Council candidates talk water, infrastructure
Six of the eight candidates running for the Charlottesville City Council gave their view on the Meadow Creek Parkway, the water supply plan and electoral reform during a forum held Tuesday by Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress.
Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110920-CityCouncilForum
In his opening statement, Democratic incumbent Satyendra Huja, 69, pointed to news that a major website recently ranked Charlottesville as one of the best places to live in the country.
“This is no accident, and I have played a role,” Huja said. He cited his work in developing the Downtown Mall, creating a tree commission and volunteer work with Meals on Wheels.
Brandon Collins, 38, is a lifelong resident who has worked as a socialist activist at the state and national level.
“We hear a lot of talk about how great our city is, but Charlottesville, for many of our residents, remains a difficult place to live and a difficult place just to get by,” Collins said. He added that if elected, he would be an independent voice on the council.
Kathy Galvin, 55, said she was qualified for the council because of her experience as both an architect and as a current member of the school board.
“I can make a unique contribution if elected,” said Galvin, who is running as a Democrat.
Independent Bob Fenwick said one of the biggest threats to the city is the need to invest in capital projects while citizens are facing the potential of a double-dip recession.
“The city is poised to commit $300 million to huge public items like a new dam, a new pump station, the replacement of Belmont Bridge and replacement of sewer infrastructure,” Fenwick said. “I am poised to bring to City Council a look at these expenditures and help [Council] make the best decision.”
Dede Smith, 55 and a former member of the school board, said Charlottesville has been a great place to raise two children and that voting for herself and the rest of the Democratic ticket is the best way to keep it that way.
“I think you would see we would bring a wealth of experience, decision making and proven leadership to council,” Smith said.
Andrew Williams, 25, the only African-American in the council race, said he is running as an independent so he can bring a nonpartisan voice to the council.
“To become a world class city, shouldn’t we have a diverse representation on council?” Williams asked. He said his experience as a claims adjuster for State Farm showed he had the inquisitiveness and ingenuity to serve.
After opening statements, candidates were asked to give quick responses to three questions.
Collins, Fenwick, Smith and Williams said they would favor dredging of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and water conservation as a first step to increase the community water supply plan before building on the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.
Galvin indicated a new or taller dam should be the first step, though Huja said he would be open to studying dredging as a component of the water supply plan.
On the Meadow Creek Parkway, Huja and Galvin said they supported construction while the rest of the candidates said they were opposed.
The candidates were also asked if they would support a switch to how councilors are elected. Currently all councilors are elected at-large.
Collins and Williams both expressed their “cautious support” for ward-based elections. Fenwick said he was a “strong supporter” of the idea. Huja said he would support a combined system of both ward-based and at-large councilors. Smith and Galvin said the public should be asked what they think about the idea.
Jobs were a major theme during the forum. Candidates were reminded that a recent report from the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce showed a net loss of 3,248 jobs over the past ten years.
Smith said the report offered an opportunity for the community to find a new identity for employees and employers.
“The biomedical industry meshes well but there are others,” Smith said. “We have a large university that is a major attractant to certain industries. We [also] need to retool our education system to produce a workforce that can be employed.”
Williams said that money spent on public housing could perhaps better be spent on vocational training.
“Educated people will go out and create jobs,” Williams said. “We should provide training in locations that need it. We should scrutinize the budget and make sure we are spending money where the needs are.
Huja said the city should help small businesses locate here because that is where most job creation can be done.
“I have suggested a very ambitious plan for guaranteed employment,” Collins said. “This is not something that can happen overnight but there are steps that can take us there.”
Fenwick said that he would favor council actions that would create jobs and not simply create more opportunities for workforce development.
“What good does workforce development do if we don’t have jobs?” Fenwick asked. “We talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk.”
The two candidates with experience on the school board had divergent views on whether the school system should reconfigure itself by moving 5th- and 6th-grade students to an expanded Buford Middle School.
“I do support the reconfiguration,” Galvin said. She said the capital expenditure would pay for itself over 20 years by helping to reduce operational costs.
However, Smith said she did not support the idea, but would like to hear more information.
|The candidate forum participants
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