A new day dawns in Waynesboro

A new day dawns in Waynesboro

waynesboroDoes the sun seem a little brighter in Waynesboro today? Yes, it does! The flowers are brighter, perkier. The birds are singing beautiful melodies.

Even the repaved, weeks-long-unpainted streets across the city are glistening.

(That could be the summer heat.)

It’s July 1, and we have a new City Council in place, and the guy singularly responsible for jamming up the works the past 11 years, Frank Lucente, is gone.

Let me be the first to say, good riddance.

Lucente is the genius who said he saved the city money by pushing the $3.5 million purchase of hundreds of acres of land from a political backer for a future city industrial park, then did everything he could after the ink dried on the paperwork to prevent the city from being able to market the land for development.

This is someone who ran successfully two times for City Council by convincing people that government didn’t work.

And then went out and made sure it didn’t work.

The school system is underfunded. The police department is understaffed, and underpaid.

The West End fire station that the voters approved in a referendum in 2007? It doesn’t exist; Lucente said we didn’t need it.

To hell with what the voters wanted.

But Lucente didn’t get everything he wanted. The Wayne Theatre opened this year, and though Lucente wagged his middle fingers at the theatre on his way out, blocking city money from a performance agreement signed years ago from going to the Wayne, whatever, it’s still open, still entertaining hundreds of people a week, still driving economic activity in Downtown Waynesboro.

The good news is that we don’t really need to undo anything from his disastrous 11 years on City Council, because true to his promises to voters in his campaigns, he didn’t really do anything in his 11 years on City Council, other than say no an awful lot.

Today is a day for celebration in our fair River City. Lucente and his fellow do-nothing, Tim Williams, are limping off into the sunset, replaced by two welcome breaths of fresh air, Elzena Anderson and Terry Short.

Not to put unfair expectations on the newbies, but there’s a lot of work to be done after a lengthy period of inaction from city leaders.

Our school system serves a population largely on free and reduced lunches, adding challenges to the efforts of educators to prepare today’s youths for the jobs of the future.

Our local economy could use a shot in the arm in terms of renewed efforts to lure industrial, manufacturing and tech jobs to add to our base of retail on the West End.

Our approach to infrastructure could benefit from a new perspective, as we’ve too often in recent years waited for things to get to the point of near-failure before taking action. This is an area where Short, a district planning manager with VDOT, can be especially helpful with his knowledge and insight into what communities up and down the Valley are and have been doing to address their needs.

The good news is Waynesboro no longer has a negative force among its city leadership rigging the system against progress.

We’ve spent too much time the past 11 years looking backward; it’s time to move forward.

Today is the first day for our New Waynesboro.

I’m near tears thinking of the possibilities.

Column by Chris Graham



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