The two candidates for the White Hall District of the
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
appeared at a candidates forum sponsored by the
Earlysville Area Residents’ League
. More than forty people attended the event, which was held on October 9, 2007 at Broadus Wood Elementary School.
While the forum featured candidates for all of Albemarle County’s constitutional races, Charlottesville Tomorrow is focusing this report on the the race for the White Hall seat on the Board of Supervisors. Republican incumbent David Wyant is facing Democratic challenger Ann Mallek. Questions were submitted by audience members.
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“I’m running for my second term as your Board of Supervisor representative for the White Hall District. I’m presently vice chair of the Board… I serve on nine committees in addition to going to Board activities. I’m on our building committee, which reviews any building that’s being constructed in the County… I’m liaison on the Fire and Rescue Committee. What we have done over the past several years is standardize the equipment that goes into the different stations… I’ve also worked on making sure we got service, in the Fire and Rescue Committee, to all of our constituents, even in the rural areas… I also serve on the CIP Oversight Committee, which is coming up. That’s all of our capital improvement projects that come to the Board of Supervisors… I’m a professional engineer. I’ve got a Bachelor’s and Master’s in civil engineering from U.Va, and in my thirty years at VDOT, there’s skills and techniques that I have that others have not been able to bring to the Board before… Also, I’m very much interested in sports and activities for our citizens all over. Walking paths, bike trails, the soccer fields, the baseball fields… Some of the issues I think we’re facing. I’ve reduced the tax rate, the property tax rate, while I’ve been there these four years by… eight cent.”
“What is it you don’t already know about me? I’m a native of Earlysville who has lived in several other wonderful places – small towns and a big city. We returned in 1983 to run our farm and raise our family here. At age 40, I became a teacher, and have been either full-time or half-time ever since.
The Daily Progress
calls me a citizen activist. I love that, because for the last thirty-five years in politics, I’ve pulled regular people like me into the process of government, knowing that a decision reached with broad participation will be more long lasting and have greater benefit to everyone… EARL is a great example of citizen influence. I’m proud to have served on its board and been its president… Our EARL meeting last May 8 changed the direction of the Board of Supervisors and VDOT’s thinking on the Advance Mills Bridge… The Free Union depot was threatened with closure but a group of organizers from many affected neighborhoods made our voices heard. I participated in a conference call at Delegate Bell’s office with Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer…. I explained to the Secretary about the closure of the Advance Mills Bridge and that snow plows from Greene County could not get here. I think that was a pivotal argument to keeping the depot over….Conservation of farms and land is an issue I’ve worked for my whole life. Our family has raised cattle for more than sixty years and participated in the Land Use program. Cows don’t go to school. In 1988, our farm became the core of the Jacob’s Run ag-forestal district, one of the earliest ag-forestal districts in the County. These owners contracted not to develop their land for ten years or more at a time. In 1998, we placed our farm into a permanent conservation easement with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. We have never regretted that decision. In 2000, I was appointed as a charter member of the ACE Committee – the Acquisition of Conservation Easements. We have met monthly for seven years, recruiting and assisting landowners who are interested in participating in this County’s program. A win for the county, a win for the landowner. We pay the farmer for his easement… but we do not pay the future cost of schools or highways for the people who live there. As many of you know, I’ve had an ongoing discussion with voters who like the term pay-as-you-go development, and worry how we’re going to pay for the public infrastructure, water and sewer coming. They do not trust County government and want more accountability. They want to reform the budget process. People are worried about the pace of development over the last three and a half years, that the County has approved 7,000 homes since the year 2000 and has a 30 year supply of commercial space already approved.”
Question 1: Where’s the diversity among our County leadership given the demographics in Albemarle? Is it a priority in any elected office to recognize and deal with this lack in our political parties?
Ann Mallek (D):
Citizen outreach and meeting people on a one-to-one basis is a huge part of true representation. And so my hope is that involving a wide array of people in their government at all different parts of the decision making will increase their interest to be available to want to be involved in government in a more official capacity. It’s going to be a step by step process but starting at the beginning and getting people involved is the place to start.
