The Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association sponsored a City Council candidates forum on September 20th, 2007. The five candidates for three seats took questions on a range of issues concerning the neighborhood, including whether City neighborhoods should be protected from growth in Albemarle County, how traffic on Old Lynchburg Road can be calmed or stopped, as well as other issues pertinent to the whole City of Charlottesville. The moderator is John Santoski, president of the Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association.
Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo
Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20070920-FrysSpringForum.mp3
Download the transcript
Watch the video:
"I plan to give voice to issues that are entangled with housing, education, and health care, and I believe that I can be effective because of my experience of providing credible leadership in the community."
"We are at a critical point in the history of Charlottesville, and we need to pick a path that will be sensitive to the needs of the community as well as the changes in our economy and the demands for growth."
"I think it's a really interesting discussion to have this discussion not simply be about the City, but to be a discussion that can occur with the same discussion occurring in the County at the same time...Our issues are intertwined. Affordable housing is not just a City issue. Growth is not just a County issue."
"I'm running for City Council because last spring the City budget cycle was mesmerizingly appalling... The number one thing that really caught my attention was the million dollar set aside for the new ambulance program that didn't really dovetail with [Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad] at all... How does the City keep going forward with this kind of a structure of relying so heavily on homeowners to finance all the costs of the city?"
"I'm looking at the future, how we can make this community an even better community... My definition of a good neighborhood is where I would love to live myself... Other areas in which interest me is the preservation and enhancement of the environment... I would love to see our transit system be better transit system, more frequent, direct and dependable."
Highlights from selected questions
What two issues do you believe are of particular importance to the residents of Fry's Spring, and if elected, what specific steps would you take to address them? (the candidates received this question in advance)
Brown: "This is a neighborhood that's under a tremendous amount of stress... I think the first one is encroachment from Albemarle County... and I think the solution to that is that we have to have a connector, there has to be a connector between Sunset and Fontaine and we have to work earnestly to make that happen. The second thing is pedestrian and bike safety... Hopefully we can deal with it by better traffic enforcement to cut down the speeding, by putting money into improvements on Old Lynchburg Road..."
Haskins: "One would be property tax relief... It sounds as if you all have had to become a shadow government, and take on a lot of governmental functions in terms of monitoring development, roads, planning, infrastructure and advocacy... It seems to me the major players in City Hall need to have a change in how they are rated anually on their performance... where you actually ask the customers of an individual how did they do. And obviously if you take someone like Mr. Tolbert, he has customers in City Hall but every neighborhood association is also his customer... We need to change the process so that neighborhood association opinions matter for his performance evaluations."
Huja: "There are many needs in your neighborhood, and at least eight of them I saw on your website... I have visited almost all of them... You should be deciding what is most important in your neighborhood, and not City Council... First, is the replacement of the JPA Bridge, because I think it's not safe... I support a narrow version of the bridge as you have suggested... Second is improved safety and drainage on Old Lynchburg Road."
Kleeman: "First of all, growth is the pressure, I think here as well as in other neighborhoods in the City... My feeling is that things the City can do, besides working closely with the County, is to really identify what the growth potentials are in our City, and what the desirable growth is within our City... The second issue I think that is of concern is communication among neighborhoods and the City. I'm a member of the North Downtown neighborhood, and I know that neighborhood, as this neighborhood, has difficulty communicating their ideas to staff, to Councilors... As a Councilor, I would certainly encourage my colleagues to ask that any of the interested stakeholders in a community are invited to participate."
Edwards: "The neighborhood has inherited issues that have been bequeathed to them by the County... the two issues that are most important are traffic volume and speed, and the Sunset-Fontaine Connector. What I'd like to provide regarding neighborhood issues I have labeled the three E's: ears... equity... evaluation..."
Do you think City Council's Strategic Vision 2025 is adequate with respect to protecting and improving residential neighborhoods, and making sure traffic never cuts through neighborhood streets such as Old Lynchburg Road?
Kleeman: "We need to say, if we're going to grow, how are we going to protect certain neighborhoods from being the conduit for flow between where people are going to live and where they're going to work and where they're going to shop, and we need to have a more strategic idea of where we're going to be starting in 2007, where we're going to be in 2012, where we're going to be in 2017... We just don't have the ability from now into the future, and I think that's what's necessary."
Edwards: "I have two sets of twins, so when I look around the neighborhoods and I think about the plans, I want them to be able to say, 'Mommy, I want to go outside and play...' So when I think about the 2025 vision, I'm accountable to the people who call me Mommy now..."
