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2018 Virginia Beach Elections: Questions for candidates for City Council, Beach District

Voters citywide choose one candidate to represent the Beach District. [City of Virginia Beach]

THE INDEPENDENT NEWS

Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for the Beach District seat on the Virginia Beach City Council up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 6. The incumbent is noted. An additional candidate, John Coker, has officially withdrawn from the race, but his name will still appear on the ballot because they had been printed when he withdrew. The answers to our questions in this series generally are not edited, aside from obvious punctuation issues, spacing and formatting or for clarity. Our full 17-page voter guide is now on stands.


Richard W. “R.K.” Kowalewitch

Residence: Oceanfront

Age: 58

Occupation: Self-employed construction

Education: 2 years of college 

Phone: (757) 831-6143 // Email: rk8@cox.net // Social media: https://www.facebook.com/RKforCityCouncil/ 

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am uniquely qualified to represent the Beach District on City Council because I owned and operated a retail business in the resort area for 31 years. I’ve also lived in the District for 30 years. I love this City, I love the beach, and I understand the unique challenges and concerns of the resort businesses and residents unlike any other candidate. I am seeking elected office, because I believe the incumbent, along with the majority of our current council, has lost sight of our priorities, and we are headed in the wrong direction.

What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? I think the most important issue that is facing our city right now is corruption. It appears that our government has prioritized to take care of their “buddies” and their special interest groups, instead of the citizens’ needs. We need to change the City Charter to make sure that these conflicts are much harder to occur and the consequences much more severe. I have already met with my state representative on changing the state conflict of interest code section as well. If corruption does not matter, then no election will ever matter. Corruption is a business killer.

What are your policy priorities as a potential member of the City Council? I want to:

  • Extinguish corruption in VB.
  • Fully staff the police dept.
  • Fix pay compression for the police & fire depts.
  • Fix storm water maintenance. In the year 2002, VB collected $12M in stormwater fees; in 2017 VB collected $40M, but only spent $14M on maintenance. The maintenance amount was reduced compared to 2016 when we needed it the most, but the city approved $225M for more public private partnerships that we do not need.
  • Ensure our infrastructure is maintained, i.e. roads.
  • Reduce the debt, which is growing at a faster rate than the national debt. We spend $456K a day to service the VB debt. In 2002 VB was $22M to the good on the pension fund for city workers; today we are $1.4 Billion in arrears. Where is the money?

Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? We need to fix what we have first, before we do anything new. Our focus should be on infrastructure, i.e. storm water. The government needs to get out of the business of picking winners and losers. The free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice. This is what separates us from the rest of the world.

Virginia Beach has allowed limited development in the transition area between suburban and rural areas of the city, yet some of this development has proved costly to taxpayers. Should the city further limit projects in that area due to flooding and density concerns? Absolutely. We should not allow development in areas that we know there is going to be a problem. That is irresponsible on the city’s part. There should be stricter guidelines on any development in lower lying areas. Examples would be: no living quarters on the first floor, or/and they should be built on pilings or higher foundations.

Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? No. Part of the purpose of creating the green line was to stop development. We don’t need to build on every square inch of this city.

Do you support the agricultural reserve program, or ARP? Should either the program or its dedicated funding level be changed? Yes, it needs to be audited and tweaked.

How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? In the year 2002, storm water revenues were around $12M, and currently our revenues are around $40M with only $14M going to maintenance. Most recently, the current city council reduced the maintenance budget for storm water for the city. This is a very irresponsible decision. I will work to reverse this policy and focus our government in providing funding for our aging infrastructure problems. I have already reached out to the hierarchy of the Stormwater Maintenance Department and had a lengthy discussion on fixing the problem.

Voters from across the city select members of the city council, including members who represent district seats. Should the city consider another way of selecting members of the council, such as a ward system? I have been talking about this since 2002. We need to go to a district system. This will allow the candidates that are not heavily funded to reach out to all of the citizens in their district. It will also help to eliminate some of the corruption that is going on in our city. This would be a start in the right direction to leveling the playing field for all citizens and businesses. This needs to be put on a referendum for the citizens to vote. I would honor the outcome of that vote.

