Our Virginia Beach City Council has a history of requesting and then ignoring citizen input or in some cases simply ignoring citizen input all together. Now council insults citizens who only want a petition to request a referendum.
Of course, the most outrageous episode of ignoring citizens input is the albatross, also known as the 31st St hotel, that still hangs around the neck of our City Council . Initially, citizens requested that council place a referendum on the ballot so citizens could vote for a park or for a hotel. Council refused to put the referendum on the ballot. Dissatisfied with council’s heavy hand, more than enough citizens signed a petition for a park in that area and forced council to put a referendum on the ballot. Then, citizens voted for a park only. Our City Council basically said they did not care about the referendum or what citizens wanted and built the hotel to suit themselves.
A second example of council ignoring citizen input was the Voices on Redevelopment program. Citizens voluntarily attended a number of meetings sponsored by and attended by city staff. Citizens spoke on many issues which were recorded and later produced for all participants to review. A number of citizens, in good faith, participated in several forums that were presented to other citizens. After all that, city staff was supposed to gather all the information and produce a report that would accurately reflect citizens attitudes and needs on “Voices on Redevelopment.”
The report was never written. Citizen’s efforts were filed away and ignored.
Council has ignored citizens entirely by borrowing huge sums of money (about $625 million) through the Economic Development Authority (EDA). There is no law to prevent council from borrowing through the EDA. It is a slick way to borrow, heap more debt on taxpayers and avoid a referendum.
In their op-ed on Sunday, two council members say that citizens of Virginia Beach deserve a light rail study process with integrity” and they are leaving “no stones unturned” finding public input.
HRT, the organization with the most to gain from light rail development and long term benefits from maintenance and operations, will conduct the study through a consultant. Some integrity. Council can turn over all the stones in the park, but if council is going to ignore the results it becomes another useless exercise and abuse of citizen’s trust.
Council members insult citizens by suggesting some are trying to “promote narrow agendas” and trying to “hijack legitimate environmental processes.” There is no narrow agenda. The request for a referendum is to prevent city council from “hijacking” the final decision especially in light of the statements by some members in favor of light rail (even without the final EIS). Citizens don’t want HRT and the developers to “hijack” the development of our city.
Citizens should participate in every opportunity to track the study, obtain and review documentation and force our Virginia Beach City Council to live up to its commitments to have a referendum on light rail.
Most especially, citizens should participate in this and other studies, stay involved and vote in the next city council election.