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November 04, 2011

City Council candidates on promoting employment

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In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.

CITY COUNCIL, SIXTH IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comLast month the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce reported that Charlottesville lost 3,248 jobs during the years 2000 to 2010.  What specifically should city council do to promote employment?


 

Scott Bandy (I) - Challenger

The regulations in this city, and I’m going to borrow from another candidate…Mr. Fenwick… He said at his initial announcement that this isn’t a business-friendly city. It’s not. With regulations in place and ordinances as they are, they are not conducive to businesses, and I mean both commercial and industrial… That has got to be amended, that has got to be addressed, and it’s got to be changed… We are pinched for jobs. People are out there economically hurting like no time before in the history not just of this city, but of this country.

We must do what we can, not just to only encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses, but to be a welcoming place where we can attract those businesses that will complement, not go against, the grain of what this city is. We are a very environmentally conscious city, we are a very knowledgeable city. You can’t ask for a better place to live, but we are struggling. People like I said before are moving not just into nearby counties, but into counties in the region, into counties outside the region, because we are not providing our citizens with sources of income to supplement their families. We are not providing that economic highway to prosperity and self-sufficiency. We must take it head on. We must grab this bull by the horns.

 

Brandon Collins (I) - Challenger

Well it’s a hot topic and I am glad to bring this consistently to council’s attention and I have been raising this a lot in the campaign.  I feel like we have a duty to do everything we can to get people jobs that pay a living wage, and if not, then we have a duty to directly employ those people.  There is a lot of movement in this city to have a much more sustainable city, to improve our infrastructure, improve our neighborhoods, and we can put a lot of people to work doing that.  We can get outside funding to do some of that stuff. 

Overall, I would like to be at a point four years from now where we can begin to consider guaranteeing that every resident can get a job.  The way we can get there is by working to reverse the balance of jobs to workers, providing a lot more jobs, to the point where the market on human labor begins to shift in favor of workers so that all workers are beginning to earn a better wage.

My plan for getting started on this is to get a job center open in downtown Charlottesville.  Not to mimic the Virginia Employment Commission, or the workforce development center, as it’s called now, but to supplement that. This would be a central location that can coordinate different agencies, different offices and a wide range of private business and human resources here in Charlottesville to make sure that people have access to jobs that they have access to job training. …

I think we can greatly expand public works.  We can expand public transportation.  We can really do a lot with parks and recreation.  We can expand our parks.  We can greatly upgrade our city to set the bar high and say we are going to make every city-owned piece of property energy self-sufficient….

Again, attracting new [business], perhaps industry that hires great numbers of people that are going to greatly benefit our community, is something we need to be looking at and we need to be very careful about what those businesses are.

 

Bob Fenwick (I) - Challenger

Well, workforce development/jobs, I’d turn this wording around.  Jobs come first.  Any jobs, not just high level green jobs or white collar jobs.  Any jobs.  Our national and local economy is stuck in the trickle-down economic mode which leads to a boom and bust recurring cycle and the biggest developers justify this because they provide jobs and housing stock. 

Well, how’s that working out?  Just look around and you can see the vacant buildings, residential and commercial, that are keeping real estate prices depressed.  Or the number of real estate owners who owe more on their property than the market value.  Personally, I’m tired of waiting for the trickle to get down to my level.  I would advocate for a bubble-up theory in which every class of work is respected. 

Our largest developers and real estate brokers are in trouble, not because they don’t have enough businesses or houses to sell.  They don’t have enough customers to buy them. 

In the past seven months, I have come across any number of men and women who wake in the middle of the night wondering when this economic malaise is going to end.  There is much our city can do and we should get to it.

 

Kathy Galvin (D) - Challenger

That’s a two-fold issue.  You’ve got the need to create the jobs, have the jobs, and then you have the need to have a workforce that is ready for those jobs.  That statistic that you just relayed is all about the loss of jobs, it doesn’t even talk about whether or not our workforce is matched up to the employment opportunities that we currently have or that we’re gearing our economic development strategies to attract certain jobs to match our workforce skills.  So I believe we need to…look at our workforce readiness…

…[C]lose to 30 percent of our population in the city do not earn enough money to cover basic expenses.  They are always catching up.  That’s partly because one of the growth sectors in the city is hospitality.  That is excellent for the tourist industry, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to be able to support a family on that.  The other important growth areas has been the medical profession.  You need a high level of skill for that and I think we need to be very candid that some of our adult population probably have literacy issues…

So we need to grow.  We need to grow our industry.  We need to support our existing industry.  We need to make sure we have a workforce that’s ready for these jobs and currently that’s not totally lined up. 

I think the other important thing to keep in mind, is that the city has been investing in a lot of job training programs.  I have looked at the city’s strategic plans, it is one of their goals to have a sustainable economy.  I am not clear yet how they’ve been measuring progress.  I am not sure how we as a city are holding our own efforts accountable to a goal… Are we really achieving our goal which is to deal with the chronic unemployment, the structural unemployment… I want to make sure that we are all not just duplicating efforts again.  What is the goal? What is the next step?  Who is going to implement it?

...That’s the kind of thing we need to be doing.  It’s multifaceted, it’s got to be coordinated, and it’s got to be held accountable.  And that means some one entity needs to be responsible for it, and right now I don’t see exactly who that is.

 

Satyendra Huja (D) - Incumbent

The city can do a number of things.  One of the things that we can do is a targeted workforce development programs so the citizens can have qualifications for well-paying jobs in our community.  When the jobs come, citizens need to be trained and ready for those jobs.  A good job as you know is the most important anti-poverty program there is. 

We need to work also with the university to locate new technology [businesses] in our community.  We can also assist small businesses and minority [owned] businesses because most of the jobs are created by the small businesses and we need to assist them with their venture.  We can also provide some financial incentives to locate new businesses [in the city], like tax increment financing, where we can encourage a business to locate in our city.  For example, CFA located in the Martha Jefferson [Hospital] property because of tax incentives we provided them.

 

Dede Smith (D) - Challenger

This is where I think it would be interesting to work with UVa, to promote industry, whether we are attracting it from elsewhere or whether we are growing it ourselves, that really grows an identity.  The biomedical technology is one that people often cite, and it’s very real and it’s very promising, but there are other promising industries that are really being incubated at UVa.  Whether it’s energy-based or education-based, I think it would be a good idea to really look to what kind of support those kind of industries need and then work around that.  It would also take, if our citizens aren’t the ones getting those jobs it’s not going to help us that much, so certainly from this perspective, we need to ensure we have training in our community to support those kinds of industries.

 

Andrew Williams (I) - Challenger

We need to attract new employment, and encourage the support of existing businesses here. We need to move forward with vocational training and stop throwing money at the problem. I want Charlottesville to find a cure to this economic problem and not just something that people are able to just live with.

We need to find a cure for this economic issue, and going back to an educated population, or an educated people, people will create jobs. I’m not undermining the potential of our Charlottesville residents as well. It’s just that some appear to have less of an advantage or less of an opportunity. Even the mere idea that they have an opportunity sometimes escapes them.

I think that Charlottesville needs to invest a lot of time into the weak links in Charlottesville. That’s the underrepresented communities. While we need to support public housing, we need to equally support vocational training, we need to improve the dropout rate by getting parents involved, and we need to practice what we preach and really try to move forward and try to help every citizen. Now to an extent, because it’s families, and you can’t take a student and say it is the teacher’s responsibility or the school or they system’s responsibility to raise that child, it starts at home. But we need to provide homes with the opportunity to generate more income and I think that a lot of people would be a little happier if they had money in their pocket to buy groceries and to get gas…

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