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.
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.
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
With the election of Council Member Paige Cherry as Portsmouth City Treasurer, a vacancy on city council will occur in relatively short order. No doubt, council is already engaged in backroom conversations about who will fill CM Cherry’s slot once he resigns to assume his new position. Under Virginia Code and the city charter, the mayor and remaining council members have the authority to appoint an interim replacement. Since CM Cherry took his seat in January of 2015, someone running in the 2018 local election will replace the appointee next fall. Continue reading
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
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.
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)
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
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