By JOHN ORDEMAN
Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore
September 8, 2014
The ShoreLine editorial board announced several months ago that we have begun a campaign to get county Supervisors to hold occasional Town Hall meetings with their constituents, a practice that would give the people who elected them an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion with their representatives and enable the Supervisors to be more responsive to the will of the electorate.
All of the Northampton Supervisors responded to a query from ShoreLine asking whether they would schedule meetings with their constituents.
Granville Hogg, who has been holding Town Hall meetings ever since he joined the Board of Supervisors in January, wrote: “I have always thought Ron Wolff [the Accomack Supervisor who holds monthly public meetings] did a great job by meeting with his constituents. I decided it would be good for me to adopt a similar policy so long as residents were interested in what was happening. I would try to keep them informed and listen to what they thought was important. At those meetings I would exchange information with constituents. If there was disagreement, why did they disagree and what information were they relying on? In some cases, they had better information than I possessed; hence, I took that information into consideration for future decisions.”
Hogg’s statement is an excellent summary of what can be accomplished at Town Hall meetings, and it is remarkable that Hogg’s colleagues will not follow his example and give their constituents the opportunity to exchange information and debate issues with them.
Larry LeMond’s response to the query was, “I thought about holding a town hall meeting last year, but never got around to it. But I do think it is a good idea and I plan to hold one or two this year – probably the first one will be in July or August.”
Rick Hubbard wrote, “I will give your idea some consideration and look into possibly doing it sometime.”
Larry Trala sent word through Janice Williams that “he has no problem or objection to having constituent meetings.”
Oliver Bennett replied, “No comment.”
None of the Supervisors, other than Hogg, has held a Town Hall meeting in spite of the fact that Northampton County is embroiled in the most contentious issue — the proposed overhaul of zoning regulations — that residents have had to deal with in recent memory. [Read more...]
A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL
July 21, 2014
How many more people have to die, how many more vehicles must be destroyed, how many more close calls must there be before VDOT awakes to the deadly danger of Route 13 north and south of the Cape Charles traffic light? If Route 13 is Virginia’s most dangerous highway, we will nominate the Cape Charles/Cheriton area as the most dangerous patch of it.
The traffic light itself is not the problem so much as the multiple turnoffs mostly south of the light. Two of our neighbors had their cars totaled in the past few years — one trying to cross the highway to get to the Corner Mart, the other a victim of someone pulling out from McDonald’s directly in front of her.
Last week we saw something new and scary: a full-size charter bus leaving McDonald’s was trying to turn left onto Route 13. Judging by the line of cars behind the bus, the driver had to wait a long time for a break in the traffic.
Why does the speed limit drop to 45 mph on the bypass around Exmore but not in the Cape Charles/Cheriton area? The danger here is arguably worse than in Exmore (which funds their entire Police budget from speeding tickets).
Our most recent heart-stopper (and the inspiration for this editorial) came from waiting in the left-hand lane on 13 to turn onto Stone Road. An 18-wheeler roared past at full speed only a few feet away, violently shaking our stopped van in the jet stream. We were literally “sitting ducks.” And as everyone knows, a 55 mph limit means it is your God-given right (and duty) to drive 60 — and this trucker was doing his duty.
At least we were encased in a two-ton van; pity the pedestrian who tries to navigate that death-trap. Earl Wayne Spady was hit by a truck last month while trying to cross Route 13 on foot at night. May he rest in peace. [Read more...]
A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL
May 5, 2014
Although the ballot for Tuesday’s municipal elections in Cape Charles contains eight names, deciding whom to vote for is not as complicated as it might appear. There are really only two teams – the old team and the new team. All a voter has to decide is whether to keep the old team or elect the new team.
True, of the eight candidates, only two of them are running for re-election: Town Council members Chris Bannon and Joan Natali. They form half of the old team. The other half is composed of George Proto for mayor and Charles “Sambo” Brown for Council. But the only reason those two are running is because the Sullivans, Dora and Mike, decided not to run.