There is a sense that some developers in Virginia Beach are favored by government. What will you do to either ensure fairness for all business or fight this perception? I will get the city out of the business of picking winners and losers. Like businesses should not be collecting a tax to generate their own competition—i.e. The Pier Deal, Hilton at 31st Street. I will not support any government funding that would compete with the private sector. Ninety percent of all businesses in this city are small, and they should not be given unfair competition. The free enterprise system separates us from the rest of world, and we should never violate that.

The city administration has faced controversy, including an effort to shutter the ARP to pay for storm water projects. Is it time to change city management? We have the revenues. We should not rededicate money from one dedicated fund to another without it first going in front of council and the citizens for approval. An example would be, for storm water where in 2017 the revenues were around $40M with only $14M going to maintenance. Where did the money go? The city does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. We need to stop getting involved in projects that do not contribute to the General Fund. We need to take care of our citizens first and foremost.

Over the past few years, the City Council has not taken decisive action to address short-term rentals, despite clear concern about them within residential communities. What should be done? Should Sandbridge be a special case? If so, why? We do not need more government regulations on private property rights. There should only be guidelines for owners of the properties regarding parking and the number of guests per house. We are a unique city with tourist areas (Sandbridge and all along the oceanfront and bay areas). These areas have been renting for decades and producing income for owners and revenue for the city. I understand that this is a very sensitive topic, but I do believe in property rights.


David Nygaard

Residence: Beach District

Age: 54

Occupation: Jeweler/entrepreneur

Education: Kempsville High School, William and Mary (BBA), ODU (additional accounting classes) and Regent University (MBA)

Endorsements:VBDC

Website: www.davidnygaardforcitycouncil.com // Phone: (757) 333-4033 (office) // Email: david@davidnygaard.com // Social media: https://www.facebook.com/DavidNygaardForCitycouncil/

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I am a local entrepreneur, who is the only candidate to create and operate a regional chain of stores, and I bring a fresh voice to city council as an advocate for small local business. I was formerly the Virginia Business of the Year, but also, I experienced business failure when my bank went under in 2008, and having lost everything, I was forced to rebuild my business and life using a new business model and emerging technology. Many residents in our city feel left behind and I understand what it will take to build an amazing city for all our residents. 

What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? I believe the most important issue we face is diversifying our economy by partnering with local university entrepreneurship centers (there are four of them) to help incubate small technology and bio-tech companies taking advantage of the high speed cables and the Federal Opportunity Zones.  We need to protect current industries of tourism and military and make the investments to keep those industries working while developing other industries especially finding creative ways to encourage young entrepreneurs.  Local businesses know how to create local jobs and local businesses tend to stay where they were built.     

What are your policy priorities as a potential member of the City Council? Infrastructure repair and flood mitigation are critical and I have a plan- my “4 in 4” plan I’ve discussed below.  

ITS-VB is my plan to encourage and incubate small technology businesses in our city to help diversify our economy. I’ve detailed this approach above. 

My mom was a passionate supporter of domestic violence victims and I believe we can improve public safety in very specific ways: first I believe we need to revise field manual for our first responders. This is important because we have seen 2 deaths recently and because in Virginia 40% of murders are at the hands of an intimate partner. Secondly, we can provide victims the same presentation their abusers have by appointing special prosecutors. 

 We need to consider a new approach to marijuana policy with respect to medical marijuana. We need to aggressively pursue hosting one of the dispensaries as part of our Bio-tech park and we should consider reducing marijuana possession to the lowest level misdemeanor.

 Finally, I believe it’s time we create a level playing field and have greater transparency with respect to city budget issues especially when dealing with new development. We cannot treat Laskin Road the same way we treat Baker Road.Each area in our city has it’s own culture and that culture of local small businesses should be honored and protected when considering new development. 

Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? We need to protect our tourism industry and make sure we have new attractions and culture to keep our hotel rooms full, restaurants busy, and local retail stores profitable. As the Beach District representative, my job will be to make sure our Beach District businesses are protected and flourishing. In general, as a member of city council I believe we also need to protect and preserve the other cultures on Virginia Beach from Seatack to Kempsville to Sandbridge. For example, Sandbridge rentals are up 55% and I believe we have an opportunity to create a branding/ marketing program for Sandbridge to continue to grow that part of the tourist industry. 

When we ignore local culture and local businesses and create islands of chain type businesses we lose our unique point of differentiation and damage long term business.  

