Superward 6 Candidate Questionnaire

These Questions were sent to the candidates by the Suburban Acres Civic League.  Many thanks to the SACL for allowing us to reprint the questions and answers.

John Amiral, Candidate for Superward 6

John Amiral, Candidate for Superward 6

The Candidate:  JOHN AMIRAL

Lives in:  EAST OCEAN VIEW

Profession: OWNER, AMIRAL’S CONSULTING, TAX SERVICE & LINGUISTICS ASSISTANCE

1. Tell our neighborhood a little about yourself.

I was born in former Soviet Union. Living under communist oppression as a child gives me distinct perspective on the importance of having a transparent government accountable to the people. I immigrated to the United States when I was a teenager and after the attacks on September 11, I enlisted to serve in United States Navy to defend this great nation. I came to Norfolk due to my Service in the Military, but it was love for this City that caused me to stay. After leaving the active duty Service in the Navy, in 2009, I started a small business based in Norfolk focused on increasing Virginia’s exports to Eastern Europe. Governor Bob McDonnell appointed me to the Board of the Virginia Council on Human Rights, where I focus on protecting innocent people from oppressive practices. My wife and I have a 3-year old son, who will soon be enrolling in elementary school. As a businessman, father and community leader, I believe I have the skills and experience to lead the charge for a transparent local government focused on creating jobs and strengthening our economy.

2. Let’s say YOU get to set the city council agenda for a year. What would be your top three areas of focus?

My top priority will be fixing our broken school system. There is no excuse for half of our high schools failing to meet State Accreditation Standards; our schools are failing students, parents, teachers and the community at large. The single greatest investment we can make is in our children’s education. Our school system can only be fixed by strong, results-oriented leadership by the school board and superintendent, a transparent decision making process and community involvement with the school system.

Secondly, I will work to make Norfolk open for business. One of the burdens to start-up businesses is the Business Professional Occupancy License (BPOL), which taxes companies based on the gross revenues rather than their profits. I propose that for the first two years a business is in operation that these fees be waived. We should also reexamine our overreaching regulatory policies, and reduce government involvement in business operations, letting the Free-Market economy to function based on the principles of Supply and Demand. I believe these would help more businesses succeed, create jobs and benefit our local economy as a whole.

My third priority will be improving the quality of life for our senior citizens by expanding the Senior Tax Relief program to waive property taxes for all citizens over the age of 65. Every year, senior citizens face higher costs of living and higher assessments on their property, while their benefits remain stagnant. City government must do its part to help relieve the burden and financial stress on senior citizens.

3.  To the outside observer, were it not for investigative reporting by the Virginian Pilot, residents would likely not have had the opportunity to see the various Waterside redevelopment plans before council made a decision.  What will you do to increase transparency and openness at city hall?

I have called for a complete audit of the entire City Government. Every agency, every department and every contract over a million dollars must be audited. If a suspended employee could still be on payroll for over a decade–netting over $300,000–it is clear there is a systematic problem that will only be fixed if it is brought to light.

Every process and appointment by City Council must be as transparent as possible with details, plans, resumes, and public comments available online at least two weeks before any decision is to be made. Whenever and wherever possible, public input must be made available into the City’s decision making process.

City Council Members and their families must be banned from receiving City contracts–directly or indirectly.

4.  Do you think an elected school board would affect, either positively or negatively, the quality and accountability of school board members?

Our first priority must me making the appointment process to the Norfolk School Board as transparent as possible. I support an elected school board so long as the districts do not coincide with the City Council districts; otherwise, the City Council members would essentially appoint the School Board members for their districts. I believe the school system must be directly accountable to the parents, teachers and community at large, not politicians.

 

Marcus Calabrese, Candidate for Superward 6

Marcus Calabrese, Candidate for Superward 6

The Candidate: MARCUS CALABRESE

Lives in: OCEAN VIEW

Profession: SMALL BUSINESS & PUBLIC RELATIONS CONSULTANT

1. Tell our neighborhood a little about yourself.

Having lived overseas in both Japan and Saudi Arabia as a child was the best way to ensure that I grew up open-minded. In the 3rd grade I found a book about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while in the library. This led to me becoming aware of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and created a very serious commitment to the communities I find myself in. This passion is what has guided my decisions for years. I quite often found myself around those who did not share this commitment. This commitment has led to me being rejected, mocked, and dismissed quite often. This commitment has also led me to sit on Boards of Directors for the last 5 years representing families facing issues such housing, hunger, homelessness, and small businesses. I would not trade this commitment for anything in the world.

