History omitted in list of Portsmouth’s priorities

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Do leaders in Portsmouth care about the city’s rich history? That’s the question concerned residents are left asking ahead of a vote on new list of priorities to guide the city through the year 2030.

The new plan excludes preserving the past.

The city’s “Vision Principles for the year 2030” currently includes a section titled ‘Pride of Past,’ that states, “The Portsmouth family preserves the proudest traditions of the past as the compass for our future.”

A new list of principles the council will soon vote on does not include the ‘Pride of Past’ principle, which has led residents to believe history has taken a back seat in city government decision-making.

“I can’t fathom the thought of them taking our history away,” said Joe Elder, who owns Shipjack Nautical Wares and is vice president of the Olde Towne Business Association.

Portsmouth’s history dates back to the Colonial Era. The city is also deeply intertwined with Civil War America. Elder says he’s one of many who are shocked at the ‘Pride of Past’ omission.

“Our first land grants here go back to 1620,” said Elder. “A lot of important things have happened here over the centuries … When you step outside of Hampton Roads, we’re one of the greatest places in the world.”

Elder defends that history is what drives people to move to Portsmouth and others to visit. He believes history is directly tied to the city’s tourism revenue.

“That’s what people come here are wanting to see… our history, so to try to eliminate it is ridiculous. It’s what sells us, it’s what we are, who we are.”

Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas tells WAVY.com the ‘Vision Principles’ are the “council’s priorities … but they have been mostly written by city staff.”

Psimas says the city council has reviewed the new principles one time. She plans to request the ‘Pride of Past’ section be included in the final set of priorities before a full vote Jan. 26.

More than 100 residents showed up to a community meeting in Churchland on Dec. 19 to voice their concerns with city government. While many complained about a lack of transparency, the “Efficient, Responsive Government section of the ‘Vision Principles’ has also been omitted in the proposed plans.

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