THE INDEPENDENT NEWS
Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for the Centerville District seat on the Virginia Beach City Council on the Tuesday, Nov. 3, ballot. Answers to our questions in this series generally are not edited, aside from obvious punctuation issues, spacing and formatting, or for clarity. The print edition containing our full voter guide is now on stands. Please reach the editor with any questions or concerns via email.
ERIC V. WRAY II
Residence: Centerville District
Occupation: Funeral Director/CEO
Military Service/Education: U.S. Navy Veteran/Associates Degree
Endorsements: Del. Barry Knight, Police Benevolent Association, Republican Party
Phone: (757) 235-0441
Social media: @EricWrayforCityCouncil on Facebook
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I won’t tell you one thing to get elected and then turn my back on you after the election. My opponent did just that. In Princess Anne Independent News, my opponent wrote, “Development should be focused on the northern part of the city” and voted for commercial development on agricultural land. I would’ve opposed that development and would support additional ordinances to make sure this doesn’t begin a trend of similar development in our rural areas of Virginia Beach. I am a small business owner and a Navy veteran, two life-building experiences which makes me very qualified in helping military families, veteran-owned small businesses, and the responsibility of balancing budgets, understanding a P&L statement and representing you with honor and honesty.
What is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? Watching the nightly news makes me fearful that some would like Virginia Beach to become more like Richmond, Portland or Seattle. This year’s election could decide if we stay Virginia Beach or become more like larger cities in other states. We need to preserve what makes Virginia Beach great, support our local police and its excellent record of performance, and making sure our small business communities is growing and hiring.
What are your three main policy priorities?
• Fix Flooding
• Support our Police and recruit more officers
• Attract new small and large businesses while growing existing businesses
Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? No. Absolutely not.
Do you support the agricultural reserve program, or ARP? Should its dedicated funding level be lowered in favor of applying that money to stormwater and flooding projects? I support the ARP and think that raiding the ARP for stormwater funding would be counterproductive. The ARP has served Virginia Beach well, and flooding deserves a stable, long term funding stream.
This year, the City Council approved a conditional use permit to allow an event venue to operate on land zoned for agriculture in rural Virginia Beach. Do you believe nonfarming businesses should be allowed on agriculturally zoned land in the rural area of the city? Why or why not? I would have voted no and think that once you open the door to commercial development in rural farming areas, proposals for more will be lining up at Council’s door. My opponent supported it, and I don’t know how she can oppose future developments once she approved this one. It was a bad precedent, and one she never told voters about in her first election.
How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? It’s now a question of funding. The city has the plan provided by the Dewberry study. It’s a question of electing Council members that will lead and fund the solutions. These needs to address flooding are very expensive and Virginia Beach likely can’t fund it all by ourselves without help from the state or federal government. I commit to fixing flooding now, and not taking decades to do it.
How can the city help address concerns about equality that are the subject of recent unrest here and around the nation? First, we can’t reward rioters and looters. We can’t show that violence and misconduct are the preferred method to get your way. But those who want to constructively work for a more open, more equitable Virginia Beach to make sure we promote equal opportunity for all, we should always be willing to have that conversation and work on improving an imperfect world.
Has the city done enough to help the restaurant and hospitality industry recover from shutdowns related to the pandemic? I think the city has done a good job in trying to help the business community. COVID-19 didn’t give businesses many options with ordered shutdowns, but Virginia Beach did far better than many cities and we are in much better shape now than anyone would have predicted in the Spring.
Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? I believe the voters of Virginia Beach should choose the election system they want, and have always supported a referendum. My opponent in 2018 opposed our hybrid system, and personally I worry that a ward system would actually hurt districts by creating a Council majority that the voters from a single district would never be able to vote in or vote out. We need a lot of discussion and a referendum before we change our system.
SABRINA D. WOOTEN
Occupation: Professor, Administrative Pastor
Military Service/Education: Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Old Dominion University, Masters Degree in Public Administration and Masters in Business Management from Regent University. PhD candidate at Walden University
Endorsements: Virginia Beach Education Association, Virginia Beach Professional Fire Fighters and Mid-Atlantic Pipe Trades Association
Phone: (757) 797-5625
Social media: @wooten2win on Facebook
What are your specific qualifications for this office? I have been vested in the community serving as a former chaplain for the Virginia Beach Police Department, a volunteer instructor and mentor for the Kempsville Entrepreneur Academy, as well as former vice chair of the Virginia Beach Minority Council. Additionally, I have a strong educational background with a B.S. in Political Science, Masters degrees in Business Management, Public Administration and I am a PhD candidate in Public Administration. I have a unique skill set as a former Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator where I demonstrated the ability to work with opposing forces to bring them together and provide solutions to move forward. It is my goal to continue to use this skill set to work with City Council members, key stakeholders, City officials and residents to move the City of Virginia Beach forward in these uncertain times.
