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May 07, 2009

Charlottesville Democrats hold forum for three City Council candidates

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20090506-forum2

By Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 7, 2009

The three Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination for the two open seats on the Charlottesville City Council have held their final debate before an open primary on Saturday, May 9, 2009. Incumbents Dave Norris and Julian Taliaferro along with challenger Kristin Szakos spent an hour answering questions at the party’s candidates’ forum on May 6, 2009.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090506-Dems-Candidates-Forum

Watch the video: Video: City Council Candidate Forum #2

Mayor Dave Norris said that if he is re-elected, he looks forward to the revitalization of the City’s public housing sites. He says redevelopment will be the community’s “best opportunity” to increase the amount of affordable housing units. Norris also said he would like Council to have more authority over the hiring and firing  of City department heads.

Challenger Kristin Szakos called for holding City Council meetings outside of Council Chambers, meetings where dinner and childcare would be made available to attendees. Szakos also said she supported a dedicated City fund for affordable housing, called for the upgrading of the Charlottesville Transit System to a “more urban” system, and said she would be a careful watchdog of City staff.

Incumbent Julian Taliaferro said he wanted to complete the community’s 50-year water supply plan, defended his unwillingness to support a dedicated affordable housing fund, and said he has the experience to help the City through the next few years of economic turmoil. Taliaferro also said he is capable of standing up to City Manager Gary O’Connell. 

Moderator Sean McCord had the opportunity to ask questions on current issues facing the City. None of the candidates felt the City had the responsibility to help complete the abandoned Landmark Hotel project on the Downtown Mall. 

On the topic of the Hillsdale Drive/Regal Cinema 4 expansion issue, Norris said a “communications breakdown” between City staff and the developers has lead to a misunderstanding that he said could be solved by moving the road’s alignment. Szakos said the City did not do a good job of bringing all the stakeholders together to explain the road’s purpose. Taliaferro did not directly answer this question, but did explain why he continued to be a supporter of the Meadowcreek Parkway.

Saturday’s unassembled caucus will be held from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM at Burley Middle School on Rose Hill Drive in Charlottesville. Registered City voters can participate as long as they are willing to sign a loyalty pledge that says they will not support another party’s candidate or an independent candidate in the general election.

See Charlottesville Tomorrow's Election Watch page for complete coverage of the City's 2009 elections.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 – Introduction of forum from moderator Sean McCord
  • 02:40 – Opening statement from Mayor Dave Norris
  • 04:10 – Opening statement from challenger Kristin Szakos
  • 05:10 – Opening statement from incumbent Julian Taliaferro
  • 07:00 – Question #1: “If you are elected or re-elected to the City Council and you return to a public forum like this a year from now, what would you like to say you accomplished after this year?”
  • 11:30 – Question #2: “What distinguishes you as a Democratic candidate and what are the advantages of electing Democrats to City Council?”
  • 17:00 – Question #3: “Do you think the City and the City taxpayers have a responsibility to help finish the Landmark Hotel project, and what would you like to see done with it?”
  • 19:30 – Question #4: “Regal Cinema 4 has announced plans to rebuild their cinema behind K-Mart with additional screens and stadium seating. Many area residents are excited that they won’t have to drive to Short Pump in order to have a modern movie-going experience. Unfortunately, that theater sits directly in the path of the $30 million proposed road construction project to extend Hillsdale Drive to Hydraulic Road. At the same time, a group of concerned citizens have gone to court to prevent the construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway through McIntire Park. What do you propose, both short term and long term, as a solution to our traffic problems and to citizen opposition to building new roads?”
  • 27:30 – Audience question #1: “We have a city manager form of government, and over the years I’ve come to believe that the city manager wields more power than anyone else for setting priorities and making decisions. My question to all three of you is, what system do you have in place to watchdog the city manager?”
  • 33:30 – Audience question #2: (directed at Taliaferro) “You mentioned affordable housing in your opening statement. On several occasions, you have publicly endorsed the creation of a dedicated fund for affordable housing, but when it came time to vote for it, you were the deciding vote against it. How do you reconcile your public statements against it with your [previous] campaign promises?”
  • 39:00 – Audience question #3: “I hear each Council member speak for affordable housing. The last time I heard someone talk about affordable housing they  built 12 houses in the 10th and Page neighborhood, and they were all $300,000 homes. Can someone define affordable housing and who are they going to build these affordable housing units for when a large majority of people in this town are not doctors and lawyers and only have incomes [between] $30,000 or $35,000? What kind of affordable housing are we offering those citizens?”
  • 42:35 – Audience question #4: “You are supposed to be voting the will of the people. You’re up there representing me and other people in this room and other people not in this room. I don’t want you to vote what you think is best. I want you to vote what I think is best and what your constituents say is the best. Would you comment on that, please?”
  • 48:00 – Norris asks Szakos: “What is it about community organizing that has helped to shape the way you would serve this community as a City Councilor?”
  • 50:00 – Szakos asks Norris: “What is one thing that you were not able to  achieve during your first term that you’re running for reelection so that you can accomplish?”
  • 52:00: Taliaferro asks Norris: “How do you think we can bring more pressure to bear to move [the 50 year community water supply] forward?”
  • 53:45 – Closing statement from Taliaferro
  • 54:45 – Closing statement from Szakos
  • 55:55 – Closing statement from Norris
  • 57:45 – Comments from City Democratic Co-Chair Jonathan Blank

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