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City officials are neighbors in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH

The small subdivision with million-dollar houses and a night watchman is named The Estates at River Pointe. But it could be called City Hall West.

Seven of its 34 houses are occupied by current or former city officials, including three sitting City Council members.

The clustering raises questions about whether it’s healthy for a city to have three elected officials living on the same block, especially when some of those council members have been at odds lately, leading to an awkward interaction or two.

“I would say it must be a little tense on Estates” Lane, City Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas said.

Stretching out into the Elizabeth River, the neighborhood is one of the few gated communities in Portsmouth. Ponds sit on both sides of the subdivision entrance. Large brick homes, many with matching brick mailboxes, rest on property with grass so vibrant it looks artificial.

The three city councilmen live within a few houses of each other on Estates Lane, which knifes through the development. Mayor Kenny Wright has Councilman Danny Meeks three houses down and, in the opposite direction, Vice Mayor Paige Cherry lives across the street, three houses down.

Both Meeks and Cherry have been at odds with Wright lately, as has most of the council. Their tension with the mayor stems in part from news reports about a Cherry campaign fundraiser held in a neighbor’s back yard, according to several council members.

The event drew attention after photos revealed Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson’s inmate work crew set up equipment for the event. Several council members, including Meeks, say Wright took the photos and gave them to the media.

“Even I could tell they were taken from Kenny’s patio,” Psimas said.

Cherry spoke briefly about living in the subdivision but did not want to discuss his relationship with Wright. Meeks has been a frequent critic of the mayor and acknowledges the two aren’t friends, but he said living in close proximity hasn’t been too uncomfortable.

“We’re cordial in public,” said Meeks, who bought his waterfront home in 2010 for $975,000. “It’s not like we’re throwing snowballs at each other’s houses.”

But the councilman confirmed that he tried to confront the mayor outside Wright’s house last month to discuss the Cherry fundraiser photos. The mayor, who was in his car, did not engage Meeks. Wright declined to comment.

The councilmen aren’t the only ones in River Pointe with reasons to be in conflict, though the rest appear to stay out of each other’s way.

The city’s former director of social services, Rey­nold “Rusty” Jordan, was dismissed by then-city-manager Ken Chandler in January 2012 after a controversy over $40,000 in public money spent on an NFL player’s speaking tour.

Both live in River Pointe, separated by 10 houses.

Jordan said he sees Chandler in passing, but the two don’t speak.

“It doesn’t irritate me,” Jordan said. “I live my life, and he lives his.”

Chandler resigned nine months after Jordan’s departure, amid a controversy about the city’s former fire chief remaining on the payroll despite resigning earlier. Chandler lives a few houses away from two members of the council who supported his departure. He did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Those who live in River Pointe describe the clustering of city officials as coincidental. For those with means, it’s one of the few newer developments in Portsmouth. Construction began in 2003.

It’s possible for the trio of councilmen to live on the same street because the city’s ward electoral system was changed in 1966, according to city records. Since then, Portsmouth’s City Council members have been able to live anywhere in the city.

The living situation on Estates Lane struck Old Dominion University professor Jesse Richman as an “extreme case” of the clustering that’s possible with an at-large system.

The concentration of council members, Richman said, could lessen the chances that the City Council reflects the needs and views of all Portsmouth residents.

“The potential pitfall is that all of them are looking at the city from the perspective from living in a particular part of it,” said Richman, an associate professor of political science.

Robin Holley Duke, the daughter of the late Mayor James Holley, also lives in the subdivision, with Cherry on one side and city Auditor Jesse Andre Thomas on the other.

If she’s not careful, she might finding herself running for City Council soon.

“I guess maybe it’s in the water out here,” she joked.

Tim Eberly, 757-446-2794, tim.eberly@pilotonline.com

Posted to: Local Government News Portsmouth

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Ha...My dock is bigger than yours!

Why does it seem they have a problem other than competition on their spending when they lead the poorest city in the region? Move to Sterling Point.

