Any region of any country must realize that its vision for the future will be its blueprint for failure or success. If the region sees itself as a community of separated townships, future planning will be selfish and limited. Consequently, the big things that you want to do will be dwarfed, and your growth and development will be limited to small projects. In the end, everyone will be disappointed and frustrated with the outcome of years of effort.
As I suggested in my article “Light-Rail to Nowhere,” a regional vision will be the key to the future growth and development of Hampton Roads. Every city in our region has big and small projects they would like to undertake. For years, I have heard cities in our region talking about attracting professional sports, casino gambling, mass transit, a larger share of tourist dollars, more affordable housing, and larger companies.
Instead of competing with other regions of the country, Hampton Roads cities seem to be opposing one another. Maybe the problem is directly related to the people who make up the various planning organizations that submit plans to the local state and federal government for needed approval and funding. They are usually made up of short-sighted elected officials and appointed local government officials who are more concerned about being re-elected or keeping their jobs rather than making good and tough decisions for the region’s common good.
Maybe it’s time for some new thinkers at the table rather than a small group of “yes” men and women who must answer to the selfish few. I was encouraged to see more young people show an interest in public service in our recent primary election. Perhaps they will break the regional gridlock by working with other progressive leaders in the region.
Just think if one of the cities in our region developed a plan to include an 80,000-seat arena that could be used for professional sports and major conferences, everyone in the region would win. The amount of revenue gained from: hotel rooms, meals, and parking fees, would greatly benefit every city in the region with facility being put either city. The demonstration of regional cooperation alone would make every city in the region become attractive to new industries, residents, and institutions.
Or, what if Chesapeake, Suffolk, or Virginia Beach embraced the idea of a regional theme park, like Kings Dominion or Water Country U.S.A. There would be a deluge of tourists’ dollars, jobs, and supporting companies which would expand our entire region’s economy and take thousands of vehicles off the now congested interstates 64 and 95. A regional vision fully supported by the cities in the region could make Hampton Roads like one glowing city on a hill. If you want big things to happen you have to have a big vision. And it is mutually understood that when one city wins we all win.
To change our way of thinking about the future a new breed of leaders is needed in all of our cities. That means that the short-sight old boys club (shadow government money) must allow new and innovative leaders to emerge without the shackles of outdated ideas that has led us to congestion, limitation, and the greatest threat to our future vision, selfishness.
If we allow this to continue to happen, this selfishness will ensure that our future will be controlled by a few, rather than including the creative visions of seven cities of Hampton Roads.
Rev. Anthony C. Paige is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Lambert’s Point in Norfolk.