By. Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern
The Democratic Candidate Forum hosted this Wednesday (7/20) by Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress, featured seven democratic candidates seeking one of three spots available on Charlottesville City Council. The forum asked candidates to indicate their position on popular topics such as the Meadowcreek Parkway, the US 29 Bypass, and the Water Supply Plan. It also gave an opportunity for audience members to ask questions of the candidates as well as a chance for candidates to ask questions of one another.
Colette Blount promised to give attention to education including job training, and environmental stewardship in her opening statements. She placed emphasis on meeting the needs of a cross section of Charlottesville residents, especially underrepresented groups. According to Mrs. Blount, community input, accountability, and a local economy are top responsibilities that Council should be engaged in.
Mrs. Blount does not support construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway, nor does she support construction of the US 29 Bypass as it is currently proposed. She supports dredging and water conservation efforts before construction a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Her transportation goals include improving mass transit based on population projections. However, she expressed concern that if Charlottesville becomes too accessible, it will induce additional traffic. Mrs. Blount says that she plans to address affordable housing through local solutions such as cottage industries, rather than encouraging citizens move to areas outside of Charlottesville, however she clarified later in the evening that this did not mean that she was opposed to growth.
Dede Smith named her top priorities as conservation of resources, accountability, respect and equal opportunity for all citizens, and education, beginning in a safe and affordable home. Her goal for the city school system is to close achievement gaps and increase graduation rates at Charlottesville High School.
Smith supports neither the construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway, nor the US Western Bypass as it is currently proposed, and has spearheaded efforts to support dredging and water conservation before construction of a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. When asked about her transportation plan for the city, Smith expressed an interest in creatively reducing automobile traffic through multiuse trails and mass transit, following examples of cities that have successfully implemented mass transit.
Satyendra Huja is the sole incumbent amongst the candidates. In seeking a second term, Mr. Huja stated that he intends to improve transit, and promote quality education, workforce development, and decent housing options. In response to questions about his plans for transportation improvements, Huja listed goals of creating an interconnected web of bicycle and pedestrian paths, and more dependable transit service. Mr. Huja also supports construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway for its access to downtown and its ability to reduce congestion in the Park Street residential neighborhood. However, Huja only said that he “maybe” supports a US 29 Bypass.
When asked about improving the school system, Huja stated that he would like to lower the dropout rate, and add more focus on education for very young children (ages 3-4). He also articulated an interest in making sure that every student is challenged.
Paul Beyer voiced interest in the promotion of economic and cultural expression of Charlottesville, especially through job creation and small businesses during his opening statements. Mr. Beyer supports construction of both the Meadowcreek Parkway, and a US 29 Bypass if fully funded by the state along with other local projects including Belmont Bridge replacement, Hillsdale Drive Extended, Berkmar Drive Extended, widening of Route 29, and improvements to the “Best Buy Ramp”. Beyer does not support a dredging and water conservation alternative to the new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir, and later in the forum, expressed desire for City Council to move on from the issue of the water supply plan in order to make time to discuss other priorities.
When asked how he would support improvements in the Charlottesville School System, Beyer said that Council should focus on job creation and vocational training to ensure students have jobs after they graduate.
Brevy Cannon emphasized the need for middle class jobs coupled with job training to solve the issue of high cost of living and affordable housing in Charlottesville. Mr. Cannon also believes in attracting and retaining businesses through tax incentives. Cannon cited the planned biotechnology park as one of the best career ladder jobs for Charlottesville residents to pursue. He supports the model it follows: investing in old infrastructure to create new industry that can grow.
Cannon supports both the Meadowcreek Parkway and the proposed US 29 Bypass as currently proposed if fully funded by the state along with other local projects listed above. However, he views dredging as a necessary maintenance measure that must happen before a new dam is built. He clarified later in the evening that he is not opposed to building the dam at Ragged Mountain, only that he believes dredging South Fork Rivanna Reservoir should be the starting point in addressing community water needs.
James Halfaday listed hard work, determination and perseverance as the leadership skills he plans to bring to Council. His priorities are educating community members, and equal opportunities for citizens to live prosperous and fulfilling lives. Mr. Halfaday supports construction of the Meadowcreek parkway and the US 29 Bypass if fully funded by the state along with other local projects as listed above. Halfaday also supports dredging before creating a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. When asked the top responsibilities of Council, Mr. Halfaday mentioned accountability to residents of Charlottesville, education, and making fiscally conservative decisions.
Galvin supports construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway, but not US 29 Bypass as it is currently proposed. According to Galvin, City Council should be engaged in visioning, strategic planning and monitoring its own performance. When asked the best opportunities to develop career-ladder jobs for Charlottesville residents, Galvin named investment in infrastructure, and promoting local industry. She reiterated these points in defense of a school configuration project (referencing Buford Middle School) estimated (according to audience member) to cost upwards of $40 million. Galvin explained that the project was an opportunity to rethink pedagogy, and create a civic center that could inspire revitalization along Cherry Avenue.
The Democratic primary is scheduled for Saturday, August 20 at Burley Middle School. At this event, three of the Democratic Candidates will be nominated for the general election ballot.
Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org
All photos (except Satyendra Huja) credit: individual campaign websites
Satyendra Huja photo credit: City of Charlottesville