What is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? One of the most important concerns for the City of Virginia Beach at this time is the response to COVID-19. As a result, it is important to continually review the facts and the data to ensure proper guidelines are in place to ensure the safety of our residents. Also, public safety is vitally important to the residents of Virginia Beach. As a former Police Chaplain, I am committed to working with community stakeholders, police officers and residents to ensure that our citizens feel safe.
What are your three main policy priorities? The three main policy priorities are as follows:
• Education: Addressing equity for students and adequate pay for teachers in education. I supported a budget that encompassed these priorities.
• Empowering Local Business- Ignite Business Series: I host the Ignite Business Series Seminar quarterly to provide education and awareness regarding resources and opportunities for small, women, minority, service disabled and local businesses. Local businesses are the lifeblood of our community and the source of vital economic development in Virginia Beach. As a member of City Council, I will continue to provide local businesses with the tools and resources they need to grow and expand.
• Advocating for Great Neighborhoods: Virginia Beach residents deserve to live in an environment that is safe and habitable. Cultivating great neighborhoods requires proven traffic-calming solutions and an expedited storm water plan to alleviate flooding in our communities. I sponsored a resolution to include Virginia Beach as a part of the American Flood Coalition which addresses flooding and sea level rise on a national level. The resolution was unanimously approved by City Council.
Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? I don’t believe this proposal would be productive or cost effective so I would oppose this issue.
Do you support the agricultural reserve program, or ARP? Should its dedicated funding level be lowered in favor of applying that money to stormwater and flooding projects? I support the ARP and I think it is a great success story from Virginia Beach that should be replicated in other cities. No, the dedicated funding level should not be lowered in favor of applying money to stormwater and flood projects. The funds allocated to the ARP should remain dedicated to this program not redirected to other priorities in the City.
This year, the City Council approved a conditional use permit to allow an event venue to operate on land zoned for agriculture in rural Virginia Beach. Do you believe non-farming businesses should be allowed on agriculturally zoned land in the rural area of the city? Why or why not? The application in question was submitted by the Wolfe Brothers who purchased the property to retire and live on in their golden years. They grew up in Virginia Beach and want to retire in Virginia Beach. The request to provide a wedding venue on the property will enhance the beauty of agriculture while providing a much needed venue for residents. In addition, overwhelming support for this application was demonstrated to City Council from the community. Application submitted by non-farming businesses should be considered on a case by case basis to determine whether they are appropriate in an agriculturally zoned setting.
How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? Joining the American Flood Coalition is a step in the right direction. The AFC helps Virginia Beach advocate for natural solutions to flooding and sea level rise. As a member of the AFC Advisory Board, I am committed to advocating for natural solutions for Virginia Beach. Furthermore, emergency drain cleaning and ditch clearing be performed to alleviate clogged drainage systems to minimize flooding. BMPs should be dredged to their design depth. Additionally, we need to hold city officials accountable for the funding that has already been collected and ensure those funds are directed to perform timely routine maintenance.
How can the city help address concerns about equality that are the subject of recent unrest here and around the nation? Civil unrest all over the nation signifies that there is a gap between citizens and law enforcement. Experts report that a clear solution to addressing this gap is by developing a Citizens Review Panel. Furthermore, the General Assembly is in the process of considering passage of legislation that will require localities to develop a Citizens Review Panel to address this matter. As such, I am committed to working with the City Manager and City Council to actively identify what an effective Citizens Review Panel looks like for the City of Virginia Beach.
Has the city done enough to help the restaurant and hospitality industry recover from shutdowns related to the pandemic? I am an advocate for local businesses. For instance, I hosted an Ignite Business Series Seminar twice this year to educate business owners regarding opportunities within the City of Virginia Beach to sustain their businesses. Specifically, the Ignite Business Seminar that I hosted on June 20, 2020, entitled “Small Business Recovery” offered assistance to local businesses in the following areas: business resources, encouragement for business owners, tips on reinventing your business, resilience in challenging times. Additionally, I am working with the Economic Development Department to ensure funding received from the Cares Act is distributed to business owners in need.
Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? I believe the City of Virginia Beach needs to review the current voting districting process that we have in place to ensure that there are no cumbersome practices or obstacles that make it challenging for citizens to participate in the political process. In addition, I believe the voters should have an opportunity to decide if they want to transition to district/ward program.
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