River Residence

When you are a publie official, you should not do anything that has the hint of inpropriety. Fair or unfair, that is the name of the game,especially in political matters in a small poor city as my hometown of Portsmouth

Living

It's not where you live that should matter, but rather now you live.

Dumb cluster

Sign should read.... Warning Low IQ Area Ahead.

I agree

I realize working for the public requires a person to be an open book. However, how would the Pilot like it if all of their executives had their houses plastered on the front page, neighborhood listed and housing listed too. What in the world was this reporter thinking?

Representation by the people

yada, yada, yada, never said anything about 'equality'.

We already know the Pilot

We already know the Pilot manager Maurice Jones lied to employees, thanks to the article from the Washington Times:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/18/publisher-called-layoffs-painful-while-pocketing-b/?page=all

Typical Hampton Roads business.

I had not known about Mr. Jones "challenging" disclosures

It is disheartening to know Mr. Jones followed the standard path to successful political appointments and riches the "Do as I say, not as I do" connected Democrats typically do. Yes, elect me or appoint me "because I'm all concerned about social justice, just that I'm entitled to a little more cream from that justice than my constituents." A quick Google shows that Mr. Jones' passion for fair housing and housing for the disadvantaged permits him to earn MORE than his position as publisher. But as publisher, it is not clear that compensation from the Pilot is in abeyance but his political affiliation suggests his insistence on fair reporting and editorial slant is somewhat juxtaposed from an interpretation of social justice. $750,000 - HUD.

Shoot first, justify after.

You've heard of that, n'est-ce pas?

Joke

Great investigative story! I will say it did give me a break away from my searching for health insurance,the site was down.Crazy thing was it had a series of red lines and apparently I crossed them and was told not to or else!I guess I had nothing to write either ,so I did the Pilot,you know jiber-jaber!

They

all need to start working together and get the chips off their shoulders. If they all realized that you can disagree on things and not take everything personnel or make it racial everyone in the city would benefit. They obviously have done very well for themselves and their families and should be both proud and thankful for that. Its time to set a good example for the next generation by getting along as coworkers and neighbors. As leaders in the community you should always be very mindful of what you say and do because both adults and children are looking to you for leadership and learning from your actions.

Breakfast of Champions

Affluence is only a component of the issue. Not the issue.
The nations capital is full of very successful people.
To be suspicious of insular conclaves dominating a larger sphere is only natural.

ODU Prof Off Base

"The concentration of council members, Richman said, could lessen the chances that the City Council reflects the needs and views of all Portsmouth residents."
Having been a P-Towner for well over 50 years, I can assure the good professor his comments are not applicable to this small city...you can almost spit from city line to city line making it very easy to see and know "how the other folks live"; especially, if you're a councilman looking for votes.

3, 4 days and no story on the affordable care act?

No wonder the VP is laying people off left and right. Watched MSNBC last night, nothing about ACA, all stories about EXPANDING social security by increasing payments to all.

Couldn't be working harder to become irrelevant, but hey big surprise story here! The leadership element, those with the education drive and type A personality all live in the best neighborhood in the city!! So are you advocating that the good citizens vote for the wine-o high school drop out living in a subsidized apartment in the worst neighborhood?

Not to Worry

If that's what you're looking for, I'm sure Fox and Rush have all of the AFA "failings" covered. The GOP has thrown up every possible road block in an effort to cripple this law, and then they turn around and complain about it. The healthcare system in this country was a mess, with costs spiraling out of control, well before the AFA. Something needed to be done. Stop being part of the problem and start becoming part of the solution.

Nice try...

Yes. Try to blame the Republicans for this POS law... Last I checked not 1 Republican voted for it. Oh next you are going to say it was the Republicans telling the low-information voter that if they like their healthcare they can keep it.

nice try...

Healthcare is so bad... Let's pass laws that makes things worse.