Huja: "There are solutions to solve those problems, unfortunately, there are not solutions to every problem... A few years back I recommended to City Council to close Sunset.... there was no other option. We need to channel all traffic on major arteries and collector streets and minimize traffic... I'm not so sure I can change things so quickly."
Haskins: "I become concerned when I hear words like never and always and forever, because it's very hard to endorse absolutes... My biggest theme is, does it make sense to be the City? A lot of these issues are about the County and County development, and does it make sense for us to remain a discrete political entity?"
Brown: "The bigger question being asked really is about safety and quality of life on streets as more and more streets are subject to cut through traffic... The Greenbrier neighborhood is very alarmed by the amount of cut-through traffic that's now going between Rio Road through their neighborhood to get to the Bypass... We can name a lot of places, and in fact, I kind of thought maybe challenge this audience and say how many people here don't have a favorite little cut-through?
A recent traffic count recorded 4200 cars passing through Old Lynchburg Road in a 24-hour period, and within a one-hour period, they recorded 104 cars running through the stop sign. If we can't stop the traffic now, what are we going to do when developments such as Biscuit Run are fully built?
Haskins: "Who makes the money appear for the connector road? We don't control that at all... I wonder if Old Lynchburg Road were one-way if that would force people to think much harder about the routes they're taking? I know that would be a total inconvenience to you, but you're already completely inconvenienced."
Huja: "Things are not hopeless... With additional fines, that may help... I don't think you can change the number unless the connector road is built or the transit idea is used."
Brown: "We need better enforcement of our traffic laws... We need a fully staffed police department, and we don't have a fully staffed police department... I think the big solution, and it's one I believe we can do, is a connection between Sunset and Fontaine... I believe in order to make that road work, we'll need to have the City and the County come together and create a transportation district so we can create our own stream of revenue in order that we can issue our own bonds because if we wait for the state to come up with the money to pay for a new road, we'll be waiting for a long time."
Edwards: "I know the County supports the Sunset-Fontaine Connector, but I don't know how much of a priority that is. But I can offer a spirit of consistency to make sure it appears on their radar screen, because that has to happen."
Kleeman: "I understand what cut-through traffic is about and most of the people who are cutting through don't want to drive through my neighborhood... They would rather get where they're going some other way, as I do. I live downtown, I leave my car home. I get most places on foot. I can get there by bus. And we need to provide these same options to these people who are cutting through neighborhoods because they do not have that choice."
Do you agree or disagree that the price tag for the Community Water Supply plan, done all at once, is unjust for City residents whose water usage is dropping? Would you pledge to conduct an on-the-ground environmental impact statement for the 142 acres of land that will be flooded as part of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir Expansion?
Haskins: "I completely agree that costing it out this way socks it to the city, and we have endless boundary issues with the County over solid waster and water... Moving on to the second issue... there were many many many person hours that went into developing the idea of selecting the place for the reservoir, and so, to second think it at this point I think is a kind of a habit that we tend to have have, and I don't agree with that habit."
Huja: "The projection for our population growth is not for a great deal more than what we have now... I would think that we should pay a very limited part of the $142 million dollars if at all, only proportioned to our use... I'm not in a position to tell you about the second part, but I think the plan has been approved, but my understanding that of all the studies, this was the best option there was. I would be interested in seeing that open space that is going to be lost be replaced by other open space, and hopefully in the city or near the city."
Brown: "The city will invest in a small part of that plan... Even if we did nothing we would have to pay some to make improvements. The dam at Ragged Mountain has to be if not replaced, renovated, but we should not pay more than what we would be paying if we did nothing... Expanding the water supply is going to be Albemarle County's cross to bear..."
Edwards: "Because of the problems we're having with our water supply and the drought that we're in now, I find it unfortunate that the City has to pay that much... I'm sure we could probably explore more studies, but given the time frame, I think it's best to proceed with what we have in mind now."
Kleeman: "The City owns this land which happens to be in the County. The water resources are run by a special purpose government, the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority... My feeling is that City Council really has limited capacity to solve that problem totally, but that doesn't mean we can't take assertive action toward changing the way infrastructure is paid for... Added capacity needs due to growth need to be subsidized by that growth..."
Do you support changing the mission and the name of the Department of Neighborhood Development to be the Department of Neighborhood Preservation, and do you see the leadership of [Director] Jim Tolbert as being a positive influence on which ever of these two solutions you support?
