Report from City Hall

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By Council Member Scott Matheson

What draws people to Chesapeake? Is it the city’s central location within Hampton Roads, our superb schools, its reputation as one of the safest cities in America, the bountiful natural beauty, or the quality and character of our people? For many residents, it was more than one of these factors that led us to call Chesapeake home.

It’s important that we build on those strengths and assets in order to maintain the attractive quality of life Chesapeake offers, as we face serious challenges that lie ahead, realizing that decisions we make today will determine the fabric and identity of Chesapeake now and well into the future. As Jim Rohn said, “It’s not the direction of the wind but the setting of the sail that determines your destination.”

Chesapeake has been going through the process of updating its long-term Comprehensive Plan, “setting the sail” toward our future. We want to sustain and strengthen our numerous positive attributes, but what other strengths and resources might we tap for the benefit of Chesapeake?

One of the most significant decisions we face is the selection of a new city manager. A wide net has been cast to find the best available person to lead, manage, and operate our city. Dates have been set to meet with the final candidates. Council members will be looking for the best individual to meet Chesapeake’s most important needs.

Another challenge includes the financial tsunami that devastated most segments of our national and local economies. Municipalities across America face the same task: aligning limited and decreasing financial resources with core citizen services. Priorities and resources have been aligned with core services such as education, transportation, and public safety. Efficient governance is providing the highest level of service possible at the best possible price.

One of the biggest challenges we face is a projected one-trillion-dollar reduction in defense spending by the federal government and the effect this will have on jobs, our local economy, and city revenues. What are some actions Chesapeake can initiate to address these pending cuts?

To prepare for these cuts, Chesapeake should continue to work diligently to attract and strengthen its strong base of industrial and manufacturing businesses. With the reduction of military forces, many of whom are well trained in technology skills, we should team with the private sector to enhance an environment within the city that is friendly to technology business. The Chesapeake Technology Business Consortium has emerged from the private sector and can assist Chesapeake in becoming a magnet to draw more technology businesses and job opportunities to Chesapeake.

Chesapeake offers many assets for businesses and individuals. We are centrally located in Hampton Roads with multitudes of waterways. With nearly seventy miles of waterways, we can be a destination for water sports and tourism. This summer, we kicked off an event called KayaXpedition. The event highlighted a number of our parks, including Northwest River, Dismal Swamp, Oak Grove, and the Intracoastal Waterway. Even kayakers from New York participated! Attracting tourists puts people in our hotels, restaurants and stores. Each year ten thousand boats travel through our Great Bridge locks on the Intracoastal Waterway. With the rising costs of core services, the national economy’s anemic growth, and huge future defense cuts, we need to take advantage of potential opportunities and grow them. What other potential opportunities exist that can benefit the people of Chesapeake?

So to the original question—who do we want to be in terms of Chesapeake’s future character and identity—we must add: where should we go from here? With a solid foundation in place we can move forward with confidence to our desired destination. But success and fully seizing opportunities that make sense will take a team effort with a new city manager, city staff, city council, citizens, and our business community. We possess numerous assets including our people, geographic location, and great teachers and public safety professionals. We must use each of them wisely so Chesapeake continues to be the best community in all of Hampton Roads, now and for the years to come. Let’s set that sail well and right so we reach the desired destination that will serve all of Chesapeake’s citizens extraordinarily well.

Each month in this space a city official will report to the citizens of Chesapeake and share their ideas, concerns and solutions to the issues facing Chesapeake.

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2 Responses to Report from City Hall

  1. Mary Lou Burke Reply

    November 26, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    “4 Chesapeake Hens” is hearing from people who are thinking of moving to Chesapeake because of a new law that allows up to six laying hens in a pen in residential backyards with certain restrictions. other residents tell us they are thankful that the city is more progressive than surrounding cities. Thank you, Chesapeake City Council, for making this happen!

  2. Rob Allen Reply

    December 7, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I am a VA Beach native but married to a lovely Great Bridge native. What I love about Chesapeake the most is the tight sense of community. I’ve attended dozens of historical, commemorative and civic events in Chesapeake and cannot help but feel a true sense of family. As far as the pace of growth is concerned, I would only caution the city on going too far too fast. VA Beach is notorious for grandiose projects that always results in a higher quality for the tourists and guaranteed sticker shock in taxes for it’s residents. As mentioned, the nation’s fiscal challenges will be very troubling. This will naturally reverberate through to the local level. This is where the “community” aspect really comes into play. We will all need to rally together and make tough choices. The geographic advantages of this area will be huge to the health of the economy. I have a feeling we will end up moving to Chesapeake sooner than later. The only thing you’re missing is an ocean for me to surf in! I guess I can take up every other water sport in all of these waterways. :) Side note, Councilman Matheson, you are a true patriot and the City is lucky to have you. keep up the fine work. God Bless you and yours.

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