In support of Jim McDonnell

November 3, 2013

Below is a post from Jim English, the President of the Wards Corner Civic League.   It was originally posted on

Dear Neighbors,
It is rare that I openly endorse any candidate for public office.  As a fierce independent by nature I will let anyone know what I think (as many of you may know) but I don’t normally commit to endorsing anyone in writing.  That changes this year with Jim McDonnell who is running for Norfolk City Treasurer.  Recently the Virginian Pilot endorsed Jim McDonnell for Norfolk City Treasurer.

I am doing the same. I have worked side by side with Jim McDonnell for the past several years for the betterment of Wards Corner.  I consider him a friend and ally.  He is honest, ethical, open minded and hard working.  He knows the business and financial world better than most people I know.  He is the right choice for Norfolk City Treasurer.  He will work hard to bring respect to the office and break down the barrier between the Treasurers office and the Commissioner of the Revenues office.  A move that is long overdue.  In addition to my endorsement read what the Virginian Pilot and Louis Eisenberg (who I have also worked closely with) have said about Jim McDonnell.

On October 23rd the Virginian Pilot wrote,

In 2010, this page was unable to recommend Anthony Burfoot’s re-election as a city councilman, in part because he was in a position both to collect taxes – as deputy treasurer – and to spend them as a city councilman.

Even though his election would end that conflict, we are left with too many doubts to endorse Burfoot as treasurer.

Instead, we recommend Republican Jim McDonnell, president of the Talbot Park Civic League and a member of the board of the Norfolk Economic Development Authority. McDonnell, a founder of Wards Corner Now, is a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch.

Like Poston, McDonnell has said that rapprochement between the commissioner of revenue and the treasurer is critical to smoothing the city’s financial functions.

“This is a key position in the city – collecting our tax dollars,” McDonnell said. “If you have a problem, that money is gone.”

McDonnell’s criticism of Burfoot centers on the city councilman’s selection by current Treasurer Tom Moss as his successor.

“No. 1, I’m a conservative business guy when it comes to the fiduciary duty of running the office,” McDonnell said. “The second thing is I’m doing this to serve, not to be served.”

McDonnell said he’d work to get senior tax relief completely restored and be more aggressive in collecting delinquent taxes. For his business background, his solid agenda and his lack of conflicts, McDonnell deserves election.

Louis Eisenberg wrote,

On Tuesday, November 5th the voters of the Greater Wards Corner Area will once again have the opportunity to elect “one of our own”.   Jim McDonnell, the President of the Talbot Park Civic League, is on the ballot for the office of Norfolk City Treasurer. Jim McDonnell can be proud of his community leadership and involvement which includes:
• Director of the Norfolk Economic Development Authority
• Norfolk Criminal Justice Board Member
• Member of the Mayor’s Wards Corner Task Force
• Founding Member of Wards Corner Now
• Norfolk Community Development Block Grant Commission Board (2011)
• Norfolk Juror Commissioner (2009-2011)
• Vice-Chairman for Blessed Sacrament’s Parish Council (2007 – 2010)
• 11th Grade Confirmation Teacher for Blessed Sacrament

Jim McDonnell has worked tirelessly for the improvement of the Wards Corner Business District. Today, we see the results of his unflinching and persistent efforts.  As part of Jim McDonnell’s platform for Norfolk City Treasurer, he has set as one of his top priorities the full restoration of Norfolk’s Senior Tax Relief Program. This is very important to the Greater Wards Corner Area’s large senior population.

Being a trusted financial advisor, Jim McDonnell is the right choice to oversee how Norfolk Citizen’s tax dollars are invested.

Jim McDonnell, “one of our own” has earned our vote for the job as Norfolk’s City Treasurer.

Please Vote Jim McDonnell, Tuesday, November 5th.

Thank you.







President, Wards Corner Civic League.


WC resident comments on Collins’ new proposal

November 1, 2010

Sam Ross, a resident of Hariton Court adjacent to the proposed apartment complex, sent the following email with his comments on the proposed development.  The email was addressed to Jim English, president of the Wards Corner Civic League.

Mr. Collins will be presenting his new plan at the November 20, 2010 Wards Corner Now meeting.

Jim –

For whatever it may be worth the following represents my understanding of the meeting we attended at The Landmark At Talbot Park on October 20.

The presentation was well done, the architect and the developer expressed their problems quite well. It is probable that everyone would acknowledge now is not the best time to be trying to develop housing units for sale. Having held the property for four years or more without significant sales has to be a stretch on whatever corporate resources Mr. Collins has. Additionally, we all would agree that the existing in-place structures show their age and are in need of maintenance and management which would obviously increase their costs beyond reasonable levels.