Virginia Beach has allowed limited development in the transition area between suburban and rural areas of the city, yet some of this development has proved costly to taxpayers. Should the city further limit projects in that area due to flooding and density concerns? I believe the agricultural industry of our city should be preserved and the green line should remain until or unless there is an overwhelming reason to change the program that has been successful for some 40 years. With the rise of “farm to fork” restaurants and organic micro-farming, our agricultural industry is well placed to help the rest of the city succeed. By allowing development in flood prone areas we are doing a disservice to many new home buyers who are not aware until it is too late for them. Sometimes the greatest discipline is saying no in order to preserve and grow something better.  

Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? This is a question I wouldn’t dare answer until meeting with civic leagues and families in our rural communities before such a decision is made. I encourage town hall meetings, and open dialogue with local neighborhoods and civic leagues. Too often decisions are made in city hall without seeking direct input from residents.

Do you support the agricultural reserve program, or ARP? Should either the program or its dedicated funding level be changed? Yes I do and I would look at ways to increase it. We’ve made some good purchases over the years such as Stumpy Lake golf Course and we should continue to look for ways to create more open and green spaces throughout our city and protecting our agriculture industry.  

How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? I believe the most urgent issue to address is flood mitigation which I believe we address in several ways- first prioritizing the budget – my “4 in 4” plan- to take 4% of the budget and direct it to address the backlog of infrastructure and flood mitigation projects over the next 4 years out of existing operating funds not by raising taxes of fees, and rejecting the current plan to do so over 15 years. I believe we need to address this first in our own budget priorities but then regionally looking for regional programs and assistance from both the state and federal governments. 

 Voters from across the city select members of the city council, including members who represent district seats. Should the city consider another way of selecting members of the council, such as a ward system? Yes, I did not enter this race to campaign but to lead and I have filed the legal paper work to place this question before Virginia Beach voters in a refere3ndum, so the citizens can chose. I believe that local government should be more representative and that local districts should decide who will represent their interests on city council. A city wide election system like we have now allows power to concentrate in the hands of a few. Currently city council races must reach all residents nearly 450,000 people. Let’s bring city council races closer to the citizens.  

There is a sense that some developers in Virginia Beach are favored by government. What will you do to either ensure fairness for all business or fight this perception? We cannot end corruption until we change the system such as moving to more representative government. I believe it’s a conflict of interest for any politician to vote in favor, on any matter, where they have received a direct or even indirect financial interest. My [incumbent] opponent was the target of an active FBI investigation because he voted for city funding for a project where his wife [was later involved in its marketing]. We need to have a more transparent system with less inside deals, and end nepotism where family members or business partners are appointed to powerful city boards and commissions.

The city administration has faced controversy, including an effort to shutter the ARP to pay for storm water projects. Is it time to change city management? Money collected in the form of taxes or fees should be used for the stated purpose. Often we have in our city collected money and diverted it to other purposes without input from citizens or even the approval of the council. Flood mitigation should be a priority in terms of the budget (see above plan). Whether we change city management or not we need to put safeguards in place to protect our ARP, not manipulate it’s funds.

Over the past few years, the City Council has not taken decisive action to address short-term rentals, despite clear concern about them within residential communities. What should be done? Should Sandbridge be a special case? If so, why? Our city was founded on the basis of being a resort city with short term rentals. This applies to both the north end as well as Sandbridge. We cannot have a one size fits all plan for development or even policies. We are too large. We need to protect the businesses that have grown over the years with respect to tourism, while also looking to protect property owners in non-resort neighborhoods. It will be a challenging balance but we may need to decide on a more local basis rather than attempt to implement a city wide policy. Sandbridge has seen an increase in rentals- up 55% and I believe we need to consider marketing the different areas as distinct destinations and consider more direct branding for example, branding Sandbridge on its own as an alternative to the OBX, or the north End different from the Strip. We cannot treat Sandbridge like we treat Kemsville because they are two distinct cultures with a unique history for each.


