Hampton Roads Morning of Hope

I was truly honored to stand in for the Mayor today when I read the Proclamation for Hampton Roads Morning of Hope. It was a beautiful ceremony and filled with hope and touching fellowship.
I’m grateful for the leaders who organized such a heartfelt tribute to our community and to the families that have been impacted by suicide and depression. My heart is a little fuller knowing the strength of our home. ❤

We must be as bold as to do something.

Today City Council will meet for our regularly scheduled workshop and then go into a special session called by the Mayor. The topic relates to last week’s vote on the Council’s raises for out appointed positions (the City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk, City Real-estate Assessor, and City Auditor).

My position remains unchanged.

The citizens of Virginia Beach have elected community-centered representatives in a wave of change. Slowly but surely, the way of doing things in local government is changing as messengers of the “regular” person are now taking a seat at the table.

The striking message of change echoes as proof that our City Council is ready for new perspectives. Now is the time to reflect upon the performance of our leadership from the top-down as inappropriate conduct can no longer be tolerated nor trusted to usher in a new era for our city. We must demonstrate the leadership that we were elected to demonstrate: to inspire faith that our city can be resilient with flooding mitigation, that our standard of living will not be diminished, residents will not be taxed out of their homes, innovative people will seek out our city, businesses can thrive and our diversity be celebrated.

We must be as bold as to do something. Virginia Beach needs a new City Manager.

Council has failed to hold our appointed City Manager to the minimum standards of personal conduct. Since being hired three years ago, our city has been headline news for intolerant and insensitive actions. We have a responsibility as a Council to seek an applicant who can better represent our city. Council must refresh its dedication to representing the people of Virginia Beach, and that begins with a new City Manager.

Those who take bold chances don’t think failure is the opposite of success – they believe complacency is.

World Breastfeeding Awareness Day!

Saturday was World Breastfeeding Awareness Day and I had the honor of reading the Virginia Beach Proclamation on behalf of the Mayor at yesterday’s event at Pembroke Mall.

Families from all over the world came together to feed their babies all at the same time. This is my second year participating and it is always amazing to see these moms, dads, and community support groups come together.

Shout out to CHKD Milk Bank, Babywearing Hampton Roads, WIC Program – Virginia Beach, and Mimmie’s Learning Academy for everything’s you do for our community!

May 31st Independent Investigation- Update

investigationmThe team that will be conducting the independent investigation of the May 31 tragedy held a press conference today to discuss the procedure they will be implementing and has established the following ways for individuals to reach out with any information regarding the tragedy:

The team is also in the process of scheduling interviews and community listening sessions for both the public and city employees.

Goals of the independent investigation:

1. Understand and determine exactly what happened on May 31 and the events leading up to that day

2. Identify actions that could have prevented or mitigated the tragedy

3. Recommended strategies, tactics, or countermeasures to prevent any future event

The final report will be published to the public and what is published will not be influenced by any City employee nor City official. The investigation team has been given the final say in what information is released in the report. The team has a goal to complete the investigation within 12 weeks. They anticipate being able to update the public every 3 to 4 weeks as the investigation progresses. If you are interested in reviewing the proposal that was submitted by the investigation team (or any of the other proposals) you can do so online. I will post the link as a comment.

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I appreciate the diligence and expediency of the City Auditor for initiating the independent investigation process. The findings of this report will be imperative to the actions of this Council and our community to ensure we never have to endure another tragedy.


You can watch the recording of the press conference here:

Pet Pig Ordinance

Over the last several weeks Councilman Rouse and I have been engaging the community in creating an ordinance that would permit mini–pigs as companion animals within most residential districts in city of Virginia Beach. Through that discussion we have created a draft resolution with the requested suggestions from the mini-pig community and various other stake holders.

On Wednesday July 24th we will host a town hall to present and gather feedback on this topic. Below are copies of the draft ordinances:

Pet Pig Ordiance 1-page-001

Pet Pig Ordiance 1

Pet Pig Ordiance 2

The Kempsville Library is Open!

