Name: Aaron Rouse
Biography: Aaron Rouse is a Seatack native who attended Virginia Tech and played for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL. He started a non-profit organization to help students in need and serves as a mentor to young athletes.
1. Why should residents elect you to City Council?
The residents of Virginia Beach should elect me to city council because I am a leader that understands the importance of restoring the trust within our local government. Through hard work, persistence, dedication and some very special teachers, police officers, and community leaders that helped mold me, I have overcome many obstacles but I have not forgotten where I come from. Earning a full-scholarship to Virginia Tech, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology before being drafted by the Green Bay Packers.
I understand the value of working together. Cronyism has severely limited our ability to grow our local economy and work together as a city and as a region. I understand that every resident has the right to be heard, the right to start and grow a business, and the right to a fair and transparent government. I have experienced every level of life in Virginia Beach. I grew up in one of the most impoverished communities within Virginia Beach, Friendship Village, in the historic Seatack Community. And I have been blessed to have a wonderful my family and prosperous small business. I will bring a different perspective to city council, one that values the diverse cultures our communities has to offer.
2. What is the most pressing issue facing your community, and how would you address that issue?
The most physical pressing issue is our community face is flooding/sea level rise. In my travels from Coastal Virginia to Richmond, VA over the years has granted me the important to meet some dedicated men and women within our General Assembly. I learned and understand the value of working together regardless of political affiliation. The men and women on both sides of the aisles and my time as an elite college athlete and professional athlete has taught me the importance of building relationships. It is my aim to use those strong relationships to move Virginia Beach and Coastal Virginia forward, seeking state and federal funds for sea level rise and flooding. Also, valuing our teachers, police officers/sheriffs, firefighters and first responders is a pressing issue as well. They are our frontline to a safe community. Last but certainly not least, the way we do business in Virginia Beach is broken. Cronyism has stagnated our local economy and hurt our region. As Virginia’s largest city, we should be leading the way to prosperity, equality, and a level playing field. Our economy should be on par with Northern Virginia and competing cities like Charlotte, Charleston, or Memphis. The lack of leadership, vision, innovation, and inclusion has deteriorated our reputation. We have to get that back. We have to restore our trust within our city officials and I am the leader to do that. I understand, I can not do it alone.
3. Where do you stand on raising taxes to balance your locality’s budget?
We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. I believe raising taxes should always be the absolute last resort and that we need to be more fiscally responsible when creating the City’s budget. I also think we should encourage economic growth and make it easier to responsibly grow our economy, which would drive up tax revenues rather than increasing taxes.
4. What’s your plan to reduce crime?
As a Councilman, I plan to work closely with the Virginia Beach Police Department and the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office. We need to develop a policing system where our officers are actively involved in the communities they are policing. They currently do a great job with community engagement, but I want to help build the bridge to improve this endeavor. One of the techniques I’d like to implement is getting more officers out their vehicles; familiarizing themselves with the residents within the communities they police. Another is encouraging more minorities to become police officers to promote and increase a diverse force that better represents a diverse city. We also need to work in our jails to decrease recidivism and create a system focused on rehabilitation instead of punishment.
5. What are your community’s biggest infrastructure needs, and how do you plan to fulfill them?
Our community’s biggest infrastructure needs are public transportation improvements and storm water drainage maintenance. Our storm water drainage system maintenance is over 12 years behind and with increased development in our city, our current system is unable to handle the average rainstorm. We have to improve this system, not in 15 years, but today. In terms of infrastructure, we are a rapidly growing city (and region) with rapidly growing transportation needs. Our city’s governing should reflect those needs with major transportation reforms and projects. I think we need to expand the number of buses in our transportation system and also work with the stakeholders (bus drivers & bus passengers) to see how we can improve our transportation system, including routes and hours of operation. Traffic will continue to worsen if we do not make changes soon. We need to put infrastructure back on the map as one of our city and region’s top priorities.
6. What businesses and industries would you try to attract to your community?
Our city needs to create an environment that says to businesses around the country and the world: “We are open for business.” We need to eradicate the “cronyism” and 1970s way of doing business in Virginia Beach. It is time for the next generation of leaders to step-up and lead the way. I am proud to that. It is important that our city and region invest in STEAM-H type of educations. Making sure we invest more funds both privately and publicly in K-12 education, building a working force that versatile and ready to work all industry fields. That makes our city and region special. We need to take advantage of that. We need leaders that understand that. The construction of several subsea fiber cables, the expansion of our ports in Norfolk and the Peninsula, and the widening of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is a great start. We want companies that will invest in our community and invest in the people that live here. However, in addition to attracting companies to our community, I think we need to create an environment that promotes the growth of startups right here in our city. We should have to find a balance and pathway to working together with our Small-Business community. We need to build partnerships with business incubators and continue the progress we’re seeing in our ViBe Creative District.