Minutes of the General Meeting of August 11, 2020

Call to Order

The meeting was called to order by chairperson Sharon Eaton at 6:41.

Routine Reports

Minutes

Robert Barclay motioned to accept the minutes, which had been distributed by email prior to the meeting, and the minutes were accepted.

Financial Report

Catherine Anson gave the financial report.  Ms. Anson said the committee had $4186.13, and that she had went through our Quickbooks data and corrected some errors

Business

Candidate Endorsements

The Suffolk Democratic Committee had invited local candidates to speak at the current and next meetings.  The following candidates spoke at the current meeting: Judith Brooks Buck, David Mitnick, and Curtis Milteer.   All candidates are incumbents.  Dr. Brooks-Buck is school board member for Nansemond Borough,  Mr. Mitnick for Sleepy Hole Borough, and Councilman Milteer is the councilman for Whaleyville Borough.

Judith Brooks-Buck

Dr. Brooks-Buck noted her seven and a half year tenure on the Suffolk School Board, and that recently she began serving as vice chair. She mentioned initiatives that she had pushed for, including the change in venue which allowed more parents and grandparents to attend.  Dr. Brooks-Buck noted that the school system was not fully accredited when she started but is accredited now.  She said she worked to get grants and funding for various projects.  Dr. Brooks-Buck said she was active on several committees.  She also said she supported workers rights, and noted a disparity between the high performance of Virginia’s teachers and the relatively low pay.  Dr. Brooks-Buck pointed out her 25 years as a public school teacher, administrator and principal.

When asked by Robin Holton about her goals, Dr. Brooks-Buck said she is advocating for more money for the system, especially during the pandemic.  She said we have not been receiving the amount of money that we should be receiving for special education, and she said our buildings need to be in better shape.

Michele Faulk asked about virtual schooling and about teacher salaries.  Dr. Brooks-Buck said the school system is committed to keeping staff and to avoid layoffs.  She said that every student in Suffolk has a Chromebook or an iPad.  She said that internet connectivity is a problem. In response to a question by Dorothy Waddell, Dr. Brooks-Buck said students have received hot spots.

Harvey Holton asked about the criteria for reopening schools.  Dr. Brooks-Buck said she did not know the details about that criteria but that people are taking the issue seriously, and that facts will lead the decisions

Gerald Thomas asked about Dr. Brooks-Buck’s commitment to bus drivers.  She responded that there wasn’t a good way to vet children at the bus stop to determine if they should get on the bus.  Mr. Thomas clarified that he was asking about bus drivers who were out of work.  Dr. Brooks-Buck said the school board did not fire any bus drivers

David Mitnick

David Mitnick told of his history and noted his service in the U.S. Army and 36 years as a public school educator.  He has been a Suffolk resident for 21 years, and served five and a half years on the school board.  Mr Mitnick said he worked on reforms for transportation, improvements on an energy performance contract that would have saved the school system millions of dollars, and is working to improve overcrowded conditions.  Mr Mitnick said he worked to improve zoning and changing school start times.  Mr. Mitnick said he serves on committees including the special advisory board on special education.

Robin Holton asked about plans to overcome overcrowding.  Mr. Mitnick replied the school system in the process of a facilities study with city council and a third party.  The report is due in December.  He said Creekside’s population was greatly assisted by the building of Florence Bowser elementary, and Creekside students no longer have to attend classes in mobile units.

Dorothy Waddell asked about the energy performance contract.  Mr. Mitnick said the energy performance contract did not pass because the city council could not commit to the bonds necessary to cover fees to complete the project.  Mr. Mitnick said he brought it up again for consideration in 2018, and said it’s still an option.

Curtis Milteer

Councilman Curtis Milteer spoke about his history.  Mr. Milteer is a Suffolk Native, and was wounded in the Korean War.  Mr. Milteer spent six years on the planning commission before joining council.  Councilman Milteer said the upcoming election is very important because of redistricting.  He said he had worked through three redistricting evolutions and will work towards ensuring the next round of redistricting will be fair.  He emphasized that redistricting is in place for 10 years.  He said that there are three African American majority boroughs, Cyprus, Whaleyville, and Nansemond.  He said Suffolk is a wonderful place to live and wants to make sure it continues to be.

Sharon Eaton thanked the candidates and said that endorsements will be made next month, after hearing from more candidates.

Membership

Robert Barclay said he overlooked motioning a vote on Natalie Grayson’s membership last month, and asked for a vote.  Natalie Grayson’s membership was approved

Voter Registration Drives

Leslie Rinaldi said two registration drives were coming up August 19th and 26th from 11 to 1 at First Baptist Mahan.  Ms. Rinaldi said she is working with members of other churches getting more voter registration drives in place.

Sharon Eaton thanked Ms. Rinaldi and emphasized the importance of voter registration drives.

Ms. Rinaldi also noted the importance of voter registration training.  She said the training is available on line.  Ms. Rinaldi also said the Outreach committee and Democratic campaigns are looking for volunteers

Sharon Eaton said people have been asking her about signs.  She said that Delegate Clint Jenkins was keeping her updated about signs and will let us know when signs come in.

Congressman Bobby Scott

Congressman Bobby Scott also addressed the committee and reminded the committee that the congressional race is on the ballot.   He noted that a lot of legislation has been passed in Congress but vetoed by the president.

Congressman Scott also said Congress is working on the safe reopening of schools, including looking at ventilation systems as part of the infrastructure bill.

Pat Jacobson asked the congressman about the climate agreement.  Congressman Scott said he believes that it will be first on the agenda for President Biden.  Mr. Scott said our withdrawal was an international embarrassment, and felt it would be addressed within a day or two of Joe Biden taking office.

Tech used for Meetings

Art Singleton said Zoom was working better than the service we had used for the prior meeting, but asked people to mute phones because of the background noise.  Benjamin Goldberg said he had been reluctant to mute people who were attending by phone, because once muted he didn’t know how callers could be asked to be heard, but said that he would be more forceful about doing so at the next meeting.

Coordinated Campaign

Dorothy Waddell asked if the coordinated campaign has an office in Suffolk.  Leslie Rinaldi answered that our campaign representative Alim Flowers is still working from home, and everything is being done on-line, and links are available for signing up for phone banking.  Ms. Waddell also asked about precautions for canvassing, and Ms. Rinaldi said they trying to hold outdoor voter registration drives where possible and are supplying PPE for volunteers.  She said that she’s looking to hold fundraising activities to help pay for the supplies

Deloise Pope

Deloise Pope thanked the committee for their condolences after the loss of her husband

Adjournment

The meeting was adjounred at 7:39pm

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