Follow the leader

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

I’m remembering a conversation that I had at the post office a day before the city-council election with a resident who I know knows exactly what he’s talking about when it comes to city-government matters.

“Who does Doug Walker work for?” he asked me, matter of factly.

“Well, if I’m elected to city council, me,” I answered.

“Not the way it works now,” he retorted, and I understood his point.

Too often, it seems that the city manager is running the show, and the city council is working on his behalf.

It’s not as bad now as it was during the Schuyler Giles administration, if we can call it that, but …

This brings me to the council meeting from earlier tonight, which featured this tidbit from Frank Lucente, who is six weeks away from being our mayor.

(God save us all.)

Lucente (pronounced “Lou-CENT,” not “Lou-CENT-ay,” as one of his volunteers repeatedly referred to him in a conversation with me on Election Day; good help is apparently hard to find) has been harping for weeks about how the city needs to cut its budget 2 percent across the board so that he can persist in his flip-flop on how to pay for stormwater funding.

(For those who missed this, last year Lucente was 100 percent behind paying for stormwater improvements with a newly created utility fee, saying that paying for the work out of the general fund would force service cuts or a tax increase. What changed his mind on this is officially a mystery, though the endorsement that he ended up finagling from the Invista union a week before the election might close the circle for some of you out there reading along.)

Instead of stepping up and identifying what services need to be cut to get the budget back in line with his mania, Lucente told News Virginian reporter Jimmy LaRoue tonight, according to the story that LaRoue wrote for tomorrow’s edition, that his preference would be for the city manager, Doug Walker, to identify the cuts that would need to be made.

“I’d prefer him to make the cuts, but if he thinks that we should make the cuts, I certainly will bring my share of them to the table,” Lucente said.

Earth to Mayor-Elect: This is why we pay you the big bucks.

“Who does the city manager work for?”

“Well, if I’m elected to city council, he works for me.”

“Not the way it works now.”

And our Mayor-Elect seems to like it that way.

As if we couldn’t figure out why. I wouldn’t want to have to take personal responsibility for fiscally irresponsible budget cuts, either. Much better to blame them on the big, bad city manager, especially when we’re talking about cuts to police and fire protection, parks and recreation, public schools, et cetera.

I look forward to the day when we have leaders in place in city hall who understand what it means to be leaders.

(Of note – the last time that I talked with the man at the post office was in 2004. He told me something then about how a plan was in place that involved getting the then-mayor, Chuck Ricketts, into a judgeship so that he could be replaced in his council seat by, ahem, Frank Lucente. Either he’s a really, really good guesser, or …)


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