MONTHLY SPEAKER INFORMATION
The March 19, 2020 Speaker will be City of Williamsburg, Councilman Benny Zhang
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About Benny:

Benming "Benny" Zhang was elected to the Williamsburg City Council on May 3, 2016. He was sworn-in on July 1, 2016. He became the second William & Mary student, as well as being the youngest and the first of Chinese descent elected to the council in the City’s history.

Benny has been an active member of the Williamsburg community since entering the College as a Sharpe Community Scholar in the fall of 2012. He is a proud resident and homeowner on Burns Lane. He has been involved in various initiatives to better the lives for all residents of Williamsburg.

In 2013, Mayor Clyde Haulman appointed Benny to the Public Housing Advisory Committee (PHAC) for a four year term. Benny’s role with the PHAC requires him to advise the Williamsburg Redevelopment and Public Housing Commissioners on relevant HUD and Virginia Housing Development Authority guidelines. As a citizen advocate, he is responsible for addressing various public housing resident issues and grievances. Benny is currently a member of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance, and sits on the Government Affairs Committee. Benny is also a member of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation Revolutionary Society, a group dedicated to attracting young professionals to become more involved with the historical Jamestown area and its wellbeing.

His passion for community service began in high school. As a student at Choate Rosemary Hall, Benny founded a program that formed relationships with schools in Cayambe, Ecuador. The program sent high school students to partner with the community to help renovate their schools. Benny entered William & Mary as a Sharpe Community Scholar, focusing on opportunity gaps in United States education. During his freshman year, Benny worked with a fellow Sharpe scholar to start a tutoring program at the local juvenile detention center, now known as Merrimac Mentors, an initiative that later turned into a full-fledged group mentoring program that serves the whole center. Benny is also involved with the Asian American Students Initiative. As a self-designed Asian-American Studies major, he wrote his senior honors thesis on Arthur Matsu, the first Asian-American to graduate from the College. He is currently attending Marshall-Wythe School of Law (William & Mary Law School) as a Juris Doctor (J.D.) candidate.

Benny is the oldest son to Dr. Han Zhang and Ms. Jinlan Liu. He resides in Williamsburg, moving to the Burns Lane neighborhood in the spring of 2013. Benny worships at Bruton Parish Church, where he was baptized and confirmed.

The February 20, 2020 Speaker was Congressman Rob Wittman - VA-01
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Congressman Wittman spoke to a packed CARMA luncheon for about 50 minutes. He provided many updates on the issues before Congress, and specifically the House, before answering many member questions.

Following is a brief synopsis of his remarks prior to the Q&A session:

a. He never believed that their would be active debate on the topic of socialism in the House. He finds the discussions to be more and more common as the Dems continue to hammer away at social (entitlement) programs and the accompanying erosion of individual rights.

b. President trump remains a major defender of individual rights for the country. The Dems will go to any limits to try and push forward their agenda of entiotlements and socialism. The Senate remains the only barrier to limitless new laws and give-aways.

c. It is expected that there will a very large voter turn out this year. Lines and extensive wait times at the polls are anticipated, and voters are encouraged to vote early if possible. Some areas are expecting as high as 90% voter turnouts.

d. The President's budget makes an effort to reduce the national debt. It is looking at old and out of date programs that need to be defunded and removed. There is large pushback on any of the cutting of programs because of the house members all having their favorites for their home districts.

e. Continuing to rebuild the military is a prime focus of Congressman Wittman. He spoke at length about the changing environment of any conflict, and how the speed of reaction, and ability to meet headon with 21st century weapons and technology is of prime importance. The number of naval support ships is crucial to getting troops and supplies to the conflicts. The need to utilize and refit ships, and aircraft to meet the latest ground and air technology requirements is an urgent need also.

f. The advancement and protection of cyber-technology at home and worldwide is realized as a 21st century priority. Speaking of the fiber optic cables, their placement, their ability to be maintained in a crisis and the need to have multiple defense ready networks is a priority that many do not recognize.

g. He said that it would be impossible to outspend our military adversaries. So, we must look at the spending completely from a strategic level of importance. To be on the cutting edge of weaponry must be the country's stance and position of awareness, yet the Dems do not seem to understand. Congresswoman Luria recently called the Gerald Ford aircraft carrier, a "13 billion dollar barge." It is equipped with many of the new technologies needed to survive modern conflicts and as a retired naval officer, this comment seemed to be totally coming from a Dem, and not from an armed forces and veteran supporting congresswoman.

h. Prescription drug prices - No bill has been brough forward, as a stand alone, to address this issue. The one that had drug prices hung on it, had no chance of passing, and was created by the Dems to say they had looked at the issue and it was stopped by the GOP. More political gamesmanship on their part.

Questions:

1. What can the average person do to support the GOP? He believes their is more unity in the GOP currently than he has seen in many years because of the actions of the Dems. He suggests supports for local Republican groups in any way possible.

2. Are we moving ahead with a space force? Yes, all space components from the various military units are being focused on one new organization within the chiefs of staff. This will be continuing to roll out in the next several quarters.

