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Showdown In Cronytown

Showdown In Cronytown

Today is the day. The final Virginia Beach City Council meeting of 2018.

That means it’s also the swan song for two of developer Bruce Thompson’s most loyal acolytes. Come January John Uhrin and Ben Davenport will be gone and two new members will join the council.

Both newbies campaigned as good government types. 

That scares local crony capitalists.

City Manager Dave Hansen, who seems to have given up all pretense of working for the people and now functions mostly as a lackey for Thompson, is in an apparent frenzy to get the Atlantic Avenue rerouting underway before the mood changes on City Council.

Still, there are last-minute rumblings about scrapping the project.

Council members John Moss and Jessica Abbott are introducing a resolution today that would direct the city manager “not to reconfigure Atlantic Avenue near 40th Street but instead to retain Atlantic Avenue as a through street for vehicular traffic to Pacific Avenue.”

OK, they’re probably tilting at windmills, but Moss and Abbott will at least force their colleagues to once again publicly declare their support for a ridiculous road project that benefits just one developer.

A developer who has belatedly agreed to pay the $2.5 million cost of the reconfiguration only after repeated attempts by the city manager failed to get Richmond to pick up the tab.

Hansen is in such a rush that he, ah, misrepresented the mood of the owner of Pacifica Restaurant at 40th Street to City Council. A small piece of Pacifica’s property is needed for the project to proceed.

In a recent letter to council members Hansen merrily described Chris Glover as a “willing seller” who’d agreed to the plan.

Not even close.

When I spoke with him yesterday, Glover said he definitely was not willing. He said he did meet with representatives of the city’s real estate office on November 27 to discuss a proposal to buy some of his property for the project but he agreed to nothing. In fact, he raised serious concerns about how detrimental the new traffic pattern and the loss of parking would be to his business.

Last week Glover told WAVY TV 10 that he was being pressured by city officials.

“They are saying if I don’t do it now and make a little money, then if I were to wait I won’t make any money," Glover said.

Glover told me the real estate officials were clear: “They said we’re looking for you to say yes and if I didn’t, it’s going to happen in five years.”

Sounds like a threat to me.

“All I want is a fair shake,” Glover said with resignation.

Alas, you’re in the wrong city for that.

When I spoke to him last night, Moss - who has called for Hansen to be sacked - used Navy lingo to describe the city manager’s recent behavior:  "Truth be told we have a bad command climate right now."

Bad command climate. That’s a polite way to describe what’s happened at City Hall.

Once one developer is allowed to turn a thoroughfare into a cul-de-sac to facilitate his business, how long till others demand to do the same? 

On his Facebook page last weekend, Moss accused the city manager of ginning up a public purpose for this project .

“There is no doubt the City Manager has spun a well disguised public purpose explanation for closing Atlantic Avenue to supplant in reality what was a solution motivated by the private need of a single developer.

A developer the City Manager has had a longtime relationship with, a relationship well documented in publicly released emails.

A relationship that is so close that the City Manager would share this Council Member’s e-mail to the City Manager on an Executive Session topic involving said developer. Clearly the public’s interest in the former instance was secondary to his relationship with the developer.

We all know the identity of the developer.

Until Bruce Thompson needed Atlantic Avenue closed there was no city manager lobbying Council to close Atlantic Ave off from Pacific at the northern terminus. After BT wanted it closed, the City Manager was eagerly making promises of outcomes not yet shared with or authorized by City Council to fabricate the appearance of wide spread public support…

I suffer under no delusions that the greater public good and virtue will be upheld next Tuesday.

I understand why hundreds of thousands of dollars were invested in the recent Council election by individuals to include Bruce Thompson to eliminate voices like mine on City Council to preclude the public’s voice being heard from the dais.

When private greed is fused with political power rarely are the values of our republic well served.”

Well said, Mr. Moss.

If you’ve ever wanted to see cronyism in action, this is your lucky day. Be at Virginia Beach City Hall at 6 p.m.

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