Saturday, May 11, 2013

Norfolk, Virginia - A City of Misplaced Priorities

The City of Norfolk, Virginia likes to portray itself as a modern progressive city.  Like so much in Virginia it is a sham facade meant to disguise a city that still operates largely on a "good old boy" system and where some neighborhoods and businesses get preferred treatment while the rest are largely left to fend for themselves and are supposed to be satisfied with whatever scraps are thrown their way bu the self-anointed city fathers.  Worse yet, despite all the studies that correlate gay friendly policies and acceptance to economic growth and attracting the so-called creative class Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim is, in my opinion, a homophobe who views being gay or lesbian as a form of communicable disease.

 Two of the areas given very low priority by Fraim and his cohorts on City Council are (i) neighborhood maintenance and (ii) adequate police protection.   The first phenomenon was looked at  in an article in the Virginian Pilot where Norfolk is slashing its budget for neighborhoods while pledging many millions of taxpayer dollars to a new downtown hotel development.  Here are some article highlights:
Community leaders are upset that the city's proposed spending plan seems to favor new downtown projects over revitalizing struggling neighborhoods.

Norfolk's 2014 budget includes about $2.75 million for specific neighborhood plans, compared with $6 million last year, a change that City Manager Marcus Jones said is justified by a drop in the city's real estate revenue.

But some community leaders say the reduction threatens progress in key growth areas, such as Broad Creek, Fairmount Park, the Southside and Wards Corner, four communities among 20 with plans that outline strategic goals for improving infrastructure, acquiring land and rehabilitating struggling areas.

While the money problems are not new, neighborhood and city leaders say the cuts sting more now that the city has set aside money for other projects, including $4 million for a new Government Center Plaza downtown.

They also point to a decision this year to support a $126 million hotel conference center in downtown. That project will use $89 million in public money, including $16 million that the city has already spent.
As for inadequate and noneffective police protection, the Norfolk police department has been under manned for many years.   But worse yet, protecting taxpayers and their property seems to be a low priority.  How else to explain my experiences over the last three weeks.  In 2005 I bought a 1917 vintage arts and craft style house three blocks from the Old Dominion University campus.  I remodeled the kitchen and bathroom, repainted every surface  of the property, put on a new roof and installed new heating and cooling.  In short, I invested a lot of money as did other residents on my block.  I now live in Hampton with the boyfriend and my youngest daughter and her family live in the Norfolk house.  Where they are being terrorized by self-described gang members in a rental property that adjoins mine property at the rear.    Three weeks ago my house was hit by gun fire (see photo above) that shattered the rear storm door.  My family members have been harassed and intimidated, loud nuisance level music is the norm, etc.  What has been done to correct this situation? NOTHING.

Meanwhile, the police and City Attorney's office have the time to harass a client of mine who owns a restaurant for allegedly violating a city code noise ordinance.  Indeed a threat of criminal prosecution has been leveled.  Perhaps not coincidentally, my client is of Arabic descent.  Yet NOTHING has been done to stop the war zone behind my home despite calls and meetings with police and one meally mouthed message I received from the City Managers office.  

Visitors to Norfolk need to get a strong message - do not venture out of downtown or you may not be safe.  Self-described gang members are allowed to do whatever they wish while law abiding citizens cower in their homes and debate whether they need to go somewhere else for the night in order to be safe.  This is the real story of Norfolk under Mayor Paul Fraim and his gang of do nothing for regular citizens members of City Council.   Meanwhile I am left to ponder: do I sell the house and relocate my family members or do I let it go into foreclosure and drive down neighborhood property values?

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