Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to both candidates in the special election on Tuesday, Nov. 6, to fill the unexpired term of former Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. The answers to our questions in this series generally are not edited, aside from obvious punctuation issues, spacing and formatting. Our full 17-page voter guide is now on stands.
M. Ben Davenport
Residence: Great Neck Point
Occupation: Residential Real Estate Broker
Endorsements: Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Beach Education Association and Fraternal Order of Police
Website: www.votebendavenport.com // Phone: (757) 425-6611 // Email: firstname.lastname@example.org // Social media: Davenport for Virginia Beach Mayor
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I have served on the VB City Council in the At-Large City district since 2015. I lead a very successful regional technology initiative that is focused on creating high tech opportunities for our city. Outside of council in 2007 I co founded a non profit organization called the Virginia Gentlemen Foundation that has raised over 18 million dollars for ALS, wounded veterans and Children with disabilities. We have built two incredible assets for the city in Grommet Island Park on 1st St and Camp Grom off of Birdneck Rd for wounded veterans.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? Sea Level rise must and will be addressed. My first vote was to fund the Dewberry Study which is due out later this year and will give us a road map of projects to prioritize that will help us seek federal funding to address this in a more meaningful way. We will address sea level rise using the best scientific data available and learn lessons from the Dutch and how they have reshaped the Netherlands as the gold standard in combating sea level rise.
What are your policy priorities as mayor of Virginia Beach? Besides public safety and education, technology will be amongst my top priorities. Too many of our children are moving out of the region to accept higher paying jobs. We educate our children in the best public schools in the state, they go off to some of the top universities in the USA and when they get out they are looking for the top careers in the USA and we don’t currently have enough of them here. My technology initiative is bringing a new industry to our region that will create the types of opportunities our children will come home for. But we can never take our eye off of public safety and education. We have to remain the safest city of our size in the US, I will make sure our first responders have the training , resources and funding they need to carry out their mission. That is why I am endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. Finally we must continue to be strong on education as a product of the VB City public schools I am committed to ensuring our schools stay at a top level which is why I am endorsed by the VB Education Association.
Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? Redevelopment should be focused north of the green line in the SGA’s. Strategic Growth Areas are well conceived plans that establish guidelines for growth in concentrated areas so as not to negatively effect of beautiful residential communities and suburban and rural areas.
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? The Dewberry Study is going to offer us a lot of guidance as to some of the mistakes that were made in the past. Every project will be evaluated based on its own merits and stormwater will be a major factor in determining which properties are suitable for development going forward.
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? Yes the ARP is an excellent program that helps us with flooding and sea level rise. I have always been a big supporter of this program and will continue to be.
How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? Using the results of the Dewberry Study we will prioritize projects that will have the largest impact on the most amount of people. These projects will be very expensive. When I was in the Netherlands last year I took a tour of some of the tide gate and spillway networks that keep the netherlands from flooding. I was in Eemshaven and I asked some members of the municipal government how did they pay for these massive billion plus dollar projects. Their answer was that they worked with their regional partners to come up with shovel ready projects and then took them to the EU to acquire the massive amounts of funding these jobs require. We are going to have to do the same thing. We are going to work with Norfolk and Chesapeake to come up with shovel ready projects and go to the state and federal government to get our funding using the results of the Dewberry Study as a road map.
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? My grandfather always said if it’s not broken don’t try to fix it. Virginia Beach is one of the best fiscally managed municipal governments in the USA. We have triple AAA bond ratings from all three credit rating agencies for our general obligation bonds. This shows the use of conservative budgeting practices and strong liquidity. Every member of city council is accountable to all voters. In a ward system you would only get to vote for one council member.
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 need to communicate better and make sure that we are inclusive to everyone. A good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from.
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 the city staff. We will always evaluate every aspect of what we do to make sure that our city continues to operate at the high level we all expect.
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? Short term rentals are a hot topic. We will wait to see the results from what comes back from the Planning Commission and do our best to be equitable to all parties involved. My guiding principle is going to be protecting the integrity of our beloved residential communities.
