- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - The elected treasurer of Virginia Beach has picked a highly public political fight with the elected City Council over a proposed 3-mile light-rail extension to Town Center.

Having found no organized opposition to the $327 million plan, Treasurer John Atkinson took out a newspaper advertisement to convince residents to rally against it.

Atkinson’s half-page ad appeared in Sunday’s Beacon, a community news section of The Virginian-Pilot, the newspaper reports (https://bit.ly/1BxORfH).

In the ad, Atkinson said the city could instead provide a bus service, which would be much more cost-effective than spending hundreds of millions for a short trip that will serve a projected 1,100 passengers. According to that estimate, the city would be spending nearly $300,000 per passenger for the light-rail extension.

“When you do the math, we could buy every (passenger) a Bentley,” said Atkinson, who has been treasurer since 1978. He did not mention his elected office in the ad.

Atkinson is asking those who agree with him to cut out his advertisement, write “No” on it, then mail it to an address he included.

“The only thing that’s going to get Council to take notice is if you show up with a large carton of ballots,” Atkinson said.

The council says the light-rail will spur economic development and improve regional cooperation when the city is linked by train to Norfolk.

Final approval for the light-rail extension is at least a year away, but the City Council added $20 million to this year’s budget to keep the project alive.

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Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com

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