On Monday evening over 40 local citizens gathered at O’Connor Brewing Company for the first NFK Voter Turnout Project Happy Hour.
Of course when you hit a brewery you have to sample the goods, but the discussions I participated in and witnessed weren’t centered around whether the beer was dry-hopped or aged in bourbon barrels. No, the buzz in the air was over the upcoming Norfolk city elections on May 3rd. There is nothing more exciting in local politics than when concerned citizens take action, ask questions, become informed, and most importantly – GET OUT & VOTE.
During the last city elections we had a rather embarrassing 14% of registered voters cast their ballots. I’m confident we can do better in 2016.
That said, have you ever walked into your polling station on election day and saw candidates on the ballot who you really had no idea what they were about or what their plans were if they get elected? Admittedly, I certainly have, especially in the years while in the Army stationed overseas submitting absentee ballots. Information wasn’t as readily available then as it is now, but it always left me feeling like a bit of a slacker; after all, it’s up to me, and you, to become informed about each candidate so we feel confident checking that block next to the person who resonates with our own personal views and priorities
Determined to become a better informed voter this go around I did a bit of digging on the three mayoral candidate’s webpages and compiled a document with each individual’s stated issues. Light rail, sea level rise, education, law enforcement, tourism, government transparency, and economic development are just of few of the important issues being addressed.
The following lists of issues are a direct lifted from the candidates’ webpages, and are in alphabetical (by last name) order. Kenny Alexander, Bob McCabe, and Andy Protogyrou are all in the chase to replace Mayor Paul Fraim, who is stepping down after what will be 22 years in office. Now is your chance to become informed, knowing your voice and your vote definitely matter.
Kenny Alexander’s Focus
Retrieved from: alexander.mvardigital.com/page/issues
An excellent school system is essential to many of our goals, such as attracting, retaining and building middle-class families, and recruiting businesses that provide good-paying jobs. Our schools must be safe, nurturing places where our children and teachers can soar. But not all students should be prepared the same way: For example, we must do more to help non-college-bound students develop skills in emerging, good-paying fields that do not require college degrees.
Public Safety and Neighborhoods
Norfolk residents need to feel safe wherever they live, work or have fun ― all throughout the city. We must stop gun violence and other forms of violence in all our neighborhoods. This requires adequately funding our police department, increasing police presence in our neighborhoods, better addressing mental health issues that often lead to criminal behavior and keeping all of our neighborhoods, business districts and parks attractive and inviting.
Economic and Workforce Development
Norfolk, with its wonderful natural harbor, is the traditional economic hub of our region. But even more valuable is our workforce. We owe it to ourselves and our families not only to improve our port facilities but to do all we can to prepare current and future generations for good-paying jobs in all sectors, to have the skills that attract and retain diverse corporate employers, small businesses and startup entrepreneurs, and not over-rely on military-related industries. A healthy Norfolk economy is essential for the entire region.
Rising Sea Level and Resilience
Scientists believe that sea levels will be rising in coming decades and that cities, such as Norfolk, must be made ready. Norfolk’s strategy goes far beyond preparing for frequent floods. City leaders correctly have begun to lay out an evolving plan for rethinking the future of Norfolk and turning problems into opportunities. We can do it. Norfolk citizens have faced adversity countless times. Resilience is in our DNA. We know how to overcome. But all of Norfolk must be kept informed and provided with genuine opportunities to persevere and to benefit.
Listening will be a hallmark of my tenure as mayor. I want to help turn best ideas ― from wherever they come ― into best practices. Just as our citizens need our city government for services, City Hall needs to enthusiastically welcome the participation of citizens. I also want to encourage all my fellow citizens to listen more to each other. We can all better appreciate our city’s problems that way, and I believe we can then build upon our successes more effectively to create an even greater Norfolk.
Bob McCabe’s Focus
Retrieved from: bobmccabeformayor.com/issues
Improving our Public Schools
- Work closely with the newly elected school board to improve our schools and get them fully accredited – all of them, in every neighborhood, and raise teacher pay to recruit and retain the best and brightest educators
- Boost technical and vocational education opportunities to make students ready to enter the workforce
- Work to provide high speed internet access citywide. The internet has become such a critical part of our economy, every student should have access to prepare for 21st century jobs.
- Pledge to deliver real transparency into decision-making in Norfolk city government; no more secret agreements, sweetheart deals or “unavailable for comment”
- Create an online platform to allow creative professionals to collaborate and submit innovative plans to help solve government problems
Creating Jobs with Economic Development
- Launch a small business express lane to open businesses and create jobs
- Make Norfolk attractive for new business and for those already invested in Norfolk
- Advance and support innovative concepts that lead to small business growth, including ideas like Hatch Norfolk, ODU business incubators and Vibrant Spaces. All of these ideas have demonstrated success and the best of each should be combined and expanded.
