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Norfolk, Virginia

Supporting Veterans in a State of Wellness

The City of Norfolk created an executive level position dedicated to the support of veterans. The Special Assistance for Veteran Services is focused on increasing city employment of veterans and serves as a facilitator and coordinator of veteran support efforts from educators, non-profits, and government agencies in the city. Additionally, Norfolk has partnered with Goodwill Industries of Central Virginia and Hampton Roads and with Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen’s “Give an Hour” initiative to form the Hampton Roads Veteran Action Coalition (HRVAC). The coalition seeks to facilitate the psychological as well as physical wellbeing of veterans. Though in its inception phase, HRVAC has already yielded positive results connecting 180 veterans with employers. Norfolk is also acting on a statewide initiative to cultivate veteran-friendly work environments. Under the auspices of the state’s Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program, Norfolk has committed to making sure 15% of new hires for fiscal year 2013 are veterans. Norfolk was the first municipality in Virginia to receive a V3 certification and over 18% of its new hires to date have been veterans.

Flood Mitigation

For a metropolitan area of its size, Norfolk is second only to New Orleans when it comes to risk from sea-level rise, but the city has fostered strategic partnerships with state and federal agencies, elected officials, and major universities in order to increase awareness and mitigate the effects of future floods. The city has increased the number of Certified Floodplain Managers on staff, integrated sea level rise and flood mitigation into its long-range comprehensive plan, and has improved flood mapping. In addition to reviewing structural improvements in roads and floodwalls, Norfolk has sought to improve its “green infrastructure” by restoring trees, rain gardens, wetlands, and open spaces that slow and diffuse flood waters. In 2008, Norfolk began a citywide project to anticipate and plan for flooding scenarios. The project included the development of a GIS-based model to predict the extent and depth of coastal flooding throughout the city. Because of its proactive efforts to address a challenging problem, Norfolk has received considerable attention from media sources such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and PBS.

Neighbors Building Neighborhoods

The Neighbors Building Neighborhoods (NBN) initiative was founded on the belief that sustainable change occurs when neighbors work together and take control of their neighborhoods. To support this paradigm shift, both residents and city staff received training on core NBN principles such inclusiveness and a focus on community strengths instead of weaknesses. Five neighborhoods are currently participating in a pilot effort. These neighborhoods work with program staff to identify community assets, recruit more residents to committees, and organize events. For its part, the City of Norfolk has established its first neighborhood grant program, providing up to $2,500 in matching funds for visible neighborhood improvements. It also sponsored the first Front Porch Neighborhood Summit to provide a forum for residents to share information, highlight projects, and be recognized for achievements. Neighbors have come together to support community gardens, celebrate multiculturalism, and help craft a series of community concerts with the Virginia Symphony. The Southside Coalition, which represents three neighborhoods, is using the NBN program to help implement around 80% of the short-term priorities identified in its 2004 neighborhood plan.