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June 2012

Addressing Youth and Gang Violence 

I wanted to share the below op-ed article I sent to the Daily Press on the City's anti-gang initiative.
 
The reduction of youth and gang violence is a city-wide strategic priority that has been unanimously supported by our City Council and the vast majority of our citizenry. In making this goal a priority, we must recognize the need to bring together a wide range of people from neighborhoods, civic groups, churches, government, and non-profit organizations.
 
Any endeavor that attempts to mobilize the entire community will by definition need to bring people together that have legitimate differences of opinion. I am disappointed that too much of the media narrative on this topic has focused on a couple of points of disagreement (Cal Ripken Youth Development Park and Violence Prevention and Reduction Coordinator). A citizen casually following this issue might easily conclude that the entire effort is limited to those two issues when, in fact, much good work is being done on many levels and it is making a difference.
 
Some examples of innovative law enforcement strategies include the Drug Market Intervention (DMI) program and the Intelligence-Led Community Policing, Community Prosecution, and Community Partnerships (IL3CP) program. The DMI program targets low level drug dealers and users and provides in-patient and alternative programs in lieu of incarceration. This intervention program focuses on the underlying causes of addiction and the need to sell illegal substances. The IL3CP program is a pilot program and is an extension of our community policing efforts. This long-term prevention measure strengthens partnerships between the Police Department, the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and residents in order to more effectively solve and prosecute crimes.
 
Additionally, re-entry programs are being developed by the Newport News Re-entry Council to ensure that juvenile and adult offenders who are released from secure detention and incarceration are adequately prepared to return to their community in a manner which reduces recidivism and enhances public safety. This is accomplished by providing required services and support in the community. Most importantly, closer coordination by church leaders is needed to share resources and support our young people. Recently, the Coalition of Concerned Clergy initiated a faith-based Community Conference to identify solutions to the problem of youth violence. The two day conference was attended by about 200 concerned citizens.
 
As a community, we continue to sustain many preexisting, successful initiatives even during difficult financial times. The FY 2013 Annual Operating Budget supports work force development programs, contributes to effective non-profit activities, maintains greater career development focus in our public school system, and sustains impressive gang disruption actions by the Police Department. The Newport News Healthy Families Initiative (NNHFI) remains an important prevention program that enhances parenting support for families. The NNHFI announced a $500,000 grant award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to further enhance parent support services. Finally, positive youth development is promoted throughout the City by the Newport News Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, which provides before and after school pre and elementary school-based programs to prepare children for success in life.
 
Ensuring our entire community continues to focus on making progress in the fight against youth and gang violence is perhaps a contribution I as Mayor and my City Council colleagues can most successfully provide. To continue to make progress, we must draw on the existing resources of the community – our citizens, our institutions, our media, our businesses, and our government. The societal forces that contribute to problems of gangs and youth violence are multi-faceted and so must be our ongoing response. None of us has the wisdom to be certain that a particular tactic or program will be more effective than some other alternative. We must not let our differences of opinion on the small things get in the way of our united commitment to stay focused on the problem at a strategic level.
 
In the next few months I hope that we can find new ways to pull together and continue to bring community focus to the goal of minimizing violence and gang activity among our younger citizens. We must be in this fight for the long haul. Keeping all segments of our great City engaged in this concern will be the key to long-term progress, not whether one or two suggested tactics are accepted or rejected. I pledge to do my part to unite us in this worthy endeavor, which will help Newport News achieve progress on many other important fronts as well.

CSX and City Year Promote Community Service in Newport News 

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CSX volunteers putting finishing touches on benches that were constructed during the project.
On June 2nd, CSX Transportation, Inc. helped to improve our community through a service project at Crittenden Middle School.  CSX, one of the leading rail-based transporters in the nation, approached the City about conducting an outreach project in our community and utilizing local and regional CSX employees as volunteers. To help coordinate the effort, the company partnered with City Year, Inc. City Year is an organization that promotes civic service by enlisting young people for one year, during which time they work in urban schools and conduct community service projects like the one held in Newport News on June 2nd.