This afternoon in my remarks for the Re-Opening of the Kempsville library, I quoted the book “What Do You Do with an Idea?” by Kobi Yamada. The book begins with:

“One day I had an idea. Where did it come from? Why is it here? I wondered, “What do you do with an idea?”

Ribbon cutting for the re-opening of the Kempsville Library

For me our libraries represents the tactile version of an idea. We are literally inside a building holding millions and millions of ideas, from people of all backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, and places.

The book goes on to tell to us the reader that our ideas will not always be well received, that not everyone will understand or appreciate them. And through that process we might feel tempted to give up on our idea. And libraries represent that in a lot of ways too. Not every book you see in this library will be read every day or even every week, but still a person penned their thoughts and put it out for the world to find. Amazing, unique ideas waiting to be discovered.

The author encourages us to protect our idea and nourish our idea. And your idea will grow, as will your love for it.

Which is what we must do for libraries, we as a community must love and nourish our buildings that contain our ideas. We must think big and then think bigger, we must use these walls as an incubator for innovation, for change, and for personal and community growth.

“Because it is good to have the ability to see things differently”

The book concludes with this final message:

“Then one day, something amazing happened. My idea changed right before my very eyes. It spread its wings, took flight, and burst into the sky.

I don’t know how to describe it, but it went from being here to being everywhere. It wasn’t just a part of me anymore… it was now a part of everything.

And then, I realized what you do with an idea…

You change the world.”

A Morning for Remembrance

Today I attended the Morning for Remembrance service. We heard from the families of the victims and even a survivor of the May 31 shooting. The service was serene and allowed the families, city employees, and community to grieve and celebrate the life of those who are no longer with us. Words from Rev. Cox have been on my mind all day: “We are here because they lived”.

I wanted to take a moment and thank those responsible for organizing the service, but also thank our stellar Honor Guard who has been a part of the lives of those impacted since that terrible day. Battalion Chief Lorna Trent and Lieutenant Scott Humphrey have done an amazing job of being advocates for our mourning families. We are truly blessed to have their service and I am grateful for having the opportunity to know them.

We lost amazing people from our community. To quote another family member who shared their thoughts with us: “We all have to be a little bit better because they’re gone.” And from how I’ve seen our community unite and be #vbstrong, I’d say we are.

The People’s Budget FY 19-20

FY 2019-20 Proposed ExecSummary WEB

Virginia Beach Call to ActionWhen Councilman Moss and I collaborated again this spring in creating an alternative budget to what our City Manager has given to Council, our priorities have remained steadfast as they did in last year’s budget cycle. Our priorities are:

  • The people of Virginia Beach have the first right to the wages their family has earned;

  • The quality of life of the people of Virginia Beach should not be diminished in favor of the seemingly insatiable urge of our representatives to spend frivolously on projects that do not enhance the livability of our community;

  • The long-term sustainability and livability of the people of Virginia Beach is an utmost consideration and we must take the necessary steps to strengthen the long-term resiliency of our Community for a Lifetime;

  • The ‘needs’ of the people of Virginia Beach must be budgeted before the ‘wants’ of councilmembers

The need for our colleagues on City Council to adopt our People’s Budget is simple: we, as a body, must create a budget that mirrors the economic realities faced by several thousands of our constituents. 44% of our students are eligible for free and reduced lunch; the percentage of our community that is labeled as being in poverty has grown over the last decade to 8%; more than half (51.5%) of renters in Virginia Beach spend more than 30% of their income on rent – which has increased over the last decade – which means more residents are financially stressed; our regional GDP growth rate is at 1.8%, which is lower than the national average of 2.3%, and the City Manager’s proposed budget outpaces our regional economic growth. Therefore, any tax or fee increase is inherently regressive and disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged residents. Additionally, city spending that outpaces regional economic growth is not sustainable.