Wow Here is another one

If someone doesn't agree or has a different point of view they are 'low-information voter'.
BTW one Republican did vote for it. But I am just low-information voter so you will have to google it yourself.

POS law?

Do you actually understand the main tenets of the ACA and what it is and what it isn't? I know some very smart people both on the Hill in Washington and in the insurance industry locally, and they all agree that these steps needed to be taken. It is way too early to pass judgment on the efficacy of this law.

And I'll give you that it was a mistake for the president to say that everyone could keep their current insurance. He made the false assumption that those with terrible coverage would be more than happy to switch to better plans available under the ACA. However, clearly some would rather keep their substandard coverage than dare subscribe to anything this president supports.

As instructed

The question is do you understand the main tenants? Answer is you obviously do not. I'll give the actual law has very little to do with the comments that the President and Democrat party leaders have said and even less in common with what commentators on this blog think it's made of.

I do love how predictably you are blaming the Republicans in congress somehow for it's failures, right out of the play book. Next as premiums continue to sky rocket, and at an accelerated pace, you will blame the insurance companies and start to clamor for single payer.

Dance puppet dance !!!!!!

love the quatation marks

"failings"

I'm very interested to see just how bad things have to be before the true hard core partisans such as yourself and Chris33 give up, there has to be a red line so to speak, past which it becomes exponentially more difficult to deny reality.

I'm FAR from a hardcore partisan...

However, I'm intelligent enough to see beyond the GOP misinformation machine with regard to healthcare reform. Have you talked to folks in Washington, insurers, healthcare professionals, read numerous article from both conservative and liberal sources? Well, I have.

So what's the story here?

So what's the story here? The feudal lords have lived in castles among their peers, insulated from the common peons for centuries.

More feudal than representative

Do we really have a representative republic? I'm not sure we have one, or anything that resembles one for that matter. In the last few years, painful as it may be, most of us have come to realize we are not much more than serfs. It is the political royalty, their sycophant jesters (entertainment personalities), and their leading gladiators (sports figures) who have no problem living well beyond the laboring public who is expected to pay tribute to them or have the rabble set upon them with threats of violence if they must work for their bread.

Pick Up Your Game Pilot!

What about this story is news worthy?

I might understand if your "reporting" focused on the threat to the "security of the City of Portsmouth" in the event of some "catastrophic event" in the neighborhood that lead to the demise of such a large portion of high city officials, but the city run's itself. So you couldn't take that angle, could you?

Instead, let's write a story about how so many of these people live in big expensive houses in PTown in an attempt to evoke a little jealousy in those residents of the city who can't afford live in that neighborhood.

Tim Eberly: Go investigate, and then report, something worthy of your talent, education, and training...oh yea, and my money!

You're pathetic.../Fail!

More interesting than you think

This article is more intersting than you might think. There are a lot of implications here. It reminds me of a city where the rich leave behind the wall of the city while the peasants suffer outside the wall. Interesting that they live behind this safe gated community with a guard. Interesting that apparently all of our city representatives are RICH enough to live in this community. Where is our representation by our peers? I don't hang with people that own million dollar houses, do you? The city needs more common every day folk to represent the rest of us. Do you have to be rich to be involved in politics even on the city level? (not to mention it's PORTSMOUTH for God's sake)

please delete

Please delete above comment as a duplicate. I posted the second time to correct spelling but can't figure out how to delete the first one. Thanks Pilot.

There is no delete. If the

There is no delete.

If the system assigned a random number into the reply form, then checked to make sure that is unique upon submission -- that would eliminate most duplicate postings.

RE: More Interesting than you think

Running for political office in a medium or larger size city is huge hassle.

The reality is that people who have the ambition to run for public office in any city around here are likely to also be financially successful in their private lives the drive for which stems from that same ambition.

