The Bulletin

Virginian-Pilot stonewalled on tax information

By: - July 18, 2018 6:17 pm

Virginian-Pilot reporter Ana Ley got an earful from Portsmouth’s elected commissioner of the revenue while she was trying to pry loose neighborhood-specific information on meal, beverage and retail tax revenues for a story published Wednesday.

“You’ve taken up a lot of time – taxpayer dollars – trying to respond to your request because you want something very specific because you won’t do your job,” Commissioner Frankie Edmondson said in a phone interview Tuesday after threatening a Pilot reporter. “If you write that story and put our office in a negative light, saying we’re not doing what we’re supposed to be doing – let me tell you something, you’re going to have to answer for it.”

The story was trying to shed light on whether tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels are hurting business in Portsmouth. But the Pilot ran into a wall in Edmonson, who unlike his counterpart in Norfolk, wouldn’t share neighborhood-by-neighborhood data about tax collections.

An Old Dominion University economist estimated that tolls have cost Portsmouth nearly $9 million in taxable sales in 2017.

In 2016, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe launched a toll relief program for area residents, part of efforts to soften the blow from a public-private deal orchestrated by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration that has cost state taxpayers big money to buy down tolls at the tunnels..

 

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Robert Zullo
Robert Zullo

Robert spent 13 years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers before becoming editor of the Virginia Mercury in 2018. He was a staff writer and managing editor at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., before spending five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He grew up in Miami, Fla., and central New Jersey. A former waiter, armored car guard and appliance deliveryman, he is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact him at [email protected]

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