Kay Young

Sheriff is on the ballot in Suffolk

October 22nd, 2009 at 7:23 pm by under Politics

I’ve been trying for a couple weeks to get information on the Sheriff’s race in Suffolk from both of the men who want the job.
It’s a good job. According to the Compensation Board for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the salary is more than $90,000 a year. That’s 30 percent more than the city’s median income.

Raleigh Isaacs, Sr. has it now. He’s held the position since 1993. According to a resume, he graduated from Christopher Newport University. Before becoming Sheriff in 1994, Isaacs was with the Suffolk Police Department from 1970 to 1993. He worked for the Norfolk Police Department from 1961 to 1970.
We’ll get back to the incumbent in a moment.

Challenger Jay Clason is a political newcomer who wants the job of securing the courts in Suffolk.

In a phone interview he told me he moved to Suffolk about eight years ago. Clason said he gained skills he thinks are valuable to serve as Sheriff while completing 27 years in the Army and Army Reserve. He pointed to establishing a police precinct in Bosnia, and creating police training programs in Hungary while in the military.

Unlike in many Hampton Roads cities, the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office is not responsible for maintaining a jail.
Clason said while he believes he’s qualified to manage the security of the courthouse and documents, he thinks the office can do more to help the citizens of Suffolk.

According to Clason, there should be, “cooperative efforts between police and fire departments, and the Sheriff’s Office.” He said deputies, “could assist the police department with some of the fundamental law enforcement responsibilities.”

Now, I’ll explain why you won’t read any detailed responses from Sheriff Isaacs about the office.

At 9:30 on a Wednesday morning in September, I left a message for Isaacs. At 10 o’clock on the same day, he returned my call. I informed him I’d like to ask him about the race so I could post something online.
He said I’d need to tell him what I wanted to ask. So I told him I wanted to know about his vision for the future, and to get his perspective on some of the controversy during his tenure. When I mentioned allegations from some of his constituents that he used his position to help a relative in legal trouble, that was it. He firmly informed me he would not speak with me. He hung up. I called him back. Again and again. I had a colleague try. No luck.
I believed at the time – and still do – that a journalist should be able to ask an elected official about anything that may involve his actions, in the realm of his elected position, that may have been perceived as improper. I am not saying the Sheriff did anything wrong.

That said, while some in Suffolk have raised the question on the internet, his opponent told me it is not an issue for him.
In fact, Jay Clason told me he just wants the people of Suffolk to hear from both candidates about how they are going to serve them.

That’s pretty much the extent of this post. If Isaacs returns my call before the election, I’ll be sure to post an update.

Did debate deliver vision for jobs in Hampton Roads?

October 14th, 2009 at 3:31 pm by under Politics

Democrat Creigh Deeds and Republican Bob McDonnell both used their latest debate Monday night, to tell Virginians they’ll be the best man for the job – of creating jobs.
I watched the debate in Norfolk with a handful of AARP members.
Before the event got started a 60 year old woman, Ann Florence made it very clear that she’s sick of bickering she sees in televised campaign ads. Florence told me,
“I can’t decide who I want to vote for because neither one of them sounds like something that will help with the situation – unemployment which I’m part of.”

Florence has been out of work for 18 months. She said she wanted to hear more about opportunities for her. After the debate I asked her if she heard what she needed to hear.

“No, not from either of them. They talked about other areas, but nothing for here in [Hampton Roads,]” Florence said.

What did the candidates say? I took a second listen to the debate, so you can decide.

In response to a question from a Lynchburg resident who wanted to know about high-tech jobs for central and southern (or Southside) Virginia similar to those in Northern Virginia:
DEEDS: “I said on the day I announced I was running for this office and I said again, the night I was nominated that I’m running for governor to create opportunity, prosperity, and hope in every part of Virginia… To take high-tech jobs to places the Danville, Lynchburg We’ve got to make sure the smartest workforce in the world. We need to invest in transportation and higher education. We’ve got to also make sure we put broadband internet in every part of the state.

