Name: Richard Kowalewitch
1. Why should residents elect you to City Council?
I have been a small business owner in the City of Virginia Beach for over 30 years, and as we know, over 90 percent of all businesses in Virginia Beach are small businesses. I understand their needs, and I have fought to protect them in the past. I am the only candidate over the last 16 years that has called out the corruption and done something about it. Just recently, I met with Jason Miyares to help try to change the Virginia Code 3100 Section that would make some of these conflicts harder to happen and making the penalty harsher—from a Class 1 Misdemeanor to a Class 5 Felony.
In the last 3 years, I helped orchestrate the fight against light rail and won. I have been speaking against the stormwater spending since 2002. I am the only candidate that has done this. While my opponents were silent and no where to be found, I have taken a pro-action approach to fix a serious problem. I have recently met with top city officials on stormwater maintenance and their needs. I spoke out for the firefighters and police about pay compression and fully staffing them. I spoke out for the teachers when they were looking for raises.
In life you have to understand what the problem is before you can fix it, and I do understand
2. What is the most pressing issue facing your community, and how would you address that
I think the most important issue that is facing our city right now is corruption. It appears that our government has prioritized to take care of their “buddies” and their special interest groups, instead of the citizens’ needs. We need to change the City Charter to make sure that these conflicts are much harder to occur and the consequences much more severe. I have already met with my state representative on changing the state conflict of interest code section as well.
We need to address the rising violent crime at the Oceanfront. We were 80 police officers short in 2002, and we are still 80 police officers short today. This needs to be addressed immediately along with compression for police officers and firefighters. Storm water has to be addressed NOW. We have plenty of money, and we will not have to raise our taxes and fees today to fix it. We need to cut off the special interest money and start spending it on the citizens’ needs.
3. Where do you stand on raising taxes to balance your locality’s budget?
I am not in favor of raising our taxes. The City of Virginia Beach’s budget in 2002 was $1 billion, and today it is $2.2 billion. The City of Virginia Beach does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. The City of Virginia Beach’s debt is $2.6 billion, and it has been increasing at a faster rate then the national debt. To service the debt, it is $457,000 a day, $167 million a year. This needs to be addressed immediately. You cannot tax people out of their homes. We need to target and eliminate the wasteful spending by the city.
4. What’s your plan to reduce crime?
We need to fully staff the 80 police officers that it is short. There needs to be more neighborhood patrolling by police officers. The laws that are on the books need to be fully enforced fairly across the board, no matter who you are.
We must make sure our police officers and firefighters are fairly compensated. This is a crucial ingredient for public safety.
5. What are your community’s biggest infrastructure needs, and how do you plan to fulfill
Our storm water infrastructure is aging. The City of Virginia Beach has 59K manholes and basins, 1,200 miles of pipe, 564 miles of ditches, 44 miles of canals, 790 lakes and ponds, 38 dams and spillways, and 15 pump stations. When housing developments were approved and built, the city knew that these areas needed to be maintained. The city has not done its duty to protect the residents of Virginia Beach. Hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue have been collected, while prioritizing to take care of the needs of special interest groups and the good old boys instead of the needs of the residents of Virginia Beach. The city needs to prioritize and fix the maintenance issues on our storm water problems. This is Priority Number 1 to change immediately and protect the residents of Virginia Beach.
The City of Virginia Beach has never had a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. What is amazing to me is every time a core item of the city needs to be funded, there is a rush to raise the taxes. Every time the special interests or good old boys need something, the money is always there.
Look what they have done to the debt structure of city in the last 16 years. In the year 2002, storm water revenues were around $12M, and currently our revenues are around $40M with only $14M going to maintenance. Most recently, the current city council reduced the maintenance budget for stormwater for the city. This is a very irresponsible decision. I will work to reverse this policy and focus our government in providing funding for our aging infrastructure problems. I have already reached out to the hierarchy of the Stormwater Maintenance Department and had a lengthy discussion on fixing the problem. The city needs to re-evaluate whether to build in low lying areas, and if they are going to
allow building, there should be strict rules on how to build—i.e. pilings or higher foundations. Some areas should not be built on at all. Water retention or drainage needs to be addressed properly before allowing any construction to take place.
6. What businesses and industries would you try to attract to your community?
Ninety percent of all businesses in Virginia Beach are small businesses. Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. The government should be creating an environment where ALL businesses are successful. It does it by having low taxes, good schools, strong infrastructure, and few public safety issues. Any incentives given to businesses should be for business types that do not already exist, and those businesses should not be competing with like businesses. The free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice. This is what separates us from the rest of the world.
I believe this will create the desire to grow small business and attract new business to our