VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) — Virginia Beach mayoral candidates faced off at a debate Wednesday.
The Virginia Beach Mayor's Commission on Aging hosted the event, which found council members Ben Davenport and Bob "Bobby" Dyer discussing issues affecting the city. As part of the debate, the candidates answered questions from people who are part of the Mayor's Commission and others who were in the audience.
Both Dyer and Davenport agreed flooding and sea level rise are the greatest issues facing Virginia Beach. Dyer said the city needs to bring businesses in to help pay for those solutions.
“Let’s get industry here,” said Dyer, who has been on city council for 14 years. “Small, large, high-tech, low-tech, you know we got to let everybody know that Virginia Beach is open for business. Right now we don’t have that perception.”
Davenport has served on city council for four years and said the city needs to work on retaining young talent. He said the solution is bringing more technology firms to the area.
“I believe that we need to bring a new industry to our region, because too many of our children are moving out of the area to go to other locations that have more opportunities,” said Davenport.
The City of Virginia Beach is also battling an image problem after a disparity study found women and minority-owned businesses are at a disadvantage. Some claim it’s due to cronyism.
When asked if he felt cronyism is a problem in the city, Dyer replied, “Whether real or perceived, it’s an issue that we have to deal with and by making the level playing field for everybody.”
Davenport said, “We have to make sure that we have a transparent and level playing field. I believe that I have been one of the most transparent candidates that there has been in a long time."
During the debate, Dyer said bringing in businesses and jobs will create new wealth and help to pay for solutions to combat sea level rise and flooding. Davenport said the city needs to work on dredging, cleaning up stormwater infrastructure as well as securing state and national funding.
Dyer said the best way to grow the city is having more civic engagement. He said he would like to bring more citizens to the table before the city budget is made. Davenport said tourism and jobs will keep real estate taxes low, which is the key to the city’s growth. Davenport added the city needs to spread development projects throughout the area, rather than focusing on the Oceanfront.
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