I'd run for city council....but I'm too lazy :-) Hmmm....can't afford one of those houses either...oh well, where's my xbox controller?

more interesting than you think

This article is more intersting than you might think. There are a lot of implications here. It reminds me of a city where the rich live behind the wall of the city while the peasants suffer outside the wall. Interesting that they live behind this safe gated community with a guard. Interesting that apparently all of our city representatives are RICH enough to live in this community. Where is our representation by our peers? I don't hang with people that own million dollar houses, do you? The city needs more common every day folk to represent the rest of us. Do you have to be rich to be involved in politics even on the city level? (not to mention it's PORTSMOUTH for God's sake)

You don't hang with people who live in Million $ houses?

You ever buy a lottery ticket? Ever want more for you and your family? I guess your friends should not hang with you if you win and buy a million $ house. Some of the nicest people in the world live in big house, little houses, mansions, apartments,,, I guess your just to good for those rich folks. Oh the hypocrisy.

Three things

One - Matching brick mail boxes. No big deal, I lived in a sub-division with houses ranging from 175,000 to 250,000, we had matching mail boxes.
Two - STOP posting where people live. This is not the carry permit issue, did you learn nothing from that? These people have families.
Three - Are they breaking any laws? No? Well then this is Enquirer type reporting then.

It seems this article is as much about them living in expensive houses,in a nice "gated" community, than about them being neighbors. If it was about them being neighbors, you would have left the other fluff out.
It is not a crime to be successful and live in a nice house,,at least not yet.

This needs to stop.

When did it become common practice for the Pilot to post pictures of the residences, along with full addresses, of elected officials? I dare say no one working for this paper would want the same done to them. Correct me if I'm wrong, but even "real" criminals only have the name of the street where they live revealed to the public.

so what?

What does it matter where one chooses to live?

Sounds like there is some sour grapes by a pilot reporter, or maybe envy of how one lives?

very nice

Of the ODU proffesor to find the location of the nest .

So what is the point of this reporting

I lived in VB for over ten years and spoke to the neighbor 12 ft away less then a dozen times and it wasn't for the lack of trying. I moved to Portsmouth and now here for thirteen years and talk to neighbors all over almost everyday. The difference is that I lived in a neighborhood like Riverpoint called Bay Colony in VA Beach. Why would anyone assume they even talk let alone acknowledge they even know each other the way they treat one another at council meetings. Just an observation but is this story leading to another saga. Give it up folks elections are over 11 months away. Let's just try to do what you were elected to do. Be a leader and LEAD THIS CITY! or get out of our way!

HA!

true fact. I just got a contract to plant 10 trees to block a man's view of his neighbor's house. Keep in mind you can only see about 8 feet of the house. I guess the million dollar house neighbor is too much for the other million dollar house dweller. this was in Alanton. $5500 to not see 8 feet of a neighbor's house.

City Officals

Can we all just get along? Who's the neighborhood watch people. They need to talk to their neighbors to learn to be good neighbors????? The city inspectors will be out there writing them up for whatever like they do us and not even they out of the car!!

Who Cares???

I mean really. This is news. Good grief they have to live somewhere in the city. I am sure there are much more important issues facing P-Town that this reporter could be reporting about. So they live in a gated community, so what? Next, this reporter will be working on a story that shows a number of firefighters or police officers live in the same neighborhood. Who cares?

Seems there was a big

Seems there was a big lawsuit in Norfolk years ago which ultimately required a ward system whereby all parts of the city had representation. A lot of people I think resented that much of the City Council came from the West side, the wealthier section, and many thought their communities and interests weren't being represented.

So it's perhaps a bigger deal this cluster of representatives than some would give credit.

Of course

Not having wards in Norfolk was racist.

Having wards in Portsmouth is racist.

Clear?

This is a great neighborhood.

I've been in several of those homes. It's an elite's enclave. That's ok. For the posters here that don't think this is newsworthy:

"It’s possible for the trio of councilmen to live on the same street because the city’s ward electoral system was changed in 1966"

Representation should be for all parts of the city. You can't know what's going on in your voting district if you don't live there.