About 90 volunteers from CSX, City Year, Inc. and the Newport News community signed up to participate in the project. The volunteers were able to accomplish a great amount in a very short period of time. Numerous projects were undertaken including the construction of an outdoor classroom, painting inspirational murals along hallways, creating a butterfly and vegetable garden, and constructing shelves for students and staff to organize their belongings.  While most of the volunteers who participated in the event were CSX employees, several Crittenden Middle School students and staff were also involved in this transformational effort.   

I would like to thank the CSX and City Year organizations for conducting this great event in Newport News. Crittenden Middle School is one of the most historic schools in our City, and it was certainly a great site for this project to take place.  

To see more pictures from the day, click on the hyperlink below.

Statewide Transportation: Working Towards Solutions

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Virginia's "Golden Crescent" localities are highlighted in this image.
Maintaining and improving roadway infrastructure is a critical issue facing Virginia and many other states across the country. It is projected that by 2017 the Commonwealth will have no state construction funds, inadequate money to maintain our existing infrastructure, and will not have the financial means to fully match federal transportation grants. To help address this issue on a unified front, local elected officials from Virginia’s Golden Crescent convened in Richmond on June 7th to discuss the problems our state is facing when it comes to transportation and to talk about possible solutions.

The Golden Crescent, depicted in the above image, is comprised of 56 municipalities located along the Interstate 95 and Interstate 64 corridors, spanning from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads. The communities that make up this group encompass only 24% of the Commonwealth’s land area, but are home to over 68% of its population, 72% of its employment, and 79% of its gross product. Elected leaders from these communities recognize that statewide transportation funding is a long-term issue that isn’t going to solve itself. In order to sustain our infrastructure and encourage economic growth, new, reliable revenue streams will need to be identified. While certainly no one likes to recommend higher taxes or fees, it may be a necessary action if we are going to address this problem.

Moving forward, the Golden Crescent “Mayors and Chairs” group is committed to finding practical solutions that it can recommend to the General Assembly. I do not believe there is any one answer to solving this problem. I think we need to take a hard look at creating multiple revenue options that will support the transportation needs of our City, region, and state. A letter is currently being drafted for this group of local leaders to send to the Virginia General Assembly expressing our concerns about this issue. As more updates become available and as this group continues to meet and discuss this important issue, I will continue to provide updates to our citizens.
 

Upcoming Community Events and Programs

 
  • Summer Reading Programs – Throughout the summer months, Newport News Public Libraries hold reading programs for citizens of all ages.  The programs are conducted at the Grissom, Main Street, and Pearl Bailey libraries and are held multiple times each month.  Click on the link below to learn more about these great programs and when they will take place this summer.
 
  • 4th of July Stars in the SkyJuly 4th, 7:00-10:00 p.m., Victory Landing Park (end of 23rd St. at the James River)  – This spectacular annual event will have free children’s rides (giant slides, moon bounces, obstacle courses), food vendors, live music, and of course, a breathtaking fireworks display that will begin at 9:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, so make sure to bring the whole family.  For more information, click on the link below.
 
  • Organizational Meeting for the Newport News School BoardJuly 9th, 9:00 a.m., Administration Building Auditorium (12465 Warwick Boulevard) – During this special meeting, the recently elected and re-elected School Board Members will each take their oath of office. 
 
  • Organizational Meeting for the Newport News City CouncilJuly 10th, 10:00-11:00 a.m., City Hall (2400 Washington Avenue) – During this meeting, three of our Council Members, Councilwoman Tina Vick, Councilwoman Patricia Woodbury and Councilman-Elect Rob Coleman, will each take their oath of office.  

 Let Me Hear From You

This issue of From the Mayor’s Desk will mark the 16th edition of my newsletter, which has been published for almost a year and a half. A lot of important topics have been discussed during that time period. I have tried to inform citizens about issues which are significant to our community and highlight programs and events that you may find to be of interest. However, I would like to hear what topics you, the readers, want to know more about. If there is a subject that has not yet been covered in this publication or if you would like more in-depth information on a topic that has been discussed, I want to hear about it. Email your suggestions to mayorsoffice@nngov.com and tell me what issues are of the most interest to you.
 
 

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