John E. Uhrin

[Incumbent]

Residence: Shadowlawn

Age: 50

Occupation: Hotel Management

Education: BS in Business Administration, Old Dominion University

Endorsements: Virginia Beach Education Association, Chamber of Commerce and Fraternal Order of Police

Website: www.johnuhrinvb.com // Phone: (757) 425-5222 // Email: uhrinvb@gmail.com // Social media: www.facebook.com/johnuhrin4VB/

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and finance from Old Dominion University. I started my career in the hospitality industry in high school, as a groundskeeper for the Schooner Inn. In 1991, I was named director of operations for Burlage Management and currently oversee the operation of multiple hotels at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. That gives me a key insight for the Beach district and helps me understand the short term and long term issues businesses face in our city.

 What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? The key issue is sea level rise and flooding, and we have begun investing in solutions. The city is determining how to put improvements in place that are done correctly the first time and don’t make things worse in nearby neighborhoods. The studies we have begun will help determine that, and I have worked with my colleagues to fund those and complete them in a timely manner. Council has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to enhance our stormwater management systems and will invest more in the years ahead.

What are your policy priorities as a potential member of the City Council? I believe the strongest Virginia Beach has the best schools, the best economic climate with the greatest career opportunities and the best quality of life with the safest neighborhoods. My policy priorities support that vision. I support public schools and supported funding to extend full day kindergarten throughout Virginia Beach. I support economic development and incentives for job growth and small business expansion. I support our police, firefighters and rescue personnel who do such a great job keeping us safe. I support funding for road improvements so we can spend less time stuck in traffic and more time enjoying time with our families. All of these great priorities are coupled with the lowest tax rate in the region.  Virginia Beach is moving forward.

Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? We created the strategic growth areas to target development in those specific areas which are uniquely served by access to transportation such as highways and larger roads. In those areas, stakeholders worked with staff to create plans for growth within the designated areas. Growth should be developed “up” and not “out” and directed in the northern portions of our city.

Virginia Beach has allowed limited development in the transition area between suburban and rural areas of the city, yet some of this development has proved costly to taxpayers. Should the city further limit projects in that area due to flooding and density concerns? Yes, and I think we have. We have commissioned the Dewberry study to further direct our strategies in implementing solutions to flooding and until we have a firm grasp on that implementation, we should be very wary of approving developments in fragile land areas that frequently flood. Implementing fixes afterwards proves to be a very costly endeavor, so I think the prudent thing to do is limit development with flood risks until we have a better handle on the solutions that will be recommended.

Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? No

Do you support the agricultural reserve program, or ARP? Should either the program or its dedicated funding level be changed? I support the ARP and think it is a real success story. I don’t support ending or changing it. I was very quick to speak out against the recommendation to eliminate this program in last years City Manager’s proposed budget.

How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? As stated above, when the Dewberry study recommends a science-based path forward, we will fund and implement those solutions in an orderly fashion. Some solutions will take time, since no one would want entire roads shut down for extended periods of time. There will be separate strategies for different types of flooding in different areas of the city.

Voters from across the city select members of the city council, including members who represent district seats. Should the city consider another way of selecting members of the council, such as a ward system? I fully support the current system and believe voters like voting for all 11 of their council members rather than just one district councilmember, but if a referendum showed citizens wanted to change it, I’d support the system they chose.

There is a sense that some developers in Virginia Beach are favored by government. What will you do to either ensure fairness for all business or fight this perception? The recent disparity study showed that city contracts aren’t as broadly distributed as we would hope, so we will be making some changes, like unbundling the larger contracts so that procurement dollars aren’t skewed by a small number of large projects. We will also examine our practices that may discourage companies from seeking to do city projects and make changes there.

The city administration has faced controversy, including an effort to shutter the ARP to pay for storm water projects. Is it time to change city management? I support him and he understands that he needs to stay focused on implementing Council’s direction in leading city government. There are some times “growing pains” with changes in leadership. I think we have worked through many of those initial issues.

Over the past few years, the City Council has not taken decisive action to address short-term rentals, despite clear concern about them within residential communities. What should be done? Should Sandbridge be a special case? If so, why? It’s clear that different parts of the city have different thoughts about the short term rental issue. We’ve crafted a path forward and sent it to the Planning Commission. I believe Sandbridge will be granted an overlay district to allow rentals with regulations that would contain abuses but for the most part leave them free to operate as they have within respectable noise and traffic levels.


© 2018 Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

The Independent News

2 Comments

  1. “Part of the purpose of creating the green line was to stop development. We don’t need to build on every square inch of this city.”

    He’s likely the best shot we have at preserving what precious little is left of the Green Line.

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