2. Let’s say YOU get to set the city council agenda for a year.  What would be your top three areas of focus?

Education:  I am proud to be the only candidate in this race who has worked and volunteered in Norfolk classrooms. I will visit at least one school a month and sit with teachers to hear the changes that they want made. I will work tirelessly to provide teachers with the pay raises they deserve. If City Council can find funds for their donors’ projects (i.e. Tivest), we can find the funds to help our teachers and improve our schools.

Economy:  Norfolk Small Businesses have shared too many testimonials with me about the complications they face from Norfolk’s government. Norfolk Superward 6 is home to our region’s most powerful economic engines. These include; Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Ghent Business Association, Ocean View Business Association, Entrepreneurs Organization of Southeastern VA, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Roads Business OutReach and our 5 great colleges.

Norfolk needs each of these organizations to have a voice at the table. Visit my website to see how.

These business organizations were not included in discussions about the demolition of Waterside, the corporate franchises moved into Ghent known for its local charm, nor Wards Corner. I would like to cancel any further discussions about money being spent on City Council’s best friend projects and work on tax incentives for businesses.

Public Safety:  Norfolk has 5 colleges and no campus safety plan. ODU asked City Council for a joint police precinct in conjunction with Norfolk Police back in 2009. Mayor Paul Fraim and Councilman Barclay Winn said this was a great idea. However it has never happened. A few weeks ago my campaign team and I walked a civic league president home because it was dark. She pointed out the street lights that  needed repair. She is aware of the reality that the city CAN fix these lights if they choose. However like another civic league president, she was told it was not in the budget and it would shine lights on other homeowners’ windows.

I motion we buy them curtains and buy some light bulbs.

3.  To the outside observer, were it not for investigative reporting by the Virginian Pilot, residents would likely not have had the opportunity to see the various Waterside redevelopment plans before council made a decision.  What will you do to increase transparency and openness at city hall?

I am in public relations. I help my clients communicate their message to their audience. In this case, my client would be the residents of Norfolk with the audience being City Council. As you can see in my campaign message I have no problem being a voice against the nonsensical. Whether its a City Councilman who apologizes for a city contract he subcontracted but somehow has never given it back, or a city that is willing to spend $200 million on a conference center when we do not have a school superintendent, a police chief, schools that need repair and no business assistance for Wards Corner businesses I am always happy to be a voice for the overlooked.

4.  Do you think an elected school board would affect, either positively or negatively, the quality and accountability of school board members?

I am the only candidate in the race endorsed by elected school board members. Teachers deserve a school board that will fight for their issues. Students deserve a school board that will fight for better materials and higher quality of education. Voters deserve a choice and it would be a privilege to cast a vote to put this issue on the ballot.

 

Jesse Scaccia, Candidate for Superward 6

Jesse Scaccia, Candidate for Superward 6

The Candidate: JESSE SCACCIA

Lives in: FREEMASON

Profession: EDITOR, PUBLISHER

1. Tell our neighborhood a little about yourself.

First of all, thank you to Kevin and the Suburban Acres Civic League for taking the time to ask these questions and print them in the newsletter. There are very few problems facing society–here in Norfolk and around the country–that I don’t believe can be solved by greater civic engagement and collaboration of resources. I applaud your efforts to engage with the democratic process in earnest and to foster positive citizen-to-government dialog.

About me: My background is as an educator—I’ve taught in public schools in New York City and Oceanside, California, and I spent 10 months volunteering at a home for young men in Cape Town, South Africa. I have three master’s degrees, produced a documentary series for BET, and have had a few stories published in The New York Times.

I’ve lived in a lot of beautiful places but I decided to call Norfolk home because it has everything: water, urban environment, livable neighborhoods, amazing arts and restaurants… along with a ton of potential for growth. My day job is editor of the magazine AltDaily.com, which reaches some 50,000 individual readers a month.

2. Let’s say YOU get to set the city council agenda for a year.  What would be your top three areas of focus?

1. Schools. My one campaign promise is that I’m going to push the schools to the top of the city’s agenda, and I’m going to help find them the most resources—both in budget money and community energy—possible.

2. Encouraging small businesses development, and better supporting and celebrating the ones we have.

3. Your mission statement hits #3 on the head: “develop and enable a civic-minded culture that influences responsible community participation, providing example and inspiration to our youth.” This means open government, giving the citizens a greater voice (and actually listening), and giving people more opportunities to play in the city, with better parks, bike-ability, public art, and fun.

3.  To the outside observer, were it not for investigative reporting by the Virginian Pilot, residents would likely not have had the opportunity to see the various Waterside redevelopment plans before council made a decision.  What will you do to increase transparency and openness at city hall?

Look, in the Internet age, all it takes to have a supremely open government is making the decision that having an open government is an essential value the city holds dear. All it takes is the will and a champion in the leadership. I hope to be that leader for Norfolk.

