Hampton Roads Black Caucus

On March 29th I attended an event through the Hampton Roads Black Caucus. This wonderful and well-organized grassroots coalition has held several political forums in the region at black-owned businesses. I was lucky enough to attend one at the Cutlass Grille. Earlier, the Caucus had sent candidates a questionnaire. I will copy it below for interested voters.

I had heard great things about the Cutlass Grille, by the way, but had never been there before the Black Caucus event, mostly because I wasn't sure where it is. What a mistake! The restaurant is clean, the food is good and reasonably priced, and the service is warm, fast, and friendly. If you're interested in authentic Jamaican with lots of seafood and curried foods. I have been back since with my husband, Don, and we intend to be regular customers. Even though there isn't much vegetarian on the menu, the servers will work with vegetarians to come up with an acceptable meal. Considering their salads and sides are delectable, it's worth the effort. Here is the questionnaire from the Hampton Roads Black Caucus along with my responses:

HRBC Candidate Spring 2018

* Required

How would you support black owned business growth/economic development? *

I would like to see economic development in areas of Chesapeake like Deep Creek and South Norfolk, where Chesapeake already has public transportation and strong infrastructure, and where residents need jobs. Too much development is going to southern Chesapeake. Residents there don't want it. I also encourage the region growing a strong broadband network. This has a huge potential for helping small businesses, including black-owned ones. If black-owned businesses in Chesapeake are facing discrimination for loans, etc. I want to know about it, and I will act. I would like to study how other cities have successfully incubated small businesses and apply the same here. I'd like to establish a festival in South Norfolk that celebrates music and the arts. If it's successful, and if residents want it, we could turn that area of Chesapeake into a hub for music and arts, with restaurants, art galleries, musical and dance events, etc., providing a host of employment and business opportunities.

How would you support educational advancement? *

I am a pubic school teacher. Public education is vitally important. As a City Council member, I will support funding our public schools to the fullest extent possible. Encouraging thriving, eco-friendly, diverse businesses will provide a strong tax base to support our community's needs, including infrastructure. We need sensible growth that aligns with our city's comprehensive plan. Current Council has approved so many new housing developments so quickly, schools in some parts of our city have been overwhelmed and above capacity. We also need to provide the school board with enough money for school maintenance and to continue to hire top-quality programs, teachers and other personnel for all our public schools. We also need a school resource officer in every middle and high school in Chesapeake; currently some are split between schools. After what happened in Parkland, Florida, and other places, this is unacceptable.

How would you support community development? *

Communities, meaning families, individuals, and businesses, need to be safe in order to thrive. We need to make sure our first responders have the training and funding they need to do their jobs effectively. Having said this, we need to avoid dog-whistle politics, meaning policies and actions that disproportionately affect those who live in poverty and people of color (leading to mass incarceration). We need to make sure communities have the services they need, such as public transportation. With high-speed broadband and solid public transportation, we can bring in green, diverse, good-paying jobs such as data centers. I support solar farms, where feasible, to support our farmers and provide a green and diverse power infrastructure, which is attractive to tech-companies. I support farmers markets and local entrepreneurship. We need to make sure our infrastructure, meaning schools, bridges, roads, public transportation, etc., can keep up with our community's growth. I'd like to see us grow businesses here in Chesapeake and attract good jobs here so it's less of a bedroom community, meaning fewer commuters on the roads at rush hour, and less dependence upon the military as far as our economic well-being. I'd like to see redevelopment in areas like Deep Creek, South Norfolk, and Western Branch, where we already have infrastructure. My work with city staff and my votes will reflect these priorities.

What is your position on Universal Kindergarten? *

This is a priority for our current superintendent and school board, and I support funding it to the fullest extent possible.

What is your position on the expansion of the light rail in Hampton Roads? *

I have traveled extensively in Italy and am a huge fan of efficient public transportation. As long as light rail goes where people need it to, as long as people will use it, and assuming funding is available to grow it, I am all for it. We will need to compare the cost of light rail to the cost of expanding and improving bus service, however.

How would you expand and improve opportunities for affordable housing? *

I will work with the city manager to make sure there are diverse opportunities for housing as Chesapeake grows. Public housing should be in nestled within and be part of mixed-income neighborhoods wherever possible. If people of color are being discriminated against for mortgages, insurance, or in other ways related to housing, I will bring public attention to it so we can oppose and correct this. We need to pay our police, firefighters, teachers, etc., well enough that they can afford local housing.

How would you support the mission and goals of HRBC? *

Please share your statement of mission and goals so I can answer this more fully. I couldn't find a definitive answer on your website. I noticed how your website educates and informs its members and the public about elections, voting, etc., and I love this. I stood up to our City Manager when he was infringing on residents' rights to political free-speech and freedom of assembly, and I would do so again. I can provide further details and video upon request. (Please note, I received a flyer about the group's mission and goals at the March event, and liked the group so much I joined it).

Why should HRBC support you? *

I will represent residents, not big-business interests. Therefore I have pledged to run a clean campaign and will take no corporate contributions nor contributions in excess of $500.00 from any one donor toward my political campaign, ever. I support sensible growth, and I support our schools. I oppose the dangerous fracked-gas pipeline that the power companies plan to bring to the Elizabeth River, including the dangerous "Georgetown" spur, which is too close to residents' homes and disproportionately affects communities of color. I understand the difference between keeping communities safe and dog-whistle politics. I oppose practices and policies that lead to mass incarceration.

Full Name, Office seeking and District *

Mary Louise Burke (running as Mary Lou Burke), Chesapeake City Council


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