Third independent joins race for Charlottesville City Council
A member of the Socialist Party of Central Virginia has announced he will run as an independent candidate for Charlottesville City Council.
“I’m in this to win, and it’s a long shot, but I think I can do it,” said Brandon Collins in an interview Monday. “We live in a really messed up world and we’ve got to start changing things now or we’re pretty much doomed.”
Collins, 37, is a lifelong resident of Charlottesville and a graduate of Charlottesville High School. He is a board member of the Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and a co-founder of the Cville Workers Action Network.
Collins is a musician who works at the Blue Moon Diner and as a caretaker of a person with cerebral palsy.
In recent weeks, Collins has appeared before the council to oppose the Meadow Creek Parkway, to call for dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and to ask that the city distance itself from the emerging presence of the defense sector in the region.
“You can resist the war here in local government by taking a look at the massive amount of contractors we have here in Charlottesville, seeing what role the city plays with those folks, and eliminating that role altogether,” Collins said at the council’s April 18 meeting.
One way to do that, Collins said, would be to prevent defense contractors and the military from participating in city-sponsored job fairs.
Collins’ platform would double the amount of funding for affordable housing programs and expand full public transit service to Sundays and to add late night service.
But Collins said he was still considering how the city could raise more revenue to pay for his suggested programs.
“Raising taxes might harm the working class and poor folks,” Collins said. However, he said increasing tax rates for businesses would be an option.
Collins said he would like to pass a law requiring both public and private employers to pay a “living wage,” but acknowledged the General Assembly would need to give the city authority to do so.
“We can say we want a living wage for everyone in Charlottesville, but we can’t legally do that,” Collins said. He added that one possible suggestion would be to deny certain permits to companies that don’t offer a living wage.
Collins said he thinks Charlottesville is ready to elect a Socialist to its City Council, and that his party can’t grow until its ideas are on the table.
“There are plenty of progressives who support some of the things we talk about, and they may not be Socialists, but they’re willing to listen,” Collins said. “The Democratic Party might be scared of being labeled [Socialist], but for the most part progressive people and working-class voters are supportive.”
He said he is still collecting signatures and hopes to file his first paperwork with Charlottesville Registrar Sheri Iachetta by the end of the week.
Two Democrats, incumbent Satyendra Huja and challenger James Halfaday, have announced their intention to seek their party’s nomination at an August 20 unassembled caucus. Councilors Dave Norris and Kristin Szakos aren’t up for re-election until 2013.
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