Backwards Parking, Chimneys, and Wee King Neptune
By WAYNE CREED
Cape Charles Wave Columnist
June 1, 2015
In last week’s Wave, it was reported that a smaller version of Virginia Beach’s giant Neptune sculpture had been donated by patron Wyndham Price, and would be placed on the boardwalk. What seemed like a very generous offer was instead attacked by some as being utterly inappropriate, almost an insult to our refined sensibilities. One critic said that the work should instead be “a more appropriate symbol signifying who we are.”
My first impression was that the town should immediately commission an artist to create a work to symbolize the “New Cape Charles,” one that conveys a narrative of who we are. Maybe a work comprised of a pig, a bird, and a snake to symbolize the three Buddhist poisons of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
But then I stopped: Is “who we are” a question we really want answered?
A case in point: Over at the old library, now arbitrarily called the “Civic Center” instead of what it really is, the Town Hall, the Historic District Review Board recently voted to remove the chimneys because they were leaking. After several anemic attempts by Public Works to repair them, the town decided it would be easier to just tear them down.
It seems the town is always quite ready to hang its hat on the historical integrity of Cape Charles when it suits them (usually when developer tax credits are on the line), but when it comes to maintaining the integrity (historical character) of a true historical structure they seem more than willing to rape and violate it, generally out of nothing more than sheer laziness and incompetence.
For years, the town allowed the old school to fall into a state of disrepair. This was a willful and illegal act, and instead of making simple, inexpensive fixes, like new windows to keep out the water, they instead amused themselves by making up the most fraudulent stories about the place’s ultimate demise. Carpet baggers from Richmond have recently exposed those tall tales as nothing but silly little lies.
CONTINUED FROM FIRST PAGE
Now let’s get this straight: According to Town Council members Joan Natali and Chris Bannon, the taxpayers have to foot close to $50,000 to pay a contractor to paint curbing along with some walls inside of the pumping stations. The rationale, according to Natali and Bannon, is that Public Works does not have the expertise (someone that can take a brush, dip it in a can of paint, and spread it over a surface) to do the work, and that we should pay people with everyday expertise to “do what they do.”
If that’s the case, when it comes to the flashing around the chimneys at the old library, why would you give Public Works, who apparently doesn’t have anyone that knows how to operate a paint brush, the delicate task of fixing a leaking chimney on a 100-year old historic building? If logic holds, you would bring in someone like Sean Ingram of QS, who has the expertise to perform that kind of work “everyday.”
The solution, of course, was to avoid any form of intricate thought process, or work, and like spoiled toddlers, just rip the chimneys out, historic preservation be damned. Even as the HDRB may have sent this on to Council as a recommendation, you would think there would be at least a teeny bit of inquisitiveness as to why Public Works had requested bastardizing a historic building rather than just fixing the simple problem. Councilman Steve Bennett’s wife serves as president of the Northampton Historic Preservation Society — surely he could have gotten her opinion on this.
Walking past the old library on Thursday, I saw workers up on the roof, and they had already torn out one of the chimneys. At first, I started to just keep walking, but then I turned around and I wondered, just who issued that work order, and without Town Council approval? Did Town Manager Brent Manuel bypass Council as well as Commonwealth code, and make an executive decision to spend taxpayer funds on his own? Or was it Public Works or Code Enforcement, or both?
After some calls and complaints, it should be noted that Mayor Proto, realizing the illegality of the situation, ordered all removal work to stop.
Note: If the Town is going to pay someone to rip the chimneys out, why not just pay the dude to fix the leak instead, thus stopping water damage while preserving the historical integrity of the old church?
Taken with the reverse angle parking boondoggle, this event also highlights a disturbing pattern. The painting of the reverse angle lines (“bassackwards” as some have said), may have been ill conceived, poorly thought out and stupidly executed, but the real issue is that the town illegally put up signs demanding that drivers back into spaces, and then started issuing tickets if they did not.
However, they forgot to create an ordinance first. Did someone order the police to begin issuing tickets, or did Chief Pruitt just take it upon himself to begin doing so? Again, once notified about the ticket situation, Mayor Proto had to run down to Front Street and put a stop to it.
With a relatively new mayor, and a brand new town manager, what we are witnessing is a disturbing leadership vacuum, and a staff that appears to be going rogue when they should be standing down, awaiting instruction from Council. Of course, this has been going on for some time, and is the logical outcome of a leadership structure based not on talent, intelligence, wit, and more importantly, cultural and historical knowledge, but instead on an imported power structure weaned on years of flaccid bureaucratic experience without any hands-on experience accomplishing even the most rudimentary task themselves.
The inanely fantastical (oversized, over cost) wastewater plant is the mutant offspring of this tribe. How big it grows, and whether it will eventually devour its own mother is the nervous question on the minds of rural preservationists and fragile Cape Charles businesses.
The swallowing up of the old Cape Charles and the regurgitation of something different in its place has been the mode for some time now. It does seem odd that many of those jumping and yelling the loudest about the reverse angle parking are many of the same ones that marched lockstep with the architects of spoil and scorched earth against the ordinary people and the real Cape Charles (using the old school as a social, political, cultural, and historical attack against the underserved and under-represented).
Well, there you have it on who we are: the new, regurgitated Cape Charles, comprised of a slow slog of mundane ideas and a generalized lack of substance.
On the bright side, the wee Neptune donated by Mr. Price (a gesture of a gentleman) still seems like a rather engaging work, and maybe finding a home for him to watch the sun set over one of the most beautiful parts of his kingdom may be more appropriate then we think. An interesting fact: the big Neptune in Virginia Beach is gazing west, away from the sea, looking inward not outward (towards the incoming tourist dollars). With wee Neptune, we can point his gaze where it should have been all along—towards the water, reminding us where we all should be looking in the first place.
I wonder how it is that this town continually attracts people who are seemingly incapable of grasping this simple truth, and instead complicate things with idiotic ideas like the Art Walk, an artificial attraction meant to distract the gadfly gaze. Yeah, I know what you’re going to say, “Wayne, it’s about the tourists now, so why don’t you shut up and go mix another martini. You’re annoying us again.”
Maybe you’re right. But wee Neptune, my funk soul brother — I still got your back.