The mayor is one vote on the council, but they also are an example of the city’s standards and ideals. How will you, as mayor, avoid conflicts of interest with public duties and prevent even the perception of such conflicts? By learning from the mistakes of those that have come before me and by always erring on the side of caution.
Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer
Residence: Lake Christopher
Occupation: Physical Therapist
Military Service/Education: US Marine Corps, PhD Organizational Leadership, Regent University
Endorsements: Police Benevolent Association and Fire Fighters Union
Website: www.bobbydyerformayor.com // Phone: (757) 749-4659 // Email: email@example.com // Social media: www.facebook.com/DyerForMayor
What are your specific qualifications for this office? Virginia Beach needs a Mayor that brings people together. I am ready to serve. I served our country in the US Marine Corps. I believe in education, and I earned a Ph.D and taught government at the college level. I served you on City Council representing small businesses and workers. I fought against tax increases and for more money for our police and firefighters. I favored funding for infrastructure to improve traffic congestion and stop flooding, and as Mayor we will move forward on those initiatives. I pledge an ethical and honest local government that puts people first.
What, to you, is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? I think the most pressing issue we face is flooding, but the most important to me is our confidence and trust in government. Too many feel left out of the decisions of their own local government. I want to restore trust in government. I want to establish an Ethics Commission and create a level playing field so people will have confidence in us to solve these tough issues like flooding. That’s why I think we need a Mayor with experience, free of special interest connections and a record of honesty and character. I am ready.
What are your policy priorities as a potential member of the City Council? I signed a Contract with Virginia Beach at my campaign kickoff and it listed my top five priorities.
- A Pro-Business Virginia Beach with a level playing field helping small business.
- Ethics and Transparency in Government with better public involvement
- Reform and Raise Salaries for Public Safety Professionals to keep our best trained here
- Three Ts – Transportation, Transit and Tax Relief
- Accelerate Flood Mitigation
These priorities are crucial to restoring confidence and effectiveness of our city government
Where should redevelopment or development efforts be focused? I agree with the strategy for the Strategic Growth Areas and I was very involved in the Centerville SGA. Future growth is encouraged within the SGAs.
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 think it’s common sense that we evaluate development proposals on land that currently floods and limit those. We shouldn’t make flooding situations worse.
Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? I don’t support violations of the green line and our current policies.
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 supported keeping it in the budget when the Manager recommended ending the program.
How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? I have supported efforts to accelerate the funding of stormwater improvements and have made it a major plank in my Contract with Virginia Beach. I will appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission on flooding immediately. We need to first focus on dredging BMPs to their design level, and I preferred a budget proposal that made that a higher priority. My opponent did not. We also need to clear ditches and focus our efforts on relieving flooding in the most flood-prone neighborhoods, and in the tidal flooding-prone areas in Princess Anne.
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 long favored a district voting system, but do think a referendum should decide if any changes to the electoral system should be enacted. Voters should choose their voting system.
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? That perception is real, and who would blame people who think that? When the Governor says cronyism is an issue in Virginia Beach, we have to accept that the perception of favoritism is out there.Everyone should feel they have an equal hearing and equal shot at success in Virginia Beach. A level playing field is the number one plank in my Contract with Virginia Beach.
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? The city manager should carry out the direction of City Council and not his own agenda. He needs to exhibit the highest standards of professional conduct and communication.
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? Sandbridge is an economic engine that doesn’t need regulations squashing their economic means of success. Other neighborhoods want to be protected from badly managed rentals in their neighborhoods. Council is working on a compromise to protect everyone’s interest. I hope to continue making sure any ordinance is balanced with community buy-in.
The mayor is one vote on the council, but they also are an example of the city’s standards and ideals. How will you, as mayor, avoid conflicts of interest with public duties and prevent even the perception of such conflicts? This is exactly why I want to form an Ethics Commission, even though in fourteen years as a Councilman I have served honestly and with integrity. Voters need to know that there is oversight and accountability in not just the Mayor’s office, but City Council and all of our appointed boards and commissions. My PhD in Organizational Leadership demonstrates my commitment to leading by example and restoring the people’s faith and trust in their government. When I take the oath as Mayor, you can be rest assured that I will be acting in your best interests and not special interests.
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