The five candidates for three Democratic nominations for City Council held another in a series of candidate forums at Buford Middle School on May 22, 2007. The organizers of this forum decided to go with an informal approach, and opted to have the candidates and about thirty audience members gather around tables for an informal conversation. Topics covered a wide range of events, from affordable living choices to Council’s role of in city schools. Leah Puryear of the Charlottesville City School Board served as the moderator.
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Highlights from the forum related to growth and development issues:
Question: “How does each candidate feel about merging county and the city together?”
: ” think it’s time for us to sit down with the county and start talking again, because we have a revenue sharing agreement that we’ve only ever executed half of it, that is the half that involves the county sending some money to the city every year. The other half of that agreement indicates that we should have continued talking about consolidating various services and moving forward towards merger. But after a while I guess it was easier to write a check then it was to talk.”
: “I believe that we have merged some services including social services and libraries and we have an agreement between the fire departments and those are the types of things that I’d like to see. I think we are two distinct entities and I would like to see the culture be distinct and continue to be distinct. We are a city. They are a county.”
: “The county and the city have been dating for a number of years and I believe one had been waiting for the other to pop the question. I think clearly there are wonderful things about the city and wonderful things about the county, that merging services and consolidating services would make sense because of the resources. I think as we continue the conversation that we find common ground in terms of the health and safety of both communities, people by and large believe that’s important, so maybe its essential to begin that conversation by thinking about what can we consolidate that would be beneficial to both. What I don’t want to happen is that while we’re dating we give birth to an idea that will cause a shot-gun wedding before we are ready to actually go the altar.”
: “There are a number of area where we can cooperate in in services, in facilities. We can cooperate in the area of transit, we can cooperate in the area of affordable housing. There are a number of areas in which we should be talking about, for example, policing in urban areas, there’s no reason why we can’t cooperate there. There’s a question possibility in the schools. Our school population is going down, there’s is increasing.”
: “I think we should increase cooperation, but I’m skeptical of consolidation. I think there are so many examples of things we’ve chosen to prioritize that the country has not. An example would be curbside recycling. I think we all benefit and we appreciate that we can recycle at the curbside. The county doesn’t. So if we consolidate, how does that all play out?”
Question: Two audience members asked two follow-up questions which are paraphrased: City and county residents both use each parks services in the other jurisdiction. How can we make sure the county is paying their fair share? What about children who frequently move back and forth between the school systems during their educational career?
: “I think there’s an opportunity coming later this month when the Y sits down with the city. The county’s already put some money behind that. Maybe that’s a door opening for us to talk about other ways that we can collaborate between the city and the county and a private entity.”
: “The parks and rec department in Charlottesville is very distinct. It has a lot of indoor facilities, a lot of programming for youth. I want the parks and rec place to be a place for our city students, and I’d love to see more programming going into it. I am more concerned with bringing our parks up to a high standard, and not as concerned with merging our facilities.”
: “[Charlottesville parks] have been part of the neighborhoods for so long… and I can’t think of very many programs that we have that truly embraced every child, within every pocket of the community in that way. And I like to believe that we’ll be able to continue that same kind of culture.
: “Recreational and athletic programs I think we can cooperate with the county more. Maybe of the people using our parks and rec facilities are from the county, and not from the city. If that’s the case, I want them to share some of the cost of that with the city.”
: “Another difference between the city and county does come in some of our recreational programs. An example is basketball. The city parks and rec department runs the basketball program. It’s available at nominal cost to city children. On the other hand, the county doesn’t have a program for basketball, the Y runs the basketball, and it’s much more pricey. At the same time, when you look at it in terms of green space, the county parks are an asset to the city, and the city trails and parks are an asset to county residents, so to some degree a lot of this should be kind of seamless.”
Question: “Right now, housing is unstable for the same children we’re trying to help. What do you think you can do in a market-driven arena to create affordable workforce housing in significant numbers?”
: “I think there’s a tremendous need for workforce housing. I think the answer may be increasing density in the city, and it will most likely not be single detached housing. That said, we don’t have a great deal of land on which to build that, so we’ll have to increase density. We need to regionalize the housing issue.”
: “U.Va and the county are not necessarily good neighbors with respect to the very lowest income housing. As much as we can get out city employees to be able to the city, I’m for.”
: “I’m really curious as to what the affordable housing task force has decided because I really think those decisions need to come from the outside in. We could explore how the services that we can provide families can empower them to be in a place where they can buy a house. Helping people with their credit, helping people learn how to save their money.”
: “We just built about thirty homes in the 10th and Page neighborhood. 10 of those were sold on the open market, and the profit from those ten plus some funds from the city and county were put into the other 20 houses to make affordable houses. It cost about $40,000 per unit to make affordable housing. So, I don’t know if it’s the best uses of money, but it’s one way of dealing with it.”
: “We’re losing the stock of affordable rental housing in the city, and that’s one thing we need to replenish. We will get moving on creating a joint U.Va-City-County task force. Hopefully the county will embrace this idea, but the reality is that the county so far does not provide any low-income housing.”
HIGHLIGHTS (times correspond with audio in the above podcast)