Virginia Beach Lapdogs Are At It Again
It was Tip O’Neill who famously said, “All politics is local.” And yes, I know, it’s lazy to open any piece of writing with a quote as hackneyed as this one.
Sometimes a cliche says it best, though. And this is one of those times.
If all politics really IS local, there’s a universal lesson in what’s brewing at Virginia Beach City Hall.
This is it: When arrogant politicians defy common sense to do the bidding of the rich and powerful, it inevitably leads to a widespread belief that government doesn’t care about the little guy.
That's never good.
Yet with eight of the 11 city council seats up in November, there's a chance that Virginia Beach voters may finally be so disgusted that they begin to take back their city after decades of shameless cronyism.
Ironically, it may not be the millions of dollars wasted on shiny objects that ignites this change, but a relatively small project - estimated to cost less than $3 million - that turns the lights out on a 20-year-long out-of-control Beach party.
Here it is, for readers who aren't from these parts:
A powerful local developer, who has already been showered with tens of millions of dollars and incentives from Beach taxpayers, wants to reroute traffic in front of his oceanfront hotel complex that’s under construction so he can build a valet parking staging area.
Yep, a road project has been designed to help a hotelier with valet parking.
Without the "realignment," traffic will be gridlocked, the developer warns.
I first wrote about this nutty project in 2016, for The Pilot.
If good government types ran the city, officials would have insisted on a less ambitious project - or one with more parking - instead of rerouting a road.
But in Virginia Beach, where the majority on city council serve as drooling lapdogs for developers, the notion of putting people first is laughable.
Instead, city officials support dead-ending one road, reconfiguring traffic and slapping a traffic light in a place that will cause impatient drivers stuck on red to cut through residential neighborhoods. Mine, as luck would have it.
Knowing that taxpayers would be in open rebellion if the council threw even more tax dollars at this developer to mess with a perfectly lovely road, city officials stomped their little feet, shook their tiny fists and repeatedly demanded that the state pay for the project.
The state. That's you, Roanoke. And Danville. And Fairfax. And Bristol.
Trouble is, the last secretary of transportation scored road projects so that the most worthwhile ones got funded, while others did not. When informed about Virginia Beach's zany road reconfiguration plan last year, he told the mayor not to bother applying for state funds.
That didn't deter City Hall.
Now there’s a new man in the governor’s mansion and a new chief of transportation. And city honchos are in a frenzy, once again pressuring Richmond for the loot.
It’s almost as if they believe that the new regime is likely to be friendlier to Virginia Beach than the last. Maybe they know something.
Even if they do, council candidates should use this reeking example of government-for-the-powerful to bludgeon the incumbents in the fall.
Will it be enough to pick off a few of them and get the city on the road to good government?
Dare to dream.