The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed life in Virginia Beach significantly; since late February, your representatives on City Council have had to make tough decisions to ensure the success of the residents and businesses of the city. With our schools closing early, small businesses trying to transition to work-from-home setups, social distancing mandates, and families adjusting their daily habits, we have all made sacrifices in trying to find our way through all of this safely. We were elected as a Council to make tough decisions, and we have supported our local industries and our residents in innovative ways.
March 18 – City Council suspended disconnecting water service due to nonpayment, knowing that citizens would be under financial duress.
April 1 – In partnership with City Treasurer Leigh Henderson, City Council offered businesses an option to defer payment of trust taxes without penalties.
April 7 – With restaurants facing closures, City Council acted quickly to temporarily eliminate the Meals Tax and suspended zoning codes so that restaurants could encourage take-out.
April 28 – City Council provided $1.5 million in funding to approve an ordinance to allow the Virginia Beach Development Authority to issue emergency assistance grants to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are the only locality in the region to utilize City money to assist small businesses and residents. We were able to act weeks ahead of CARES Act appropriations because of our aggressive budgeting practices.
May 4 – City Council authorized the City Manager to approve temporary outdoor dining permits so that restaurants could continue to serve the community with expanded seating in parking lots.
June 1 – I advocated successfully to permit food trucks to service communities on private property with permission from a property owner (something that was previously prohibited without a conditional use permit). This action allowed food trucks to service residents in our city who could not leave their homes or places of work and still enjoy a hot meal.
City Council faced challenges in this year’s budget cycle. Just the week before, councilmembers were divided on the best way forward in keeping the city’s finances running strong through the pandemic. I helped to ensure that we passed a budget with no tax or fee increases that still fully-funded several initiatives that had been prioritized by Council in the year prior, including the recommendations from Disparity Study and the Hillard Heintze recommendations. We continued funding stormwater infrastructure and public safety. I advocated restoring $7.7 million in previously-cut funding for schools. The budget was flexible enough to withstand budgetary shortfalls if necessary – but I am proud to report that the city’s finances are outperforming our initial projections.
But we’re still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19. Virginia Beach needs knowledgeable, qualified, compassionate, and composed leadership to support our community in weathering the challenges to come as we enter new financial recovery stages. I believe that I possess all of these qualities and more – which is why I have been endorsed overwhelmingly by the business community in Virginia Beach, including:
•A+ Grade from The Coastal Virginia Chamber of Commerce
•The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce
•Coastal Virginia Building Industry Association
•Hampton Roads Realtor Association
The work to get us back on our feet again has just begun. We have monumental choices ahead of us, but with your support, we will emerge from the pandemic a more resilient and unified city.