Ed. note — The Independent News asked candidates for the single Virginia Beach City Council, at large, seat on the ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to answer questions about issues in the city and, specifically, the city’s southern communities. This appeared in print on Friday, Oct. 28. Responses to question have not been edited. The following responses appear in alphabetical order by author’s last name.
Dane U. Blythe
Neighborhood: Lake Shores
Age on Nov. 8: 51
Occupation: Biopharmaceutical Representative
Political party affiliation, if any: Republican
Key endorsements: Councilman John Moss, Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance, Virginia Beach Board Members of Virginia Dare Soil and Water Conservation District
What are your specific qualifications for this office? Professional Experience: solid waste and recycling industry. 17 years’ experience in pharmaceutical and biotechnology sales, which gives me a unique insight into the city’s effort to attract biotechnology and life sciences companies to the Princess Anne Commons area.
► Served as past chairman of the Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance
► Youth Basketball Coach
► Served on small business subcommittee- identified barriers to small business growth and development in the city
► Served on Virginia Beach Clean Community Commission
► Currently serve on Open Space Advisory Board
► Currently serve as Vice-Chair of the Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation Commission.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? Growing our economy. Dr. Koch of ODU, in repeated annual regional forecasts, has advised local governments that to achieve better growth rates, they must improve the skill sets of the regional workforce. Over investing in low wage retail, hotel and entertainment venues is not driving a successful level of growth in the overall economy.
Let’s proactively make Virginia Beach the Silicon Valley of the Mid Atlantic. We can capitalize on the ultra-high speed internet opportunities created by the first transoceanic fiber cable station in the mid-Atlantic by attracting technology companies. The Princess Anne Commons Biotechnology Corridor is an exciting opportunity for bringing high paying jobs to Virginia Beach. Let’s utilize the expertise of our veterans and become a center for excellence in cyber security. I would also partner with ODU and its engineering program to conduct research on scientific endeavors such as artificial intelligence and drone manufacturing.
Virginia Beach is a city that can no longer rely on new development as it once did. How should the city promote future redevelopment? Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? I believe in responsible development- not based on cronyism and shortsighted gains, but based on thoughtful decision-making and free market principles. We should eliminate the current practice of city council via the Economic Development Authority picking winners and losers. We have followed this failed strategy for over two decades and the region’s growth rate has lagged national performance most of the time. The more government intervenes with non-level playing field tax incentives, the slower the overall growth rate. One idea is to give employers a dollar for dollar rebate on BPOL tax up to $100,000 per business for offering paid internships in jobs classified as STEM occupations. Ultimately the BPOL tax should be phased out over 5-7 years.
The free market should determine where and when development and redevelopment will occur and the City’s zoning requirements should balance the interests of neighborhoods and future business growth. Collaborating closely with the Department of Defense is also crucial to keeping our military bases.
How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? The private sector is the primary driver of hiring the talented men and women leaving our military, especially small businesses. The city can play a limited role and I would rely on our Economic Development Authority to make sure all the grants and incentives available to vets are communicated online and in office. They can hold monthly workshops led by experts and other veterans who successfully transitioned to the private sector.
We should make Virginia Beach the most economically attractive place to start a business by phasing out the BPOL tax over 5-7 years and lowering the property tax rate. We can improve customer service at city offices to ease the process for starting a small business, and I recommend creating a concierge type service for new small business owners to streamline the permitting process to save time and money, and help these entrepreneurs open their business as soon as possible.
Do you support the agricultural reserve program meant to ensure farmland can remain productive in rural areas of Virginia Beach? Please explain why. I support the program and its policy objectives, but like all programs, it needs to be assessed to be sure we are not buying development rights ahead of needs based upon current population growth rates and forecasted low growth rates. Our local GDP does not necessitate a current need to make additional purchases at this time. However, when economic and growth rates validate a requirement to purchase development rights, the program should then receive the appropriate payment.
Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. Yes, the city should sustain it current policy of not extending infrastructure or subsidizing private sector extension of water and sewer infrastructure south of the green line and preserve the current comprehensive land use plan south of green line.
Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. Yes, primarily for safety reasons. Replacement of Sandbridge Road Bridge is scheduled to begin July 2018, and Phase VII-A Princess Anne Road ($7.7 million) and Sandbridge Road-Nimmo VII-A ($18 million) are included in the existing list of capital projects.
Do you support the extension of light rain from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. Preventing the extension of the Tide light rail into Virginia Beach is vitally important. It is the by far, the first question people ask me when they learn of my candidacy. I strongly encourage my fellow citizens to vote NO on the referendum.
It is important we make thoughtful data driven decisions with eye to the future, and the results of the 2 year, $6.6 million dollar study revealed four conclusions: light rail doesn’t reduce traffic congestion, it makes traffic worse at certain intersections, doesn’t improve air and water quality, and it is no guarantee of economic development. Only 2250 rides per day are projected in the year 2034!
