Mr. Atkinson – A simple, open and straightforward question for you: What gives?
We decided to hold a party for volunteers and supporters of the light rail campaign. Why are you, as an elected official, asking people to crash our party on your Facebook page? Super classy, Mr. City Treasurer.
I’m serious. I understand that you and your supporters share a different worldview when it comes to extending the Tide to Virginia Beach. I get it. We all do. It’s written all over your sandwich boards.
I’ll just put the question out there again: Why on earth are you and your supporters coming to “crash” (your words, not mine) our pro-light rail party? Why insert confrontation and disruption into an event that’s meant to be positive?
After months (and in many cases years) of hard work, our supporters, volunteers and their guests deserve a day to relax with their families, enjoy some music, refreshments (and the weather while it’s still nice) and celebrate a more connected community. Regardless of how you feel about light rail – that’s something I hope even you can respect.
I’m a private citizen, not an elected official. I funded a large part of the event, and my wife is thrilled about that, let me tell you. I don’t have buckets of money just lying around. I had to go out, pound the pavement, and find other people to support this event. There’s no smoky back room narrative here. There was no budget for the event. I saw a need for it, I thought it was important, and decided I would do what I could to make it happen.
Our party is for our supporters and volunteers. We’d like to thank them for their hard work and support over the course of this campaign. We’d like to celebrate our shared vision for what we think Virginia Beach and Hampton roads can be. It’s meant to celebrate what we hope will be a new connection for our City with our neighbors to the West. You know, Norfolk – the place you keep inviting our City’s young people to move to, with your usual dismissive attitude. With rhetoric like that, it’s no wonder this issue has become so toxic.
It’s irresponsible for an elected official to stoke such hot coals the way you have. And it’s an embarrassment that you’ve used your platform as our City Treasurer to lend false credibility to your anti-growth, non-inclusive, parochial and conspiracy-laden views. We have one of the best managed Cities in the country for our size. It’s time for us to have some faith in one another.
And yes, I’m a supporter of the Tide and I sit on the board of VB Connex as a volunteer. I sit on other boards and donate my time to other causes as well. I’m also a small business owner in Town Center and I can see, first-hand, how the Tide would help the people who live in this City. Expanding the Tide would mean new, high paying jobs and new businesses. It would strengthen our sense of community and help make sure we keep our seat at the table when it comes to serious regional planning. I’ve been fortunate enough to talk with many people in our City about the benefits that an expanded light rail system would bring to Virginia Beach and the region as a whole. Supporters of the Tide include our elderly and disabled communities, our military, our environmentalists, our young professionals and millennials groups, and our business community, just to name just a few. To us, extending the Tide is a human rights issue, a mobility issue and a sustainability issue. It’s about our future. On these points we obviously disagree. Fair enough.
Being the opportunist you are, it’s plain to me that you and your supporters are using our event to get a little publicity for yourselves. I know you oppose planning in general, but in this case you might consider planning your own event. It would be a nice gesture to get your supporters together, thank them for their help and celebrate the close of the campaign season. You know, do something positive. I’m sure it would be a hoot.
In fact, it would be great if your event took place some other day, some other time, and some other place than ours. I’ve heard you mention that our City is spread-out and not well-suited for light rail, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a suitable spot.
Mars would work too. Your call.
A note to AltDaily readers: Our event will be held November 5th at the Sandler Center from 12pm-3pm. Anyone who wants to celebrate with us is welcome. For more about the event, here it is on Facebook.