MCDONNELL: “I visited Southside, the people are hurting there with double digit unemployment. We need more money from the tobacco commission to go into high tech areas. We need to promote things like the talapia farm in Southside the biodiesel production facility in Gretna…. Me or the Lt. Governor will be on ground every 30 days in Southside to make sure we are promoting high tech jobs that are necessary to help that region.”

In response to a question from a Richmond man about helping farmers in rural parts of Virginia

DEEDS: “I grew up on a farm. Bath County is one of the most rural areas of the state… At the state level we need to do a better job of marketing our products worldwide, so we can create a market for our larger producers to be able to sell their product worldwide, so we can make farming more profitable.”

MCDONNELL : “It’s critically important that we have an aggressive work by the Secretary of Agriculture to promote new Virginia markets all over the country and around the world for our great products…  I’ve traveled around rural parts of state and outlined a detailed rural economic development plan to be able to help farmers.”

To be fair, none of the debate questions specifically talked about job creation or growth in Hampton Roads. However, I’ll point out that neither candidate volunteered a concrete solution for people like Ann Florence. The Virginia Employment Commission reports that 55,700 Virginians living in Hampton Roads are unemployed. Those hoping to make a decision for governor based on a ‘jobs plan’ for this region were seemingly left out in the debate.

Florence told me, “when I go for a job and there are 30 people looking for the same job, who’s getting to get it? Not me. I didn’t hear anything about that.”

Transportation in 91st is all about the HRBT

October 11th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by under Politics
It may come as no surprise that a priority for candidates in the 91st House of Delegates District is transportation. The incumbent and an independent contender both told me they are specifically concerned with the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and finding money to expand capacity by adding a tube or a new bridge span.
Before we get into their ideas on the topic, I’ll point out that the HRBT is in the 91st District. The district includes parts of York County, parts of Hampton, and all of the City of Poquoson. Most in Hampton Roads travel the route at some point, and sit in the inevitable bottlenecks that occur on a daily basis. The HRBT was built for around 52-thousand vehicles a day. More than 93-thousand a day cross the peninsula, southside connector according to estimates used in General Assembly transportation committees.
Now let’s start in Poquoson. Challenger Gordon Helsel, Jr. is currently the Mayor of Poquoson. Helsel told me he made the decision to run because, “I believe the 91st is looking for someone who will listen to their needs and make sure their voice is heard in Richmond. I’m not confident that is happening, and if I were I would not have entered the race.”
While he made clear that comment was not personal against anyone, the man who holds the job as voice for the 91st is Republican Tom Gear. Gear says he believes he’s in a tighter race than anyone might think. However, he says plans to go back to Richmond and continue fighting for transportation solutions. His words, “We need to do something about the HRBT. I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind the number one issue in transportation is the HRBT. “

Gear as Delegate, and Helsel as mayor, both voted against the General Assembly’s transportation plan of 2007 that included regional transportation authorities. Both men seem frustrated that the HRBT is not currently on the list of immediate priorities for VDOT. Both men even agree that increasing taxes is not the way they want to fund a solution.

In our conversations Gear and Helsel both give favorable consideration to a proposal that would use revenue from future growth at the ports, and put a portion of that money toward transportation needs. Of course, the money would only be available once the growth is a reality, instead of just a projection.

In speaking with Helsel and Gear, I didn’t hear any key differences in their perspectives on transportation. Helsel said he thinks it’s time for someone knew and that someone is him. However, he’s not the only challenger trying to replace Gear in Richmond.

In nearly two weeks of trying to contact Democratic candidate and York County teacher Sam Eure, I was unsuccessful in reaching him or anyone with his campaign. In the past couple of days he and I have played phone tag.

