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2020 Virginia Beach Elections: Questions for candidates for City Council, Rose Hall

THE INDEPENDENT NEWS

Ed. — The following are responses to questions posed by The Independent News to candidates for the Rose Hall 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.

[Charles Apple/For The Independent News]


MICHAEL F. BERLUCCHI

Residence: Windsor Woods  

Age: 40

Occupation: Chrysler Museum of Art – Community and Government Relations Manager

Military Service/Education: B.A., Government and International Politics, George Mason University

Endorsements:  Del. Barry Knight, Virginia Beach Police Benevolent Association, Virginia Beach Education Association-Political Action Committee of Educators

Website: BerlucchiForCouncil.com

Phone: (757) 581-5624

Email: michaelberlucchi@yahoo.com

Social media: @CouncilmanMichaelBerlucchi on Facebook, @michaelberlucchi on Instagram, @mfberlucchi on Twitter and Michael Berlucchi on LinkedIn

What are your specific qualifications for this office? It is the greatest honor and responsibility of my lifetime to serve our community on our City Council. Last year, voters elected me to complete an unexpired term and now I’m a candidate for re-election for a four-year term. We’ve dealt with serious issues in the last year both in Virginia Beach and as a nation. I believe I’ve demonstrated that I possess the abilities, judgement, temperament, and commitment to capably serve Virginia Beach residents. I’ve delivered results on initiatives such as helping residents and businesses impacted by COVID, supporting public safety and schools, as well as support for future energy projects and reform of our failing mental health system.  My work with the Chrysler Museum of Art, as advocate for Virginia Beach non-profits, and on City boards and commissions prepared me well for this opportunity to serve.

What is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? Economic recovery for residents and businesses is our number one priority. We must plan to effectively direct CARES Act funding to residents, non-profits, and businesses in order to keep people working and businesses open.  We must also support our police officers and make sure our city remains safe. We have an expectation of safe neighborhoods and nothing will destroy our economy more quickly than a community plagued by violence and crime. We must also protect vital Virginia Beach industries such as agriculture and hospitality.

What are your three main policy priorities? Our priorities include economic vitality, opportunity, and strong public schools, resilient responses to recurrent and tidal flooding, and public safety.  I am an advocate for opening Virginia Beach to more business and to be the most welcoming city in America.  COVID hit Virginia Beach businesses hard, and your City Council responded quickly to both get businesses safely reopened and provide economic assistance to preserve jobs and make sure businesses survive the pandemic.  We continue that work.  We must remain focused on flood mitigation and I think we may need a bond referendum to dedicate long term funding to the solutions we need.  And we must commit to remaining a safe city, and I oppose any effort to “defund” the police.  In fact, we need to hire more police officers so that every neighborhood remains safe.

Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? I oppose development below the green line and my voting record reflects that.

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 agricultural reserve program and oppose raiding it for other needs. The program is integral to preserving Virginia Beach’s rural heritage and agricultural economy. Flood mitigation and stormwater projects need sustained funding to seriously confront the problem of flooding, not occasional one-time funding shifts. 

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 voted no. I emphatically voted no. I think that approval sent a signal that commercial development in rural Virginia Beach would be acceptable, and that’s the wrong policy for Southern Virginia Beach. I want to protect our agricultural economy and rural heritage, and believe commercial development is incompatible with that goal.

How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? We took a big first step in the first budget that I voted to approve, with the highest percentage of the budget dedicated to confronting flooding in our City’s history. But we have more work to do.  As mentioned above, the solutions require large investments or assistance from state or federal funding.  The Dewberry study gave us the plan, and now we must commit the funding necessary to save our homes, roads, and neighborhoods from continued flooding.

How can the city help address concerns about equality that are the subject of recent unrest here and around the nation? I believe in a Virginia Beach that is open and respectful, and treats everyone equally and fairly – with the dignity we all deserve.  No one should support injustice or racism, and no one should support vandalism or violence.  Government exists to preserve and protect everyone’s rights and make sure equal opportunity is afforded to everyone.  We should all be ready to listen to people’s stories and work together to solve inequalities wherever they exist. 

Has the city done enough to help the restaurant and hospitality industry recover from shutdowns related to the pandemic? Your City Council passed many programs to help small businesses throughout the year and passed emergency ordinances to make outdoor seating at restaurants permitted, and grants to help keep them open.  We created a safety plan that convinced the Governor to open our beaches ahead of schedule.  In these cases, the Governor has the power and we can make our case to open businesses, but it is his final decision alone.  I think the city helped save many jobs in a very difficult year.

Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? I voted against holding a referendum for a ward system, and I think the interests of many Virginia Beach districts would be at risk if the current hybrid system was changed to district-only voting. Princess Anne is one such district. What would happen to southern Virginia Beach if a majority of Council needed no votes from Princess Anne citizens to win re-election? The Councilmembers from six other districts could impose their will on your neighborhood with no accountability to you.  Under the current system, all Councilmembers are accountable to you. I think that system has merit.


C. CONRAD SCHESVENTER II

Residence: Chimney Hill

Age: 34

Occupation: Oceanfront Hotel Front Desk

Military Service/Education: Bachelors Political Science (ODU), Masters Sports Management (ODU)

Endorsements: Virginia Beach Democratic Committtee 

Website: friendsforconrad.com

Phone: (757) 719-2113

Email: conrad564@aol.com

Social media: @ConradforVB on Facebook

What are your specific qualifications for this office? I’ve worked in four Virginia Beach businesses, three while attaining my Bachelors in Political Science and Masters in Sports Management. Both degrees were as a commuter to Old Dominion. I’ve lived in four Virginia Beach council districts. I’ve helped coach youth sports, I’ve helped manage athletics at two Universities. I’ve written civic commentary for the Virginian Pilot. I’ve helped a Congressional campaign in this district, and three Council campaigns in this city other than my own. I’ve lobbied at the Virginia General Assembly. I know the issues, I have no conflicts of interest, I want to help the people.

