My daughter was recently married. It was a beautiful day for my family. We were surrounded by lifetime friends. We spent time reminiscing about her childhood. There are so many good memories of Chesapeake and its people. I was flooded with them during the wedding. Most of our guests were raised here, educated here, and still live and work here.
My daughter’s childhood friends are all grown-up now. They own houses and cars, have jobs and children. They vote, pay taxes, go to the dentist and doctor, get haircuts and groceries in Hampton Roads. As I talked with them, I heard their pride in their hometown and thankfulness for the safety, education and opportunity Chesapeake has provided them.
After the festivities ended, the food eaten, our dear friends gone, my daughter and son-in-law off to their honeymoon, I was struck by how much this celebration had centered on our City and its people. Most importantly, it reinforced to me the critical need to ensure that our City will always protect and educate our young, have a robust economy with real jobs and opportunities for them, their children and their children’s children.
Today the Federal Government is shut down, no budget enacted. On the State level, candidates for the Governor’s mansion are battling for your vote by attacking one another’s plans for spending your tax money throughout the state. All this talk in Washington and Richmond, unlike here in our city, revolves around money and budgets, not about people, not about neighborhoods, schools and parks.
Never before has the importance of local government been so obvious. Fabled Dr. James Koch of ODU, in his annual report on “The State of the Region” as released under LEAD’s stewardship, points to the loss of confidence by the American consumer in our country. Only at the local level, in cities and towns like Chesapeake, is there still belief in the stability of government. Every day our city employees serve not only you and me, but also their own families and friends. It is a local thing, local folks helping local folks.
As I thought of my daughter’s childhood I realized how important it is to strengthen our investments in Chesapeake’s future, to create more economic growth and opportunity here. We must work to become a destination, a city where our own young people want to stay and to attract others to move here from Iowa or Georgia or New Jersey, to live and to work.
We have built well our educational system, our health and safety programs, but not our parks and recreational facilities. We are excellent in our schools and our services but not in our facilities for recreation. We must improve our fields and parks, to create additional economic engines for our City and to create those spaces and places where our own young people and any who visit will find our city and its quality of life so attractive that Chesapeake will always be the place they want to call home.