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No Need for a New City Hall in Petersburg

May 7, 2014
Letter to the editor – Progress Index
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I recently went on a tour of Petersburg’s government buildings, prompted by ongoing efforts of the city’s leaders to build a new city hall. I understand the cost for the project is estimated to be around $16 million and this will undoubtedly lead to higher debt and taxes.

The current City Hall is a beautiful structure. It is a diamond in the rough with its stone facade and architectural features found only on the classiest buildings.  The style is also compatible with the historic theme we love so much about the city.  Not only compatible, but it is a key structure that sets the tone for Petersburg’s Downtown area.  If you observe the government buildings in Washington DC, you will find such stately buildings in use, however, in considerably better condition.  Marble, granite and classical architectural features adorn them just as they do our City Hall.
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Petersburg City Hall Building
True, the roof has some leaks and there are some file boxes lying on the floor.  Roofs can be repaired and cabinets can be added along with other space saving innovations. In my personal situation, I too could use more space, but I have decided to be content with what I have.  The Bible even says, “Be content with such things as ye have” (Heb.13:5). In reality, I don’t need a bigger house with higher expenses, especially while coping with excessive water bills.In 1980 Petersburg’s population was 41,000, but it has dropped to 32,000.  That’s about a 22% drop in population. My question is: shouldn’t the size and spending of government be somewhat commensurate with the population?  Spending and taxes, on an inflation adjusted basis, should be lower than in 1980. Yet, it seems many city leaders are only intent on increasing spending, taxes and the size of government. 

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Petersburg City Hall Annex
Perhaps the new City Hall is another Keynesian scheme to prime the economic pump, but it will only be a financial drag on struggling home owners who will be paying the tab and shouldering the debt. Is it possible that social programs are part of the problem with the city?  It appears that more people in Petersburg are relying on various government checks and assistance than making it on their own or getting help from their families.  Instead, let’s consider reversing what has really been the cause of the city’s issues.  Many desirable, new residents don’t want to move close to Section 8 housing and welfare neighborhoods.I have noticed throughout the region a trend to “keep up with the Jones’s.” Chesterfield builds a new Courthouse, followed by Hopewell, then Prince George then Dinwiddie, Colonial Heights, and now Petersburg.I can tell you, many of Dinwiddie’s residents are fed up with their county’s ballooning debt.  What’s with all the building worship?  Might Petersburg be the only example of fiscal restraint in the whole region? It is possible.  So what if other cities have big, new buildings as in Colonial Heights’ newest example of profligate spending.  Is it really wise to feel pressured to keep up with other localities? The Bible says, “They comparing themselves among themselves are not wise” (II Corinthians 10:12).  We have a unique set of challenges that are different than that of other cities and I believe we should not seek to artificially elevate our status with a new City Hall, in order “to keep up.”  Nor should we support a politician’s goal to establish immortality through a building project on our dime, if that is the case.Furthermore, bigger buildings demand more funding which may lead to more citizens being brought before courts on silly charges for the purpose of “revenue enhancement.” Can you say I295 corridor or inspection stickers? I am in favor of keeping government humble as the servants they used to be, not the rapacious kleptocrats they are becoming. That means making government live within financial and spatial boundaries.

Regarding City Hall, some renovations may be in order, and I believe this to be the best approach. We should, however, find ways to allow property owners to keep more of their own money (property). No one is more careful spending your own money than yourself. That includes when the government spends your money.  If you go to dinner using the company’s credit card, would you be as careful as when using your own money?

Please attend City Counsel meetings and contact your city counselor. Tell them to vote down the new City Hall.John K Rooney
Tri-Cities Liberty Alliance
Petersburg
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