Tag Archives: City Council

In Virginia Beach: Hang On to Your Wallets

by Kerry Dougherty

How to ruin an otherwise lovely early spring-like weekend, Virginia Beach-style:

Send out real estate assessments that show double-digit increase in the value of property (that’s a good thing, by the way) and a huge jump in taxes.

That’s not good.

Yep, many of us opened our mail on Saturday and wished we hadn’t.

While it’s nice that the city assessor believes property values are soaring, we all know what that means: the city council will quietly vote to “keep” the tax rate the same as last year and the year before, and then pat themselves on the back, crowing:


Ahem. Yes they did. They do it every year, just a little sleight of hand.

Let me explain: if your assessment rose 20% – as mine did – and the council votes to keep the rate at 99 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value rather than cutting it to a rate that would keep revenue about where it was last year – your taxes are going up.

A lot!

Look, rising assessments are a good thing. For most of us, our homes are our biggest assets. No one wants their asset to lose value.

If your stocks go up but you leave your money in the stock market, you aren’t taxed on unrealized gains. You’re taxed when you sell shares.

But when assessments skyrocket and you stay in your home, you’re being taxed on your “wealth.” In the parlance of the world of finance, you’re paying taxes on unrealized capital gains. Continue reading

Farewell to the Conscience of Virginia Beach City Council, John Moss

by Kerry Dougherty

If you were in Virginia Beach on Wednesday morning, November 8, 2022, you could almost hear the sighs of relief.

That collective exhalation came from the cronies on city council who would no longer have to deal with Councilman John Moss, who came in second in a three-way race for the newly created District 9.

The other members would no longer have to squirm when the Republican pointed out that his colleagues deceived the public when they boasted that they’d held the line on property taxes by keeping the RATE static. Rising real estate assessments in the city meant taxes WENT UP for most residents, he always pointed out.

Holding the line would mean lowering the rate.

Moss was right, of course. But it seems you really can fool most of the people most of the time.

Beyond that, city council would no longer have to deal with a budget wonk who was skilled in monetary matters. He was not content, as they were, to let city staff cook up spending plans with excesses that necessitated the falsehood about taxes staying the same.

Year after year Moss accused the city budgeteers of deliberately funding vacant positions, using the loot as a slush fund for their pet projects.

And year after year, Moss’ “revenue neutral” budget proposal died with little or no support from his colleagues.

Beyond that, the local newspaper often ignored Moss, sometimes treating him as a kook, adding to the perception that he was simply a gadfly who’d managed to steal a seat on this body filled with friends of powerful developers and entertainers.

Truth was, Moss had served the people since he was first elected as part of a good government slate in 1986 with a mission to slow down the rampant construction of homes that were springing up in a hodgepodge fashion around the city. Uncontrolled growth contributed to the flooding crisis that the city experiences today. Continue reading

Cold Iron in Downtown Richmond

by Jon Baliles

The Free-Press Editorial page’s second at-bat this week also scored a hit with “No Hot Iron Here.” The piece calls out the Mayor for allowing the hot iron of development opportunity to cool to the disadvantage of the City. It mentions the selection of five teams that bid on the “City Center” development opportunity, which includes the demolition of the Coliseum, the refurbishing of the Blues Armory, as well as building a convention center hotel and ancillary development. That is all moving forward with a development process that it seems the Mayor and the City have finally realized is one worth repeating instead of plans like Navy Hill.

But the editorial focuses on the properties on the other side of Broad Street that hold (or held?) massive potential. They are the rarely mentioned properties and opportunities that would be big wins for downtown but have remained idle since the Mayor took office in 2017.

In the two years since the council killed the $1.5 billion Navy Hill deal, the Stoney administration has yet to issue requests for developers for city-owned surface parking lots at 6th and Grace streets and 4th and Broad streets. Both are south of Broad Street and already had active interest, and both have been ripe for activity while interest rates were still low, which is no longer the case. Continue reading

Richmond’s Next Chapter

by Jon Baliles

The Times-Dispatch Editorial Board printed a piece this week entitled “The city’s Lost Cause statues are all gone. So what now?” While it recaps the events and protests of 2020 and the fact that all of the former Confederate statues have been removed, it offers a bit more foresight by looking at what will be required of our City and our leaders in the future.

The piece points out that the removal of the A.P. Hill statue was characterized by Mayor Stoney as an opportunity to “start writing a new chapter for the city” and to make the accident-prone intersection more safe. “That’s the blocking and tackling of running a government,” Stoney said. The editorial, however, goes a little deeper than the Mayor:

Charting a new chapter for Richmond, however, requires something more than “blocking and tackling.” In the summer of 2020, a broad coalition of Richmond citizens and public officials — including Stoney — embraced a newfound commitment to breaking down systemic racism and creating a more inclusive, equitable Richmond. In the winter of 2022, we still have little to show for it.

It runs down the list of things that you constantly hear Stoney talking about but providing very little in the way of policy solutions that are implemented and working.

City schools are struggling with a leadership crisis, a teacher shortage and a student population that’s been devastated by pandemic-induced learning challenges. The affordable housing crisis, especially for the poorest Richmonders, has only grown worse. Evictions and homelessness are spiking, with no comprehensive plan to address it. The Richmond Police Department is grappling with more than 150 officer vacancies as gun violence surges — disproportionately impacting Black families, of course — as it begins the search to replace yet another departed police chief.

It talks about the housing crisis, and that apartments are going up with lightning speed in Manchester and Scott’s Addition and (soon) in the Diamond District, while “South Side and the East End are left to fend for themselves. Redevelopment of public housing complexes remain stuck at the starting gate. The new Richmond takes priority over the old.” It does point out some of the positive news we have seen, like poverty dropping to 18% (lowest in two decades) and our “urban cool” is on the rebound as the pandemic years are more in the rearview mirror.

But the thing that struck me the most about this piece is that it is really the first marker of issues that are and will be on the table and need to be addressed in 2024 when the City elects a new Mayor and City Council (in which, I will not be a participant). We have heard lots of talk and seen lots of tweets over the years from the Mayor and others about all they are doing for the City. But we can no longer afford trading real political solutions (including listening, compromise, and common ground) for self-promotion on social media just to rack up more clicks, likes and retweets and counting that as a measure of success.

As Denzel Washington once said, “Just because you are doing a lot more, doesn’t mean you are getting a lot more done. Don’t confuse movement with progress.” Continue reading