Light rail is an outdated mode of transportation and far more costly than other modes of transit. Let’s prepare for the coming revolution in automobile automation. Let’s explore 21st century technologies such as personal rapid transit being developed by SkyTran, a NASA Space Act Company. Let’s not overlook the value and benefit of buses. Let’s conduct an experiment and run buses along Virginia Beach Blvd from the Oceanfront to downtown Norfolk at 15 minute intervals during rush hours and even offer the rides at no charge for 9-12 months and see if more people will take public transportation. I also would recommend running them on natural gas and provide internet service at no cost to the riders.
Neighborhood: Oceanfront Old Beach
Age on Nov. 8: 35
Occupation: Eastern Region Business Development Manager Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group
Key endorsements: Hampton Roads Realtors Association
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What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am an active citizen the city of Virginia Beach. I am on the board of the Leaders Circle of the Chamber of Commerce, a Virginia Beach Jaycee, Board member of the Virginia Beach Community Development Corporation and the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation. I bring skills in marketing, social media, data, technology and business development. I am grateful for the opportunity and the support of the community and want to ensure these opportunities are available for the future generations to come.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth into the future. We are facing issues of a stagnant economy and need solutions to support the high quality of life in Virginia Beach. This would include a multi modal transportation system to connect us as a region and put us on a level to compete nationally, in the nation, against other markets for new job growth.
Virginia Beach is a city that can no longer rely on new development as it once did. How should the city promote future redevelopment? Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? The future of development falls along the 264 corridor in Virginia Beach. A goal is by 2040 we see 50% of our growth in 2% of our land in the strategic growth areas along this 264 corridor. Building unique, connected communities where citizens can live work and play.
How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? Hiring Veterans is good business. The experience of those who have served, fighting for America’s interests and security, are dependable, have valuable occupational skills and proven character, discipline and leadership skills. On the local level we need to be sure we incentivize veteran friendly business to retain these skilled professionals
Do you support the agricultural reserve program meant to ensure farmland can remain productive in rural areas of Virginia Beach? Please explain why. Yes, I support the agricultural reserve program and its protection of agricultural land for future generations in Virginia Beach.
Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. Yes, the city should maintain its green line. Not only is the green line important to protect our agricultural land but also to preserve the farm and forested for our future generations. The great thing about Virginia Beach is the diversity in quality of life from an urban town center, beautiful beaches, safe neighborhoods and rural life, a Virginia Beach for everybody!
Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. No, at this time we are fighting a battle with mother nature and sea level rise and storm water runoff. We need to improve the drainage and quality of the current roads running to Sandbridge and preserve the wetlands and wildlife of the nimmo proposal.
Do you support the extension of light rain from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. Yes, I am pro multi modal transportation. We need to be sure we keep people moving when traffic is at its worst. This includes bike and walkable pathways, light rail, busses and cars. We need light rail locally as well as regionally for connectivity. Our cities are competing nationally against other regions for new job growth as well as workers. We are losing this battle to other markets such as Portland, Denver and Charlotte. These cities offer multi modal transportation which is attractive to business and to future workers. 17 out of 20 markets with light rail have shown job growth. We are losing companies that can bring careers to Hampton Roads, our college educated millennials and now most recently, with the departure of the Norfolk City manager to Charlotte, our talent. Vote Yes to Light Rail Nov 8th
Neighborhood/community of residence: Beach borough
Age on Nov. 8:
Political party affiliation, if any: Republican
Key endorsements: Fraternal Order of Police, Virginia Beach Education Association, Virginia Beach Professional Firefighters
What are your specific qualifications for this office? My background in education, being a former teacher and School Board Vice-Chairman, and experience representing all people on City Council and a record of being an independent voice are unique qualities. Our real estate taxes are over 20% lower than when I took office but our investments in schools, roads and public safety have paid off in great education and safe neighborhoods. Others can make promises that they have no record of keeping, but I’ve fought for you. I’ve protected our agricultural and historical heritage and you can count on me as you always have.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? Our biggest problem citywide is combatting the impact of fewer defense dollars being spent in the region which impacts jobs and salaries both in defense-related industries and other industries that rely on that business. Our agricultural and tourism sectors are doing well. We need to engage in newer industries like biomedical research jobs and cybersecurity jobs which are high-paying careers. We need these jobs to keep our well-educated graduates in the region, rather than having them travel the country looking for these jobs. Throughout the recession, our fine fiscal management managed to avoid laying off police officers, teachers and firefighters, but moving forward, we need to make sure we attract quality private sector jobs to replace those impacted by defense department sequestration. The Chamber of Commerce has endorsed me because they know I am the best candidate to attract these new jobs.
Virginia Beach is a city that can no longer rely on new development as it once did. How should the city promote future redevelopment? Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? This is why we created strategic growth areas in the northern part of the city. There is not a great deal of developable property in the northern part of Virginia Beach, so those Strategic Growth areas are designed to encourage quality private sector redevelopment in the Strategic Growth areas. Beware of those who oppose the Strategic Growth plan because they might be looking to direct development further south.
