Email exchange shows tension between Petersburg leader and resident

Posted at 6:42 PM, Sep 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-13 18:42:40-04

PETERSBURG, Va. -- "I was strong with my language and it's how I feel," said Brent Reid, the young man who recently sent a strongly-worded email to his city council representative, Vice Mayor Sam Parham.

The email was sent a few days after the Sept. 6 City Council meeting, where recommendations to help reduce the city's budget were under consideration.

"My particular gripe is with Mr. Parham, who seemed to lead the charge to accept most of the recommendations by the experts without considering a lot of the input,” said Reid.

Reid is part of a grass-roots organization, known as Clean Sweep Petersburg, which closely monitors city government. While critical of current city leaders, the group spent several weeks coming up with alternative solutions to reduce the City's Budget for Council to consider.

"The citizens got together and came up with some very good ideas,” said Reid.

With hundreds attending the meeting, Reid and other concerned citizens said some on council never truly considered alternatives suggested by citizens.

"We felt that they almost rubber-stamped the recommendations of the so-called experts who don't have to live here, you know, live with the results of these changes that are coming across,” said Reid.

In the email Reid sent to Vice Mayor Parham, he asked, "Why were the many valid suggestions made by citizens that live and work here not considered?” He goes on to add, "You hide behind the fact that you have only been on council a short time".

The Vice Mayor sent back a shorter reply that said, "We asked for the experts and we listened," adding "I was born here, live here, business here, hire more Petersburg people and pay more of those taxes I passed than you.  If you don't want to live here, we are not holding you hostage.”

Reid, who owns a home and commercial building in the city, says he was surprised at what the Vice Mayor implied.

"If you don't like the way he's doing things, I should just move,” said Reid about how he interpreted the email.

CBS 6 Political Analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth looked at both emails.

"A lot of that frustration was expressed,” said Holsworth about Reid’s email. “I think he very smartly, very intelligently, talked about issues the citizens had looked at that they felt were overlooked.”

Reid though used one profane word in his long email.

"You had a citizen who went a little beyond the bounds in lacing a lot of good recommendations with a piece of profanity,” said Holsworth.

About Vice Mayor Parham's email reply, Holsworth said, "The reply I thought was one of those kinds of reply's in which the frustration that the Council member had was understandable, but the manner in which he expressed it, I think was out-of-bounds.”

But Holsworth says suggesting a voter in his district pick up and move could hurt Parham in the next election.

"If you are an elected official, you have to rise above that frustration and not respond to everything you consider a bit of a provocation."

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