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Issues

 

PUBLIC SAFETY

As a firefighter, I am sure you can understand that public safety holds a special place in my heart.  I have a comprehensive understanding of the sacrifices that the men and women that serve our community make. Aside from the firefighters, I also hold a deep appreciation and respect for public safety officers that serve a critical role in keeping our city safe. Whether you are a police officer, sheriff’s deputy, or dispatcher, you all deserve full support of our city’s administration. Their presence and ability to serve in our city and keep our citizens safe is paramount. Would it surprise you to know that for four of the last five years, Chesapeake has been above the national crime rate? What if I told you that Chesapeake is 351 square miles, with a population of approximately 239,000 people, and only has three ladder fire trucks?  To put this into perspective, our neighboring city of Suffolk is serving a population of approximately 88,000 people, with three ladder trucks. Norfolk is 95 square miles, serving an approximate population of 245,000 people, with seven ladder trucks. Virginia Beach has 497 square miles, serving an approximate population of 450,000, and has eight ladder fire trucks, and Portsmouth is 33 square miles, with an approximate population of 95,000, and has three ladder fire trucks.  In each of these comparisons, Chesapeake comes up short. Why is that? Our citizens’ well-being and the men and women who serve in public safety deserve more. Without being equipped with the tools and staffing needed, the police and fire departments cannot efficiently and safely perform their duties. Bottom line, our citizens, our police, and our firefighters are being put in danger. I want to see this changed, because I know how important it is to make sure everyone comes home from their shift. Due to our current council’s accelerated approval of growth, Chesapeake’s population has exploded over the last fifteen years, making it impossible for our public safety departments to keep up. It is imperative that as our city grows, there are plans in place to ensure that the new neighborhoods and communities do not impact the level of service that the other established communities have come to expect. In turn, the new neighborhoods need to be provided with the same public safety protection, which has always been the standard for our city.


SCHOOLS/ EDUCATION

 
Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) is the heartbeat of our wonderful community. CPS provides jobs for many of our residents and education for our future. I genuinely care about the direction of Chesapeake Public Schools. My own children attend these schools, and I want the absolute best for them. To say I have a vested interest in the success of our city’s largest employer, would be an understatement. My wife is a school bus driver, my mom is a first grade teacher, and I have many friends who are employed through CPS. Our school system is what attracts people to move to this area, and it also encourages families to stay.  Failure to invest in Chesapeake's most valuable asset is a blatant display of negligence to our citizens, our teachers, our children, and our city. With 30 of our schools at 90% capacity, 16 of which are above 100% capacity, class sizes are spiraling out of control. We need to not only protect our children from becoming just another number, but we need to protect our teachers from large class sizes.  We need to treat the people who educate and serve our children every day like the treasures they are.  Without them, Chesapeake Public Schools would not have the reputation of superior education, and without CPS, Chesapeake would not have become the city it is today. With that said, there has been a breakdown in the system, and we need to provide for our teachers, our school buildings, our students' transportation, and school facilities, in order to accommodate all students and staff throughout our city. It is time to stand up and ask the current leaders of Chesapeake why they have allowed our city’s most valuable resource to deteriorate like it has.  I want to focus on ways to fully fund CPS's budget. This budget priority will allow Chesapeake Public School's administration to ensure the maintenance of facilities, the safety of students and staff, as well as, teacher retention.


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Community Engagement means so much more to me after watching the successes from around our area where organizations have taken their message to the street. That is what I intend to do as a candidate and, if elected, as a councilman. So what is Community Engagement? And how will I implement it? These were my wife’s first questions, too.  Many of us scarcely have time, between our families, our jobs, our church, school functions, sports, and the list goes on, to sit around and watch channel 48 for city updates.  So how do you know what is happening in the city before it is voted on? For that matter, how do you even know who you are voting for and where their values and beliefs lie? The information is sometimes hard to obtain, and by the time you obtain it, it is too late. City officials are currently voting on issues that will change our way of life forever. Many of the decisions being made do not line up with our community’s conservative family values, and are not for the betterment of our city, but for the betterment of the city council…and it is being slipped in right under our noses. I want to change this. I want a more transparent city, with approachable leaders, who truly want to hear your concerns and issues.
 Currently, the way to obtain information is by either attending Town Hall Meetings, of which there are only three per year, or at city council meetings, where, let’s face it, the council members have already made up their minds and decided their votes long before the meeting even begins.  The old and apathetic approach of a city council meeting makes me uncomfortable as a citizen.  There are nine intimidating people looking down at you from a desk, where you are standing at a podium, emotional and nervous, with bright lights, on camera, and only five minutes to get what is near and dear to your heart articulated, in a desperate attempt to sway votes.  This high-pressure situation is not how it should be and is unproductive. This is where Community Engagement comes in. As firefighters, we joke that many of the world's problems have been solved around our firehouse kitchen table over a cup of coffee. It's that kind of relaxed atmosphere that I would like to create between myself and the people I serve. Focusing on the community just seems to come naturally to me. It is my calling. I am a public servant. I want to meet the people of the community in their communities. I want to know the issues going on in Indian River, South Norfolk, Greenbrier, Western Branch, Deep Creek, Grassfield, Hickory, and Great Bridge. I can’t be everywhere at once, and am humble enough to admit that I am not an expert. How can I be, if I don’t live in the area effected, my children don’t go to the schools, my job is not being impacted? This is why I need you, as much as you need a conscientious representative. Sitting down over a cup of coffee, will be an opportunity for you to educate me, and for me to listen.  I want to hear the thoughts and ideas about the issues from the people who actually live in the area that is being impacted. I want you to know that I am approachable, and I am open to communication. I want to get to know you, and I want you to get to know me.
So, it is my intention to have multiple meetings throughout the city, at local venues, throughout the year. The old way of doing things is not working anymore. It is broken and can lead to corruption. I want to try a new, fresh, and honest approach. I have seen this concept work, and I feel that it is imperative in order to create trust between the community and their representatives.


GROWTH

I was asked a question recently regarding our city's growth. I believe growth isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as it is responsible growth. It is absolutely necessary to have plans in place to be prepared for said growth. Current council members like to state that one to two percent growth per year is currently a sustainable model. I believe this is reasonable IF the last 10 to 15 years of growth had been reflective in infrastructure. In other words, with the each year's one to two percent growth, has the city added a school to relieve the overpopulation, due to the increase in students? Or staffing for teachers to maintain manageable class sizes? Has a new fire station been built to maintain a quick response time? What about the police officers to keep our rapidly growing city, and its citizens, safe? According to the city's one to two percent growth rate per year, we are now somewhere in the range of 10 to 25 percent behind on the basic infrastructure improvements, and city council is still approving growth at an alarming rate! I would like to propose that we slow the new growth in southern Chesapeake. Our current infrastructure simply cannot support it.  I would like to focus on revitalization of our historic areas, and facilitate / fund infrastructure increases in our heavily populated areas that have been forgotten over the last 15 years. This will allow us to sustain the assets that Chesapeake residents have come to know and love. Once again, I am not anti-growth. Growth can be a good thing, it means we are moving forward, but it MUST be responsible growth. Before we approve growth, we must be able to provide the infrastructure upgrades to sustain that growth in a proactive manner, not in a reactive manner.



Authorized by Levin Turner for Council
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