Councilwoman says city paid her travel to FL to learn how to defeat opponents of the 22% sales tax hike referendum

Councilwoman Margaret Eure said she took a taxpayer financed trip with 50 others to Jacksonville, FL last weekend to learn how that city's mayor beat back tax opponents in a referendum there last month.

Eure said she was asked by Mayor Meyera Oberndorf to represent her at the meeting.  "I went down Saturday," Eure said, "and came back Monday."

She said her travel expenses were paid for by the city, but she didn't know what the cost was. "You'll have to ask the City Clerk," she said Wednesday.

City Clerk Ruth Smith said four people were not at work in her office Wednesday.  "I am covered up," she said, "with things left over from last night (Tuesday night's City Council meeting).  Margaret gave me her envelope, but I frankly haven't had time to open it and I won't get to it today.  Can you call me back tomorrow?"

She did say, however, that while Eure went on the trip on behalf of Oberndorf, "she was representing the Chamber of Commerce."  She admitted, however, she did not know who was paying Eure for the travel expenses.

Terry Scanlon of the Newport News Daily Press reported:

"Several council members said they want to be more vocal but have been discouraged by strategists with The Yes Campaign, the group pushing for a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for new highways.

"We haven't been approached as a city council to do anything other than pass a resolution," said Virginia Beach City Councilwoman, Margaret Eure. "We're frankly sitting back waiting for y'all to get it done."

"We need a champion."

The Yes Campaign has asked elected officials from cities and counties throughout the region to keep a low profile on the referendum. Instead, the campaign wants more ordinary people leading the charge so the campaign isn't perceived as being pushed by greedy, tax-and-spend politicians."

Eure told VNS that she learned from the trip that "you have to get the grass roots to buy into it.  The campaign has to be well prepared and handled by private as well as public sectors to be successful."

Eure said she has no interest in any commercial property or business venture that will benefit from any of the projects proposed in the sales tax referendum.

She said she owns her Virginia Beach home and a commercial tract she has been trying to develop on Dominion Boulevard in Chesapeake and added, "it'll probably never get built."

In the mean time, most of the proponents of the tax referendum are the local newspaper and TV stations, including tax-supported PBS, most politicians, and a large segment of the business and development community who will be enriched by the referendum - financed projects.

Opponents include a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and ordinary grass roots citizens who are opposed to any tax increase.  Polls are reporting that the Axe the Tax forces are leaving by a favorable margin a month away from the referendum vote.