As per our invitation, we are presenting op-eds from the candidates for the May 1 local elections in Norfolk, Newport News, Williamsburg, Chesapeake and Hampton. The articles will appear in the order in which they are received and exactly as they were sent to us.
By Marcus A. Calabrese
As someone who has represented children, small businesses, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community prior to the campaign season, I see first hand how politics as usual is preventing the progress Norfolk needs.
Prior to my own candidacy I have worked with Democrats and Republicans since my time in college. These include Dick Gephardt, Bob McDonnell, John Amiral, Barbara Saunders, Patricia Edmonson and others. Despite my willingness to demonstrate bi-partisanship, I have been attacked for practicing the ‘soundbyte’ so many celebrate. Just as I was then, I remain comfortable and proud of my experience as I believe the practice of partisanship is as silly as it sounds.
It is that experience that has allowed me to see the harsh reality that politicians, regardless of party, will say one thing TO a demographic only to say another ABOUT them. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is a personal issue.
It is personal because I have been representing people that have been overlooked, under-served, and manipulated before I ever put it on a campaign literature piece or a website.
While candidates have been campaigning for the last month and a half about “Fixing Our Schools” or defending our school board despite their results, I was and remain the only candidate in this race who has volunteered and worked in Norfolk classrooms.
I am proud to be the only candidate endorsed by elected school board members and retired public school administrators because I know that hands on experience in our educational system is invaluable in the progress we need.
Our teachers deserve a councilman who will work beside them in the decisions that must be made. Making decisions that impact our schools without teachers at the forefront of that discussion shows a complete lack of competence.
Every council person should be visiting at a minimum, 1 school per month to sit and listen to what teachers need. If elected I will happily cast the vote needed to put an elected school board on the ballot. I have yet to hear or see a candidate mention a pay raise for teachers. However I do see a city council willing to discuss a proposal of $200 Million for a conference center from Harvey Lindsay who has donated thousands of dollars to Mayor Paul Fraim, Vice Mayor Anthony Burfoot, and my Councilman Barclay Winn.
As the only candidate who has visited with businesses in Wards Corner and Waterside, I see the overdue need for a small business commission in Norfolk. Being an advocate for tax incentives for Small, Woman, and Minority owned businesses has garnered me additional attacks. Not to mention I also would like to include Veteran owned and LGBT owned businesses in this plan (see http://www.marcuscalabrese.blogspot.com)
However, I find it interesting that out of the four candidates in this Superward 6 race, I remain the only public advocate for SWAM businesses. Barclay Winn owns a SWAM business, Winn Nursery. Jesse Scaccia works for AltDaily owned by a minority female. John Amiral, while he could qualify is against this form of ‘favortism’.
Of course I do encourage you to visit their websites and see their ideas on a small business issue supported by Barack Obama, Bob McDonnell, Ben Loyola, and Brian Moran.
As I mentioned previously, I began a lot of my political activism at a Norfolk college. Perhaps that may be why I am the only candidate to have called for a campus safety plan in conjunction with the city. Within one week of attending Christopher Cumming’s birthday this year, I heard of 5 campus deaths. Two of these deaths were on Old Dominion University’s campus. Now maybe my opponents feel this is not a city issue. ODU administrators asked city council in 2009 for a joint police precinct only to be met with council representatives who cited the ‘cost’ and ‘details’ as the issues preventing this from happening. Should we go down the list of the money readily approved by city council for projects associated with campaign contributors?
Perhaps Harvey Lindsay and Tivest can broker a deal to get us a joint police precinct.
We have 5 colleges in 1 city and no safety plan. No ongoing partnership with college administration or even pertinent student organizations to hear how we can even make progress on an issue. Not only are Norfolk colleges dealing challenges to their reputation regarding safety, we are at risk at seeming unproductive. Forbes Magazine called Norfolk one of the “Worst Cities For Young Professionals in 2007” Yes I realize this information is 5 years old, I also realize this happened before the economy tanked. I also realize that our unemployment rate in Norfolk, reported by The Compass, was the highest in Hampton Roads in 2011, 2010, and 2000.
When Norfolk Superward 6 is home to so many great business organizations such as Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Roads Business OutReach, Ghent Business Association, Ocean View Business Association, Cultural Arts Alliance, 5 Colleges, and the world’s largest Naval base it calls to mind the song, “Once In A Lifetime” by The Talking Heads…”You may ask yourself well-how did I get here” well its a simple answer, Norfolk Politics is the same as it ever was.
That’s why I’m running!
Marcus Calabrese is a candidate for Ward 6.