VA State Legislators Tell City Council to Get in Line

“If you want to have the state involved … there’s a lot of projects that are in front of it,” Delegate Chris Jones R-76 said. “You have to get in line, and it has to be a priority.”

via Legislators discuss library | The Suffolk News-Herald.

Last year, I worked with the Suffolk Chapter of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, and we got the city to postpone the library project, a replacement of Morgan Memorial Library, a perfectly fine library near the heart of downtown.  They had planned to spend 1.5 million dollars buying up the land, for a library they were not projecting to build until sometime after 2019.  It seemed a ridiculous waste of money considering they were already planning to raise taxes, and did NOT have the full 9 million extra the school system was requesting.  So City Council was forced to defer the project.

This year, they’ve partnered with Paul De Camp Community College for 2 reasons.  First, to try to get grant money from the state to fund the project. Second, to make the Tea Party types shut up about it, because how could we possibly be against education?  /eyeroll

The new library will be on the corner of Lee & West Washington, where there are several houses & business right now, so that land would have to bought and taken off the tax rolls.  Also, it will cost $22 MILLION dollars!  That’s twice the cost of the new city hall!

Our illustrious mayor, Ms. Linda Johnson, has said in the past that she really wants this library project to go forward. She honestly believes that if we have a spiffy new library across from our spiffy new City Hall, that people will just love to hang out there.  Because, oh yes – when I think of where I want to go hang out and relax, I think City Hall.  /eyeroll   No, I am not joking. She actually said that.  You’d have to go through the archives of the City Council meeting discussing the project, but it’s there.

So the Council really wants this project, but they know they will face resistance again.  They joined up with PDCCC to try to circumvent the resistance by getting state money.  However, state legislators are telling them that the money won’t come from the state anytime soon.  LOL!

Dear citizens of Suffolk, be prepared, and start fighting this NOW!  Go to council meetings and speak up during the Non-Agenda Speakers time!  Start telling the council NOW that this project needs to stop, the city does not have the money, and the legislators have made it clear that the money won’t be coming from the state anytime soon.

Budget Battle Starts Today!

Money-01The Budget Battle starts today!!! At the City Council Retreat (currently going on right now at the Health & Human Services building) The council is discussing things that will impact the budget in big ways. If you have a few free moments today and tomorrow, please pop over there and make sure they know we are watching!

Here is the agenda:
Thursday

8:30 to 9 a.m. — Breakfast
9 to 9:30 a.m. — Welcome, retreat agenda review, video
9:30 to 10:45 a.m. — Economic development accomplishments, public safety accomplishments, financial accomplishments
10:45 to 11 a.m. — Council-city manager form of government
11 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Lunch break
2 to 2:30 p.m. — Assessor update
2:30 to 3:45 p.m. — Capital Improvements Plan: Neighborhood, water and transportation projects
3:45 to 4 p.m. — Break
4 to 5 p.m. — Quality of life: Parks, Social Services and libraries

Friday

8:30 to 9 a.m. — Breakfast
9 to 10 a.m. — Southeastern Public Service Authority
10 to 10:15 a.m. — Break
10:15 to 10:45 a.m. — Goals and objectives
10:45 to 11:45 a.m. — Employee health, wellness and benefits
11:45 a.m. to noon — Break
Noon to 12:45 p.m. — Working lunch: Comprehensive plan
12:45 to 1:15 p.m. — Recap and wrap-up

Suffolk City Manager gets a 14% pay raise

Wednesday, January 16, 2013, the Suffolk City Council surprised everyone with a vote to give City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn a 14% pay raise, in addition to a benefits package that includes a payment of 12,000$ a year into a retirement account, and health & dental covered 100% by the city.  (VA Daily Pilot, Suffolk News Herald)

Oh, and this new 14% raise, is in addition to the 2% raise ALL city employees, including Ms. Cuffee-Glenn, got last year.

But this shouldn’t be surprising to folks who are involved! Anyone remember the budget battle of April 2012?  Remember the idea of a 21% raise for Ms Cuffee-Glenn was one of four double digit raises the City Manager had included in the budget, citing a salary study.  There was an uproar, mostly from the school system, who, having run out of Federal money, found themselves faced with 7 million dollars less than the year before.  In order to pacify the School Board, the city raided the transportation fund, and “found” a few million to throw their way.  Then Mayor Linda Johnson claimed the double digit pay raises were NEVER part of the budget, and that they would be implementing the salary study in three parts, coordinating with performance evaluations.

Fact is, it was in the budget. The Final Budget Proposal offered in the first week of May showed a 27% increase in the salary of the City Manager’s Office — 5 people plus Ms. Cuffee-Glenn.  That breaks down to 2% for all six members of the office, with an additional 15% of salary money unaccounted for – until now.

People of Suffolk, the City Council & the School Board are hard at work formulating Budget 13-14 NOW!  It is vitally important that we pay attention to what is being approved in the various city commisions & boards.  This will determine the next budget.

If we don’t make our voices heard now, it will be too late.

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.
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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.