Ed. note — The Independent News asked candidates for the Virginia Beach City Council Kempsville District 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.
Neighborhood: Indian Lakes, Kempsville
Age on Nov. 8: 27
Occupation: Insurance Agent
Key endorsements: Councilman John Moss, Delegate Jason Miyares, and Virginia Dare Soil and Water Conservation board members Leslie Jones and Daniela Cossu
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am the only FEMA/NFIP licensed flood insurance candidate so I understand our coastal situation. I’ve been running my family’s local business for the past eight years and graduated from the American College with my LUTCF and FSCP financial designations. After being assaulted in a parking lot, I founded an outreach organization specializing in empowering women to defend themselves. I also co-founded an organization for female entrepreneurs that helped women to start and grow their own local small businesses. My husband is a 4th grade teacher at Seatack Elementary, so I have firsthand understanding of how to promote our schools.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? Prioritizing spending. Our city has a half a billion dollars of unfunded roads projects, our police officers are an entire precinct short for personnel, our schools have had over $26 million plucked from their reserves to fund for the city’s pet projects and the city has not adequately maintained our stormwater runoff systems. Taxpayers should not be lining the pockets of special interests and footing the bill of ballooning tax and fee increases when median household incomes have dropped by 5% over the last decade and the percentage of our students identified as economically disadvantaged has skyrocketed to 35%.
If elected, I will address the issue of prioritizing spending with a zero-balance budget and funding the most important priorities first. I will promote a revenue-neutral real estate tax rate, advocate for cost-effective transportation solutions and treat the city’s budget like you treat your own household budget.
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? New redevelopment should be focused within the urban centers of the “city”. Recapitalize on dead real estate stock within the city, recognize the demand for updated mixed-use housing, utilize mixed land uses and Planned Urban Developments, accept low square foot housing alternatives for small families and fixed income residents and preserve green space.
How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? Both my mother and father are Air Force veterans and they opened their family business together in Virginia Beach. The city should embody a close relationship with the VA and technology-based platforms (like VetNet) that better transitions veterans into the business community and encourage veterans to open new businesses. The city can also streamline business creation by eliminating the BPOL tax and make it easier to be an entrepreneur in Virginia Beach.
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 continuing the agricultural reserve program but the city should exercise healthy scrutiny for all applicants.
Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. Yes, the city should maintain the green line and accept new development on a case-by-case basis. The city should promote sustainable, smart growth that preserves the natural environment and preserves green space.
Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. Yes, Nimmo Parkway should be extended to Sandbridge. It will cut down on emergency response time and alleviate traffic congestion. The city should explore a mixed-use path to accent Nimmo Parkway that can be a walking/bike trail to connect into Sandbridge.
Do you support the extension of light rain from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. No, I do not support extending light rail into Virginia Beach at this time. Virginia Beach does not have the population density to support a light rail system with only 1,800 people per square mile (more than three times less densely populated than the average US city with light rail at 6,300 people per square mile). We should instead focus on revamping our bus services that do not run regularly and only 5% of our bus stops have shelters. Buses are far less expensive, will get more people off the road and can adapt to population changes.
The city should explore converting the Norfolk-Southern rail line into an 11-mile, continuous urban trails system that connects neighborhoods together. It will be inexpensive to convert and to maintain, will preserve green space and our wetlands, will encourage a healthier lifestyle, will attract small businesses and will promote our city’s recreational image.
Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond
Neighborhood: Wesleyan Chase Community
Age on Nov. 8: 66
Occupation: Retired Distinguished Professor of Music and Director of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement
Key endorsements: Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Fraternal Order of Police, Virginia Beach Educators Association
What are your specific qualifications for this office? As an incumbent, I bring a wealth of experiences with a doctoral degree in Education Leadership, Curriculum and Instructions; a retired Distinguished Professor from Norfolk State University; having taught at all educational teaching levels; and a Graduate of the University of Virginia Sorensen Institute for Political Leaderhip and Candidate Training Programs. I have 25 years of public service and community advocacy trianing including serving as Legislative Aide to Delegate Algie T. Howell, Vice Chair of the Electoral Board, Council Appointee-Hampton Roads Planning Commission, State Appointments: Hampton Roads District Transit Commission, Behavioral Health and Disabilities Services Board. I believe education is the key to sustaining a safe, robust economy, and a healthier environment and lifestyle for our residents.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it if elected? Recurring flooding and sea level rise due to climate change, land subsidience, development and greenhouse gas emission is currently the most important issue facing the City. We have applied for the Composite Rating Insurance plan which will bring discounts for our residents’ flood insurance policies. I will advocate for more preservation of our wetlands, and compliance with the new storm water regulations. Educating our residents about flood mitigations and self help strategies such as building rain gardens, and encourage our city to adapt more measurres to reduce the impact of greenhouse gases is important. The City has funded ongoing stormwater facilities maintenance to maintain the primary infrastructure and upgrade needs. I will push to address the needs of older neighborhoods in my Kempsville area and other districts by rehabiltating the drainage systems, as well as aged pumps, dredging, structural repairs, retrofits, culverts and aerators. During major storms a failed pump not only impact our residents but also our ecological system.
