On April 23, the Chesapeake Division of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidates forum for City Council and School Board candidates to inform voters prior to the May 6 election. Nearly 100 attended the event at the Chesapeake Conference Center from 6-8pm. Eight candidates are in the running for 5 open city council seats, and there are 5 open seats for School Board with 10 hopeful candidates. Participants shared opening and closing remarks and each responded to two questions. Kevin Cosgrove of the Chamber’s Chesapeake Board served as moderator and Joel Rubin asked the candidates pre-submitted questions.
City Council candidates included incumbents Lonnie Craig, Dr. John deTrqiuet, Suzy H. Kelly and Dr. Ella P. Ward and challengers Bryan Collins, Roland Davis Jr., Burnie Mansfield Jr. and Jason Morris. The incumbents praised the city’s strengths and progress.
Dr. deTriquet, the current vice mayor, said, “We have been facing an economic crisis, but the city of Chesapeake has weathered this and is stronger.” He explained that over $200 million has been spent on infrastructure and transportation projects. He added, “We’ve invested in safe streets, good education and style of life and are increasing spending in police, fire and parks and recreation.”
Challenger Burnie Mansfield, who ran in 2008 and 2010, told the audience that he is an independent and would give balance to city council. “Not everything is rosy in Chesapeake.”
When asked about transportation, Dr. Ella Ward said, “Transportation is regional.” She explained that in order to get businesses to the city and tourists to the region, collaboration is needed.
Roland Davis added that improving transportation and relieving traffic congestion are essential to the city’s economic growth.
Newcomer Jason Morris said tolls should not be part of any new construction and promised, “If I can anything to make sure a new high-rise bridge is not tolled, I will do it.
The Chamber works to enhance the quality of life in the region, and schools that excel help increase the workforce quality and attract homebuyers. Candidates for School Board who participated were incumbents Christie Craig, Harry Murphy and Michael Woods. Challengers are Michael Brown, Wilford Clark Jr., Kimberly Hobbs, Brenda Johnson, Colleen Leary, Les Smith Jr. and Louis Tayon Jr. Topics addressed included safety, the budget, teacher pay, redistricting, SOL scores and technology.
Colleen Leary said the budget should be looked at each year regarding transportation costs and safety. Emphasizing the importance of good schools, she said, “Schools bring families into the city.” Regarding teacher pay, Leary said, “We have to look at the national average. Our teachers end up leaving us. We have great benefits in addition to compensation.”
When asked about the budget priorities, Wilford Clark Jr. said, “We understand teachers and students are resources. Teachers are behind in pay. Some of the schools are having problems and we can do a better job.”
Harry Murphy was asked about math deficiencies in the school system. He explained the Board has instituted remedial programs in the schools, but also mentioned that the testing standards have been raised. “We are taking necessary steps,” he said.
“Our strengths are our teachers, students and parents,” said Christie Craig. She touted the PTA and commented that parent involvement is key. Later in the forum, she said she does not support merit pay, but instead a three-tier system of: Specialist, Senior and Master.
The Chamber, in representing the business viewpoints and interests to the public sector, explores the political field to identify campaigns that support pro-business legislation, driving the economic strength of the membership base. Additionally, the organization works closely with elected officials to create economic prosperity and enhance the quality of life for our community. The Chamber encourages Chesapeake residents to vote on May 6.