Norfolk candidate op-ed: Marcus Calabrese

As per our invitation, we are presenting op-eds from the candidates for the May 1 local elections in Norfolk, Newport News, Williamsburg, Chesapeake and Hampton. The articles will appear in the order in which they are received and exactly as they were sent to us.

Marcus Calabrese

By Marcus A. Calabrese

As someone who has represented children, small businesses, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community prior to the campaign season, I see first hand how politics as usual is preventing the progress Norfolk needs.

Prior to my own candidacy I have worked with Democrats and Republicans since my time in college. These include Dick Gephardt, Bob McDonnell, John Amiral, Barbara Saunders, Patricia Edmonson and others. Despite my willingness to demonstrate bi-partisanship, I have been attacked for practicing the ‘soundbyte’ so many celebrate. Just as I was then, I remain comfortable and proud of my experience as I believe the practice of partisanship is as silly as it sounds.

It is that experience that has allowed me to see the harsh reality that politicians, regardless of party, will say one thing TO a demographic only to say another ABOUT them. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is a personal issue.

It is personal because I have been representing people that have been overlooked, under-served, and manipulated before I ever put it on a campaign literature piece or a website.

While candidates have been campaigning for the last month and a half about “Fixing Our Schools” or defending our school board despite their results, I was and remain the only candidate in this race who has volunteered and worked in Norfolk classrooms.

I am proud to be the only candidate endorsed by elected school board members and retired public school administrators because I know that hands on experience in our educational system is invaluable in the progress we need.

Our teachers deserve a councilman who will work beside them in the decisions that must be made. Making decisions that impact our schools without teachers at the forefront of that discussion shows a complete lack of competence.

Every council person should be visiting at a minimum, 1 school per month to sit and listen to what teachers need. If elected I will happily cast the vote needed to put an elected school board on the ballot. I have yet to hear or see a candidate mention a pay raise for teachers. However I do see a city council willing to discuss a proposal of $200 Million for a conference center from Harvey Lindsay who has donated thousands of dollars to Mayor Paul Fraim, Vice Mayor Anthony Burfoot, and my Councilman Barclay Winn.

As the only candidate who has visited with businesses in Wards Corner and Waterside, I see the overdue need for a small business commission in Norfolk. Being an advocate for tax incentives for Small, Woman, and Minority owned businesses has garnered me additional attacks. Not to mention I also would like to include Veteran owned and LGBT owned businesses in this plan (see

However, I find it interesting that out of the four candidates in this Superward 6 race, I remain the only public advocate for SWAM businesses. Barclay Winn owns a SWAM business, Winn Nursery. Jesse Scaccia works for AltDaily owned by a minority female. John Amiral, while he could qualify is against this form of ‘favortism’.

Of course I do encourage you to visit their websites and see their ideas on a small business issue supported by Barack Obama, Bob McDonnell, Ben Loyola, and Brian Moran.

As I mentioned previously, I began a lot of my political activism at a Norfolk college. Perhaps that may be why I am the only candidate to have called for a campus safety plan in conjunction with the city. Within one week of attending Christopher Cumming’s birthday this year, I heard of 5 campus deaths. Two of these deaths were on Old Dominion University’s campus. Now maybe my opponents feel this is not a city issue. ODU administrators asked city council in 2009 for a joint police precinct only to be met with council representatives who cited the ‘cost’ and ‘details’ as the issues preventing this from happening. Should we go down the list of the money readily approved by city council for projects associated with campaign contributors?

Perhaps Harvey Lindsay and Tivest can broker a deal to get us a joint police precinct.

We have 5 colleges in 1 city and no safety plan. No ongoing partnership with college administration or even pertinent student organizations to hear how we can even make progress on an issue. Not only are Norfolk colleges dealing challenges to their reputation regarding safety, we are at risk at seeming unproductive. Forbes Magazine called Norfolk one of the “Worst Cities For Young Professionals in 2007” Yes I realize this information is 5 years old, I also realize this happened before the economy tanked. I also realize that our unemployment rate in Norfolk, reported by The Compass, was the highest in Hampton Roads in 2011, 2010, and 2000.

