Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The buck stops with McKeever

McKeever, Edwards, moderator Santowski, Seaman, Huja
Four of the five announced candidates for City Council responded to questions from the public Tuesday night. About 50 people attended the forum sponsored by the Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association at the Fry's Spring Beach Club. Three of the candidates will be nominated June 2 at the Democratic nominating convention.

As I was leaving tonight's forum, I spoke with Satyendra Huja briefly. I have been a harsh critic of Huja's record as the city's urban planner. But still he asked for my vote. I said I can't vote because I'm not a Democrat. He said you don't have to be. There are no Republican candidates. The convention pledge requires you support the Democratic nominees, not be a Democrat.

Huja stood in contrast to Jennifer McKeever although both are eyewitnesses to Charlottesville's recent history.

Huja said he's been here since 1973. He provided some healing on the urban renewal issue by saying he has a record and that record goes both ways. You get credit for the good things and blame for the bad things. He said he's been in public service most of his life because he cares about the community and can make a difference.

McKeever said she's lived here fore 22 years and was 13 when her family moved here. She knows "how dramatic the changes have been." She attended public schools, PVCC, UVA, and left for law school and to work for legal aid. She's on the board for Community Development Block Grant funding and Parks and Rec. She has a law practice and two small children.

Linda Seaman is also running for City Council. She's been here for 33 years and has two daughters who went through city schools. Seaman has been on the school board for 9 years and 2 years as chairman. She's now chairman of the board directing CATECH.

Holly Edwards came here 16 years ago for nursing and had intended to stay one year. But she never left. She has several degrees including nursing and psychology. She's been helping to connect people in public housing with available services. So she is familiar with public policy from the customer's perspective. She now believes it's time to move to the next level- the policy level, where rules and regulations are formulated.

Mayor David Brown did not attend but did send his responses to the association's 2 questions it had asked the candidates in advance. When the moderator announced that those responses were posted in the hallway, the crowd laughed in ridicule at the mayor for avoiding the hot seat. The association has packed several Council meetings on different issues since the mayor was elected May 2004.

A theme echoed by all the candidates was accountability and followup and enforcement. Huja explained that Council tells staff what to do. Staff does not tell Council what to do although it may seem that way. Seaman said Council is responsible to hold the city manager accountable, who oversees all the departments. Edwards said we need a mechanism to followup on staff. McKeever said we should follow the plans we create. We must rebuild trust between city neighborhoods and city government. On accountability, she declared "the buck will stop with me."

In response to audience questions about Neighborhhood Development Services, Huja said "it bothers me" since he basically was that department.

One person complained about his Section 8 neighbors and asked if the the candidates would continue to fund it at the expense of blue collar workers. This was an interesting question. None of the candidates could say they support it or that they don't support it. All the candidates support welfare in its various forms.

Also tonight, Sean McCord asked me to sign his petition to put his name on the ballot for school board. Alvin Edwards is the other announced candidate for the 4 seats up for election November 6.

Finally I wanted to dispell a myth created last year by Councilor Kevin Lynch, who was present at tonight's forum but not running for reelection after 2 terms.

One audience member tonight was concerned about losing parkland and cited 2 examples: McIntire Park for Meadowcreek Parkway and the trails surrounding the Ragged Mountain Reservoir to be inundated when the 1885 reservoir is expanded again. The speaker claimed the city will lose park land to the reservoir expansion. But that is not park land. The land was aquired for water storage and is now being used for recreation. Back in the 1800s the town was planning ahead.

Take this example: I buy a piece of land to build a house. But I can't afford or need the house for 10 years. Meanwhile I let people use the land for picnics and soccer games. Then when I build the house, people say I'm taking away park land. Change the 10 years to 120 and change the house to a reservoir; then you have the same thing.

Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association


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