These areas have several incentive-based ways to manage growth. The city has done a full review of these incentives and is in the process of solidifying those so that they actually accomplish in practice what they are supposed to accomplish. The private sector understands their business need to upgrade quality and focus development on areas where transportation access is best.
How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? (150 words) This is why I launched a cybersecurity initiative, which has goals to attract cybersecurity companies and the jobs that they bring, for which our military veterans have exceptional experience and aptitude. It also has ways you and I can protect ourselves from hackers so we can be the safest city from crime and the safest city online. I also voted to provide 25 acres of city property for the new veterans center that will open in Virginia Beach in 2019.
I grew up in a Navy family so I understand the great part that our military active duty heroes and veterans in our community. I have always supported our military and defended their mission as a Council member, voting to protect Oceana by rolling back development near the base. I will continue to do so.
Do you support the agricultural reserve program meant to ensure farmland can remain productive in rural areas of Virginia Beach? Please explain why. Yes, and I have supported the Agricultural Reserve Program from the beginning of my service on City Council. Development below the city services line not only would be costly to the city budget but it would be counter to the quality of life that has been a Virginia Beach hallmark for generations. I think the program overall has served us well and has been a good example of partnership. The ARP has saved over 9,000 acres from development, and the Open Space Acquisition Program has provided over 3,000 acres of open space. Overall, it’s been a good program that has served Virginia Beach well.
Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. Yes. Absolutely. Completely. I’ve defended the green line against development and will continue to defend it.
Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. I believe the time has come to extend Nimmo and the city is in the design and environmental process of moving forward. I was part of Council who voted to preserve the right-of-way from development to keep our options open over the years. The process is a long one and we absolutely must minimize any potential environmental impact, but the community needs safer roads in this area and we will commit the funds necessary to do that.
Do you support the extension of light rail from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. The voters will decide that in the referendum on November 8th. $155 million has been committed to it by the state and if Virginia Beach does not use that for light rail, we cannot use that funding for anything else. It will go to rail projects in Northern Virginia. Also, the General Assembly paid $20 million to help with the purchase of the Norfolk-Southern right-of-way contingent on the corridor being used for light rail. We’ll have to pay that $20 million back to Richmond if we don’t proceed with light rail. I do think that our future depends on a regional multimodal transportation system. I will listen to the will of the people in the referendum.
Neighborhood/community of residence: Aragona
Age on Nov. 8: 32
Occupation: Property Manager/Blogger
Political party affiliation, if any: Republican
Key endorsements: James Lysaght of Red Nation Rising and Kimi Stevens
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am a Virginia Beach Native and graduated college with a degree in International Relations. My professional career has been in hospitality and property management; I am knowledgeable on what tourists look for in a destination and what residents look for in their homes. My approach to city council will be to lead by example and common sense.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? The most important issue currently would have to be the mismanaged priorities of how our tax dollars are spent; from everything dealing with Light Rail funding to pay scales of city officials, we need council members in office who truly understand how hard people work to pay their taxes. I will be fiscally conservative in how tax dollars are spent.
Virginia Beach is a city that can no longer rely on new development as it once did. How should the city promote future redevelopment? Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? It is a sad day when our established neighborhoods are neglected to make way for shiny new projects that benefit a select few in this city. I would find a way to encourage developers to put efforts into restoring our established neighborhoods, and one of those ways could be with an Innovative District plan. Efforts should also be focused on our established neighborhoods especially in flood mitigation, and we should start in places most effected by Hurricane Matthew.
How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? I believe one of the best incentives we can offer to capitalize on our veteran population is to offer them the BEST care anywhere in the U.S. That means the city needs to collaborate with veterans and the VA to ensure everyone involved has the same dedication to give the best level of care our veterans were promised without long waits nor sub-par service. When word spreads that this area has the best in Veteran care, the word will spread and employers will be drawn to our veteran work force.
Do you support the agricultural reserve program meant to ensure farmland can remain productive in rural areas of Virginia Beach? Please explain why. I do. The agricultural reserve program helps with consumers desire for buying fresh local goods. As someone who has grown up in this city, it bothers me that every inch of grass now seems to have some kind of structure on it, while other homes, shopping centers, office buildings remain vacant. This program helps to maintain a much needed balance within our community to the environment.
Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. (150 words) As someone who believes this area is being over developed, yes I do believe the city should maintain its green line. I would like to see more efforts into restoring areas that have already been developed and are in need of updating or even a simple “face lift” then to continue to witness our area to be developed in the way it is.
Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. This is something that the citizens of Sandbridge should have a say in, but I do see that this would be a benefit. It is usually a great idea to have more than one entry and exit point into a community.
Do you support the extension of light rain from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. NO, I am not in support of the extension of Light Rail. Light Rail is a pet project of our current administration and has no value. If Light Rail truly will bring an influx of a golden parachute as being promised by certain officials, why is Norfolk’s line failing? What we need is more dependable buses with efficient bus schedules that do run past 11pm. We have the buses, we have the roads, let’s utilize the items we currently have so we can fix the drainage issues facing our city.
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