I am running for Chesapeake City Council. Let's start with why I want to serve the residents of Chesapeake. I am a progressive who understands the city has a budget and needs to live within it. My core values are our legal and Constitutional freedoms, equality, grassroots democracy, nonviolence, and the environment sustaining us all.
I love our city, yet we can do better in many of these areas. In regard to our Constitutional freedoms, I had to take a stand against our Chesapeake City Manager, James E. Baker, and the Chesapeake City Libraries. At his direction, city librarians had kicked my friend Jeff Staples and myself off two different public sidewalks near libraries when we were peacefully and legally talking to voters and collecting ballot-petition signatures to get Jeff on the ballot as required by Virginia State Law. The librarians insisted we needed a written letter of permission to engage in this activity. This was on a Sunday, when nobody could easily reach City Government for further direction. Mr. Baker and the City Attorney, Jan Proctor, later said there was "some flexibility" in this arrangement, but the City Manager requested the exact dates and places where Jeff and his volunteers would be campaigning to issue his letter.
Some friends and I decided this was a violation of residents' first-amendment freedoms of assembly and free speech. It took many emails with Jan Proctor, an appearance before City Council, and more emails to Council and the City Attorney, but we finally received her written confirmation that residents have the right to collect these signatures on public sidewalks near libraries "without a permit or express permission from the city manager" subject to the following requirements:
- No interference with the free passage of pedestrians and motor vehicles
- No signs should be mounted or posted (affixed) to public property
- No tables, seats, or structures may be erected
- All litter must be removed
This is an example of how residents must band together to protect our freedoms and hold local government to account, and an example of grassroots democracy in action.
Another example of grassroots democracy is how Chesapeake residents banned together to get up to six "female chickens" allowed on all single-family residential lots (with certain restrictions). I was proud to be a part of this movement. It shows how our city government should make decisions based on facts and not on fictions. I believe in listening to residents' concerns, yet leaders should also listen to reason. If a rationale for or against a course of action is based on myth and not well-supported by evidence, this should be also taken into account.
An example of grassroots advocacy for equality can be found in my stance against an "anti-sanctuary city" resolution on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, as reported in the Virginian Pilot. We took a stand for equality and for nonviolent respect for all residents and visitors. I feared the resolution would discourage businesses from relocating here.
Regarding the environment, I am very concerned about the coal ash along the Elizabeth River in the Deep Creek area of Chesapeake. The Atlantic Coastal Pipeline is also coming to Deep Creek, bringing fracked natural gas with it. A portion of this pipeline will be much too close to homes in the Georgetown area, a danger to residents. I'm not sure what can be done on the part of the city to stop this pipeline, since the state and federal government and the energy companies and courts seem to have the most say, but it is a definite additional danger to the purity of our natural resources and especially our waterways. I am against it if there's anything the city can do to stop it. I am also concerned there has been so much delay on the implementation of solar farms and would like to see the city move more quickly on a plan to expedite them in appropriate areas. Chesapeake should be moving forward toward sustainable, renewable energy and a bright future for our youth. Council races are non-partisan, and for good reason, but in the name of transparency, I am a founding member of the Hampton Roads Green Party. More about the party's core values and platform is available online. Regional activities are organized through Facebook.