Earlier this week, hotelier Bruce Thompson threatened to pull his investments out of our region if there was a “change in leadership” this November. He specifically called me out as well as fellow Councilmembers John Moss and Bobby Dyer, and was disappointed to see our “failure” to recognize the importance of economic development incentives. He mentioned his concern for our city’s future.
Bruce Thompson wants to take his ball and go home.
Make no mistake about it – the mega-donor that has personally contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past twenty years to candidates and political committees has enjoyed what is rightfully perceived as preferential treatment from local officials on expensive development projects. I have much respect for anyone who invests so much in their community and creates economic vitality, but I believe that his newest thinly-veiled threat comes from a fear of having to compete on an even economic playing field that the rest of us have to contend with in our day-to-day lives.
Solid business plans shouldn’t have to depend on receiving special treatment from the government to stay in business. When fairness, more choice and level rules are threatening, something has truly gone wrong in our economic system.
Cronyism is a disease of economic vitality; it deepens the pockets of those with entrenched political connections and insulates them from the competition of a level economic playing field. This also hinders economic growth and serves as a signal that cities that engage in such favoritism are closed for business. It puts the wants of the elite few before the needs of the many, and cronyism also has a tendency to distort the political process in which we choose our representatives to maintain our interests.
For the record and on the contrary, I support legitimate economic development and sustainability for our city and our region.
We have become too overly dependent on putting our eggs in two baskets – tourism and military spending. We must find a new way forward that protects our investments in these industries while vigorously diversifying our economy. Economic growth needs more than a slew of low-wage jobs; we need high-wage careers in expanding industries that will help propel our city and our region into the new 21st Century economy. We must foster our incredible potential to develop local talent to thrive on a level economic playing field and focus on sustainability.
Taxpayers are tired of being treated like ATMs with tax and fee increases. They have their own concerns – raising a family, surviving their retirement, keeping their businesses afloat – which have fallen upon many deaf ears… only to see those same ears perk up when developers threaten to leave our town altogether if they don’t get their way.
Well, Mr. Thompson, we’re all concerned for our future. I am concerned for our future, too. That’s why I ran for City Council two years ago. I ran because we have some enormous challenges facing our community. Our economic growth has lagged state and national averages. Unfunded pension liabilities are being treated like cans being kicked down the curb of unraveling local debt. A few inches of rain exposes the decades of negligence in updating our stormwater infrastructure. Pay compression for our public safety professionals has just scratched the surface, our schools need to be modernized, and our public transportation system desperately needs to be revamped.
If you’re concerned, too, I urge you to join me in supporting John Moss and Bobby Dyer, Eric Wray, John Coker and Aaron Rouse as a clean slate of new candidates that share our concerns and our values this November. This is our home and we must stand up for a better direction forward for Virginia Beach.