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

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

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

Guest Opinion: Shannon Glover for Mayor Endorsement

[Tracy Link is a small business owner and civicly engaged Portsmouth citizen. She graciously allowed us to share this posting from her Facebook timeline.]

Tonight, my husband, a Cleveland native, is sitting with his remote in hand, flipping channels between the opening Cavs game and the opening World Series game. Like everyone who ever lived in Cleveland, he’s hoping to see it emerge as a City of Champions. But in many ways, it already has. They have improved their economy, attracted some of the best new businesses, fixed much of their crime issues, and started working on being a renaissance city, built for the future out of the ashes of their past. Continue reading

I Hear That Train A-Comin’ (updated)

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

Open Letter to Mayor and Council re: Post-2018 Waste Disposal

[Note: at the May 10 council meeting, our city representatives voted to defer action on the SPSA post-2018 Use and Support Agreement until the first meeting in June. In the interim, the city was to have solicited proposals for go-it-alone solid waste disposal plans. The city has released no information gathered from that process and is positioned to sign on to the regional trash deal this Tuesday.]
Mr. Mayor and Honorable Members of City Council:

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.

Please let me know if you need additional information.
Yours truly,
Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky

A Week Away from Big Decisions

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

On Building a “New Portsmouth”

Portsmouth has recently completed a round of Budget Community Engagement Meetings, which presented useful information on the city’s various programs. In gathering attendees’ responses to budgetary questions, the City took an important first step towards becoming more open and responsive to Portsmouth’s citizenry. The more citizens feel engaged in and important to the process, the more likely they will support the city’s efforts on their behalf.

However, spending for all these programs requires funding and there was little discussion of the City’s ongoing economic development plans. It seems evident that an overriding priority must be creative and continuing economic development, shared regularly, and as fully as possible, with the public. Without courageous and tenacious efforts to revitalizing business in the city, Portsmouth will never have sufficient funds to meet its obligations laid out in recent meetings. Such efforts will help preserve our current population of residents, and bring new residents to live, work and spend in our city. Following are some important ways to keep us moving forward. Continue reading

Publisher’s Note: Refusing to Surrender to Terrorists

For those as tired as I am of hearing political opportunists exploit the fears of our citizenry, a full-page ad on page 7 of the January 4, 2016, Virginian-Pilot was a sight for sore eyes. Ministers, rabbis, imams, community groups, and numerous citizens pledged to stand together against intolerance in its many manifestations. Not only were we happy to see it, but my wife and I were glad that the sponsors provided an opportunity for more of us to add our names to the initial, impressive list. Continue reading