“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.

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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.