Here’s the second batch of candidates for City Council and mayor and their unedited responses to our questions

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.

On Monday, Southside Daily published the first set of answers from half of the candidates running for mayor and City Council. Below, you will find answers from the other candidates.

Candidates were notified that answers exceeding 400 words would be cut down to that number, even if mid-sentence. This constitutes the only edits on the part of Southside Daily.

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

Some candidates responded by our deadline, others did not.

Councilman Bobby Dyer (running for mayor) 

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 do not think we are making flooding a high enough priority and I was part of a proposal to accelerate funding for flooding, but my opponent opposed it.  There is a decade-plus backlog in dredging lakes (BMPs) which are only a percentage of their design depths. There doesn’t need to be a study to accelerate that.  As Mayor I will accelerate what we can do in the short term and form a Blue Ribbon Commission of experts to help accelerate longer term initiatives.

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

  • We need to revamp zoning and business regulations to balance economic growth and community flooding concerns.

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?

  • My mantra since first being elected is that we can’t allow government to compete with existing businesses.  That’s not a fair competition. If a public private partnership is to be considered, I demand an open public engagement process to really bring citizens to the table to discuss the proposal and give feedback and ideas.  It makes for a better end product. I opposed the process of the Pier you mentioned because the vote was rushed with little Council discussion and almost no engagement of the public. Government should never fear and engaged and educated public.  It should embrace it.

The city has been accused of not facilitating a fair playing field regarding 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 in part led to the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study. Do you think the playing field — the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and businesses in this city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • I sponsored the resolution for the disparity study, but let’s be clear.  Projects like Bruce Smith’s were not studied in the disparity study. I called for a study of city incentives like Tourism Gap Financing, public private partnerships and other commercial development proposals involving city-owned properties.  The disparity study shows the city needs to improve in terms of city procurement and contracts, but that is just a start. All city government needs a review to make sure Virginia Beach isn’t only open for business for the select few or for wealthy donors.

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

  • 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.

Councilwoman Barbara Henley (Princess Anne) 

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?

  • Soon , we expect to receive data from the modeling and scientific studies that we have had conducted over the last three years.  It is important that we know the right thing to do, and not just spend millions doing the wrong thing. Dealing with sea level rise issues and changed climate conditions will be a long range effort, and will likely be very costly.  It will require regional cooperation and financial participation from all levels of government.

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

  • Conditional Use Permits are used when there is a land use that potentially presents problems for the neighbors.  With certain conditions, it may prove to be acceptable. However, the conditions may give the neighbors and city council members comfort that the issues are addressed, when, in fact, it may be difficult to enforce the conditions.  

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?

  • The tests must be whether the project provides something of value to the citizens that otherwise would not be available. It must contribute to city council’s goals and Comprehensive Plan.   It must have a favorable private to public investment ratio, and it must have a reasonable city cost recovery time. Jobs creation is also an important factor. A rigorous financial analysis is necessary. Due diligence may vary with each project to examine any particularly unique factors.  Only if it meets the tests should it be approved.

The city has been accused of not facilitating a fair playing field regarding 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 in part led to the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study. Do you think the playing field — the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and businesses in this city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • The process is the same for all people, but the requirements may prove more challenging for some to meet than for others.  The Disparity Study will provide the city with some considerations which may make it easier for more businesses to participate in the city process.  Some changes are already underway, and we will have other options to consider when the final report is presented.

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

  • We have a large, diverse, unique city which deserves a voting system that recognizes our situation.  I fear that wards would divide the city when we need to be united. All city council members vote on all of the issues.  Therefore, I believe that all city council members should be responsible to all of the citizens. If a council member only has to be responsible to the people in his/her ward, his/her attention only needs to focus on that area.  Council members need to be concerned about the whole city, because the success of each area depends on the success of the city.

Vice Mayor Jim Wood (Lynnhaven) 

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’ve already started addressing flooding as a significant part of the city budget.  I was appointed by the Virginia Senate to the Joint Subcommittee to Address Recurrent Flooding. Virginia Beach is among the top cities in the nations at risk for recurrent flooding due to stormwater impacts, and the City needs to leverage local, state and federal funding.  The Dewberry study, which is due to be finished in a few months, will spell out the science of how to proceed, but we have accelerated the schedule of dredging our lakes and other water retention areas back to design depth.

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

  • I would like to make it easier for people to repair and maintain non-compliant structures such as fences and detached buildings, and I would like to see permanent makeup removed from the tattoo regulations.

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?

  • That is what is known as an unsolicited proposal, and the usual process would be for City Council to be briefed on the details and decide whether to accept the proposal for consideration and ask for competing bids. All projects should be discussed and judged as to what the economic impact for the city will be.  These projects should generate significant revenues for the city and have high levels of public access.

The city has been accused of not facilitating a fair playing field regarding 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 in part led to the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study. Do you think the playing field — the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and businesses in this city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • I think the results of the disparity study are what we expected to see, in that the city can improve some procedures in procurement to encourage more participation by SWaM businesses.  We’ve asked the General Assembly for permission to create small business incentives far below the state definition of small business, which is 250 employees are less.  Many of the impacted businesses are much smaller than that.  I also favor the recommendation to break larger contracts into smaller ones to encourage more competition for city business. Virginia Beach is moving in the right direction, and I think with some procedural changes we will be successful.

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

  • I’m happy with whatever electoral system the voters would prefer, but I think it needs to be for the right reason.   I don’t think voters have much sympathy for politicians who think campaigning is too hard.  Voters want the electoral system that gives them the most influence, as well they should.  I hear most often that voters like having all Councilmembers accountable to them.  I do think a referendum should be held before any change is considered.

