Special Council Meeting, January 3, 2018

Unless you subscribe to the City Clerk’s eMail alert list or have friends “on the inside” of city hall, you would not know that a special, called meeting of Portsmouth City Council is coming up tomorrow at noon. The calendar of meetings for 2018 that council adopted during its final public session of 2017 does not include, nor even hint at, it. Still, a call letter went abroad about 1:30 PM on Friday, December 29, 2017, bearing news of this previously unscheduled gathering. If you were in the midst of your holiday activities, you might well have missed it. Continue reading

Publisher’s Notebook: Cancelling the Call for Recycling Boycott

Following a conversation today with Deputy City Manager Vincent Jones, I am withdrawing my call for a recycling boycott in Portsmouth. DCM Jones made me aware of relevant information not previously available to the public, which included both a timeline and a description of the steps the city administration took on receiving notice in June of the former recycling contractor’s intent not to renew. He assured me that the city retains its commitment to recycling and is moving forward to get the program back in full swing. I urged him to share with citizenry during Tuesday night’s regular city council meeting the detailed explanation he provided me. From what I learned, I am now convinced that the administration acted in the best interests of the citizenry, which means a boycott would be counterproductive.

Publisher’s Notebook: Why Recycling Is in Turmoil

Two months ago, as I sat outside the meeting room in which the board of the Southeast Public Service Authority (SPSA) was conferring in closed session, I overhead bits and pieces of a conversation among representatives of various waste hauling and recycling companies. Today’s edition of the Virginian-Pilot contains not only the essence of that hallway discussion but additional context for it. Portsmouth residents should pay it special heed for the article indirectly explains why our former recycling contractor was unable to offer the same terms for handling our materials going forward as in the contract that recently expired. If you only read one item from the V-P today, I strongly recommend that it be this one.

Continue reading

Publisher’s Notebook: Call for Two-Week Recycling Boycott

With apologies for the eleventh-hour call to action, I am asking my fellow municipal recycling customers in the city of Portsmouth to join in a boycott of the non-recycling program over the next two weeks. As I was surprised to learn on November 13, our city administration allowed its recycling contract to expire sometime in the last few weeks and redirected our recyclable material to the Wheelabrator Portsmouth Waste-to-Energy facility, where the combustible material has been burned and the remainder, diverted to the SPSA landfill in Suffolk. (See the Virginian-Pilot investigative report on this matter.) Not only did these revelations come as news to recycling customers but to members of city council, as well. Continue reading

Resource List for November 7, 2017, Local Elections

During this election cycle, PortsmouthCityWatch.org has put significant resources into capturing live, public appearances by candidates for Portsmouth Constitutional Offices. We are particularly appreciative of the Portsmouth Taxpayer Alliance, People for Portsmouth PAC, the Portsmouth Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, and Port Norfolk Civic League for allowing us to be their media partner for candidate events they hosted. Additionally, we invited all to all ballot candidates to sit for interviews with us and/or to provide written statements for publication on PortsmouthCityWatch.org. Sadly, only two candidates chose to follow through on those invitations. Listed below, then, are links to the videos collected from those efforts. Continue reading

Open Letter to City Council re: Confederate Monument Resolution 17-449

Mr. Mayor and Honorable Members of City Council:

I write to express my opposition to the resolution of intent to relocate the Portsmouth Confederate Monument. Although I agree in principle with the objective, I believe that the diversity of community opinion on the matter and the intensity of feeling the discussion engenders on all sides of the issue argues for more dialogue among our citizenry as well as an advisory referendum on whether or not to relocate it. Continue reading

Open Letter to School Board re: Summer Retreat Agenda

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

Open Letter to the Port of Virginia re: Portside

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.

Yours truly,
Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky

The Portside Smokescreen

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

Publisher’s Notebook: You Ask; We Respond

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