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

Publisher’s Notebook: Open Letter to Council on Filling the Vacancy

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

City Council Candidate Forum, September 10, 2016

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Portsmouth Taxpayer Alliance Co-chair and Forum Moderator Pat Simons

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)

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Candidate Leon J. Boone

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Candidate Nathan J. Clark

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Candidate Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky

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Candidate Lisa L. Lucas-Burke

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Council Member Elizabeth M. Psimas

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Candidate S. C. “Cathy” Revell

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Candidate Ray A. Smith, Sr.

Publisher’s Notebook: People for Portsmouth Endorsements and Interview

For a long-time advocate of openness in the civic realm, the candidate endorsements by the People for Portsmouth Political Action Committee were epoch making. Many organizations in our city and region — the Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Steering Committee, the teachers association, the firefighters’ union, the police association, the realtors’ association, to name a few — select their favorite candidates, bestowing praise and often contributions upon them. Some of these groups vet candidates through a nominally competitive process involving questionnaires and interviews for everyone running; others, anoint their champions in backrooms without any notice to non-members that they are deciding whom to endorse. Whatever the process, as private organizations they are free to choose whomever they like for reasons known only to members of the selection committees. Continue reading

School Board Candidate Forum, August 25, 2016

The People for Portsmouth Political Action Committee hosted a school board candidate forum at the Scottish Rite Center on Cedar Lane. All eight candidates — incumbent Board Members Sarah Duncan Hinds, Ted Lamb, Keith Nance, and Costella Williams; and challengers Angelia Allen, Lakeesha “Klu” Atkinson, De’Andre Barnes, and Joanne Clarke — attended and gave good account of themselves. Ms. Laura Geller, the lead investigative reporter for WVEC-TV13 News Now, served as moderator. Continue reading

Publisher’s Notebook: The Chat & Chew Saga

DSC03386Earlier this year Bishop Barry Randall initiated a series of conversations about race relations in our hometown of Portsmouth. When he scheduled the second one, I urged him to allow PCW to video record it. I was most favorably impressed with first one, but was regretful that it would not be available to a wider audience than those in the room on the night it occurred. He accepted my proposal, which enabled us to become the official media sponsor of that event. Unfortunately, a “Murphy’s Law” scenario led to the loss of all but the last ten minutes of that program. C’est la vie! Luckily, he afforded us a second chance, and we captured the entirety of the third panel discussion, Chat & Chew III: Hard Talk about Police and Community Relations. Continue reading

City of Portsmouth Presentation on Political Signage Regulations

DSC03317On August 16, 2016, city officials briefed candidates seeking local office regarding the regulation of campaign signs. Given the record number of people running for elective office this year, Director of Permits and Inspections Douglas K. Smith said that the city wanted to get out in front of potential issues of inappropriate sign placement through an education initiative. In (silent) partnership with the city, PCW has posted a video of the information session and a copy of the handout provided to those in attendance. Please direct questions to the Department of Permits and Inspections at 757 393-8531.

Some Random (and not so Random) Thoughts

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[Guest contributor Andrew Lewis is an educator in Palm Beach County, FL, and a family member of the publisher. This opinion piece originally appeared on his Facebook page and is transcribed here with his permission. Although PortsmouthCityWatch.org is focused on local issues, we found relevance in this posting to what is occurring in our hometown.]

“…and I’m just asking for other parts of our democracy, along with the free press, to help us; to help us, and not put that burden all on law enforcement to resolve.”
David Brown, Dallas Police Chief

We had five minutes before class ended, and the class had completed their Continue reading

Cavalier Manor Meeting on Multifamily Proposal

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Herman & Kittle Properties, Inc., project team briefs Cavalier Manor residents on development proposal

On June 27, 2016, the Cavalier Manor Civic League held a special meeting to consider a proposed multifamily development on the site of the former Tazewell Apartments. A handout distributed to those in attendance is available for download as a PDF by clicking The Pointe at Greenwood. Video of the meeting is available in two segments from the PortsmouthCityWatch.org YouTube Channel: https://youtu.be/Lvnsn7VgcsI (part 1) and https://youtu.be/i24Ir08KVIs (part 2). The sentiment of the league executive board and the members who saw the presentation was to hold out for a proposal for building single-family homes. Unless Herman & Kittle Properties, Inc., withdraws its application for a multifamily use permit, this matter should come before the Planning Commission for approval in August.

Open Letter 2 to Mayor and Council re: Post-2018 Waste Disposal

Mr. Mayor and Honorable Members of City Council:

I had wanted to write this immediately after the last meeting of council, but life got in the way, so better late than never. I appreciate your vigorous pursuit of an answer regarding the failure of the post-2018 municipal waste disposal RFP process to deliver a workable alternative to what SPSA has offered its member communities. You could have taken the easy way out and affirmed the judgment of the city purchasing administrator that neither of the bids was in the best interests of the city. Instead, in the June 14 work session, Council Member Whitaker asked the right questions of Mr. Ammons, and the mayor and council colleagues supported his efforts to obtain an explanation of the purchasing agent’s ruling. Although I do not know what clarification you may have extracted in closed session, I am pleased that you did not let the matter lie. I hope that this upcoming meeting of council will bring additional relevant information into the public realm and facilitate reaching a waste disposal decision that is truly in the best interests of the citizenry. Continue reading