When Norfolk Superward 6 is home to so many great business organizations such as Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hampton Roads Business OutReach, Ghent Business Association, Ocean View Business Association, Cultural Arts Alliance, 5 Colleges, and the world’s largest Naval base it calls to mind the song, “Once In A Lifetime” by The Talking Heads…”You may ask yourself well-how did I get here” well its a simple answer, Norfolk Politics is the same as it ever was.

That’s why I’m running!

Marcus Calabrese is a candidate for Ward 6.

9 thoughts on “Norfolk candidate op-ed: Marcus Calabrese

  1. I think I have finally figured out why I am drawn to you as a candidate. It’s attitude. There is a difference between being city government’s representative to the citizens and being the citizen’s voice on City Council. For some time, decisions have been made, with little input from the folks impacted by those decisions, with a “we know what is best for Norfolk and for you” attitude. Open meetings, when there were such things, were frequently held at inconvenient times or places with time limits on citizen participation. I believe you will be different, because you have been one of us. If you will recall, I commented on your finely tuned listening skills. I foresee you seeking, rather than just accepting, input from the people you represent. I imagine you meeting with small groups – civic leagues, PTAs, small business owners, etc.- at times and locations which are convenient for them. I fervently hope that you will be chosen as my voice on City Council, because I, like many others, have a great deal to say, and I know that you will listen carefully and actually hear us.

  2. Wonderful piece, Marcus. The people of Norfolk would be well served to have you on their City Council. Not only do you bring your admirable personal skills to the table but you are truly an independent voice who values all the citizens of Norfolk. I have had the pleasure of knowing you as a friend and as a colleague as we worked on things that we cared about. This is a major distinction; you care. It’s time that city governments stopped being run by those who can buy their seats and elected people, like Marcus Calabrese, who are beholden to no particular ideology other than their own sense of what is right.

  3. I thank you for coming to our local civic league to speak. After the event I personally spoke with you about a statement you make that because you were late you ( booked a tight schedule) didn’t hear about another candidate and their educational experience and misspoke. You seem to be very concerned about the schools and I applaud you for that, but you have to remember to check your facts. Two of the candidates have volunteered in Norfolk Public Schools. Please be careful what you say, words are powerful and can help or hurt your campaign. Because of the last city council election the citizens of Norfolk have a more open council but the last group of newly elected officials still need more help to make great changes for our city.

  4. Peggy,

    Thank you so much for commenting. My comments are in no way meant to disregard anyone’s service to our schools. From my understanding you are referring to Jesse Scaccia’s educational experience. I respect his experience as a teacher. I do however accept the reality that Norfolk teachers need an advocate who has seen the inside of a Norfolk classroom on more than a journalistic or guest speaker basis. This is why I am specific in my assertion that I am the only candidate who has worked and volunteered in Norfolk schools prior to the campaign.

    Students and teachers need someone that has had an ongoing working relationship in our school system. I do not believe my experience in Virginia Beach Public schools nor my experience in Saudi Arabia Schools helps me nearly as much as my work in our schools right here in our city. I have taken your comments into consideration and because of what you said have made the point stronger.

    1. If it is politics as usual in Norfolk and Barclay Winn is reelected, I would love to support you to be on the School Board in Norfolk. We need people that want to be involved with the schools and have time to commit to that effort. I think you would be a good addition to our council but although not impossible, it is difficult to unseat an incumbent. No matter what the future brings for you, I applaud the fact that you recognize the many needs in our public schools and you will always have my support in those endeavors. I was actually referring to Barclay Winn who has volunteered at my school reading to our children.

      1. Peggy,

        Thank you so much for your comments. I really do appreciate what you said! Win or lose my priorities will remain the same. I will continue to be an advocate and hope to be of service to somebody. Again thank you so much!!!

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