In terms of aesthetics any change (even paint) would enhance the curb appeal of the older buildings. The renderings presented are far more pleasing and of more neighborhood value than the existing buildings so I do not believe the people’s problems have to do with either property improvement nor construction methodology.  Also the proposed changes to the ambiance of Newport Avenue would certainly be welcome especially as that shown in the provided renderings.

There are various advantages and disadvantages to the proposal that Collins should address as part of his presentation to the public. As I once knew of things the only thing that sells anything is the benefit received from the proposed change. Therefore the advantages to the project should be highlighted to inform inquirers as to what they will receive from the change. This has several key factors within it. People support things in which they feel they have had part ownership as well people support things that have been shown to benefit both parties in the transaction.

For these reasons I suggest Mr. Collins focus more attention on the following areas:

1. Rental versus Owner occupied structures.

As was discussed, there is the probability that as the mortgage market and realty    market change and improve over some period time there is the likelihood that  the         new units may convert, gradually, from rentals to condominiums.  There can be             no absolute guarantee of this nor should there be a    plan issued for this but the             probability is strong that Mr. Collins may, in the median future, want to recoup      portions of his investment through the sale of units as part of a Condo   Development as was originally intended.

If, as is probable the median income is $ 58,000 to $ 60,000 with a disposable        income on average of  $ 17,550 most leasing tenants may well qualify for      mortgages in an amount that would allow for sale of the properties at some future        point. This may well assuage some of the long term concerns of residents.

The upscale nature of the apartments would go a long way to insure tenancy of      longer-term renters and those renters that would care more for the condition of the property negating some of the angst of the single family residents. Nothing will            allay everyone’s fears but to present the issue that there is something to gain             (eventual property owners and better neighbors) should help the process

2. Density and increased Traffic

It would seem one of the predominant issues is the increase in traffic incumbent    upon the development of 376 dwelling units ( 12 existing new + 364 proposed).          This represents an increase of 144 units over the existing 232 apartments. Using            the numbers provided by Collins et al the existing units require .5 parking spaces    per unit while the proposed units require 1.66 per unit. One would assume the requirements are reflective of the probable number of automobiles in each unit.            Clearly then there are currently 116 vehicles existing and 624 proposed. So there      will be a five fold increase in vehicles with the development as presented. Additionally there seems to be (from the drawings) approximately 672 spaces   within the complex providing only 48 spaces for visitors and guests or about .13           spaces per unit. Obviously any overflow would have to be on Newport Avenue             which in many ways is over parked now. I would suggest that Mr. Collins needs    to address this issue directly. The traffic study that was done according to the    presenters indicated little or no change to the traffic which seems contra-indicated             by the numbers above.

If Mr. Collins could negotiate with the Senior Center, Norfolk Health and Wellness Center, Farm Fresh, Kroger’s, and Malcom Van de Water for combined use of a van or Jitney transport to and from these areas as well as a location such        as MacArthur Mall the concerns of some residents could be calmed a bit. It may    even be that several existing residents of single family homes might see this as an    advantage beyond what exists for them today. If such negotiation is not possible it    might be possible to work with HRT for a limited service vehicle to provide the      same service. If, as was said, a significant marketing effort will be undertaken for retired families this provision would have even more merit. In any regard there is benefit to the current residents in any proposed transportation improvement.

On a second issue. The fact sheet provided shows no increase in the number of      residents.  Using their numbers there are 232 apartments occupied by 500-600        residents. Using a mean between the numbers of 550 residents we would see that    232 apartments are occupied by 2.4 people per apartment. Using the same figures the proposal shows that the newly built units would be occupied by 1.46 people           per unit. This is not very rational and perhaps Mr. Collins should be a little more         reasonable in constructing his fact sheet when it comes to the number of people to    be served by the new units.

With 1.75 people per unit making  658 people resident we could easily say that      would yield $ 11,515,000 (658 x $ 17,550) in possible disposable income. Some           percentage of this money will find its way into the economy of Wards Corner.     That having been said whatever reasonable percentage is applied to this should      help in the process of trying to attract some anchor tenant or new construction of           retail space in and around the Granby/Little Creek area.

Coupled with this is the obvious increase to the City of Norfolk of $ 4000,000 or more in property tax revenue.  While not a direct benefit there is some reasonable            expectation that home owners taxes will not need quite as much of an increase in the future.