4.  Do you think an elected school board would affect, either positively or negatively, the quality and accountability of school board members?

Right now the school board members are only held accountable to the people who hand-picked them–the city council members. Stretching that accountability to their neighbors and the parents of Norfolk would be a positive.

It’s impossible to say if the quality will improve for sure, but I believe in the collective intelligence and wisdom of the people, and democracy—electing our leaders—is a natural facilitator of that greatest good rising to the surface.

 

Barclay C. Winn, Candidate for Superward 6 (Incumbent)

Barclay C. Winn, Candidate for Superward 6 (Incumbent)

The Candidate: BARCLAY C. WINN (INCUMBENT)

Lives in: WEST GHENT

Profession: CO-OWNER, WINN NURSERY

1.  Tell our neighborhood a little about yourself.

Barclay Childers Winn was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on November 12, 1947.  He graduated from Norfolk Academy in 1965 and received his B.S. degree in Landscape Horticulture in 1970 from North Carolina State University.  Married to Norfolk native Janet Hollowell Winn, Barclay is the father of five children.  Barclay and Janet reside in the West Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk, and are members of First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk.

Barclay is an astute businessman, serving as Chief Executive Officer and co-owner of Winn Nursery of Virginia, Inc.  This family-owned business has thrived Norfolk for almost 130 years (since 1885), where he works side by side with Co-Owner and cousin, Carter Winn, as well as his cousin Jimmy Winn and his sons Clay and Wendall Winn.  The company was located on Granby Street from 1924 to 1996 at the current Tabernacle Church site, and is currently located in the Berkley section of Norfolk.

Barclay has spent most of his adult life giving back to his community.  Civic involvement  has always played a key role in Barclay’s life, as reflected in the many civic and business organizations to which he devotes a great deal of time.

2. Let’s say YOU get to set the city council agenda for a year.  What would be your top three areas of focus?

PUBLIC EDUCATION –  I have always said that no city is any greater than its public school system.  In order for our students to be able to compete in the job market as well as for us to be able to attract investment in our city by the private sector, we MUST be able to provide the students in our schools with a world class education.  It is crucial that we take steps to return Norfolk Public Schools to the level it enjoyed when awarded the Broad Prize just a few years ago.

I believe that a focus on increasing parental involvement through our schools’ PTAs would be a good first step in achieving that goal.  I also feel that  eliciting and encouraging partners in education from the city’s businesses and the armed services to provide mentoring would be invaluable.  The visibility of  parents and partners in our schools  is vital.

FLOODING –  With the rising tide combined with the fact that Norfolk is slowly sinking, we must engage our state and federal governments to work with us in attacking the serious flooding issues that plague our city.  The City of Norfolk has completed a study and will be including funds in this year’s budget to begin mitigation in some areas of the city, and we have already had discussions with representatives at the sate and federal levels to enlist their support in solving this major problem that affects the entire Hampton Roads region.

MORE EFFECTIVE CODE ENFORCEMENT – We must take steps to make whatever investments are necessary to insure that the quality of life in Norfolk’s neighborhoods is not negatively impacted by unaddressed code violations.  I am hopeful that the recent implementation of the Norfolk AIR (Address Information Resource) computer linked system will be an effective and efficient means to better tracking code violations and the outcomes of those complaints.

3.  To the outside observer, were it not for investigative reporting by the Virginian Pilot, residents would likely not have had the opportunity to see the various Waterside redevelopment plans before council made a decision.  What will you do to increase transparency and openness at city hall?

To clarify the opening statement in the question posed, it was ALWAYS Norfolk City Council’s intention to include the public in the Waterside redevelopment plans.  Never for a moment did we consider making a decision without the opportunity for public input.  I support 100% transparency and open government.  Having said that, the exceptions would be when Council has personnel issues to discuss as well as delicate property/real estate issues, which can be very sensitive at times.

And no, this was not the case with the pending Chick-Fil-A issue.  This matter was brought to the full Council in open session and was even televised.  It was only after the fact that a local real estate developer heard about the deal, hoping that Council would go back on its word to Chick-Fil-A.  And mind you, the land sat vacant for more than ten years.  The City of Norfolk did not seek out Chick-Fil-A, rather they approached the city.

4.  Do you think an elected school board would affect, either positively or negatively, the quality and accountability of school board members?

I am open-minded about an elected school board vs. an appointed board; however, I am concerned that highly qualified citizens might not be willing to subject themselves to the grueling election process. It is important to keep in mind that an elected school board would not have the ability to raise funds through a dedicated portion of our taxes, as the Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow them to do so.

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