Today the Virginia Beach City Council held a one day Goal Setting Workshop. The 6 1/2 hour meeting was in the Department of Economic Development (DED) Board Room at Town Center.
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
Each Councilperson had a prior telephone interview with Facilitator Lyle Sumek. The following issues were brought up in those interviews by at least two Councilpersons:
1. SPSA and Landfill
2. Schools and Funding
3. Process Improvement
4. Pleasure House Point
5. Revenues: Direction for FY 2013
6. Use of Sponsorships
7. State Revenues to the City: Direction
8. Outsourcing: Recreation Centers, Others
10. SGA: Direction
11. Form-Based Code
13. Williams Center
14. Convention Center Headquarters Hotel
15. Dome site
16. Sand/Beach Replenishment
17. Gambling/Video Gaming
18. City Redistricting
19. Legislative Agenda: Topics
20. Work Session: Discussion Time
21. Confidentiality of Closed Sessions
22. Burton Station
23. Bike/Trail Plan
24. TOD: Direction
STRATEGIC GROWTH AREAS (SGAs)
Things restarted after the lunch break with SGA Office Manager Barry Frankenfield giving a status report on our SGAs. He covered the planned identity for each SGA, the proposed infrastructure projects in them, schedules for upcoming plans, etc.
The Rosemont SGA plan is due to be approved by Council September 13. The final three are scheduled for 2012: Lynnhaven (March), Hilltop (June), and Centerville (December).
For those screaming that this is an attempt to totally redo the city, City Manager Jim Spore pointed out that the SGAs comprise less than 2% of Virginia Beach's land area. 98% would remain as is.
Implementation strategy was questioned. Policy has been to slowly work each SGA that has a plan, as we don't know where a potential private investor may want to redevelop. Louis Jones has long wanted to target 2-3 with our finite resources, and he was joined by Prescott Sherrod.
In addition, consensus now wants to designate Princess Anne Commons a SGA. That is to target resources to the area, hoping we can have quality spinoff development from the new Sentara Princess Anne Hospital.
Fiscal policy is always a discussion point, especially in this recession. It is projected that property assessments will be down 5% in 2012. That would mean a loss of $20 million in Property Tax revenue for the City, on top of the already-expected Budget shortfall for FY 2013 of $50 million. (Big, but we've had worse in recent memory.)
Vice Mayor Louis Jones cautioned against slash and burn, warning we could induce our own local economic problems, and he was echoed by Councilman Glenn Davis. Bob Dyer took the middle ground, stating we'd have to tweak and reprioritize. It was pointed out that bond houses base our rating not only on debt load, but what we're doing on economic development in order that we have future debt service capacity. Jim Spore noted Property Tax revenue has been down about $190 million over the past few years, but we've weathered the storm - in part - due to revenue from investments made in the recent past.
Foreclosures have accounted for 27% of home sales in Virginia Beach during the past year.
THE MR. BILL SHOW
Give Councilman Bill DeSteph enough time to talk and he'll say something stupid. Today was no exception.
First, under discussion of our City debt situation, he started citing statistics from our Federal debt standing. As if Council was responsible for Federal debt. (Hey, he thinks we do New York City land use....)
Second, he not only wants to revoke the May increase of our City's self-imposed debt ceiling, but wants to lower it below the previous figure.
Third, Mayor Will Sessoms spoke of how road construction can be good for the local economy. We not only get new roads out of it, but it creates jobs for locals. DeSteph retorted there was no latter benefit if the international students who come to work here build the roads. Councilman John Uhrin pointed out he'd never heard of the students building roads here.
Fourth, DeSteph wants to cut economic development initiatives based on the recession. I was incredulous: DeSteph's position boils down to the notion that we're so bad off economically that we should stop trying to create new jobs!
Fifth, he brought up City debt again under Governance, which was out of order. He said he was going to keep talking about it even if no one on Council backed him on it. (Yeah, the other ten all know he's out there.)
The Council Liaisons on the issue (Glenn Davis & Louis Jones) claimed that they had a plan (presumably 2C) that would make everyone who has spoken happy.
When I got home, I had to e-mail my good NAACP friends ASAP to let them know what a bunch of happy campers we're suppose to be. First, 2C makes Centerville District minority-majority, while NAACP1 makes Rose Hall District minority-majority. Second, anyone who knows both the Census numbers and civil rights law grasps that Council offering 2C as a reasonable alternative to NAACP1 is disingenuous at best. Third, NAACP1 has two additional districts that are influence districts.
It's disgusting, but the Virginia Beach City Council rejecting inclusion was virtually a foregone conclusion. I plan a post sometime August 10-18 to cover the process more in depth. (That's why I refrained from covering Redistricting in Random Thoughts August 4, 2011, as I already had the post in the pipes.)
Things wouldn't be fun unless I threw out a couple nuggets for my favorite whipping boys, the extremist VBTA, to choke on.
First, the percentage of income that the average citizen pays to local government in taxes and fees today is at the same level as 1958.
I can hear the knuckle-draggers yelling, "Where did that come from?!?" MoveOn? Organizing for America? No, it's actually from a report by the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Second, City of Virginia Beach revenue in 2011 is at 2007 levels, with a dip (see: Assessments) expected in 2012. Next time they claim we're on a spending binge....
1. Council decided not to include video poker authorization in the 2012 Community Legislative Package. It was noted that what gambling bills that passed the General Assembly in 2011 were all about raising the penalties for illegal gambling, so video poker legislation wouldn't have a snowball's chance in Richmond.
2. The new animal shelter is ahead of schedule. Due to open in January, it may be ready in December.
3. The number of applications for services from the Department of Human Services has doubled in the past five years.
4. The City will look at outsourcing our recreation centers, as it did with municipal golf courses and Sportsplex. However, a couple Councilmen had reservations about the idea.
5. The proposed bike trail in the periphery of the Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way has been on hold pending completion of the Alternatives Analysis of the Virginia Beach Transit Extension Study. The issue is that LRT and BRT require different widths, so it can't be engineered as such until a transit mode is chosen.
Rather than the initial talk of acquiring additional land where the ROW is too narrow, the preferred option now is to look at diverting the bikes to parallel neighborhood streets in such areas.
6. Michael Jenkins' option on redeveloping the Dome site expires September 30. He either needs everything square by then, or to request another extension from the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA).
7. The Virginia Aquarium Area Plan is scheduled to go to Council on November 8.
8. Two additional Councilmen expressed opposition to the proposed tent city for the homeless.
9. The best joke of the day was by Jim Wood. When Council discussed selling tasteful sponsorships for City facilities and events, Wood suggested "Kellam High School, brought to you by Towne Bank".