Linda Johnson – Sleepy Hole Borough (City Council)

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2004

Name: Linda T. Johnson

Age: 52

Profession: Real estate agent.

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Education: B.A. from the University of Richmond.

Why are you seeking this office?

I am seeking reelection to City Council because I believe that I can do a better job after having served four years.

The learning curve in this position is large and it takes time to learn how to be the most effective.

Of course, the main reason for seeking this position is because I care very much about our city.

Why should a citizen vote for you?

I hope that citizens would vote for me because of the accomplishments of the last four years. I am extremely proud of our public safety facility in northern Suffolk and of the progress being made toward our new state-of-the-art library. We have great plans for the future of the city and I want to be a part of making them happen. Additionally, I strive to be fiscally conservative, which is important to the taxpayers.

The City Council has asked City Manager R. Steven Herbert to study ways to fund a 3 cent tax cut in his proposed $277 million budget for 2004-2005 fiscal year. That equates to approximately $1.4 million. Is this tax reduction feasible right now and if so, where do believe the cuts should be made?

No answer available.

What is the most important action the City Council has taken over the past four years?

I am hesitant to say there was one most important action because there are many important issues. However, I would say our support of education and public safety are the highlights. I believe these are the two most important purposes of government in general.

Suffolk is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States today, with more than 1,000 new homes being built in the city last year. Is the city adequately equipped to handle this much growth at one time? What can the city do to better manage it?

I am not afraid of growth and believe that we are equipped to handle it. First, I think it is important to remember that had it not been for the growth factor we would have far more serious budget issues. The new dollars brought in by the growth factor are vital to our city. Certainly, we should manage our growth but the truth is that if your city is not growing, it will eventually die. In the area of education, we cannot blame all of our increase in expenditures on the number of new homes built or the number of people moving in. The fact is that we owe the best education – bar none – to all of our students and if we do not invest in education, we will end up with a less capable workforce. That, in turn, will do little to entice industries to come here. We need to develop the most educated and trained workforce in Hampton Roads. In short, we need to grow carefully, making sure that we balance economic growth, i.e., jobs with people.

What we do not want is to be the bedroom community where people come to live but not work or spend their money.

The city’s is embarking on a five-year review of 2018 Comprehensive Plan, the road map for managed growth. Do changes need to be made to this document?

We need to review the Comprehensive Plan extensively and certainly as with any living document, changes will need to be made.

We need to be cognizant of the needs of our citizens and also the property rights that are inherent to the people of our country. It is very important that we understand the delicate balance between the city’s need for planning and land use and the rights of the landowners. This is a very sensitive issue that I believe should err on the side of the landowner. To many of our citizens their land is their retirement and when you put restraints on their ability to sell for the highest and best use you are in effect taking their retirements away.

The flip side of that argument is that the city must do for the good of all which is a never ending debate but we must always keep first in our minds the form of government we wish to live in and always keep the constitution as our guideline in the equation.

What are the most pressing issues facing the borough for which you are seeking office? How would you address them?

My borough is the fastest growing area in the city and with that, we face the continuing need of proper planning and balance. We will need to continue our efforts in the areas of public safety and have careful planning of our roadways. Before my being on council, I had heard a lot about the Unified Development Ordinance but I don’t think that I or many of my constituents understood that it in fact directs the vast majority of the growth on top of us and leaves much of the rest of the city to remain as it always has been.

I think the growth could be more equitably distributed. There is so much available land in the southern end of the city yet the two growth corridors are being focused on for all of the growth.

It appears that in fact the UDO is giving us increased densities and a different style of life that I am not sure is the &uot;quality of life&uot; that many Suffolkians envision. So in summary my borough is experiencing the most change and it is always a challenge to accept and go with change.

The challenge for my borough will be to continue to offer the lifestyle that my constituents, old and new, deserve.

— Compiled by Allison T. Williams