Immediately following the Treasurer’s Report at the last Cape Charles Town Council Regular Meeting, Councilman Chris Bannon abruptly exclaimed, “Thank you!” The statement, as usual, apropos of nothing, left Treasurer Pocock, as well as the rest of the room stunned. Bannon continued, “20 years ago, right around this time, we used to have to borrow money. Despite what we hear in the news and electronic media (?), the Town is not going under…and no one has gone to jail!”
A voice from the back of the room exclaimed, “Not yet!!”
Despite Bannon’s obtuse, bizarre and somewhat random pronouncement, it did make us wonder about the state of Cape Charles. Around 20 years ago, Mr. Bannon fought tooth and nail against the likes of Frank Wendell and Bill Parr to build a private, maximum security prison just outside town. That effort failed, but in the time since, have the likes of Bannon and his ilk created a new kind of prison, one where the inmates voluntarily subject themselves to intellectual, artistic and design incarceration by embracing the corrupt and banal?
Population Declines as Debt Rises
The effect of the new Cape Charles on full time residents and families has been subtle, yet effective. The town’s total full time residents have decreased since 2000. According to the Population Study conducted by the Town, “projections indicate the Town’s full time population is about 972 (as of report date). This is a decrease of about 14 percent since 2000. The population decrease continues a trend which was also observed during the 1990’s (when Bannon came to office) when the full time population decreased by 19 percent.”
What is being played out here, is that as full timers are being forced out by higher taxes and fees, as well as borderline corrupt municipal policies, part time ‘cat birds’ that live here seasonally (or rent properties) are moving in. The Town has documented a steady increase in the part time population over the past few decades.
While there are only around 1000 houses in Cape Charles, the majority of new construction is occurring in Bay Creek; most of these “new units are vacant or occupied on a part time basis”. According to the Population Study, “the number of units occupied on a full time basis decreased from 534 to 502. However, the number of units occupied on a part time basis increased from 82 to 239, and the number of vacant units increased from 122 to 243. These increases in part time units and vacant units were 191.3 percent and 99.0 percent, respectively.”
While Bannon proclaimed that the Town no longer has to borrow at the end of August, the aversion to debt apparently has been cured, with the figure hovering around the $10 million mark.
If Mr. Bannon wanted to thank Treasurer Pocock, it should be for her proactive efforts in trying to manage this number (Ms. Pocock has recently taken the initiative to refinance some of this, saving the Town over $400k in annual payment amounts).
Higher taxes, bloated government and misplaced priorities have turned Cape Charles inside out. The summers, once peaceful and serene are crowded and obnoxious. The tourist mentality has pushed volume and prices up, while lowering service and overall quality. The locals, in an effort to avoid the sweaty, oil covered visitors, have either left town completely, or adopted a policy of avoidance, much the way some wildlife has been boxed into smaller and smaller areas as suburban sprawl devours more and more of the their habitat. Yet, we keep electing the same jailers, patting them on the back as they shore up the prison walls around us. Bored and thumbing through the old text, I once again came across this accurately depressing line, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
What is the definition of insanity?