I opened up my paper a recent morning (read my bio, I’m old) and there it was, again. “Portsmouth sheriff files complaint about lawyer in mayor’s case.”
Not the front-page, although there have been plenty of front-page stories about the politics of Portsmouth.
It makes me feel embarrassed for the people of Portsmouth. Portsmouth is becoming the awkward second cousin that you have to invite to family reunions, because he’s got the same last name, but you explain to everyone that he’s only a second cousin, once removed, on your father’s side. He’s not invited for Thanksgiving.
I lived in Portsmouth for a year when I first moved to Hampton Roads. I loved it. City services were great. The garbage was picked up on time, and the Portsmouth mosquito control guy returned my call immediately to explain the mosquito problem on nearby Craney Island. I had the quiet Hoffler Creek Wildlife Foundation right down the street for evening walks and kayak rentals. Olde Towne Portsmouth had a thriving farmers market, and the city published a handy guide to events all over town. I became a member of the Children’s Museum of Virginia, and discovered all the great places to eat. What’s not to like?
Not long after I came here, I found one thing not to like, and that was the tunnel tolls. I wrote about it in one of my first articles for AltDaily. Now, I look at those tolls as another tax. I feel bad for the folks who need to go back and forth every day for their jobs that don’t pay a whole lot and for the out-of-towners who don’t understand that there won’t be a toll booth, but I don’t let it stop me from going to Norfolk for all the things it has to offer. Why do the tolls stop, or slow down, people from coming to Portsmouth?
Here’s what I know for sure: the politics of Portsmouth are NOT the people of Portsmouth. I don’t know the new City Manager, or the Mayor, or any of the people on the City Council. I have met many other people who work for the city who are doing a great job, and care deeply about Portsmouth. Visit the gem of a museum, the Portsmouth Art and Cultural Center, run by Gayle Paul and her dedicated staff. She carefully curates exhibits that are meaningful to the city and to the region.
Lynette James, from the Department of Marketing and Communications, never stops promoting all the good things about Portsmouth. The city employees at the Portsmouth Visitors Information Center right at the North Landing of the ferry to Norfolk go out of their way to let you know what’s happening, where to eat (lots of good places), and what to see.
I’ve walked and driven all around Portsmouth, not just Olde Towne. There are some beautiful neighborhoods, like Sterling Point, and some working class neighborhoods, with public housing. The streets are always clean, the streetlights are working, there are businesses, large and small, and people are usually out and about. By people, I mean families. Rich, middle-class and poor families live in Portsmouth, just like just about anywhere else, unless you live in one of those elite zip codes or a wasteland like the lower east side of Detroit.
As an outsider, everyone seems to get along pretty well, unless you are the Mayor or the City Council. Basic city services are rolling along just fine, and Portsmouth has some wonderful cultural and recreational opportunities.
There are so many people who live in Portsmouth who work to make Portsmouth a great place to live. I’ve written about some of them already. There is Sharon Jackson, who is still educating people on keeping chickens. Barb Vincent and John Joyce are still supporting Public Art in Portsmouth.
I’m getting ready to write about a few more, who volunteer their time for Portsmouth Community Concerts, Inc. I don’t know the solution to Portsmouth’s problem. I do know that there are many people fighting the good fight. For some of them, it’s their job, but they go the extra mile because they love Portsmouth. For many of them, it’s just for the love of Portsmouth.