Welcome 2020

new year graphic

As we say goodbye to 2019 and welcome 2020, I wanted to take a moment for well wishes and reflection. 2019 was a challenging year in many ways and I know many of us were eager to see it come to an end, but I hope we are all looking to the bright future ahead of us. 

2020 is the start of a new year and a new decade, one I hope is ripe with opportunity for all. The City of Virginia Beach has big decisions ahead. We will be placing a new City Manager, a process that is sure to set the tone of our path moving forward. We will consider a bond referendum for flooding and storm water infrastructure projects, discuss election reform (specifically district voting), begin a new budget cycle for FY 20-21, adopt a new Comprehensive Plan, and of course, begin a new election cycle for all levels of government (including 5 members of our City Council). 

Additional priorities (not all):

  • Implementing a Storm Water Fee Reduction Program for residential properties. 
  • Improving the City’s Traffic Calming Program
  • Televising Open Mic
  • Food Truck Ordinance
  • Back Yard Hen Ordinance

I’d love to hear what is on your mind and what issues you would like to see Council address. 

Happy New Year and Welcome to the 20s!

Constitutional City Resolution

Over the past month, Council has heard from many voices concerning the recently filed bills at the State level, most notably the bills regarding the 2nd Amendment. These voices represent a diverse group of people, both for and against the pre-filed legislation; however, correspondence has been overwhelmingly in opposition. I’ve also listened to the concerns voiced by City employees from various departments, notably from Building 2, and I do not believe there is a clear majority on either side of this issue. Regarding the City employees who were impacted by the May 31st tragedy – we all deal with trauma and grief differently, and I would ask that no matter your position on this issue, we do our best to be respectful and mindful of one another throughout this discussion.

This proposed resolution does not create a Sanctuary status for the City of Virginia Beach; we as a municipal governing body do not possess the legal ability to create that distinction. However, this resolution serves as a reaffirmation of our sworn Oath of Office. The proposed resolution reflects the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. versus Heller that the Second Amendment recognizes an individual’s constitutional right to possess and use firearms. The Virginia Beach City Council submits a legislative packet annually to the General Assembly regarding the Council’s position of State-level issues, and this resolution is no different. Should this resolution pass, Council would be declaring ourselves a Constitutional City, and conveying that the General Assembly should conform to the decision and opinion in D.C. versus Heller. The City Council’s ability to submit recommendations or requests to the General Assembly on any issue is an important part of the checks and balances system of our Government.

I look forward to your thoughts and comments. On Jan. 6th, the Informal Special Session will begin in the Council Conference Room for discussion among the Council at 4 PM. This will be live-streamed (the public is welcome to attend in person, but seating is limited). At 6 PM the Special Formal Session will begin in Council Chambers (which will also be live-streamed). Individuals interested in speaking should email or call the City Clerk’s office to sign up. It is possible to sign up at the meeting, but given the number of people who were present at the last meeting, I would encourage everyone to sign up ahead of time. You can contact the City Clerk by phone (757) 385-4303, or email abarnes@vbgov.com.

“Criminalizing Homelessness”

This past Tuesday Council considered an ordinance to prohibit tents on the beach, I have received several calls and emails about a quote that was referenced in many news outlets and I wanted to take a moment and provide some context of the quote as well as expound on my position on the ordinance that was brought before Council.

Council was requested to vote on an ordinance that would prohibit tents on our city beaches and violators could be charged with a Misdemeanor 2 and up to a $1,000 fine. Council was never briefed that this issue would be coming before us nor did we have any discussion there that there was a problem in need of immediate remedy at any of our beaches.

I can understand the concerns of visitors and residents who may experience a less than an ideal encounter with someone who is experiencing homelessness and can agree that allowing anyone to sleep on the beach could poses a threat to their safety and well-being. The city currently prohibits sleeping on the beach and this ordinance would only put a criminal record (and a hefty fine) on some of our most vulnerable populations. The homeless do not belong in our jails.

I am not opposed to solving the problem, but I was opposed to solving it the way that was presented to us on Tuesday. I look forward to the future conversations with my colleagues and I appreciate the dialogue I have had with many residents so far and encourage further dialogue on this topic.

You can view my full remarks below:

Dedicated Fund to Stormwater from Dome Project Revenue

This Tuesday, Council is voting on the Dome Project, but we are also voting on an ordinance I am sponsoring to dedicate Dome Project revenues to Stormwater improvements.Earlier this year, I voted against the term sheet for this project because as it was presented to Council, there was no discussion of it benefiting our battle against recurrent flooding. As the Virginian-Pilot reported this week, Virginia Beach needs an extra $20 million a year to shorten the time it takes to inspect and improve existing stormwater infrastructure throughout the city. Our needs currently exceed our funding in the City’s Stormwater Fund, and Council must do everything it can to better prepare our city for long-term flooding resilience.My ordinance states that if the Dome project passes a majority vote on November 19 and this ordinance is supported by Council, then a guaranteed 25% of revenues generated will go to fund Stormwater Improvements. Based on the preliminary estimates, the expected annual amount to be generated from the Dome project to the City’s General Fund is $2,816,508 with an additional $1,912,897 estimated for Schools. The TIP fund is financing the debt for the project.The inclusion of this ordinance would be a huge win for supporters of better flooding mitigation and I hope that regardless of one’s thoughts on the Dome project that we can agree on this more responsible allocation of revenue to show Council’s commitment to solving our Stormwater Infrastructure challenges. I hope to hear your insight on this item and that you can email Council your support this ordinance at CityCouncil@vbgov.com or come to speak on the ordinance this Tuesday, November 19.

Dome Site Survey

Staff from the City and Venture Realty Group presented the Dome Site Development Agreement to City Council this week.

In February 2017, City Council directed the Virginia Beach Development Authority to issue a Request for Letter of Qualification (RFQ) soliciting an experienced and qualified developer to design, develop and manage a mixed-use commercial development anchored by residential and entertainment uses.

Venture Realty Group was selected and has conducted over 50 public engagement sessions and commissioned studies. In January 2019, City Council approved a non-binding term sheet outlining the basic terms of the development agreement.

The purposed project is planned to include the following:

  • Mixed-use commercial tenant spaces, including experiential retail and restaurants
  • Class A commercial office space
  • Approx. 425 market rate residential units
  • Wavegarden Lagoon surf park
  • Music and entertainment venue, estimated to hold 3,500
  • Structured parking garages
  • Pedestrian common areas and amenities

The project’s estimated fiscal impact (once stabilized) is close to $8.2 million. Based on this estimate, direct revenue distributions include $1.9 million to Virginia Beach City Public Schools, $2.8 million to the City’s General Fund and $3.5 million to the City’s Tourism Investment Program (TIP) fund.

City Council will hold a public hearing on Nov. 12th and we a scheduled to vote on the agreement on Nov. 19th. Please take moment to complete the survey below. I am actively seeking public feedback on this proposal. 

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:
877-208-5650
virginiabeach@hillardheintze.com

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.

pg 14.jpg

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