Tide Is Turning In Virginia Beach
It doesn’t make sense. Yet it fills us good government types with hope.
Earlier today, the mayor of Virginia Beach, who according to The Virginia Public Access Project spent $735,508 on his re-election in 2016, announced that he’s quitting.
Just 16 months into his third term.
He gave no reason, other than some gibberish about vague “opportunities” awaiting him in the private sector.
Sorry. Not buying it. There’s something else going on. Let’s all sit tight and see when the other shoe drops.
It always does. Eventually.
Rumors have been flying for weeks that Will Sessoms was about to resign.
While his supporters will try to burnish his record, Sessoms’ last few years in office have been both tawdry and peppered with losses.
First, there was his conviction on a conflict-of-interest charge in December of 2015. Not a good look.
Undeterred, he ran for re-election anyway. Then, on the same night that 54% of the voters sent Sessoms back to City Hall, a far bigger percentage of voters gave his legacy project - light rail - a big thumbs down.
That boondoggle - supported by developers and few others - would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars, carried a handful of passengers and done nothing to reduce traffic congestion.
Then the mayor’s dream of a sports arena died when its developers couldn’t meet the terms set by the city despite extension after extension.
Oh, and plans to get the state to pay $2.5 million for the rerouting of Atlantic Avenue at the Cavalier Hotel to accommodate the city’s pet developer were scrapped when Richmond refused to cooperate.
Recently, a $200 million fishing pier project - with a Ferris wheel! - hammered out behind closed doors in what looks like an unfair bidding process had to be ditched after the public and business owners howled.
All of this shameless cronyism inevitably led to charges of racism.
NFL Hall-of-Famer Bruce Smith - a commercial real estate developer - went public in 2016 with a blistering letter he said he reluctantly wrote to the mayor asking if racial discrimination was the reason he’d been locked out of so many Beach projects.
Smith asked “whether we are still operating under the implicit mandate of the Old South which would require that economic empowerment and enfranchisement be reserved for whites only.”
And, in this morning’s Pilot, a coalition of black clergymen demanded the city manager be sacked over emails that indeed seem tinged with racism.
Other emails, discovered through FOIA requests, have revealed a level of arrogance and mean-spiritedness inside City Hall that surprised many.
But not those of us who have been paying attention.
With the curious departure of the mayor and with six City Council seats up this November, there is - at last - a chance for disgruntled Beach voters to bypass the good-old-boys with their slick campaigns financed by all the usual suspects and vote instead for good government.
Let’s see if they do it.