Lucas won’t give up

Published 11:12 pm Thursday, December 18, 2008

Give state Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, credit for persistence if nothing else.

Lucas, who represents parts of Franklin and Southampton County in the General Assembly, is shamelessly plowing ahead with her efforts to obtain millions in government-backed bonds for a hotel and conference center she wants to build in her hometown.

Dogged by ethical questions since the project’s conception, Lucas apparently sees no conflict between her position as chairman of the Senate Local Government Committee and her effort as a private businesswoman to convince a Virginia locality to obtain $38 million in federal and state bonds on her behalf.

The senator reached a new level of brazenness this week when she filed a $97.7 million lawsuit against the city, several individual Portsmouth City Council members and the owners of the Renaissance Hotel, against which her hotel would compete.

The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the City Council has denied Lucas access to the bonds because she and most of the project’s other investors are black.

The council, which has legitimate concerns about the need for the hotel and about taxpayers’ liability should it fail, rejected Lucas’ request by a 3-2 vote last summer.

The lawsuit appears timed to bully the council, which is expected to vote again on her request next month after the Portsmouth Economic Development Authority, for a second time, recommended passage.

The city of Portsmouth’s involvement in Lucas’ project is bad public policy and should be rejected. If Lucas and her investors want to build a hotel and compete in the free market, more power to them. But leave the taxpayers out of it.