February 20, 2023

City of Virginia Beach Partners with UVA’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service for Community Engagement Initiative on Future Election System Options

The City of Virginia Beach has partnered with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service (CCPS) at the University of Virginia to provide multiple opportunities for Virginia Beach residents to learn about potential election systems and provide preferences that could be adopted by City Council in time for the 2024 election.

This comprehensive community engagement partnership includes facilitation of 12 community meetings, legal counsel to review and recommend viable election system options and conducting a resident survey. Results will be shared with City Council in early summer 2023.

Community meetings will be held this spring across the city, offering in-person, livestream and virtual participation options. Specific dates and locations will be announced soon, along with information about the public input process.

"Hearing input from residents about important issues in our community is critically important, and our residents have made it clear in our most recent resident satisfaction survey that they want more opportunities to participate in City policy development and decision making," said Communications Director Tiffany Russell. "Equally important is that our residents understand the topic that we're asking them to comment on. Our partners with the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service will ensure that anyone who attends will be able to offer a fully informed opinion."

CCPS has assembled a team of legal experts to make recommendations on election system options for the City to consider moving forward and consult with CCPS throughout the community engagement process. This involves a review of local election system legal cases and Virginia state law to identify legally viable options for the City of Virginia Beach and prepare report of findings and recommendations.

"The Cooper Center has convened a knowledgeable and experienced team, and we are excited to assist the City in this meaningful and inclusive public engagement process," said Charles Hartgrove, director of the University of Virginia's Virginia Institute for Government. "Collecting resident input, conducting an expert review of election system options, and preparing recommendations for the City's consideration fully aligns with our organization's vision of good governance, equity and resilience in every Virginia community."

Confirmed legal team members for this initiative are:

Andrew Block, J.D.

Andrew Block is an associate professor of Law and the director of the State and Local Government Policy Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law. He previously served as director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice from 2014 to 2019, where he led major reforms and improvements in the department, including focus on racial justice and equity. Before leading the department, Block directed the Child Advocacy Clinic at UVA's Law School from 2010-14 and founded and served as the legal director of the JustChildren program of the Legal Aid Justice Center, a nonprofit serving all of Virginia with offices in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A graduate of Yale University and Northwestern Law School, Block received various awards for his work at JustChildren, including the American Bar Association Young Lawyer's Division Child Advocacy Award, the Virginia State Bar's Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year and the Virginia Bar Association's Robert F. Shepherd, Jr. Award.

In 2019, Block was appointed vice-chair of Governor Ralph Northam's Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law which was tasked with both identifying and proposing the repeal of various Jim Crow laws that were still technically on the books in Virginia, as well as identifying policy proposals to address the racial disparities and other harms wrought by more than 350 years of intentional racial discrimination and oppression in the Commonwealth. In his role of vice-chair, and in his capacity as the director of the State and Local Government Policy Clinic, Block and his Clinic students were the primary drafters of all three reports issued by the Commission – reports which have led to substantial state action in response to their recommendations.

Cynthia Hudson, J.D.

Cynthia Hudson is owner and managing attorney for Eppes-Hudson Law, PLLC, specializing in municipal law, government affairs consulting and employment law. An expert local and state government practitioner and litigator, Hudson was appointed chief deputy attorney general of Virginia by Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring in 2014; she managed the day-to-day legal service and administrative operations of the Office of the Attorney General and its agencies, boards, commissions, entities and officials. Hudson's many notable achievements while in office centered around equality, opportunity and criminal justice.

Prior to her role as chief deputy attorney general, Hudson served as city attorney for the City of Hampton and Hampton deputy city attorney. Most recently, Hudson practiced in the Government Group at Sands Anderson, a Virginia-based law firm. During that time, she received the 2021 Edward J. Finnegan Award for Distinguished Service (now known as the Finnegan- Whiting Award) from the Local Government Attorneys of Virginia.

Hudson received her undergraduate degree in mass communications from Virginia Commonwealth University, and her law degree from William & Mary. She has served as chair of the Virginia State Bar Section on Local Government and president of the Local Government Attorneys of Virginia. Hudson was an adjunct professor in State and Local Government law at the William & Mary Law School and also taught courses on state and local government law at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law.

Bertrall Ross, J.D.

Bertrall Ross is the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia Law School, where he serves as the director of the Karsh Center for Law and Democracy. He teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law, constitutional theory, election law, administrative law and statutory interpretation. Ross' research is driven by a concern about democratic responsiveness and accountability, as well as the inclusion of marginalized communities in administrative and political processes.

Prior to joining the Virginia faculty, Ross taught at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, where he received the Rutter Award for Teaching Excellence. Ross is currently serving on the Administrative Conference of the United States and the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court.

Ross earned his undergraduate degree in international affairs and history from the University of Colorado, Boulder; his graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Princeton University's School of Public and International Affairs; and his law degree from Yale Law School. After law school, he clerked for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Myron Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. He has also been awarded the Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin, the Princeton University Law and Public Affairs Fellowship, the Columbia Law School Kellis Parker Academic Fellowship and the Marshall Scholarship.

About Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service

The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service offers public interest research, leadership development programs, local government consulting, and unbiased data and analysis to public servants and policymakers across the Commonwealth. Guided by its values of access, collaboration, and impact, the Cooper Center's services help build strong communities across Virginia.

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