Our priorities in the creation of the People’s Budget were simple:

  • No increase in real estate tax

  • No increase in stormwater management fee

  • No increase in trash fee

  • Public Safety pay compression

  • Increase investment in drainage maintenance

  • Increase available debt capacity for flood mitigation projects

Collectively, Councilman Moss and I had to find $14.47 million in the City Manager’s proposed budget to cut in order to offset proposed tax and fee increases. I’m proud to say that we accomplished what we set out to do for the People’s Budget!

  • $14,888,396 of recurring expenditure offsets reapplied

  • $4,320,325 of one-time expenditure offsets reapplied

  • $45,695,250 of funded debt capacity realigned to accelerate implementation of flood mitigation projects

  • $30,750,000 of debt capacity reserved for future investment in flood mitigation projects

How did we adjust the City Manager’s proposed budget in order to accomplish our goals for the people of Virginia Beach and offset more than $14.47 million in increases?

  • Adjustment of TIP funding formula to reduce amusement tax contribution from 10-percent to 5-percent = $3,509,689

  • Realignment of 10 FTEs back to the TAP Funding = $885,457

  • Reduction of General Fund new vehicle procurement by twenty percent = $1,071,502 ($4,286,738 remains available)

  • Elimination of 53.47 new City FTEs = estimated $3,475,550 (City Manager will have to prioritize his proposed new positions relative to vacancies existing at current adopted budget authorized FTEs)

  • Adjustments to Other Departments = $3,746,089

  • Lapse Rate and other Labor efficiencies = $2,200,109

  • Eliminate new “Strategic Initiatives” budget line item (which had no justification in departmental narrative) = $2,500,000

  • Hold City Manager’s office to FY 18-19 levels (offset = $200,594)

  • Hold total expenditures of Human Resources department at FY 18-19 levels (offset = $159,948)

  • Reduce 19.82% increase over current budget for Information Technology by half (offset = $266,404)

  • Hold total expenditures at current budget for Municipal Council to FY 18-19 levels (offset = $79,088 and eliminates growth of 13.5 percent)

  • Hold the budget line item “Computer Replacement Program” to FY 18-19 levels (offset = $469,647 and eliminates 3.9% increase)

  • Eliminate contribution to Hampton Roads Chamber (offset = $10,000) due to the group’s active involvement in influencing our local elections

  • Realign 10 positions transferred to the unrestricted General Fund in May 2017 back to the TAP fund for an increase in the General Fund of $885,457 (recurring revenue)

  • Parks and Recreation: reduce Pay-as-You-Go General Fund growth of 100 percent to 50 percent growth (offset = $450,567)

  • Information Technology: the FY 20 programmed funding in the FY 18-19 CIP was $17,843,657. The FY 20 programmed funding in the FY 19-20 CIP was $20,697,771. The overall FY 20 growth in the FY 19-20 CIP over the FY 18-19 CIP was $3,869,668, or 21.68%, so reinstate the FY 18-19 CIP amount for FY 20 as the amount for FY 20 in the FY 19-20 CIP (offset = $3,867,668)

  • Realign 50% of amusement tax revenues to the General Fund (which equates to $3,509,689 of recurring revenues and offset for the $3,509,689 in TIP Revenues)

  • Eliminate CIP for Dome Site Entertainment Venue ($28,500,000)

  • Defer the start of CIP # 9039000 [17th Street Improvement Phase 1] until FY 23 ($2,000,000 in FY 20, $6,500,000 in FY 21 and $17,500,000 in FY 22)

  • Defer the start of CIP # 9063000 [17th Street Improvement] until FY 23 ($250,000 in FY 20, $1,000,000 in FY 21 and $1,000,000 in FY 22)

  • Released TIP Dollars for Reallocation $5,394,418 within TIP for Pay-As-You and limit contingency funding to 6% for the following CIP projects in FY 20

    • CIP Project P9100000 [19th Street Improvements] -$540,386

    • CIP Project P9065000 [Dome Site Parking] – $2,089,800

    • CIP Project P9050000 [Dome Site Street Scapes] – $743,000

    • CIP Project P9096000 [Oceanfront Capital Projects Reinvestment] -$787,832

    • CIP Project P9006000 [Winston Salem Avenue Improvements] -$783,400

  • Recommend new CIP Project Atlantic Ave Refurbishment in FY 20 with $5,394,418 (Pay-As-You-Go)

