We asked the same five questions to all council and mayoral candidates. Here are their unedited responses

VIRGINIA BEACH — In an effort to provide equal opportunity to the nearly two dozen candidates running for City Council in Virginia Beach, Southside Daily submitted the same five questions, noted in bold, to each candidate and requested answers that did not exceed 400 words total.

Some candidates responded by our deadline, others did not.

Below are the answers from the candidates who responded. Their answers are verbatim, completely unedited, and are noted by bullet points.

Councilman John Moss (At-large)Councilmember John Moss and Mayor Louis Jones helped reach a compromise on this year's city budget that brings no increased taxes or fees (Southside Daily)

Do you believe enough resources are being allocated to further mitigating recurrent flooding in Virginia Beach? If not, what tactics would you employ to increase funding for stormwater and drainage projects?

  • No. At minimum the budget Councilwoman Abbott and I proposed in May of 2017 should be adopted as a starting point.  Our proposal would eliminate the twelve-year backlog in ditch and canal maintenance in less than six years and accomplish six drainage projects in eight versus fifteen years.  I offer a bond referendum supported by unrestricted general fund revenues in 2020 for five years of financing of projects.

If you could change one thing in the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?  

  • Adopt amendments to implement recommendations of the Dewberry Study such as they apply to preventing or mitigating flooding. Why? Flooding is the existential threat to our quality of life.

If a private entity came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of infrastructure in the city that required public money — like a public pier at the Oceanfront, for example — how would you evaluate whether that project should be implemented?  

  • Unless the project was an all cash project funded by an existing trustee account, the City’s available borrowing capacity must be set aside for flooding projects.  I would ask how is to add value to mitigating or preventing flooding. 

The city has been accused of not facilitating a “fair playing field” in the business community. Specifically, in regards to opportunities for large developments and public-private partnerships. For example; former football player Bruce Smith said he believed the city’s policies were not applied fairly to him when he attempted to develop a property at the Oceanfront, which prompted the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study on its business practices. Our question is; do you think the playing field — meaning the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and conduct business in the city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • It is not an accusation, just a plain fact.  The Cavalier project and aborted initial 14th/15th Street Pier speak volumes.  The revelations on kerrydougherty.com and the various city emails made public enable the voters to draw the appropriate conclusions.  There is a double standard and folks at the deck plate and out in the development community know it to be true. City senior leadership appears biased to Oceanfront and Towne Center development advocated by political insiders.  One council member cannot change the special interest bias of the governing majority. It will take a new governing majority on City Council and a new City Manager to re-establish a level playing field for to foster faster growth.

Do you believe the city should continue with its at-large electoral system? Why or why not?

  • No.  The system now just creates a barrier to effective competition.  Without effective competition the claim that voting for all eleven provides greater accountability rings hollow.  We voted for all eleven members of City Council, and it was the City Treasurer, John Atkinson, not our City Council that created the opportunity to vote on Light Rail in a referendum.  How accountable was City Council? Accountability is a function of meaningful competition. District voting gives your vote meaningful leverage. I do not elect all members of Congress nor the General Assembly.  I doubt one would suggest that we should have all at-large voting for members of Congress or the General Assembly. The voters should have an opportunity to accept or reject a General Assembly proposed City Charter amendment for district voting in a referendum.  My duty is to enable the voters’ opportunity to decide.

C. Conrad Schesventer II (Centerville)

Do you believe enough resources are being allocated to further mitigating recurrent flooding in Virginia Beach? If not, what tactics would you employ to increase funding for stormwater and drainage projects?

  • No, resources are not properly allotted. First we tax citizens toward a storm water utility fund. Second, the city uses that fund to spend on other things, notably Witchduck Road improvements. It’s not right to ask for additional fees to fund their folly of previous years. So I suggest using state and federal grants to allievate the problem.

If you could change one thing in the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?  

  • My brother was fraudulently charged by the city for sewage fees. Folks pay the city when water comes in to the house, and back again when it leaves the house. He filled an above ground pool. They charged him for the anticipated returned water, even though it didn’t go into the sewage system. He appealed, he lost. I’d change that water use measuring system.

If a private entity came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of infrastructure in the city that required public money — like a public pier at the Oceanfront, for example — how would you evaluate whether that project should be implemented?  

  • First i’d lean no on public money use. If convinced it’s needed, I’d allow. Whether or not it is allowable, I’d check the codes. If some codes are dumb I’d fight to eliminate them. Then I’d hope it could be awarded fairly and not exacerbate the problem of unfair minority representation in contracts

The city has been accused of not facilitating a “fair playing field” in the business community. Specifically, in regards to opportunities for large developments and public-private partnerships. For example; former football player Bruce Smith said he believed the city’s policies were not applied fairly to him when he attempted to develop a property at the Oceanfront, which prompted the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study on its business practices. Our question is; do you think the playing field — meaning the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and conduct business in the city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • First, it’s a burden to all. A lot of bureaucracy exists that makes developing difficult. Getting past the difficultly, it IS harder for minorities and women to do it compared to a white dude like me. Granted I’m not rich enough to develop, but my point stands.

Do you believe the city should continue with its at-large electoral system? Why or why not?