While it can be argued that Mr. Proto and Mr. Brown have very different styles from Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan, it is a certainty that neither of them would have run against the Sullivans. They are, in fact, Mayor Sullivan’s hand-picked successors.
The new team is a very different story: each of the four candidates is running because they are alarmed by the direction the old team is taking the town. Understanding that in a democracy the only sure way to effect change is at the ballot box, they are opposing the incumbents and their designated successors.
The new team is Frank Wendell for mayor and Deborah Bender, David Gay, and Lynn Mitchell-Fields for Council. Each has his or her own ideas, but on the over-arching issues they agree: town spending is out of control, as are town utility bills. The town is borrowing like there is no tomorrow, and a number of full-time residents who work here for a living are moving out of town to avoid the extortive water bills and high taxes. [Read more...]
A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL
May 4, 2014
Cape Charles residents owe a metaphorical vote of thanks to every candidate running for election on Tuesday, because in most of the rest of Northampton County — Cheriton, Eastville, Nassawadox, and Belle Haven — candidates for mayor are unopposed. Only in Cape Charles and Exmore do voters have a choice.
Dora Sullivan also ran unopposed eight years ago when she was first elected mayor. So we see the contrast of this year’s political contest as a healthy sign of democracy in action. We’re also encouraged by the fact that both mayoral candidates are fine exemplars of Cape Charles – both are upstanding citizens willing to expend a great deal of time and effort in the name of public service.
We believe that either candidate for mayor would serve to the best of his ability, and would uphold the principles of honesty and fairness. That said, we cannot vote for both of them; we must make a choice. And we believe there are overwhelming reasons to vote Frank Wendell for mayor of Cape Charles.
1. Frank Wendell has a long, outstanding record of public service to this, his hometown. As a young man he served on Town Council for 12 years before “retiring” to devote more time to his business and family. Then, two years ago, outraged by the secret plans to divest the town’s school and auditorium, basketball court, and parkland, he returned to public service, winning a seat on Town Council.
2. Mr. Wendell has never shrunk from fighting the good fight. Almost 20 years ago he led the opposition to County plans to permit a maximum-security federal prison to be built nearby. Dickie Foster subsequently stated that if the prison had been constructed, he never would have built Bay Creek.
3. As a current Town Council member, Mr. Wendell was the only one to recognize the foolhardiness of encouraging commercial development on Route 13 by extending a sewer pipe from the town’s wastewater plant. Other Council members have admitted that Rayfield’s Pharmacy could go out of business if the town facilitates competition on the highway, but they want to go ahead anyway. They seem not to understand that while the town has no legal control over what happens on the highway, it has the power of the pipe.
4. Likewise, Mr. Wendell is the only Council member who understands the importance of negotiating with developers to ensure the town’s best interests. When a developer requested exemption from timely payment of utility fees and other town code requirements, only Mr. Wendell urged a quid pro quo in the form of negotiating for adequate downtown parking. [Read more...]
A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL
April 15, 2014
The photo at right of an anonymous poster outside the Post Office asks, “Will the Wave try to control the Town election?” But until now the Wave has been almost silent on the May 6 election for mayor and Town Council. When the eight candidates filed, we published an impartial story listing their names and brief bios. We intend to let the candidates tell their own stories, and invite them to write a few paragraphs on “Why I’m Running for Mayor” and “Why I’m Running for Town Council” to inform our several thousand readers.
But in this hotly contested election there are already signs (pun intended) of manipulation. And not for the first time – the November 2012 special election for a Town Council seat was shamelessly manipulated by the town power structure, taking advantage of the good name of Arts Enter as the “sponsor” of a candidates forum. In fact, assistant town manager Bob Panek masterminded that forum, and although his name did not even appear in the list of volunteers, like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain it was Panek who selected questions from the audience and decided to whom they would be asked. All the while, he displayed a sign in his yard for candidate Steve Bennett.
