Report by Chris Graham
That was Ward D candidate Mike Harris, as quoted in a NewsVirginian.com story reporting on Harris’ proposal on Wednesday to have the city rethink its budgeting process.
There’s one way to skin the cat. (Apologies to PETA.) Vice Mayor Frank Lucente has pushed that line of thinking in his five years on City Council. And there’s certainly a need for somebody on the City Council dais who thinks that way. The city has a finance director on staff, sure, but it’s the City Council that provides the big-picture focus. Minding the p’s and q’s is a necessary part of the big-picture focus.
“With that position not being filled, we don’t have anybody out there trying to find these economic resources and economic opportunities that will bring high-paying jobs bck to our area. I believe that is our top priority.”
That was Robert Johnson on Thursday at the press conference announcing his entree into the Ward C City Council race talking about the obvious lack of attention from City Council on economic development as evidenced by the fact that the economic-development office has been without a director since August 2008.
Which means the city doesn’t have a point person to work with local business and industry to make sure that they have in place what they need to survive and thrive, for those folks to have somebody to talk to about possible expansions locally, to talk to people who are considering locating in our part of Virginia about what Waynesboro has to offer.
We’re a city without a salesperson out there selling us. Anybody in business knows that your business isn’t going to do much business if you don’t have somebody out there selling you.
We’ve heard Lorie Smith, the incumbent in Ward D, talk about economic development in that way. Nobody is even thinking about raising taxes, but I attended a town hall hosted by Smith at the Waynesboro Public Library last month that was also attended by members of the Waynesboro Citizens for Responsible Spending, and I have to tell you, even the folks who huddle under that moniker will tell you that there are things that the city needs to do to improve the way it does business, from snow removal and leaf collections to enforcing city ordinances related to the property appearance and having adequate staffing to be able to process building permits and zoning requests and the like.
If at the base level you know you’re not going to raise taxes, and you’re hearing from the citizenry that they want to see improvements in the delivery of service, then the way to get there isn’t going to be to nitpick city departments on every last detail on paper, electricity, water and labor.
The way to get there is to create and nurture an environment that fosters the continued vitality of the economic base. There’s where you’re going to get a stable, growing source of revenues for city services, and as a pretty important side benefit, residents gain the security of a healthy economy and good, high-paying jobs.