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Norfolk's Three Mayoral Candidates Answer Questions from ODU Students at Forum

By Brendan O'Hallarn

Norfolk's three candidates for mayor in the May 3 election agreed that smart decisions for Old Dominion are smart decisions for the city during a forum Wednesday, April 13 at the University's Ted Constant Convocation Center.

State Senator Kenny Alexander, Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe and Norfolk City Councilman Andy Protogyrou answered questions from Old Dominion students in the forum that was sponsored by the Student Government Association.

"We are very honored to be joined by the three candidates who are running to be the next mayor of Norfolk, said SGA President Chris Ndiritu, adding that University and SGA leadership share a goal of creating and sustaining a meaningful partnership with the City of Norfolk where "ODU matters."

Moderator Jesse Richman, associate professor of political science and geography, informed the candidates that the four Old Dominion students asking questions are all registered to vote in the municipal election.

"I'm going to be very brief with my remarks, because the point is the candidates are here. We are so happy to have them, and all of you in the audience," he said. A crowd of more than 200 filled every seat in the Constant Center's Big Blue Room.

During the forum, candidates answered inquiries about engagement with Old Dominion University, opportunities for young people, sea level rise, light rail transportation and crime.

Alexander, a political science graduate, said it was "good to be home" at Old Dominion for the debate. He noted that if a private industry contributed $2.1 billion to the local economy (the University's economic impact on Hampton Roads), "we would be doing whatever we could to make sure that company is happy here in Norfolk."

With his administration, "you would certainly have a seat in the mayor's office," Alexander said, adding he would do whatever he could to bring a light rail link to Old Dominion.

McCabe complimented the crowd for its engagement in the election, and its youth compared to other forum audiences. He said the City of Norfolk needs open lines of communication with its two universities.

"If ODU or Norfolk State have a problem, it's a city problem. I've been a little bit concerned in the past with the lack of coordination on our end," McCabe said. The Sheriff noted that a unified response to crime in neighborhoods adjacent to the University has brought down crime rates in the past several months. "That is the kind of joint effort we need," he said.

Protogyrou showed a copy of an article from that day's Wall Street Journal, suggesting companies make decisions about relocation because of the availability of a talented, educated, skilled workforce. "These companies are coming here because of you," he said to the students. "They want to be here because of you."

The candidates are seeking to succeed Paul Fraim, the city's mayor since 1994, who announced last fall that he would not run for re-election.

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