FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
By. Neil Williamson, President
Looking across the region, the Free Enterprise Forum is heartened that a majority of the local races are contested.
We applaud all those seeking to serve; it is a major time commitment. Earlier this year when considering their annual salary ($14,542), Albemarle Supervisor Dennis Rooker joked “Where are the living wage folks now” considering the significant number of hours each supervisor dedicates to the “part time” supervisor position. We concur with Mr. Rooker’s statement and recognize the significant sacrifices most supervisors make to provide representation at a myriad of committees and commission meetings.
With that being said we believe a strong, vibrant and fair contest for Supervisor (or City Council) enriches the community engagement, shines a light on the import of local government and makes for better public policy.
From big picture discussions of development areas and enterprise zones to more finite conversations about how the noise ordinance impacts local businesses, the community is stronger for the vetting of views. Absent a credible challenger, incumbents tend to do the minimum amount of campaigning required to make sure folks know they are running.
The 2013 election is an “off” year election. Back in 2009, voter turnout hovered around 40%. Interestingly, that 40% was rather evenly split in Albemarle County where both contested Board of Supervisors races were won by about 300 votes (5%). Make no mistake your vote matters.
This is an historic election in Albemarle where four supervisors will be elected (Scottsville for the balance of Chris Dumler’s term).
Considering all four Albemarle County Board of Supervisors contests have two candidates the math wiz in me has determined there are sixteen possible candidate combinations to join the one Democrat (Mallek) and one Republican (Boyd) to make the 2014-16 Board of Supervisors (see graphic)
Based on the current slate of candidates, Albemarle’s Board is guaranteed to gain some gender balance as both announced Scottsville candidates (Burkett, Dittmar) are female.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that when voters are provided a true choice, election turnout increases. It will be most interesting to see how voter turnout in the City of Charlottesville with a full slate of political party candidates in 2013 compares to the 2009 election which featured two independent candidates (Fenwick, Long) vs. two Democrats (Szakos, Norris).
Greene County voters will also have choices this year as both seats up for election are contested. In the newly created Midway District, incumbent Jim Frydl is facing a challenge from Steve Keene. With the retirement of Clarence “Buggs” Peyton, the open Stanardsville Supervisor seat is being sought by former At Large Supervisor Patsy Morris and William “Bill” Martin.
Incumbent Don Weaver is running unopposed for the Cunningham district seat in Fluvanna County. In the Columbia District, Elizabeth Franklin is running against John “Mike” Sheridan. Voters in the Rivanna District will have a choice between Tony O’Brien or Frederick “Rick” Kelly.
With so much money flowing into Virginia to fund advertising in the only competitive gubernatorial race in the country, it may prove hard to hear the local candidates above the Richmond hum – but listen. Take the time to learn who is running to be your local government representative and why.
The Free Enterprise Forum will do our part by asking candidates “The Free Enterprise Five” five questions that hopefully will provide the candidates the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their opponents on critical issues of the day. We will run their answers to the questions in late September/early October on the blog.
As the days start to get longer and we prepare for “Friday night lights” please spend some time getting to know your local candidates. To paraphrase the late clothier Sy Simms “An educated citizen is our best voter”.
Neil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville. www.freeenterpriseforum.org