Mayoral candidate Andrew Damiani responds to News-Herald questions

Published 9:56 pm Saturday, October 25, 2008

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh and final installment of the Suffolk News-Herald series featuring the mayoral candidates for the city of Suffolk. In each of the past seven Sunday editions, the News-Herald has featured answers from a questionnaire sent to all the mayoral candidates. Each story is now available online by clicking the Election ’08 logo at

This week, candidate Andy Damiani is featured. Damiani served as mayor for the city of Suffolk in the early 1980s, and is the president of the Downtown Business Association.

1. What would you do about – and what is the mayor’s and City Council’s responsibility – regarding the revolving-door change lately in Suffolk’s administrative leaders? Are there any further substantive changes you believe should take place amongst those leadership positions?

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Citizens have been left in the dark for too long concerning City Hall’s “revolving door” changes in Suffolk’s administrative leaders…I promise to turn lights back on! I will not maintain an office at City Hall, it will remove any real or perceived interference with city operations. I will not micromanage the affairs at City Hall, my directing will come from Council. I will maintain a private office available to everyone. I served as mayor two terms (four years) and only went to City Hall as needed. I will follow the council-manager form of government per city charter.

2. What would you have done differently regarding the city’s assessments? What changes would you make in the future regarding assessments?

As mayor, I would have fixed the problem immediately, especially after the consultant identified the problem explaining that additional trained personnel was needed. Further, I would have issued a statement (and the council did) saying that the Council abided by state law and that complainants should petition the board of equalization for redress. I would have also reminded the citizens that City Council does not fire anyone for complying with the law. Fair taxation of our citizens is very important to me. No future changes. Problem solved.

3. How can the mayor serve to unify the two sides of Suffolk (North and South), helping each to see the qualities and needs of the other?

The sides of Suffolk can be unified by developing several initiatives. Construct a direct boulevard type road from central Suffolk to Route 17 near Shoulders Hill Road. The road would promote limited “destination” types of businesses like factory outlets, upscale strip shopping center, entertainment and recreation venues both private and government. Encourage and promote more city-wide community activities that would attract locals and visitors, i.e., Founder’s Day, TGIF, Chuckatuck Fish Fry…, Peanut Fest, just to name a few. Remember, Suffolk consolidated as one government – not one city – we are many communities.

4. What should be the city’s policy regarding solid waste disposal post-SPSA in 2018? What should Suffolk do now to ensure that this plan will come to fruition?

Suffolk is a charter member of SPSA…Suffolk voted to be the “host city,” (and) as such do not pay fees to use the landfill. In 2007, Suffolk saved about $6 million… The past 23 years, Suffolk saved about $65 million. Post 2018? A study is being conducted for SPSA – Suffolk included – to provide members with a range of options. They could be close SPSA operation, cities operate own landfill, (or) cities contract with private outside landfill, etc. My view – failure to continue SPSA past 2018 – could have negative ramifications for all future regional efforts.

5. What course of action would YOU take to solve Hampton Roads’ traffic problems and pay for the necessary improvements?

Transportation can be better solved regionally – cities can’t do it alone. Various funding mechanisms have been presented to our regional body – requiring some type of taxes/fees. As mayor, I would take the lead that would strongly encourage other mayors and business community to push and lobby hard the General Assembly. They stand for elections, too! How about making the railroads pony up to help pay for over and underpasses? Ask the region’s localities to pay their share of the cost to correct the congested road choke-points that will be caused by emergency evacuations.

6. What would you do about revitalizing downtown Suffolk? What steps would be taken to ensure that downtown continues to prosper in the future?

We need more quality and unique style shops to make the downtown central business district (CBD) a destination. To accomplish this, the existing surface parking along the sidewalk should be replaced with buildings and shops as existing before they were demolished. Private developers and investors could do the rebuilding on city land. The lost parking spaces could be transferred to a parking garage – funded from all revenues generated by the new businesses. The revenues would pay off the bonds.

7. Do you think our current city government is operating openly and transparently? If not, what would you change or do differently?

The recent establishment of the official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was an excellent step in the right direction. Council should be commended. To gain the public trust, more can be done. As mayor, I would try to influence Council to limit discussions on issues away from public view. I recall, in the past, I walked out of an executive closed session several times because I thought the discussed issue was a “public to know” issue.

8. What rule do you see the mayor playing in economic development? How would YOU work to continue to capitalize on Suffolk’s growth?

Economic development in Suffolk is under the umbrella of the Department of Economic Development – DED through the office of the city manager. The mayor and Council as individuals have no authority over the operation of the department; however, the mayor and Council may instruct or recommend directives to the EDA through the city manager. The Authority, I may add, generates revenue on their own through bonds issued for Suffolk and other entities. Economic growth has always been my top priority, and I think the department is doing a good job.

9. What can the city do to help ensure Suffolk has quality education? What role would you play in ensuring education is exceptional in our city?

Neither the mayor no the city council have under existing regulations (laws) authority, nor would it be appropriate to directly regulate or administrate the “public school system.” That responsibility lies with the elected school board. As mayor, I would urge Council to provide the elected school board with adequate funds to create the best system ever with the clear understanding that the schools meet all performance goals set by state and federal standards. My vision for our schools is to focus on learning and discipline.

10. What would you do as mayor to keep Suffolk a safe city? What could be done to improve public safety in Suffolk and how would you approach it?

Again, under our charter, the mayor does not have the authority to enforce public safety and fire laws – the city manager does. However, the mayor can be a strong advocate for these services. As mayor, I will do just that. The city could introduce several initiatives: more public awareness programs, bring back the popular neighborhood bicycle patrols, try motorcycles with sidecar patrols (save gas), make citizens aware of the costs for the public safety/fire during budget time.