Finally there is impact on the use and services provided by the Health and Wellness Center. Recently, for financial considerations they reduced the usage of    their facility from 7 days per week to 6. An increase of 658 high median income            families should increase their membership and provide income for future    expansion of services regardless of the Norfolk City budget process. I wouldn’t think it to become totally self-sufficient but there would be less need for City    money if even 20% (131 people) were to join the membership. There may be             plans for an exercise facility in the proposed construction but it would seem           superfluous to add that since a more than adequate facility already exist within        two blocks of the site. Residents would obviously benefit from expanded hours and more programs.

3. Building Scale, Bulk and Mass

As was expressed in the presentation the buildings are, in this iteration, only three stories high. A rendering as if from Hariton Court as to the view of those        buildings would go a long way to reduce feelings of “just more apartments.” The         view now is not as pleasant as it could be if care in rendering a multifaceted           façade (ala Bolling Place) were provided. Perhaps a deeper setback with more trees of size and ornamental plantings would be something that could allay fears         of only seeing walls across the stream.

As was said the change in Newport Avenue is significant and must, in a     reasonable market, positively affect property values for the whole of the    neighborhood. It could be suggested that more discussion with Malcom Van de            Water take place to research the option of his redoing the east side of Newport to either match or complement the west.  It might not be necessary to undertake as     extensive a building plan as Mr. Collins  but rather to address only the area            fronting on Newport.  The maintenance of that area has always been well done             and seems to continue in that way but the buildings are of an age and style that     might be due for a change.

As we semi-discussed the façade fronting Newport could easily reflect subtle        difference from structure to structure. Such things as different roof lines, different     setbacks, different colors, different siding options, etc… This might eliminate a             little of the bulk and “row house” look that exists now.  The buildings are much             nicer than what exists but I would suggest that since they are to be new      construction anyway that as much variance as is possible without soaring           construction costs would enhance them even more.

As a conclusion I would offer that much of the negativity that has existed has come from expecting one thing and then being told something else. Mr. Collins is to be commended for his willingness to listen to the community and make provision for what he hears. No one likes to be forced into things so if these semi-benefits could help in any way he might more easily “sell” his concepts without seeming to force people into something that is based only on his business problem of having the property and not realizing enough income from it.

These are just ideas and concepts that arose during the meeting. If there are any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sam Ross

Pilot prints article on Wards Corner Now

May 23, 2010

The Compass section of the Virginian Pilot (May 23, 2010 edition) has an article on about Wards Corner Now and our group was created.  I cannot find the article posted online to link to.  Here are some notable portions of the article:

A new group, called Wards Corner now, formed in March with plans to supplant the partnership. Leaders of the new group said partnership leaders were too caustic in their criticism of the city.

The friction boiled over during a fractious meeting of Wards Corner leaders and city officials months ago that attorney Martin Thomas Jr., a Wards Corner resident, said was simply too toxic.

So Thomas joined civic league presidents Jim English and Jim McDonnell, realtor Louis Eisenberg, chiropractor Brad Robinson and others in leaving the partnership and forming Wards Corner Now.

“We don’t want to fight, we don’t want to bicker,” English said in explaining why he split from the partnership. “You don’t get anywhere that way and that’s where we were headed.”

Added Thomas: “There’s been a lot of negativity going on for about a year. City councilmen weren’t taking them seriously.”

Thomas and others established a website, held monthly meetings and injected themselves into City Council politics in a big way.

The group endorsed Andy Protogyrou in the Ward 1 council race. Protogyrou, a lawyer, defeated three opponents largely because of lopsided victories at Wards Corner area precincts.

“Wards Corner needs an advocate,” Eisenberg said, much like W. Randy Wright has been an advocate for Ocean View.

Wards Corner Now held its initial meeting in March and includes representatives of most Wards Corner civic leagues. Council members Theresa Whibley and Barclay C. Winn attended. Winn called the new group “a positive step for Wards Corner.”

Wards Corner Now: Positive Change for Wards Corner.

In Support of Andy Protogyrou for City Council

April 26, 2010
Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Andy Protogyrou, Candidate for City Council, Ward 1

Over the course of the last three months, four candidates running for Norfolk City Council for Ward 1 have been vying for the support and vote of Wards Corner residents in the May 4th election. Many of us have attended several of the candidate forums where the candidates have appeared and discussed the issues. Recently, those of us who live in Ward 1 have started receiving campaign literature from three of the four candidates.

We want to set the record straight.  The candidates, with the exception of one, have not indicated any real plan to revitalize Wards Corner.  Mr. Brewer and Mrs. Saunders tend to dance around that issue without offering any real ideas.  Mr. Brewer has repeatedly said, in the forums that we have attended, that putting more police officers and code enforcement inspectors will effect change. We, however, all agree that this approach is merely a temporary band-aid that has been tried over the past 10 years without any substantial results.