In this year’s election, Council incumbent Joan Natali was first off the line in blanketing the town with campaign signs, and no one complained. But later when opposition candidates David Gay, Deborah Bender, and Lynn Mitchell-Fields began matching the Natali signs with their own, the town took action, and most of the signs were confiscated by the Police Department under the excuse that they were not allowed in the right-of-way (even in front of private residences). Ironically, Natali was responsible for that town regulation, enacted in reaction to the “Community Center YES” signs of a previous battle.
Next comes the curious question of the “second” candidates forum sponsored by Cape Charles Rotary. Following the town staff’s manipulation of the previous forum mentioned above, the non-political Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore (CBES) agreed to host a forum for Cape Charles candidates. CBES has a long history of hosting candidate debates, and most recently held two forums for County Supervisors and School Board candidates in last November’s elections. At that time no one seemed concerned that a CBES forum might not be enough. [Read more...]
March 24, 2014
Going to the Post Office, it’s hard to miss the posters attacking the Wave, including accusations of “schemes to denigrate our town.” Another claim stapled to the telephone pole is that “the Wave has been screaming about wasteful spending and that we are going bankrupt.”
The postings appeared on the telephone pole this past Friday, the morning after former town councilman Larry Veber addressed Town Council with a similar message. “Something that’s very concerning,” Veber related, “from what I hear from people who come into town. Two people recently that love Cape Charles and were so impressed with Cape Charles – they looked at everything, and said, ‘listen – we understand your town is going bankrupt!’ . . . ‘Everything we read about in the Wave – it’s bankrupt. You guys are going under! You are really in serious, serious trouble!’”
Veber continued, “We need to have somebody who’s going to give the information and not editorialize it.” . . . “There’s a group somewhere that keeps on talking, keeps on beating, and it’s hurting our town – in my opinion it’s having a tremendous negative effect on Cape Charles.”
Our response is that Mr. Veber’s accusations are utterly ridiculous and without foundation. What he doesn’t like is that the Wave actually reports the news – good and bad. The inner circles of any government never want bad news reported, and if possible they will print their own Pravda – or in the town’s case, the Gazette. [Read more...]
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following editorial is reprinted by permission from the Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore newsletter, ShoreLine.
March 10, 2014
Those who read ShoreLine regularly know that we’ve taken a strong interest in Northampton County’s revision of its zoning ordinance. The editorial board is unanimously agreed that the ordinance needs revision — and we’re unanimously agreed that the County’s conduct of that revision has been so poor that it has raised the spectre of embarrassing legal action.
What’s been wrong with the process? First, the public has been effectively shut out. There has been no informed public involvement in developing the revision. The so-called public information meetings on the draft revision held in December were virtually meaningless because no presentations actually informed the public about the draft ordinance. Maps were displayed and staffers, available to answer the public’s questions, were more than willing to expound upon minor details. This process tended to obfuscate the real changes. In fact, without substantive information, it was hard to know what questions to ask. [Read more...]
A CAPE CHARLES WAVE EDITORIAL
January 16, 2014
At 5:15 p.m. today (Thursday), members of Cape Charles Town Council will go behind closed doors at Town Hall for an “executive session.” (The Wave has been criticized in the past for referring to such meetings as “secret.”)
Virginia state law requires almost every action, or even discussion, by publicly elected or appointed bodies to be open to the public, with records available. There are only a few exceptions — personnel matters being the most important. If Town Council wishes to interview candidates for, say, chief of police, the candidates understandably deserve privacy.
But today, Town Council is meeting to consider buying or selling property. That much we know, because state law requires the Town to state the reason for its “executive” session.
Here is the reason provided by the Town Clerk:
Discussion or consideration of the acquisition of real property for a public purpose, or of the disposition of publicly held real property, where discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body. Specifically: Discussion of property leased by the Town and Town-owned property.
So, we know that today Town Council will discuss property leased by the Town, with the idea of buying it, and property owned by the Town, with the idea of selling it. What we don’t know is — just what property?
The only allowance under state law to privately discuss the sale or purchase of property is if “discussion in an open meeting would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy” of the Town. Note that any “adverse effect” must be on the Town – not the other party. [Read more...]