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

David Nygaard (Oceanfront)

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?

  • Clearly we have a problem when we have collected storm water management fees for years and have a 12 backlog of unfunded projects.  When the city collects taxes of fees for a designated purposes those funds should be used for the same purpose and not diverted. My plan is to make flood mitigation a budget priority.  I call it “4 in 4” and if we take 4% of the budget and designate it to fund flood mitigation projects we can catch up on the backlog in four years, instead of 15 which is the current plan.  We need to work with our nieghboring cities to obtain state and Federal funding for projects as well. This is not just a city issues but a regional issue and to the extent it threatens our military bases, we need to address it regionally as well.  

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

  • I believe we need more transparency and more opportunity for citizens to provide input for zoning changes and new development projects.  We have a reputation for cronyism and inside deals and that needs to stop. The current Beach councilman was the target of an active FBI investigation when he voted for funds to go to a project where his wife received real estate commissions.  This creates the perception that we are not friendly to new business in Virginia Beach and consequently, we have allowed good investment moeny to walk away.

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 of all the process must be transparent and the bidding should be as open as possible to encourage as many prospects as possible.,  These projects must be beneficial to the entire population of our city and must be self-sustaining and eventually able to re-pay public funding with interest and principle.  

The city has been accused of not facilitating a fair playing field regarding 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 in part led to the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study. Do you think the playing field — the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and businesses in this city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • We need a level playing field for all who are willing to invest in our city and unfortunately, the current representative from the Beach has close ties to one developer and has personally benefited from voting for those developer’s projects.  This type of cronyism needs to end and we need to rebuild our reputation as a good city for investors.

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

  • I did not enter this race to talk but to lead on important issues.  I have filed the paper work necessary to place this very question before our citizens.  I believe we need a more representative local government which would better work with district/local voting for an areas representative.  I believe the current system concentrates the

Councilman John Uhrin (Oceanfront)

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?

  • Virginia Beach has begun investing in solutions to combat flooding.  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.

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

  • Perhaps we could look at a Form Based Code for some of the strategic growth areas.

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?

  • Unsolicited proposals come to the city with some frequency and sometimes informally. When a formal proposal is made, Council and the staff review the proposal and decide whether to accept it and ask for competing proposals or to reject it.  In fact, that happened with the Sports Center, and although we rejected the initial unsolicited proposal, we issued our own request and got a substantially improved final product that included the original applicant.  I support projects that enhance our economic development goals, create new revenues for the city and help make Virginia Beach even more special.

The city has been accused of not facilitating a fair playing field regarding 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 in part led to the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study. Do you think the playing field — the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and businesses in this city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • The disparity study has shown that Virginia Beach can reach its goals with some recommended changes in how it constructs contracts, such as unbundling the larger contracts into smaller ones.  This will allow more smaller businesses to be able to apply and compete for them. We will receive specific recommendations next month to ways we can make it easier for qualified businesses to bid for city contracts so that we can have a city that is open to all businesses.

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

  • 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.

Karen Kwasny (Princess Anne)

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?

  • Until the Dewberry Study/watershed study recommendations are completed, we can’t know how much we must allocate to address our flooding issues.  This year’s budget presents a beginning to improve systems via dredging and clearing and to repair/replace aging infrastructure. Dedicated funding will continue to be necessary to complete this work.  I have been emphasizing the need for a regional resiliency plan for the past four years, both in my work on the Planning Commission and as a resident of the Transition Area, an area of the city significantly affected by flooding issues related to SLR, more severe and frequent weather events, subsidence, and wind tides.  Our initial investments should dredge BMPs and canals, which no longer handle the capacity they once did. However, we must work regionally to seek additional funding from state and federal sources to implement change.

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

  • We work with a largely outdated zoning ordinance in relation to where we are today and our current Comprehensive Plan. Alterations are needed.  And, we will have to fine-tooth comb our ZO for changes necessitated by the soon-to-be-revealed sea level rise/ Dewberry Study/watershed study recommendations.  

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?

  • Public private partnerships can work well when focused on expansion of the market and providing true public benefit. Displacement is avoided if we focus public private partnerships on projects that open new markets to us and expand our tax base rather than focusing on “more of the same” kinds of projects that simply divide the customer base. They must generate new revenue that quickly pays back any public costs.

The city has been accused of not facilitating a fair playing field regarding 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 in part led to the city’s decision to conduct a disparity study. Do you think the playing field — the amount of bureaucracy and general difficulty that exists for people to develop properties and businesses in this city — is even for all people? If so, tell us why. If not, tell us why and what you would change.

  • I believe Virginia Beach must be more open for business and a city reputation of being anti-business is a hard thing to combat.  There is a perception that Virginia Beach’s processes are slow, costly, and, thus, almost deliberately cumbersome and that there are  “insiders” and “outsiders.” This perception affects the city’s ability to attract companies and jobs. I’m running to end roadblocks to progress and the political battles that have been waged for decades and to bring a positive, welcoming image to our district and city.

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

I fear a great many people don’t understand that they can vote in districts that they don’t live in, and elections shouldn’t be confusing.  I respect those who favor change, but as a district Planning Commissioner, I serve my district and the whole city. I think our current system incentivizes council investment in all areas of the city

Southside Daily did not receive responses by deadline from the following candidates for Virginia Beach mayor and City Council: Allison White, Ben Davenport, Richard “RK” Kowalewitch, Susanne Henderson, Mike Maskell, and Tim Worst.

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