Let us be very clear. We, as active civic leaders of the Greater Wards Corner Area, support Andy Protogyrou for City Council as the only credible and viable candidate for Ward One. We encourage you to do the same.

The other two candidates have only recently positioned Wards Corner as a top priority due to the positive feedback and endorsements that Andy Protogyrou is receiving.

Andy Protogyrou lives in the Greater Wards Corner Area, has been a Civic League President, and demonstrates a resume that clearly puts him head and shoulders above the other candidates. He has what it takes to be our advocate and get the job done to revitalize Wards Corner and address the issues of Ward 1.

It was us, the undersigned, who approached Andy Protogyrou to run for City Council and NOT the downtown crowd as some have suggested.

Andy’s approach to revitalization is based on good business sense, proper economic development strategies, and a clear understanding that a healthy business district drives healthy neighborhoods.  More police and code inspectors, although important, don’t effect the necessary change.

Andy has said from the day he announced his candidacy that his focus will be on:
1.  The redevelopment and the economic prosperity of Wards Corner,
2.  The flooding of Mason Creek and Willoughby,
3.  Bringing a commonsense approach to City spending,
4.  Creating a good learning environment for our children, and
5.  Improving the quality of life for all.

We all believe that Andy Protogyrou possesses those qualities that are required and necessary to revitalize Wards Corner and be an effective advocate on City Council.   Several organizations agree, including the: Norfolk Professional Firefighters Local 68, Tidewater Builders Association, Eastern Virginia Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, Hampton Roads Realtors Association and United Black Firefighters.  This is perhaps the most important election to date for the citizens of Ward 1. We ask that you join us and vote for Andy Protogyrou.


Jim English
Louis Eisenberg
Jim McDonnell
Dr. Brad Robinson
Martin Thomas Jr.
Update: The Virginian-Pilot agrees and has endorsed Andy as well!

Is the tide changing for Wards Corner?

March 2, 2010

The following is an article written by Jim English, president of the Wards Corner Civic League.
Jim English
Is the tide changing for Wards Corner? Are we finally starting to get the needed attention from City Hall and City Council? Well to begin let me share with you the below quote taken from Mayor Paul Fraim’s State of the City Address given in early February of this year.

“More than $13 million has been invested in the Greater Wards Corner area since approval of the Comprehensive Plan.  Last year, police presence and code enforcement activities were stepped up, surveillance cameras installed in Denby Park, and a neighborhood watch begun with 60 residents participating.  As a result, violent crime in Wards Corner dropped 35% and property crime 6%.

Three residential rehabilitation programs were begun for Denby Park, Oakdale Farms and Monticello Village to assist residents in upgrading their homes.  The programs were so successful that within six months, the first $1 million was committed to 21 homeowners.  Another $1 million was committed this fiscal year to assist 40 homeowners, and there’s already a waiting list for next year.

On the commercial side, the department of development is in active discussions with major property owners in the heart of the Wards Corner business district, and we expect new development opportunities to be identified later this year.”

While we could argue that the points mentioned above were a part of the overall funding to neighborhoods city wide, nonetheless this year’s address marked the first time that Wards Corner was mentioned in several paragraphs and not just in a fleeting sentence in the Mayor speech. That’s progress. While I know we have always been on the radar screen (although even though it may only have been a small blip) maybe this is indicative of a turning point for Wards Corner.

Mayor Fraim has now opened his campaign headquarters in our Civic League area at the corner of Maycox Ave. and Granby Street (in the old Cleaners store). I may be wrong but I don’t ever remember a time when any person running for elected office located their headquarters in the Wards Corner area, at least not those running for city council. Is this a sign of a changing attitude toward Wards Corner? Or is this only a political move to get our vote? I want to believe it represents a changing view of the importance of Wards Corner as a gateway to Downtown. Our area represents a strong, solid and important voting block in city elections. In addition to this, Mayor Fraim will hold his kickoff campaign reelection party at the Hellenic Center in Wards Corner. Is this yet another indication of our importance!?

We have four candidates running for election to fill the council seat in Ward 1. Three of those candidates have mentioned that Wards Corner is a priority for them and one even lives in our Greater Wards Corner area. Are they running on the Wards Corner issue to get our vote or are they sincere? I don’t know about two of them but I know and believe one of them. Andy Protogyrou has mentioned that he wants to be an advocate and champion for Wards Corner. I believe him and I have endorsed him as the best candidate for Ward 1 and Wards Corner. I usually don’t endorse candidates but I am doing so this year for this election because it is so important for our area.
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