BTW, all of the information presented in this article is public information. The Pilot only did the gumshoe work for you.

I'd want to know that those making the decisions for entire city live on the same block.

It matters.

Right and Wrong

Right - It is news worthy that they all live in the same area on the same street. Te issue of objective representation is a valid topic for debate. But that is not where the objections in the readers comments section stems from.

Wrong - The paper can write the article without posting the address, along with the map showing the location for where they live.

Wow

someone spent a lot of time on this for what? Do we really want to know this?

Shallow minds result in shallow decison making.....

Sad. When driving around Portsmouth, I now understand why a city with so much potential and history has deteriorated. It's easy to lose touch and empathy for the people you represent when the only people you associate with are those who are just like you and your lifestyle/standard of living in no way compares to theirs.

Not a Portsmouth resident but...

maybe they should consider a ward system for the city council. That way, all portions of the city would be equally represented, even those where the residents are not rich.

So What?

If there ever was a non-story, this is it. Where is the story about the Larchmont area of Norfolk where Mayor Fraim and many other Norfolk city officials live? I don't doubt there are similar areas in other communities too. This is clear evidence of VP reports and editors struggling to find ANYTHING newsworthy to print. I'd hope they could do a better job than this . . .

Interesting View

Sure does appear one of those houses has a whole lot of suspicious landscaping going on. I see a bulkhead halfway through the yard, changed slope into the buffer, and the backyard is raised. Surely, that's not legal.

Actually, the gate is to keep them IN, not the other way around.

Good grief. Gated

Good grief. Gated community? Why in the world would anyone want to live in such a place?

PII Breach by Pilot!

Dear Pilot Editor, What is your goal, releasing what nearly equates to personally identifiable information (PII)? This is not news. How would you like your personal home address published in this silly rag you call a newspaper.

I swear, what passes for news is ridiculous. The quality of reporting has gone downhill, and fast, over the past decade.

Stick to news events; answer the 5 Ws. who what when where why

Portsmouth City Council members ought to be outraged and incensed at your lack of discretion.

Sincerely, A Disgruntled Reader from Norfolk

Pilot, Really, who cares?

Dear Pilot Editor, What is your goal, releasing what nearly equates to personally identifiable information (PII)? This is not news. How would you like your personal home address published in this silly rag you call a newspaper.

I swear, what passes for news is ridiculous. The quality of reporting has gone downhill, and fast, over the past decade.

Stick to news events; answer the 5 Ws. who what when where why

Portsmouth City Council members ought to be outraged and incensed at your lack of discretion.

Sincerely, A Disgruntled Reader from Norfolk

Br548

Ever heard of a phone book?

Going to get worse

The Pilot recently laid off over 30 staff members, including some senior staff.

I guess the fees for internet access haven't really paid off?

This information is freely

This information is freely available...and more, to anyone with basic computer skills. My question is, why does it need to be a front page news story?

say it ain't so

They're all living in a gated community.

No surprises here, just a further reflection of how local politics is not even remotely connected to it's citizens.

This is all the Pilot has

This is all the Pilot has for front page news? Wow.

Public servants should live in servants quarters

What it tells me is:
1 - our public servants are being paid too much and/or
2 - the majorly rich can afford to buy the votes (excuse me, I mean advertizing) to get them elected.
We have a ruling class here that roughly relates to the House of Lords.

Peddling political influence

Peddling political influence and pull is good work if you can get it.

Good work if you can get it

You meant to say being someone's corporate puppet.

More power to the people

It is a beautiful neighborhood. I am proud of everyone that can afford to live there and call Portsmouth home. It is about time we showcase our beautiful communities because if you watch the news or read the paper you think everything in Portsmouth is run down which is far from the truth. More power to the people that live in the power community. Stop being haters. These people have not forgotten where they come from they simply want to live in a beautiful gated community.

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