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[August 30, 2014]
Governor hosting Hampton Roads mayors for dinner [Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) :: ]
(Daily Press (Newport News, VA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 30--Gov. Terry McAuliffe will host a group of Hampton Roads mayors for dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 3, to discuss economic development and job creation.
Mayors for Hampton Roads' seven largest cities will meet at the governor's mansion to discuss creating an economy "centered on innovation and investment in key areas that will protect Virginia from damaging defense cuts and the impacts of sequestration," McAuliffe spokeswoman Rachel Thomas emailed in a response to questions.
The mayors attending are: -- McKinley Price of Newport News.
-- George Wallace of Hampton.
-- Paul Fraim of Norfolk.
-- Will Sessoms of Virginia Beach, -- Alan Krasnoff of Chesapeake.
-- Kenny Wright of Portsmouth.
-- Linda Johnson of Suffolk.
Uninvited were representatives from Williamsburg, Poquoson and Isle of Wight, York, James City and Gloucester counties.
"Never heard about it," said York County Supervisor Sheila S. Noll. "It's always good to get together face-to-face so the governor can learn more about local government. Unfortunately, we haven't heard from this governor at this point." Donald E. Wiggins, chairman of the York County Board of Supervisors, said he thought the only reason they weren't invited was because "they just don't like us." When asked whether York County felt supported by the governor, Wiggins said, "We haven't had that much dealing with him, and I don't really know that much about him yet to even form an opinion about him." Last year, the governor said he would convene mayors from Hampton Roads' largest cities, but "obviously the governor is concerned about the challenges facing all Virginia communities and this will be an ongoing topic of discussion for the governor and local leaders across Virginia," Thompson wrote.
So what is on the table Wednesday evening, besides dinner? McAuliffe has said the region needs to restructure its economy to become less dependent on defense spending. Part of that transformation can come by expanding and adding more advanced manufacturing and knowledge-sector jobs, such as software development and information technology.
Sequestration and its effects have been particularly harmful on Hampton Roads because of the area's reliance on government and defense spending.
Close to 42 percent of the region's economic output is tied to defense spending, according to a July presentation given by Old Dominion University economist Vinod Agarwal.
A recent Old Dominion University-Strome College of Business report said federal defense spending is down $32 billion from fiscal year 2013.
"If sequestration goes on -- which most likely it will -- by the end of , early , we're talking about $50 billion in additional cuts to the Department of Defense budget," the governor warned during an Aug. 26 press conference. "That will have a dramatic effect, obviously, on Newport News and the entire Hampton Roads region, as well as Northern Virginia." Newport News Mayor McKinley Price said he would like to discuss "how we can mitigate the losses of defense cutting and sequestration on the region and how we can mitigate the impact on our area." As the for transportation or diversifying the economy, Price said he wants to see what the governor says first.
"The more regional things we can do puts Hampton Roads on the map as far as an entity to be dealt with," he said. "Hampton Roads was a major player in the race for governor." Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said the city is working to attract and develop biomedical research parks. It's an endeavor that will need cooperation from nearby cities and the state.
"We're doing everything we can to maintain our defense spending, but the reality is that our defense dollars are shrinking," Sessoms said.
The region's clogged roadways and the infrastructure needed to ease the highway system's daily backups is a topic the mayors will face on the drive to Richmond.
Sessoms said he believes the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, or HRTAC, is the future of regional transportation planning.
The group established by legislation signed by McAuliffe in April will manage and dole out funds it receives from fuel and sales taxes. HRTAC has no say over tax rates, although it can raise funds by issuing bonds or approving tolls of roadway projects.
"We have been told to figure out how to build things and we will," HRTAC chairman Alan Krasnoff said in a July 17 address to board members. "We have been told to spend (our funding) wisely, and to spend it to fix things." Krasnoff is among the gaggle of mayors scheduled to attend the McAuliffe's dinner meeting.
The group will be joined by Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney, Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne, Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Admiral John Harvey, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones and Chief of Staff Paul Reagan, the governor's spokeswoman Rachel Thomas said.
Daily Press reporters Theresa Clift and Johanna Somers contributed to this report. Brauchle can be reached by phone at 757-247-2827.
Dinner date What: The governor will host mayors from the seven largest Hampton Roads cities for dinner.
Where: Governor's mansion When: Wednesday, Sept. 3 Why: To discuss how to diversify the region's economy so it does not rely as heavily on defense spending.
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