Thursday, May 05, 2016

Norfolk Elects

What About 
Those Pesky Floods?

             In the Norfolk, VA, municipal elections on May 3, I voted with my fellow citizens in two out of three contests.
            In my home Ward 6 I voted for an innovative outsider, Andrea McClellan, to replace incumbent Barclay Winn on City Council. I came to that decision after I took an online preference test on a range of local issues. My preferences put me over 60% in line with Ms. McClellan, who unseated Winn and also defeated the third-place candidate, Warren Stewart, an educator.
            For school board in Ward 6 I had the choice between Noelle Gabriel, an incumbent, and Carter Smith, a business consultant. Gabriel has a day job as a pediatrician in a local children’s hospital. Where she finds the time to practice children's’ medicine, serve on the school board, and raise a family, too, is beyond me, but I voted for her, and she won over her opponent, 
business consultant Carter Smith, who seemed abrasive in his public comments and had no significant experience with education.
            But the main event of the night was the contest for mayor, an office vacated by the man who’s held it for 22 years. Until 2006 his office was appointed by City Council, but in 2008 Norfolk held its first mayoral election, which Fraim won by a large majority, becoming the city’s first elected mayor.
            As I understand local history, giving voters the choice of mayor was another step in the slow process of Norfolk’s liberalization from an oligarchy to something like a limited republican form of government where the oligarchs give up some small fraction of their power to assure social order.
            That era of transition from liberal oligarchy to limited populism, which Mayor Fraim oversaw, is over. Other, more diverse forces are in play now.
            Replacing Mayor Fraim is Kenny Alexander, a Norfolk native, presently a Virginia state senator, and not only the first new mayor in 22 years but the first African-American mayor in Norfolk history.
            I voted for Andy Protogyro on the basis of a televised candidates’ debate. I thought Protogyro, who presently sits on Council, seemed better prepared to be mayor than Alexander or Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe. Obviously, half of Norfolk disagreed with me.
            Half of Norfolk, it turns out, is 28%, which is twice the turn-out which reelected Fraim in 2014.
            Nevertheless, I’m happy with the peoples’ choice. It seems right to me, a positive step forward in Norfolk’s evolving image of itself as an international city, yet still American Southern to the bone.
            But what about sea-level rise? What about the human contribution to climate change? Will the incoming Mayor Alexander sacrifice his roots to the rising seas?
            Now that these candidates have been elected, maybe they’ll talk more about those less popular matters.


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