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: Ending Life Support for VSHoF&M

If the Sports Section of the Virginian-Pilot is something you automatically place in the recycle bin after glancing at the five-day weather predictions on the back page, you may well have missed the “Portsmouth news story of the day” regarding the future of city funding for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Although I have expressed my opposition early and often to public subsidies for the VSHoF&M, once it came into existence, I advocated a gradual, incremental reduction in city funding rather than a “cold turkey” cutoff of taxpayer dollars. The direction taken by the ruling coalition on council during this budget season, however, appears to be termination of fiscal life support for the Hall of Fame. Continue reading

An Open Letter on the FY 2016 Budget

Mr. Mayor and Honorable Members of Council:

Watching all of you cut and paste the budget for the next fiscal year has been like observing politicians make sausage. It is definitely the worst of both politics and pork processing. On the positive side, keeping school funding at the level requested by the school board demonstrates some degree of leadership. You could be doing better with the rest of it, though.

First, Council Member Meeks was onto something when he questioned the lockstep raises for current and retired city employees. One group of retirees came into an enormous windfall last fiscal year with the elimination, at a major cost to taxpayers, of the Social Security offset. The participants in the Portsmouth Supplemental Retirement System plan should be able to get along on what amounted to a 100% increase in net benefits for the remainder of their lives without panhandling the citizenry for more. Additionally, shoring up the PSRS with $173 million in pension obligation bonds and making the actuarially appropriate annual required contributions should allow that plan to provide its own benefit increases from earnings on investments. That is the way private sector plans work and should be the model the city follows. Continue reading