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? Currently, the three current major economic drivers in Viginia Beach are Tourism, Military and Agriculture. With the impending downsizing of our military presence due to sequestration, our future development will efforts will be focused on the completion of our SGA plans for Burton Station as an innovative business center, with an emphasis on industries and service related jobs. Our gobal outreach will target the Princess Anne Commons, where we are building sustainable economic partnerships by creating a Bio medical and healthcare hub, along with the Veterans Hospital Center grant awarded by the State. Technology and Broadband initiatives including the Transatlantic Fiber optic underground cable connections with other continents as well as expanding our Sports Marketing initiatives. These industires will generate new revenues for the City.
How can the city better promote industries that capitalize upon our veteran population? Recruitng and retaining our veterans by capitalizing on their military discipline and technical skills are vital to our economic success. In partnership with local colleges, we are establishing target workforce centers for retooling their military knowledge to segway into new manufacturing, technology, cyber security, small machinery and the automotive repair industries. These jobs result in high quality pay which will increase our veterans abilities to thrive in Virginia Beach.
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 support preserving as much of our rural lands as possible. The rich diversit of our land includes, open space, rural and urban environment sprinkled with wetlands, lakes and rivers. As part of our SGA plans to preserve our rural legacy and conservation easement within projected population growth and development, we initiated the Agriculture Preservation Program which has to date reserved over 9000 acres of farmland. This form of conservation easement is crucial to protecting our rural legacy for the future generation, yet allowing the owners to continue their livelihood on the land. Both parties have a binding agreement to abide by the rules.
Should the city maintain its “green line”? Please explain your position. The city should maintain its “green line” which requires a 50ft. buffer placed between the residential and agricultural properties called the “green line”. In 1979, the City established this “green line”, which is actually an urban-growth boundary, to concentrate development mainly to the northern part of the City and protect our agricultural land to the south. The development pattern in the northern section of Virginia Beach is primarily surburban sprawl. In order to protect this lifestyle, the City developed 8 Strategic Growth Areas, which keeps urban development tracked along the Central town. Currently we are building new mixed-use horizontal developments to protect that area which is vital to the productivity of our agriculture farmland.
Should the city extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbridge? Please explain. Extending the Sandbridge/Nimmo VII-A would be great. The City will hopefully extend Nimmo Parkway to Sandbrige including the completion of the bike path when construction funds becomes available. Luckily we have done the engineering and 30% design for this last mile into Sandbridge. Hopefully we can work with the State for some assistance, but that is not assured. By having the design work underway, we will be in a better position to get funds when they are available. Seemingly, the State is more favorable to shuffle ready projects which may work to our advantage.
Do you support the extension of light rain from Newtown Station to Town Center? Please explain. I support a multimodal transportation system which includes light rail and I consider that it will be a boost to our economy. Residents must understand that this only one of several moving parts and comes as a package with a 78% increase in buses, shared bike and pedestrian paths. The State has given us 155 million which can only be used for transit projects. This is a one time opportunity which will be awarded to Northern Virginia if we do not use it. As a proponent for public transportaton, I believe this is the right time to invest for our future generation. Less cars on the road is healthier and will reduce the carbon dioxide and GHG footprint. I was pleased to learn that the cost was reduced to 240 milion and with the bidding competition, we just may see lower prices. The proposed light rail extension will improve the bus connections, and predictability of on-time arivals from point A to B. Many residents, including seniors do not have cars and this will connect them to their jobs, shopping and entertainment. During my visit to Denver and Charlotte, I was amazed at the plethora of new businesses along the transit line. This economic boom is what is needed to create jobs, expand our tax base and lower our taxes in the wake of sequestration. More importantly it will eveutally connect Virginia Beach and Norfolk to the naval base, EVMS and several Higher Education facilities.
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