Suffolk City Council modus operandi in action

This video is from the Feb 20, 2013 Public Hearing on the Capital Improvements Plan (CIP). This hearing perfectly demonstrates City Council modus operandi. None of the documentation released by the city on the Seaboard Coastline trail mentioned the grant funding came from the Federal government, via the Federal Highway Administration. Only that the it comes from VDOT, when VDOT is merely the middle man for this money.

Citizens of Suffolk, the city council has made a habit of releasing only the bare minimum of information about the goings-on in Suffolk. When the citizenry dare to question them, they use the information they’ve withheld to do whatever they can to make the citizens look foolish and ignorant. How much longer will we put up with this?

**Full disclosure – I am the Lorraine seen in the video, I am Suffolk HRTP’s social media person. Comments I made at the Council were previously discussed at the Suffolk HRTP bi-monthly meeting, and some of the ideas mentioned were suggested at our meeting. However, comments to Council were my own, I was not speaking on behalf of Suffolk HRTP at that moment.

Where is Your Tax Money Going?

There will be a public hearing on the city’s proposed Capital Improvements Plan this coming Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at the regular City Council meeting. This is our chance to have a say in where the City of Suffolk is spending our tax dollars.

One project on this list that likely needs to be jettisoned is the Suffolk Seaboard Trail. This is a proposed 11 mile hiking/biking trail following the path of the former railway line. While it sounds like a good idea, this project requires the city to put up $190,000 dollars in order to get a $747,000 grant from Virginia Department of Transportation. Yes, the same DOT that is having trouble filling potholes & repairing roads throughout the state is looking to send $747,000 to pave over an old rail line. Oh, and don’t forget – this project will add $25,000 to the city’s budget each year for upkeep and maintenance to the Trail. Is this really a good use of both state and city funds in today’s economy?

Another potential money drain is the slated Bennett’s Creek Recreation Center. The city will acquire the Armory Building on Bennett’s Creek Park Road in a land swap with the Army. They want to dump 1.5 MILLION dollars into the building to convert it into a rec center, which will add close to HALF A MILLION dollars to the city budget EVERY YEAR in staffing, upkeep, & maintenance. We all know that amount will only increase each year. What’s worse, this proposed rec center is only a hop, skip, & jump away from a current rec center! Creekside Rec Center, located in Creekside Elementary, is right on the corner of Bennett’s Creek Park Road. Here’s a map of the city’s current rec centers, with the proposed location being the red balloon:

So, just to get the straight, we have firefighters & police officers who haven’t seen a decent raise in years. We’ve got teacher who also haven’t had a decent raise, and a school system that is currently rationing paper and other supplies. But, oh, let’s dump 1.5 million this year and add half a million to the budget yearly for a rec center, that will be located right down the road from a current rec center, and up the road from a city park. Because that’s a brilliant use of taxpayer dollars right there, isn’t it?

This is just the start. Read through the plan yourself. Bring your findings to our next meeting, Feb 19, 2013. We’d love to hear what our members spot that we may have missed.

Follow the Money, Local Candidates in the 2012 election

Suffolk News Herald has a story out today about the end of election spending, Candidate Spend Heavily At the End. This is interesting to read to see who spent what and where the money went. For example, Leroy Bennet paid his wife – again. Linda Johnson dropped some serious coin on a direct mail campaign, while Art Bredemeyer still owes himself over 6,000$ for a loan he made to his campaign.

Lue Ward proved you don’t need to spend much at all if you really know your audience. Despite council seats being “non-partisan”, he paid 150$ to be able to use the VA Democrats VAN system – a votebuilder program that allows a candidate to target their campaign to likely democrat voters.

Fawcett dropped over 16 grand into the same direct mail company Linda Johnson uses, Creative Direct, LLC, which, interestingly enough, targets Republican voters.

Curtis Milteer spent about 1500$ paying poll workers – despite the fact that he was running unopposed. In an unopposed race, he spent over $7,000 on what was essentially a sure thing.  And this guy is one of the ones in charge of the city budget?

At least newly-elected School Board member Diane Foster – who also ran unopposed – had the good sense not to spend more than 1,000$ of her own money on her unopposed campaign.

But – even more interesting than where the money went, is where it came from. Follow the money, people, follow the money.

Mayor Linda Johnson received $18,900 from Real Estate Developers & contractors. Ms. Johnson is also an active real estate agent. I don’t care what she says, it looks fishy for someone who makes their money from selling homes, to also be in a position to approve the building of new homes, and to be receiving thousands of dollars to her campaign from those who want to build the homes she will eventually have a chance to sell.

Roger Fawcett’s money mostly came from his own family, as did Lue Ward’s, however, Ward also received a donation from Democrat Delegate to the VA House of Delagates Lionell Spruill.

Curtis Milteer raised over $11,000 – despite running unopposed! About half of that money came from Real Estate Developers, surprise, suprise. Milteer also received money from Delagate Lionell Spruill, and fellow councilman Charles Parr’s funeral home, as well as $300 from BSMC – a group called Businesses Supporting Minority Candidates.  BSMC got it’s start in 2005 under a different name though — Blacks Supporting Minority Candidates.