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..