I've been talking about this off-and-on for 5-6 years now. Virginia Beach is in a strategic political impasse which has crippled this City Council and the two previous. There are those who think simply putting Will Sessoms in the Mayor's office will break it. While Sessoms will be more aggressive in pushing agenda items, swapping out Mayors won't mitigate the political fallout from actions. In fact, this election no opposed incumbent got a majority of the vote.
So what would I do? Five things for starters:
1. Implement a ward system
At least 7 district seats; you really need 8-9 districts to make the numbers sing. Add all the at-large seats on top of that you want. It would mean a larger Council, but a larger Council would mean a smaller workload for each member.
2. Increase Mayoral powers, including a veto
If you go to a ward system, the Mayor needs a veto to prevent the Balkanization of the Council. As he'd be elected at-large, he can block a tyranny of the majority.
3. A Redevelopment Authority, limited to the Strategic Growth Areas as mapped in the December, 2003 Comprehensive Plan
Not only do I not personally like the idea, but Virginia's new eminent domain law limits the utility of one.
However, I need something to horse trade for a ward system. The current SGAs avoid healthy existing neighborhoods, while promoting redevelopment in the SGAs along the Norfolk Southern Corridor strengthens to case for light rail. Grudgingly offer it in return.
4. Raise the amount of debt the City can issue annually.
The current Charter limit is stuck in 1963 dollars. Needless to say, 45 years of inflation have left the figure silly.
5. Enshrine a Residents Bill of Rights
Both the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions have one, but not our City Charter.
I know I'll get shot at from some quarters for some of the specifics I mentioned. However, to pass a new Charter at referendum (which the General Assembly will almost certainly require), there needs to be something for everyone to vote for in the reform package.
With the election over, I thought I'd toss the idea out for discussion. Don't like something? A suggestion for addition?