3. How important does he feel the dredging of the Chesapeake port is? Extremely! It will allow Norfolk to be the largest and most equipped port on the eastern seaboard. Their is many reasons why it is needed and except that Florida has a larger congressional delegation who wanted a port there, it would be the number one. Work continues, and it is just not a high a priority as the south currently.

4. Describe your feeling about AG Barr & the FBI? Barr is a good leader. He is taking the actions needed in the intelligence community, and while heand the President have different styles, they are both committed to cleaning up a significant number of issues. He believes the President's use of Twitter allows him to keep the media focused on issues of his liking, and currently there isn't any other way to approach the media bias.

5. Are there challengers he will face in November? Currently, he does not have a primary challenger. He is aware of three Dems who have surfaced as opponents. He mentioned that online donations (WINRED) are a big factor in supporting GOP candidates. It has more than doubled what its counterpart is. He says supporters should sign up to go to events and fundraisers. Small donations add up and mean a fgreat deal. He believes Northern Virginia will be a November issue, but with a very high turnout, that can be overcome. An online statistic has show that 17% of the electorate, who didn't vote in 2016, are leaning towards the GOP becuase they have had too much of the carrying ons of the past couple years. He believes grassroot efforts are essential to winning. He noted that Bloomberg has already spent 500 million of his own money.

6. Can we get Pennsylvania to do more to keep the Chesapeake and rivers that flow through Virginia cleaner? He responded that this is a multi-state issue, and yes, PA needs to do more. Too much chemicals are being allowed into the waters.

7. What is the chances for Re-districting in 2020? Virtually none. The House has not taken up a bill in Virginia, and when you control both Houses why would you. The 2020 census will be the guidance for the 2021 election, and it could change a lot of districts, as urban sprawl continues.

8. Congresswoman Luria, your thoughts? I have issues...she signed the letter to impeach BEFORE any document alleging specific violations was put forth. He hopes that the GOP can win back that district.

9. The senate race for Mark Warner's seat, any comments? Will be tough to unseat due to name recognition, and expected campaign funding. With a large turnout, if voters will vote the party line, it is possible.

10. If Virginia continues on its path to many new gun control laws, how would you suggest that they be overturned? The courts, two paths, state and federal, and then to vote out the delegates, senators who voted for it, and elect a governor who respects second amendment rights.

11. Healthcare issues...Congressman Wittman spoke about the shortage of doctors, the wave of specialists who are graduating, and the need for reforms in medical billing, practices, and insurance reform.

Final Comments:

Get out to vote, vote early if you can. Election day will likely be craziness with long lines and delays. Vote ahead, and realize you can do it easily, and at your convenience. Engage people in conversation, and tell them what we stand for. The Republican Creed, may be a good guide.

Biography

Serving the First Congressional District of Virginia since 2007, Rob has been focused on strengthening our military and supporting veterans, promoting economic development through fiscal responsibility, fixing our crumbling infrastructure, increasing access to high-speed internet, and promoting workforce development through Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.

In the U.S. Congress, Rob serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Natural Resources, where he is well-positioned to represent the needs of Virginia's First District.  He has quickly earned a reputation for being an advocate for our men and women in uniform and for being a champion of the Chesapeake Bay.

On the Armed Services Committee, Rob serves as Ranking Member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.  In addition, as Co-Chair of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, he is a staunch advocate for a robust Naval fleet and a healthy domestic shipbuilding industry. Rob also served as Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee for four years and as Chairman of the U.S. Naval Academy's Board of Visitors for nine years.

As a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rob brings his professional expertise in water quality, fisheries, and other natural resource issues. He is a champion of the Chesapeake Bay -- for its environmental and economic attributes -- and has introduced legislation that will increase the accountability and effectiveness of cleaning up the Bay. He serves as co-chair of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Caucus, which brings Bay issues into focus for Members of Congress.

As a Co-Chair of the House Rural Broadband Caucus, he is leading the way to bring high-speed internet to the unserved areas of the First District and the nation. In 2018, he held two meetings of his Broadband Taskforce, where he brought together national, state, and local stakeholders to focus on finding real solutions that will expand broadband to unserved areas. His other infrastructure priorities include deepening and widening the Port of Virginia, easing congestion on I-95, improving and expanding the Long Bridge, expanding the capacity of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), and providing sustainable funding mechanisms to Dulles international Airport (IAD) and Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA).

He was re-elected for his sixth full term in the House of Representatives in November 2018 and for more than 20 years, Rob has served in several levels of government, from Montross Town Council to United States Congress. Rob won his first campaign for public office in 1986 when he was elected to the Montross Town Council, where he served for 10 years, four of them as Mayor. In 1995, Rob was elected to the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors and was elected its Chairman in 2003. In 2005, voters in the 99th Legislative District elected Rob to the Virginia House of Delegates, where he served until he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2007.

Prior to his election to Congress, Rob spent 26 years working in state government, most recently as Field Director for the Virginia Health Department's Division of Shellfish Sanitation. Earlier, he worked for many years as an environmental health specialist for local health departments in Virginia's Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula regions.

He holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, a Master of Public Health degree in Health Policy and Administration from the University of North Carolina, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Virginia Tech.

 

02/20/20