Edwards: "I like the idea of changing the name to better encompass the values in the vision that we have for the future of the community... Regarding the staffing, I know the staff has worked hard and there's been a lot of struggles... we need to take the time to look at those struggles, evaluate what they are, and make a plan so that things are working well for everyone."
Kleeman: "The short answer is yes... I do believe Neighborhood Development Services is too large and it encompasses too many elements that are in conflict with each other..."
Huja: "You can name it anything you like. That doesn't change things very much. If you're going to change something, you need to think what are the functions of what it does, and how it does, and how it can do better. I do not agree with Peter that it's too big...
Haskins: "What I'm hearing embedded in your question is that development has become a toxic word for a lot of people... The City has finite ways of paying for itself, and it's on the homeowners... so, short of restructuring the entire financial set up for the city, it's going to be do it to the homeowners, or have more development, or both... The question is, what can we do so it's not so toxic?"
Brown: "I've never liked the name Neighborhood Development Services... I'd be in favor of changing the name to reflect more of what the community wants out of that office. I think a lot of the issues and problems that people have with that office stem from the changes to the zoning ordinance in 2003 which allowed a tremendous increase in by-right development throughout the city... I think a lot of good that comes out of having more density in certain areas, but I think a lot of the consequences weren't exactly thought through... The pace of development became so high it overwhelmed that development..."
My property taxes have more than tripled. Last year the City cut the tax rate by 2 cents, and my property taxes went up. Why?
Kleeman: "The issue is clearly one of understanding what it is we pay for, and why? I must admit I've looked at the budget the last few years, and I'm not sure what all of the categories are... Isn't it possible for us to divide out in the budget the items that are required by mandate from the state... and the discretionary funds. We only have as citizens the opportunity to manipulate the discretionary funding. I would very much like to know what proportion of our budget is discretionary, and what proportion is pretty much mandated."
Edwards: "It's because the University community that we're living in, and being able to buy and sell houses has been relatively easy..."
Brown: "State and federal mandates... No Child Left Behind puts a lot of burden on the schools. You have to do a lot of testing, you have to prepare for the resting. It was intended to come with funding to pay for all of that. It came with none... There are lots of costs that exceed inflation"
Haskins: "The ambulance program, a million dollars, that's two cents on your tax rate, and I find zero justification to do that... I'm cutting the taxes, do across the board cuts. Community wide, there has to be a discussion that we're willing to get by with less."
Huja: "As Americans, we have a habit of living beyond our means. We don't live on what we have, but what we hope to have... There are things we can control and should control. I also remember very vividly, every time we try to cut something, everybody wanted to cut, but not in their neighborhood, not in their program, not in their pet idea, but somebody else's. There ought to be a limit to budget increases...
It feels like to me that Albemarle County is pushing some stuff down our throat. I want to see a strong City Council... We're not getting anywhere. When I read the paper tomorrow, I want to see what you people are going to do for us... Albemarle County uses our road all the time like it's their's... I want to know what you all are going to do about it... I'm going to vote for the person who does the most for me... We want you to do something for us...
Huja: "We're here to listen to the concerns you have... and not only to listen, but to follow up on it."
Haskins: "Part of the stress on your neighborhood is all the development that's occured south of here in the County. It's happened. It's done. And, nobody here has the power to make connector roads, guaranteed. Given those two facts, it becomes making Old Lynchburg Road as toxic as possible for people who are using it from the County..."
Brown: "The solution to [Albemarle County development south of Fry's Spring] involves us getting them to step up to the plate and make the Connector road."
Kleeman: "The issue is to really accept the fact that we are the heart of the Charlottesville-Albemarle region and we need to take a leadership role and we need to talk to the people who are on the Board of Supervisors and actually work with them... Having personal relationships with some the people who are the leaders in these other jurisdictions I think is key... I believe Councilors have a whole lot of influence over what goes on in those other bodies as much as they do in the City."
Edwards: "I believe that for every Goliath there is a David, there's an opportunity to be the right leader with the right equipment at the right time. I believe the Council you will select will be the opportunity to be the right leader at the right time."
What would be the one thing on the discretionary side of the budget that you would cut in the face of upcoming revenue shortfalls?
Haskins: "I would kill the ambulance program, although the million dollars would have already been spent buying new ambulances, and they're hiring new staff... I tend to favor across the board reductions. It seems in the long run fairest to me when you have a bad situation you take the percentage of cut and just do it across the board."