  • No, a citizen of a district should directly elect their district and a one at large mayor. It’s more representative that way.

Mayor Louis Jones (Bayside) 

Do you believe enough resources are being allocated to further mitigating recurrent flooding in Virginia Beach? If not, what tactics would you employ to increase funding for stormwater and drainage projects?

  • We have a study ongoing called the Dewberry study that will recommend the order we should proceed in addressing flooding.  We know the cost will be more than the city can afford in one year and we will seek assistance from state and federal resources to fund these improvements over time.  

If you could change one thing in the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?  

  • I believe in the future we will modernize the zoning code to align with the realities of sea level rise.

If a private entity came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of infrastructure in the city that required public money — like a public pier at the Oceanfront, for example — how would you evaluate whether that project should be implemented?  

  • First, if an unsolicited proposal was made to the city, the city council would decide whether it would accept the proposal at all before any discussion about whether it would be implemented would take place.  Even if the city asked for proposals, in the end the Council could decide to not take action. I believe we would look at whether the proposal created something the city or the private sector was unwilling or unable to do on its own, whether it created something unique that had positive revenue generated from the city, and if all that was true, we would ask for competing bids and see what the market would bring in a competitive bid process.

The city has been accused of not facilitating a “fair playing field” in the business community. Specifically, in regards to opportunities for large developments and public-private partnerships. For example; former football player Bruce Smith said he believed the city’s policies were not applied fairly to him when he attempted to develop a property at the Oceanfront, which prompted the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study on its business practices. Our question is; do you think the playing field — meaning the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and conduct business in the city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • The disparity study was a study of city contracts and procurement, not of public private partnerships. The study found that some of the city’s practices did make it difficult for small businesses to gain contracts and will issue recommendations to improve those, like unbundling the larger contracts.  It did not study public private partnerships, and in fact many people have approached the city with public private partnerships over the years that never get completed, including a baseball stadium, an arena, a headquarters hotel and others. A proposal has to be good for the citizens and the city.

Do you believe the city should continue with its at-large electoral system? Why or why not?

  • The last referendum concerning local electoral process was in the 1990s and voters rejected a ward system.  I think citizens should decide the electoral process they want, not City Council. There have been proposals for a district-only system, and there have been proposals for a mix of ward elections and at large ones.  We also hear from people who don’t want to lose their voice in the election of a majority of Council members and limiting them to their district election. If a referendum gave clear direction, I would honor it.

Brad Martin

Do you believe enough resources are being allocated to further mitigating recurrent flooding in Virginia Beach? If not, what tactics would you employ to increase funding for stormwater and drainage projects?

  • I believe enough resources are being allocated to mitigate recurrent flooding, but the money is not being spent in the right places.  I think the $40 million revenue raised each year from the stormwater fee should be directed mostly to drainage system maintenance in our older neighborhoods, where our conveyance systems have been neglected.

If you could change one thing in the city’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

  • I wish the region would have a single zoning code among the several Cities, because my consulting engineering work crosses city boundaries and it would make sense for the Cities to share the same standards of development.

If a private entity came to you with a proposal to build a new piece of infrastructure in the city that required public money — like a public pier at the Oceanfront, for example — how would you evaluate whether that project should be implemented?

  • An infrastructure project which requires public money should be presented to the citizens for a discussion of need, function, and features.  Showing proper respect for proprietary ideas and designs, there should be a public opportunity for other developers to propose similar or competing projects.  Such a process will necessarily take longer than a similar private development would, and the developers should understand that.

The city has been accused of not facilitating a “fair playing field” in the business community. Specifically in regards to opportunities for large developments and public-private partnerships. For example; former football player Bruce Smith said he believed the city’s policies were not applied fairly to him when he attempted to develop a property at the Oceanfront, which prompted the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study on its business practices. Our question is; do you think the playing field — meaning the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and conduct business in the city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • I see the difficulties associated in development plan review and approval, and then in construction and inspections, in my business every day.  Since these processes are delivered by humans dealing with different situations, there are always going to be variations and perhaps a perception of preferential treatment, even if the occurrence is just an innocent oversight. I do believe that there is preferential treatment afforded to some projects and some developers, and such variations in treatment should be identified and removed from our City and replaced with an objective, even-handed procedure.

Do you believe the city should continue with its at-large electoral system? Why or why not?

  • I understand the value of citizens electing all eleven Council members, but it seems clear that a district voting system, instead of our current city-wide system, would lead to a more equitable and perhaps more diverse makeup of City Council.  Having to run a campaign City-wide, instead of in a district with 1/7th of the voters, completely changes the nature of the campaign and the influence of money to keep the entrenched incumbents in power. The right answer to value each citizens’ vote and voice more equitably is to have four city-wide Council People (3 at-large and the Mayor elected by the entire City) and seven district representatives elected only by the residents in that district.  I would be interested in considering if this measure should be put in front of the voters in a referendum.

Southside Daily did not receive responses by deadline from the following candidates for Virginia Beach City Council: Sabrina Wooten, Erik Wray, Linda Bright, Garry Hubbard, Dee Oliver, Allison White, and Aaron Rouse. Southside Daily will publish the remaining City Council and mayoral candidate responses on Oct. 24.

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