Fear and Loathing: Moving Waynesboro Forward

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

When the editorial page at The News Virginian is compelled to complain about the new conservative city council, then you know that something worthy of a closer look is taking place.

“(W)hat Waynesboro needs is a quickening of the pulse,” the NV opined today, and I can’t agree more. We’ve all been lulled to sleep by the quiet summer on city council that followed one of the more tumultuous springs in recent local political memory. The firing of Doug Walker that was engineered before the election and was brought to fruition just after was the first in a series of serious missteps by the new majority, which has made peace and tranquility its primary motivating goal since.

But of course, peace and tranquility in the political arena also serve the do-nothing nature of the Frank Lucente-Bruce Allen duo that makes up two-thirds of the new majority well. For it has been Lucente, famously now a vision-hater, and Allen who made it clear before the election that they have no interest in the future of Downtown Waynesboro or anything else in the economic-development sphere that doesn’t involve cuts in the cost of the city doing business in the development game. The Lucente-Allen team is about as laissez-faire as it gets, which would be fine if the city were sitting pretty with an economy purring on all cylinders and an education system that was funded adequately to meet the needs of its children and a quality of life that didn’t include dangerous holes in the sidewalks in downtown and a general lacking in basic recreational and cultural amenities for its citizenry.

As a committed fiscal conservative, I am not suggesting that I think it’s the city’s job to make all of the above happen with a snap or two of the fingers. But neither do I think that we can expect that any of the above will ever happen without the city playing at least some kind of role. Which is to say, economic development doesn’t just happen, fully funded education doesn’t just happen, we won’t wake up tomorrow and have 10 entrepreneurs open up thriving new businesses in our downtown.

“(W)we are disturbed by what strikes us as an eagerness to accept Waynesboro’s present state of affairs,” the NV wrote today, and I can’t say that I think they’re overstating things here at all. Lucente, the new vice mayor, has effectively bogged city council down in various and sundry mini-projects involving new traffic lights that he thinks could mitigate the need for a new West End fire station and a new setup for the Economic Development Authority that he has suggested rather incredulously could somehow save the city a million dollars a year in its commitment to local economic-development efforts while actively opposing efforts of the council’s third conservative, Mayor Tim Williams, and its two progressives, Nancy Dowdy and Lorie Smith, to actively engage in a look at the big picture in Waynesboro.

I can’t think this is accidental, though I still struggle with the why part of this strange equation. I can’t imagine that anybody would look at Waynesboro today and think that it would be wise to leave well enough alone.

I’ve been wrong before, and spent three months of my life and $10,000 on a losing political campaign proving the point.

Is Waynesboro worth the effort to try to move things forward? I think so, and I’m happy that my friends at the NV agree.

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