- Take full advantage of the Port of Virginia and the jobs that can be created because of global commerce; the Port is an amazing economic engine for prosperity
Preserving and Protecting our Environment
- Collaborate with regional leaders to address sea level rise and flood mitigation
- Spur new businesses devoted to dealing with rising seas in Norfolk
- Engage ODU’s Center for Sea Level Rise to further research and innovation
- Sponsor competitions to solicit creative plans to ease flooding problems citywide
Protecting our Families with Law Enforcement
- Fully fund our police department and public safety partners in order to combat neighborhood crime
- Partner with the state legislature to seek more funding to better address mental health issues that often lead to behavioral problems that affect public safety
Enhancing our Neighborhoods by Improving Our Quality of Life
- Promote facilities like The Kroc Center or Boys and Girls Clubs so all kids have a place to go to do something constructive, have fun and feel safe.
- Boost parks and leisure services, including activating Town Point Park on non-event days and improving the condition of the Elizabeth River Trail
- Make Norfolk the most bike friendly city in Virginia via bike lanes, sharrows, bike racks, maintenance stations and signage
- Energize downtown Norfolk on weekends with temporary flea markets, farmer’s markets, art shows, classic auto shows etc.
Building Transportation Solutions
- Support extending the light rail system to Virginia Beach, the Naval Base and the airport
- Advocate for a high speed rail network to connect Norfolk to Washington D.C. in 90 minutes
- Redouble our efforts to increase passenger options at the Norfolk airport with more direct flights. • • Attract cruise lines to Half Moone Cruise Terminal and improve our hospitality when ships and tourists arrive in Norfolk
- Support new developments in the Waterside area, with a focus on local businesses
Andy Protogyrou’s Focus
Retrieved from: andymayor2016.com/issues/
We moved to elected school board members. I pushed for that and we got it done. As your Mayor, we will next create a Blue Ribbon Commission of educators, parents, business leaders, other stakeholders and thought leaders to identify and prioritize the stepping-stones needed to provide all our city’s children with a quality education. We’ll look at ideas like a longer school year with longer days, already a recommendation from the Poverty Commission. We’ll work toward expanded principal autonomy and performance-based raises, substantive teacher pay raises, universal pre-K and reduced class sizes. The Internet provides a doorway to knowledge, information and learning. I’ll ask NRHA to develop a plan that establishes free Wi-Fi in public housing areas. Our children living there need the same access to the Internet as do children living elsewhere. Our Community Technical School is taking on a regional focus, something I requested and got implemented, that centers on proficiencies in ship repair, construction industry, cyber-technologies, geriatric care, physical therapy, child care and other skills demanded by Norfolk’s economy.
Small business incubation is a cornerstone of prosperity. We have a number of empty, city-owned spaces throughout Norfolk. We’ll provide free rent and free Wi-Fi for a limited period of time to entrepreneurs seeking to start new businesses. We’ll give those businesses a break from the Business/Professional/Occupational Licenses (BPOL) tax. We’ll establish a business planning concierge service to help new businesses through a shortened permitting process. We’ll attract more artists, patrons and visitors to our Arts District with new galleries and eateries. More craft beer breweries and brewpubs will gravitate into two Beer Districts. I foresee a brewery tourism plan with people traveling to Norfolk’s Brewery Districts the way they do to our state’s wine country to tour and sample. We’ll pursue expanding MacArthur Mall’s footprint to bring a third anchor and other retailers there, continue city center living developments, attract a major grocery store to downtown and push for marina development.
We will develop Norfolk as the preferred east coast destination for maritime trade and commerce. We can achieve this by opening offices in New York City and in Europe. These will help brand our port and promote the benefits that Norfolk has over competing ports in Baltimore, Newark, Charleston, and Savannah. Our railways, improving infrastructure, climate, quality of life and capable workforce make Norfolk an ideal hub for maritime trade and commerce. We know that. Now we need to make sure the rest of the world learns that, too. With such increased awareness will come more maritime company headquarters, support activities and jobs.
Norfolk’s social and economic success is tied to the interests of other cities in Hampton Roads. As importantly, the social and economic successes of other cities in Hampton Roads are tied to the interests of Norfolk. Not every city can have a major sports franchise. Not every city can have a major corporate headquarters. Not every city can have a major tourist attraction. Competition is good. But by working together we can develop a shared harmony of interests that improve every city’s economic success and enhance the quality of life for the people who live in every city. I will work hard to build and maintain strong bridges among the leadership of each Hampton Roads city because together we can contribute to each other’s success. Norfolk’s Office of Economic Development will continue to meet with its counterparts. We will support efforts of other cities, such as Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, to expand light rail into a regional system that helps attract new businesses and that serves transportation needs. When any city looks to a new project, Norfolk will call to ask, “How can we help?” And when Norfolk pursues an opportunity, I won’t hesitate to reach out to those other cities so that they can help make our goal a reality.
There you have it. I certainly hope that helped you get a better idea of the vision, outlook, and plan of action our future mayor will comes to the table with. Now it’s up to each one of us to get involved supporting our city by getting out to vote on May 3rd. While you’re at it, how about committing to make sure a friend, or four, follow your example. Please check out our NFK Voter Turnout Project on Facebook and let’s keep the buzz buzzing.
Thank you to the generous sponsor of the NFK Voter Turnout Project, Rose & Womble. Rose & Womble Realty Co. was born and bred in Hampton Roads – our owners live and work here in the Seven Cities. We are a family-owned and operated business – with multiple generations working at all levels, from agents to managers.The leadership within the company is LOCAL – not out of state – but right here in Hampton Roads.