  • And finally, to increase funded debt capacity for flooding, defer CIP Project #3072000 City Hall Replacement to FY 26 (outside the six-year) by realigning the authorized bonds in the FY 18-19 in the amount of $50,250,000 less estimated expenditures of $4,304,750 (design) and $250,000 (study only). This provides $45,695,250 of funded bonds to accelerate implementation of flood mitigation projects

Last year, we held strong and the people of Virginia Beach were able to keep more of what they earn. This year, we can repeat our success – but only if you contact your representatives on Council. You can email us at CityCouncil@vbgov.com. Tell them you support The People’s Budget!

The Truth Will Prevail in Virginia Beach

Bruce Thompson recently mentioned me in an article and threatened to leave the city entirely if there was a change in leadership on the Virginia Beach City Council. After my response, he then dismissed my opinion, doubled-down and said that I “went nuts” and I am “jealous”.

Are we unable to even gracefully disagree?

Overreactions like this is a prime example of why many people become frustrated about getting involved in politics. Mr. Thompson painted my disagreement with a brush of hysteria; perhaps that is how he handles dissent.

Despite his business successes here, Mr. Thompson threatened to pull his investment from the the city altogether if there was new city leadership – a mighty thick line to draw in the sand. Why would a potential change in leadership shift your bottom line so drastically that you would seek an entirely new location?

Well, there are theories.

Crony capitalism: an economic system in which certain businesses are given unfair advantages by government officials; that’s a $36 million pill for some of us to swallow. Considering the megadonor status of Mr. Thompson in buying influence with several government officials through campaign contributions, the inappropriateness practically writes itself.

Cronyism is a term that Mr. Thompson attempts to shrug off, but it has surfaced that Mr. Thompson did in fact enjoy preferential treatment from the City in 2013 with the bidding process on the Cavalier project; he was given insider information that other bidders were not. Mr. Thompson was offered incentives that other bidders were not. These facts were reported in this very newspaper on November 8, 2015, more than two years after investigative journalism uncovered the truth.

Saving the iconic Cavalier and the amount of taxpayer money that has been funneled to it are entirely different issues that should not be conflated with the process that I raised concern with originally: the City should not be picking winners and losers. In an economic system that turns a blind eye to the deleterious effects of cronyism, insiders such as Mr. Thompson are insulated from competition while their pockets are deepened from political connections and taxpayers are left to absorb the risk. This rings true in light of the recent Disparity Study that was unveiled to City Council this week, which shows that a steep disparity still persists in city contracts awarded to women and certain ethnic groups. A more equitable, level playing field will foster competition, encourage economic growth and will signal that our City is open for business for all.

Mr. Thompson also used a tactic called gaslighting – putting audacious words in my mouth in an attempt to mischaracterize and isolate. His claim centered on that I am against all Public Private Partnerships and cites educational cornerstones in our community like the Virginia Aquarium (which I’ve always supported). He uses this example as a cover for all types of Public Private Partnerships – including the ones that have enriched his own personal business interests. Public Private Partnerships can certainly be beneficial – when there is minimal risk, a real public need is addressed and there is public ownership in the project.

However, we the taxpayers, are not Mr. Thompson’s personal bank, and we must judiciously protect public funds for our responsibilities in public safety, education, infrastructure and transportation. We all have to find a way to make our household budgets work with what he have, and our City budget should strive to mirror your own.

