Oh, Anthony. You claim to love Norfolk, but this isn’t love.
When published in January, 2017, this column contained references to a story that appeared in The Daily Beast regarding the Cordish Companies, developers of the Waterside District, as well as an official of the Cordish Companies.
Subsequent to publication on Altdaily.com, The Daily Beast removed its story from its website, saying that the article fell short of accuracy and fairness standards. So, this column has been updated as of March, 2017, to remove all references to the article, the Cordish Companies and one of its principals.
In addition, when it was first published on Altdaily.com, the author did not seek comment from the Cordish Companies. The author apologizes to the Cordish Companies for not doing so.
Altdaily.com apologizes to Reed Cordish, the Cordish Companies and our readers.
Loving Norfolk means stepping down and letting us all move on with our business. Up to now, Anthony Burfoot has refused, again putting his own hide before our city.
Every day the Norfolk Treasurer — convicted of accepting bribes in exchange for votes while on city council — shows up at his office, he disgraces the Norfolk name and brand.
Every time a Norfolk citizen is forced to write a check to the office Burfoot leads, he risks that citizen losing faith in local government.
Every time the news outlets run a story about the corrupt Burfoot — and there have been many — the rest of Hampton Roads shakes its head and says ‘same old Norfolk’, giving them an excuse to dismiss the great progress our city has made.
Now, elected statewide officials from across the Commonwealth will be forced to think about Burfoot, and Norfolk, and the indecent and undemocratic things that happened here over the years Burfoot was in power. From The Pilot this week:
On Monday, Del. Steve Heretick introduced HB 2364, which would automatically suspend any constitutional officer convicted of a felony regardless of any appeals, pleadings, delays or motions. … If the officer wins on appeal, he or she then would be reinstated. Heretick said appeals could last for years.
“It’s a fairly substantial loophole in the law,” Heretick told The Pilot’s Jordan Pascale. “Most people, including me, would think that a felony conviction should exclude you from serving in public office.”
Yup, we would agree.
Burfoot was found guilty on six counts. From reporting by Scott Daugherty and Eric Hartley:
Prosecutors said businessmen Dwight Etheridge, Tommy Arney and Ronnie Boone Sr. paid Burfoot more than $400,000 in bribes and kickbacks. In exchange, prosecutors said, Burfoot promised favorable votes and other assistance.
It’s the “other assistance” that I would like to focus on for a minute in order to lend a personal perspective. As someone who loves both Norfolk and democracy, his votes are deplorable, but his chicanery doesn’t end there. A city councilman is more than his votes — he is how he uses his influence.
And by turn, can we be sure of anything he’s doing now as treasurer?
I had my own experience of Burfoot using his influence in unsavory ways. About five years ago I ran for city council. It is also well known in Norfolk there is a group of wealthy and influential property developers and lawyers who gather every election cycle to anoint their personally selected candidates. They offer substantial cash — in the form of political donations — to their chosen candidate, and make threats (said or implied) of supporting other candidates to them all. I had one candidate tell me last cycle that this group threatened to spend in the high five-figures to run an opponent if this candidate didn’t promise to look after their interests.
When I ran for office Barclay Winn was the chosen one, making me the enemy. It just so happens that it was one Anthony Burfoot who led a smear campaign against me that made it all the way to the Huffington Post, making indecent claims about my character. It was a traumatic experience. Not only would I not be appointed to the School Board — I had been nominated by multiple city councilpeople — but I was personally devastated. I love Norfolk. Why was the vice mayor using dirty tricks and character defamation to try to crush me?
My primal instinct told me to run. That I shouldn’t stay in a city that tries to break the spirit of someone who steps up to serve. When Paul Fraim was the mayor he had his hands in every room in city hall; it was clear that my mayor was involved in the smear campaign, too. Nobody would have blamed me for leaving Norfolk and never looking back. Some in that group of developers and lawyers would have cheered.
Who knows who else Anthony prodded and pressured behind closed doors. Who knows how many other good people he blocked from appointments on commissions and boards. Who knows how much of a tool of the shadow government he was, and is.
I did end up sticking around. Since then I’ve been a part of forming the NEON District and the NEON Festival. I led a successful Vote Local Norfolk campaign. I’ve been a part of many other Norfolk-positive movements and articles, but if you’re reading this, I probably don’t have to prove myself to you. It’s good that I’m still here. I’m glad that I did not let the Anthony Burfoots of the world scare me away.
Now I just wish he would let his decency and love for Norfolk to scare himself away.
I would also like to hear from former Mayor Fraim who, again, had his tentacles too deep both behind-the-scenes and in official government dealings to know nothing of Anthony’s relationship to shady Norfolk developers. But that’s an article for another day.
Anthony, if you’re reading this, do the right thing. We’re all flawed, and we always have an opportunity to live by a newfound grace. Do the right thing for Norfolk and step aside. On behalf of the good people in this city who so desperately want to believe in our local government, walk out that front door of city hall, take off your bow tie, and move on to a new chapter of life.