportation services for students with special needs, item 7.4. Continue reading
In the course of the FY 2018 budget adoption meeting of the Portsmouth City Council, City Manager Patton stated that our city has requested a grant from the Port of Virginia, the purpose of which is to fund all or a portion of the construction of an entertainment/food and beverage service venue. Although I have not seen the request in writing, I presume that its submission was under the Aid to Local Ports program. I have two main objections to such a request: first, that the city submitted it without requesting public input as to the desirability of such an endeavor, and second, that the project does not meet the requirements for such a grant. As the first issue is self-explanatory, I will elaborate only on the second.
The purpose of the funds requested is to build a venue on the Portsmouth waterfront for food and beverage sales and entertainment. The Aid to Local Ports Policy housed on the Port of Virginia web site, however, contains this central provision: “Funds will be used to support capital needs of publicly-owned ocean, river, and tributary ports and their marine facilities within the Commonwealth whose primary purpose is the flow-through of goods for consumption [emphasis added].” In my judgment, the request from my city does not meet those criteria. Although under a liberal interpretation, the project in question could fit within the definition of “landside facilities”, the structure proposed is not “for handling and storing waterborne commerce”. Previous success in obtaining a PoVA subsidy to construct a fishing pier, also something of a stretch with regard to the underlying policy, has likely emboldened my city officials to solicit more money for this incompatible use. I would urge those responsible for vetting local requests under the Aid to Local Ports program, therefore, to reject the current application that my city has tendered.
Please let me know if you need additional information.
Fans of “A Prairie Home Companion”, that all-weather mainstay of public radio, became well acquainted with the manners and customs of Lake Wobegon, MN, the mythical “little town that time forgot, that the decades cannot improve”. The venerable scribe of Portsmouth, Ms. Ida Kay Jordan, would be right at home there, too, spinning her yarns about fabled Portside-on-the-Elizabeth, the enchanted venue in which, by her account, all people were truly created equal and good times were enjoyed by all. (See her latest homage in the May 7, 2017, edition of the Portsmouth Currents or online at KEEP THE NEW PORTSIDE “SIMPLE, FUN”.) With substantial support from city council for a Portside resurrection and a possible handout from the Virginia Port Authority for some or all of the $750,000 projected cost, she might well see a new structure rise close to where its predecessor stood. Continue reading
As a political activist, I put my name to a lot of petitions, letters to elected officials, and political surveys. One of the last came to me today from the Common Good VA PAC, and the invitation to “leave . . . feedback for Governor McAuliffe” proved irresistible. We believe in telling the truth as we know it, even when it may prove “inconvenient” to the listener. This one will likely fall into that category: Continue reading
The November 21, 2016, resignation of Council Member Danny Meeks presents an opportunity. Under the provisions of our city charter (see Chapter 3 Section 3.04), when a vacancy on that body occurs, the remaining members can appoint someone to fill the seat temporarily. As CM Meeks’s term of office will expire on January 1, 2017, the amount of time the temporary appointee will hold the position is relatively brief. Nonetheless, were council to appoint one of the Council Members-Elect chosen by the voters earlier this month, that person could get her/his feet wet a bit early. In my view, getting a head start on a new job has benefits to both the job holder and her/his constituents. Continue reading
The Portsmouth Taxpayer Alliance hosted a forum for city council candidates in place of their regular monthly business meeting. Although invitations went out to all ten candidates, seven attended: Rev. Leon J. Boone, Mr. Nathan J. Clark, Mr. Mark A. Geduldig-Yatrofsky, Ms. Lisa L. Lucas-Burke, Council Member Elizabeth M. Psimas, Ms. S. C. “Cathy” Revell, and former Council Member Ray A. Smith, Sr. The candidates had two minutes for both opening and closing statements and up to one-and-half minutes per response to a series of wide-ranging questions submitted in writing by those in attendance. The video record of the forum at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSDUcRtKmWg. The running time is about an hour and twenty-seven minutes. (Videography by Mr. Peter Olanitori for PortsmouthCityWatch.org)
The Portsmouth Taxpayer Alliance hosted a Mayoral Candidate Forum at their August monthly meeting. In attendance were Candidates Shannon Glover, Cliff Page, John Rowe, Jim Sturdevant, and Kenneth Wright, the incumbent mayor. Candidate Barry Randall was unable to attend as he was officiating at a wedding. After his opening statement and response to a question from the audience, Mayor Wright left to attend another event.
The video recording of the forum is available on the PortsmouthCityWatch.org YouTube Channel.
The Disney version of Davy Crockett liked to say, “Be sure you’re right. Then go ahead.” Certainly, that is the preferred mode of operation at PortsmouthCityWatch.org, but when objective documentation is unavailable and a train is moving down the track in what looks like the wrong direction, action is preferable to paralysis. For that reason we are reaching out to the Portsmouth citizenry in advance of a special meeting of the school board on June 27, 2016. Continue reading
In reviewing the agenda for the upcoming council work session and regular meeting of June 14, I am deeply dismayed that no briefing is scheduled regarding the request for proposals the city was to have issued for municipal waste disposal services post 2018. Citizens’ comments on this matter over the past few months, both at SPSA board and council meetings, have demonstrated that our community is interested and concerned about the final decision. For council to have put the original proposal from SPSA back on the agenda without offering any sort of explanation from the city administration about how we have returned to square one is disrespectful of the public’s right to know. I ask, then, that you reflect on and reconsider your way forward. At a minimum before any final action, the city management team should provide the public a written explanation of available options considered and the reasons for their rejection or acceptance. As the citizens of Portsmouth will be bound by the SPSA Use and Support Agreement until at least June 30, 2027, we should have enough information in hand before the agreement is signed on our behalf to know that it will best serve the public interest.
In seven days city council will likely be making one of the biggest decisions of the year and another that could affect us on multiple levels for at least two decades. The first and more predictable of these is adoption of the annual budget. The second is whether to approve a pair of post-2018 refuse disposal agreements with the Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA).
A lot can happen in a week in Portsmouth, which makes prognostication a challenge, even for the best crystal ball readers. Going by the published budget calendar and a fairly consistent historical trend, though, we have a reasonable expectation that council will vote on May 10 to adopt the FY 2017 budget in one form or another. With no overt tax or fee increases proposed, it should be a rather “wham-bam-thank you, ma’am” portion of the agenda. Surely, no flashpoints emerged at the public hearing last week, as evidenced by the relative scarcity of speakers at the citizens’ podium during the appointed time. Continue reading