Huja: "I do not know the details of the budget to talk intelligently... I really don't think I can respond to you at this time without studying the budget... But I would not be opposed to across the board cuts..."
Brown: "We have not spent the money on ambulances because we've got a study group... to try study the problem... The one thing I would have spent less money on last year and will vote to spend less on this year is in affordable housing. We've put a lot of money, a million dollars a year for five years we've committed to affordable housing programs...
Edwards: "I want to look at how the money has been spent, to see whether we're getting the outcomes that we're looking for... To say now which areas I would choose to decrease would be based on how effective that area has been over the last fiscal year..."
Kleeman: "Based on some of the comments made earlier today, I look at some of these large expenditure items in the City. For example, the expenditure that's going to be made in building the Meadowcreek Parkway and the Interchange. We're talking fifty to a hundred million dollars, to be expended in bringing more traffic into our community."
Edwards: "The entire community is only as strong as the neighborhoods, and this neighborhood is an example of that strength..."
Kleeman: "No other independent has ever won in the history of Charlottesville. I offer myself to you as a candidate because I think you want really someone who is not afraid of doing something that nobody has ever done before.... We need to find new innovative solutions that perhaps no one has done before. I think you need to consider me as a candidate, because that's what I do."
Brown: "It's very important as we move forward that we have a good working relationship with both the County of Albemarle and the University of Virginia... Relations are a little better between the City and the University and the City and the County than they were four years ago."
Haskins: "How do we pay to be the City and why are we doing it this way? We can choose to keep doing it this way, but I just hope people keep looking at the trajectory because it's going to cost lots and lots of money that's coming out of homeowners' pockets unless something changes."
Huja: "I will listen to you and learn from you and follow up on your concerns... I will return your calls... I will work with you and find solutions to your neighborhood concerns by working with you, not against you."
Timeline of podcast:
- 3:15 - Holly Edwards' opening statement
- 4:21 - Peter Kleeman's opening statement
- 6:14 - David Brown's opening statement
- 8:33 - Barbara Haskins' opening statement
- 11:10 - Satyendra Huja's opening statement
- 14:10 - Question 1: What two issues do you believe are of particular importance to the residents of Fry's Spring, and if elected, what specific steps would you take to address them?
- 26:08 - Question 2: Do you think City Council's Strategic Vision 2025 is adequate with respect to protecting and improving residential neighborhoods, and making sure traffic never cuts through neighborhood streets such as Old Lynchburg Road?
- 35:17 - Question 3: A recent traffic count recorded 4200 cars passing through Old Lynchburg Road in a 24-hour period, and within a one-hour period, they recorded 104 cars running through the stop sign. If we can't stop the traffic now, what are we going to do when developments such as Biscuit Run are fully built?
- 43:55 - Question 4: Do you agree or disagree that the price tag for the Community Water Supply plan, done all at once, is unjust for City residents whose water usage is dropping? Would you pledge to conduct an on-the-ground environmental impact statement for the 142 acres of land that will be flooded as part of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir Expansion?
- 53:17 - Question 5: Do you support changing the mission and the name of the Department of Neighborhood Development to be the Department of Neighborhood Preservation, and do you see the leadership of [Director] Jim Tolbert as being a positive influence on which ever of these two solutions you support?
- 1:00:39 - Question 6: I would like to know if you would support the idea of making Old Lynchburg Road one of the places that you would allow us to put a photo-red camera to give our police force extra eyes to stem the problem of the high volume, high speeding that we currently have to endure on Old Lynchburg Road?
- 1:08:31 - Question 7: My property taxes have more than tripled. Last year the City cut the tax rate by 2 cents, and my property taxes went up. Why?
- 1:18:30 - Question 8: Question about Council oversight over City staff
- 1:24:54 - Question 9: Does everyone agree that we need an increase in the police department?
- 1:28:20 - Question 10: Question about what Councilors will do to address Old Lynchburg Roads concern
- 1:36:34 - Question 11: What would be the one thing on the discretionary side of the budget that you would cut in the face of upcoming revenue shortfalls?
- 1:46:17 - Holly Edwards' closing statement
- 1:47:23 - Peter Kleeman's closing statement
- 1:48:53 - David Brown's closing statement
- 1:50:19 - Barbara Haskin's closing statement
- 1:51:40 - Satyendra Huja's closing statement