What is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? We live on the coast, are subject to tropical systems and heavy regular rains, have various river and creek and bay systems,  our land is low-lying and sinking, and we’re heavily developed. Constant flooding is issue numero uno. I’ll touch on my fixes later on. 

What are your three main policy priorities? 

Long term flood mitigation. 

Conversion to a Rapid Bus Transit System. 

Reform real estate development with greater focus on affordable housing and lesser focus on hotels and entertainment at the Oceanfront

Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? They should get the services, but not specifically for further development. Extend basic services because those are VB citizens, they should get water and sewer because the rest of us do. 

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? For two years I’ve been to Creeds (hey Creeds!) and explained I don’t like subsidy in the ARP.  Do I want the area south of the green line to be modestly developed toward farming? Yes. Would I zone it to keep it that way? Yes. Would I encourage paying people to not develop? No. That’s some $4 million a year, I’d rather that go to flooding or my equity based business capital injection plan. They say Democrats are tax and spenders, well, not on everything.

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’m not against using agricultural land beyond agriculture. Heck almost all of Virginia Beach used to be agricultural. But if the city decreed one area to deliberately stay agricultural, I wouldn’t want to switch it up so arbitrarily. Change the zoning first, and we’ll talk. 

How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? Drop any mindset the city alone can do it. We need Richmond and DC help. If we can divert billions to build a wall, we can divert billions to fix flood projects. I’ll be that advocate for funding, and cutting red tape, allowing us to work on it without becoming broke. I’ll vote yes on every mitigation project, I’ll vote no on every flooding item deferred or cut. 

How can the city help address concerns about equality that are the subject of recent unrest here and around the nation? Convert to a Rapid Bus Transit system. Zone new development with affordable housing in mind. Encourage business start ups with equity driven capital injection and tax breaks. Strengthen our council voting system. Reform our policing. It’s a formula for an Even Better Virginia Beach. 

Has the city done enough to help the restaurant and hospitality industry recover from shutdowns related to the pandemic? They’ve done enough. Perhaps too much in writing letters to the Governor wanting loosened regulations during relative hot spots of Covid. But there’s still a finite amount of things City reps can do in a Dillon rule state, and delaying business and property taxes marginally helps. But the issue was lack of economic demand. Government can patch that up but it can’t be municipal, it has to be massive federal injection of basic income and business subsidy. 

Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? No, it’s not district representative. Are some of the seats with a district name? Yes. Must a candidate running for the district live there? Yes. But voters of that district don’t choose them, their choice is diluted by the rest of the city via At Large voting. The residency requirement is specious. Make the hybrid system stronger by having district seats directly accountable to the district, keep the three at large seats, keep the Mayor as At Large. That is a REAL hybrid system with real strength.


GARRY B. HUBBARD

Residence: Magic Hollow

Age: 70

Occupation: Small business owners since 1981 in the commercial and residential construction fields

Military Service/Education: Navy veteran attached to weapons Division and engineering education, studied business law in ODU University, studied business administration at Tidewater Community College. Still working on my degree.

Phone: (757) 472-7994

Email: garryhubbard1948@gmail.com

Social Media: @GarryHubbardforVBCC on Facebook

What are your specific qualifications for this office? What is the most important issue facing the city and how will you address it in office? My single main priority is how to mitigate flooding and as a commercial construction contractor I am well suited on how to address the old and outdated infrastructure and how to repair the same. 

What are your three main policy priorities? My three priorities are flooding, lower taxes and transportation issues. 

Should city services such as water and sewer be extended south of Indian River Road to promote development of rural communities? No, because it would encourage development in that area.

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 would not lower the funding for the same. 

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 vote no to any businesses past the green line. I believe large venues should be denied if the roads are not conducive to the increase congestion of traffic and the noise that would be generated. Farming is what the green line is all about. 

How should the city address concerns about sea level rise and recurrent flooding? We must realize the changes of sea level rise are real concerns. This will be an enormous cost to our city and we must look to state government and the federal government for funds that will be needed. We must do all we can to mitigate the flooding from cleaning it out at ditches and a simple act of dredging our holding ponds to accommodate more water. Not only that, but we will have to use buffers to not build past a three to five hundred foot from the ocean itself. The infrastructure that would have to be protected due to sea level rise would be enormous, so we need to be more mindful of where and what we develop close to our ocean.

How can the city help address concerns about equality that are the subject of recent unrest here and around the nation? Not only is diversity not a weakness, but it is a strength. As far as Contracting and businesses we should level the playing field for all women and minorities and disabled veterans. We need to be able to sit down without animosity and talk with each other. We finally must realize that social and economic racism and bias is exist. We will have to address this as we go into future. 

Has the city done enough to help the restaurant and hospitality industry recover from shutdowns related to the pandemic? For our local businesses ,especially for the restaurant and hospitality industries, we should set up a grant program to help mitigate the devastating economic effects of this pandemic.

Do you believe that maintaining the hybrid local election system, including district representation with residency requirements, is necessary? As far as a ward system or District voting, we need to have a referendum and let the  people and citizens of Virginia Beach decide. Thank you.


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