However, the comments on transportation as posted on Eure’s website are as follows:

“Our rapidly decaying transportation infrastructure will soon impede our ability to recruit and retain commercial development in the state. The steady increase in commuting time will negatively affect the productivity of our citizens and our quality of life. Systems in place to safely and expeditiously move our citizens in the event of a natural disaster are vital. And the solution to our transportation problems is connected to the flow of funding brought in to correct them.”




UPDATE: I connected with candidate Eure on the phone.
He, like his opponents believes the “HRBT is extremely important. We need to look at ways to reduce traffic on HRBT.” Eure said he wants Virginia to find ways to get container traffic off of HRBT and Monitor Merrimac Bridge Tunnel.

On funding transportation solutions Eure said, “Let’s go through a zero-based funding plan at every agency in Virginia, instead of automatically giving agencies the same amount of money or an increase from the year before. An agency may not need the same level of funding. We could find some savings there. Then I’d look at implementing tolls and increasing fees for licensing and registration. That way the people using the system are paying for it.”
As a last resort, Eure told me he’s willing to look at a one to three cent gasoline tax increase. He says, “I know taxes are something everyone is trying to avoid, but when you do that you’re going into battle hamstringing yourself. It’s like tying an arm behind your back. You need to have revenue and efficiencies to deal with this situation.”

Virginia Beach is about to get a new Sheriff

September 30th, 2009 at 1:14 pm by under Personalities, Politics

Next year, there will be a new sheriff in town. Virginia Beach’s Paul Lanteigne, who’s held the job in that city since 2000, is retiring. Beach residents have a choice between two men with similar views on public safety. Virginia Beach Police Capt. John Bell and State Senator Ken Stolle both say they’re committed to improving, maintaining, and promoting public safety. That’s a good first step for any candidate.

The winner on November 3 gets a full-time job that pays about $150,000 a year. He will supervise about 600 employees and hold responsibility for security in Virginia Beach’s jail and courts.

Bell and Stolle differ on other goals and objectives for the Sheriff’s Office.

Stolle, the Republican candidate, says he “will not overturn a judge’s order” to let people out of jail on work release or electronic monitoring. He told me in a phone interview, “if they have 90 days, they serve it.”

Democratic candidate Bell said he does not want to “disregard a judge’s order. I want to work with the judges to increase the use of electronic monitoring and alternative sentencing.” Bell said he does not support the idea for violent offenders, but believes it could be used to take the load off the jail in the daytime, giving deputies more ability to focus on controlling violent offenders. Bell said a person in jail for failure to pay child support is one example of a person who might benefit from electronic monitoring.

As for overall goals, I asked both candidates where would they use the position to make changes in Virginia Beach.

Stolle: “I would use my experience in the legislature to change laws governing the use of inmates for work. Right now Sheriffs are prohibited from using an inmate workforce on private property… I think it could be expanded primarily in two areas. I’d like to see an exception, for example, for graffiti. I’d also like to create a faith-based commission to find and designate indigent people who need repairs. Supervised inmates could do the work.”

Bell: “There’s a trend where we build more cells, I want to address it on the front end… The Sheriff’s Office ought to be more involved in mentoring in neighborhoods, beyond D.A.R.E., but to older youths. We can can be role models for our youth… Also, once people are incarcerated, how are they prepared to re-enter community? …So many people come into jail with drug addictions. We can do more with drug abuse programs in jail. While they’re in jail, they can also get education, so they’re better prepared for when they get out.”

Bell and Stolle have plenty of ideas about how to operate and manage the Virginia Beach Correctional Center. Their campaign signs have popped up all across Virginia Beach in recent weeks. While neither candidate will likely spend money to run television ads, both are spending plenty of time on the streets. If you live in Virginia Beach, look for Capt. Bell, or Sen. Stolle (or one of their friends) to knock on your door in the next few weeks. Just in case you’re not at home when they stop by to ask for your vote, you can click here to take a closer look at Capt. John Bell or St. Sen. Ken Stolle.