The compromise budget proposal my Council colleagues and I unilaterally voted in featured no tax and fee increases for only the second time in 25 years. Mr. Thompson wrongly accused the alternate budget I co-sponsored with Councilmembers Moss and Dyer of “raiding” the TIP fund for garbage trucks (that was a recommendation made by the City Manager and was not a part of the original budget proposal we co-sponsored). Mr. Thompson also charged that our first budget proposal would have “stripped funding for stormwater projects”. Better flooding mitigation has always remained one of my top priorities even before Hurricane Matthew, so I honestly do not know how anyone could have any different impression. Councilmembers Moss, Dyer and I initially tried to fund the nearly half a billion dollars in flooding projects in 6 years, not 15, without raising taxes or fees – but the majority of City Council chose to not make flooding a budgetary priority.

In conclusion, Mr. Thompson, just so we’re clear – I refuse to be chained inside of your fabricated “No Team”. I have high standards of how our city conducts business and this does not make me a naysayer, nor as you stated, one who is “cursing the wind”.

This election offers us a choice: we can choose fiscal responsibility or we can choose higher taxes and fees and more debt. We can put the needs of our classrooms, our public safety professionals and our neighborhoods ahead of the wants of an elite few. I urge Beach residents who also want good government to join me in supporting Bobby Dyer for mayor and John Moss and Aaron Rouse for at-large City Council members, as well as Louis Jones in the Bayside District, Eric Wray in the Centerville District and Tim Worst in the Princess Anne District.

No matter the outcome of the election, we must find a way to work together. We live in a truly great place and so many of us are happy to call it home.

2018 Virginia Beach City Council Endorsements

Endorsement Palm Card Front

Virginia Beach is a great place to call home, but we need a better direction moving forward. The upcoming election is crucial to determining the direction of our city: we need to let our voice be heard loud and clear.

I urge Beach residents who also want better government to join me in supporting these candidates who have earned my trust and my support:

Bobby Dyer – Mayor

I support my colleague Bobby Dyer for Mayor of Virginia Beach! It’s been a privilege serving with Bobby and he truly cares about this great city and all of its citizens. Bobby co-sponsored our recent alternate budget proposal that prioritized funding a better solution to fixing flooding and public safety pay compression – with no tax or fee increases. He listens to the people of Virginia Beach and will continue serving our city with honor. He is far and away our best choice for Mayor and it is very important that we support his campaign. Please like and share his page and request a yard sign!

John Moss – At-Large

I support my colleague John Moss for one of the At-large seats on City Council! It’s been such a privilege serving with John. He is a wealth of knowledge and an unwavering source of virtue. His mayoral campaign in 2008 was the first campaign my now-husband and I worked on right out of high school and I’ve been a supporter of his ever since. It’s been such a rich learning experience serving with an advocate for the great people of Virginia Beach. His ability to inform the voters of Virginia Beach is unparalleled and in two short years I have learned so much from his experience. It is very important that we support his campaign. Please like and share his page and request a yard sign!

Aaron Rouse – At-Large

I support Aaron Rouse for one of the At-large seats! Aaron understands servant leadership and will be a great representative for understanding the needs of the people. Aaron will stand up for economic fairness, job growth, public safety, education and better solutions to fixing flooding. Please like and share his page and request a yard sign!

Louis Jones – Bayside

I support Louis Jones for the Bayside seat! The Bayside District and the Kempsville District are neighbors and a great working relationship is integral to not only the success of these two parts of the city, but also to City Council. Louis has gone out of his way to offer support to me in my first term. He is sincere in his love for the city and I admire his willingness to serve the great people of Virginia Beach.

Eric Wray – Centerville

I support Eric Wray for the Centerville seat! I’ve personally known Eric for many years and he will be an excellent addition to City Council. Eric will be a dedicated public servant committed to transparency and representing our priorities on Council. He is a small business owner and understands the obstacles facing our community and will promote job growth, public safety and flooding mitigation. Please like and share his page and request a yard sign!

Tim Worst – Princess Anne

I support Tim Worst for the Princess Anne seat! It’s important for City Council to reflect the needs of its citizens, and Tim is a down-to-earth person who will bring a sense of understanding the needs of regular people in Virginia Beach. Tim will be a solid supporter of a level economic playing field, public safety, education, job growth and funding better flooding solutions. Please like and share his page and request a yard sign!