David Wyant (R):
I guess it was a couple of years ago, and you’ll be the first to hear what I was thinking when we had the discussion at the Board level, and it was about our salary. These folks [referring to the other candidates] are full-time, I guess we’re all full-time, but at a lesser salary. And, the discussion was, do we need to get paid what some counties get paid as Supervisors up in Northern Virginia, and I think it’s over a hundred thousand and stuff… But when we were having that discussion, what I did, I was looking at the Board and the diversity of the Board. Our Board should mirror our County. Now let me talk a little bit about history, and this is where I’ve learned in my past, to be able to see our vision to the future, you need to know your past. When I was growing up as a child around here, I would say, all the Board of Supervisor members were farmers. That is not our community today. I mean, I love farmers and the farm life, but that doesn’t mirror our community today as a Board. So, if you look at our Board right now we have three folks that are attorneys, one’s a financial, one’s a housewife/former teacher and I’m an engineer. I represent a lot of the rural areas and everything. I feel good about the diversity of the Board but my concern is finding candidates in the future to run for one of the Board of Supervisor’s offices for what they have to do. You almost have to be fairly well-off, because it does require a huge number of meetings. You’ve heard about all the committees I’m on. I’ve been amazed to think how Walter Perkins, Joe Henley and them, ran their businesses in the past in my district and been able to accomplish all the things. That’s the diversity. Diversity is a major problem everywhere. In the NFL we’re having it, but where we got to look at, is not just minorities, but they’re other diverse….
Question 2: Growth and quality of life are what many folks are talking about in this election. I am also concerned about these issues, specifically growth of our tax bills and its effect on our quality of life. Do either of you know what percent increase in tax a homeowner in the County on average experienced in the year 2000, and what are your plans to rein in spending in order to reduce future tax increases?
David Wyant (R):
Most of us saw the 28 percent increase in two years on our assessments and all, and that’s why I worked to get the tax rate down. I’ll tell you our budget in the last six years since about 2001 or so has doubled. I don’t know whether that’s surprising to you or not, but our budget has doubled. That’s why we’re looking at our budgeting process now… We’re working with the School Board now, having meetings where we’ll have a retreat shortly, and we’re going to be discussing all the budgeting process. Everyone, as you’ve read in the paper this week, we’ve got to back it up and advertise sooner the rate. We have to advertise it for 30 days, not the two weeks and all. This whole process is being changed. Also, the Capital Improvement, like I said, all of it will be coming in together so we can review all the capital improvement projects, not just all the general government and the other. Other thing is, as I’ve worked, is to make our government more efficient and effective. I have worked, and I’ll tell you the big sinkhole which you’re looking at in expenditures is in public safety. At our retreat a couple of weeks ago they were looking at 43 new career people in Fire and Rescue. Starting salaries with benefits, your tax dollars, that amounts to about $80,000 a person. You don’t take many of those that amount to one penny on the tax rate. That’s why I recommended…looking at possible other incentives to encourage young people, with all the commitments and everything our young families are doing, to get more volunteers into our system…
Ann Mallek (D):
As I remember for the Earlysville area, our increases in 2000 were more like 18 percent, or 15 percent for that two years instead of the almost double that amount for the last round. We have had an astonishing increase in the growth rate in the value of properties over the last several years. Many many of our taxpayers have suffered terrible consequences of being unable to deal with the increase in the assessments and the bills that they’ve had. One of the things I’ve learned going door to door is the lack of respect that has been given to especially our oldest residents, who do not have big retirements from big businesses and moved here, but have worked in Albemarle County, have built Albemarle County and need the respect from our community to live out their lives without being pressured to pick up and move and leave all their contacts behind to live in a place where they can pay the bills. There’s a wide diversity of income that we have here in our community. We need to reform the budget process. When the tax issues came up last January and February, there were public meetings, largely well attended. I went to them all, and one person said to me – “Don’t you feel like you’re in enemy territory?” And I said, no I do not, because I have been concerned about the costs of growth on the average tax payer for about fifteen or more years. I’ve been going down to Supervisor’s meetings and speaking with the people who are about to approve great big projects with little or no contribution from the developer who was going to be providing the project, to cover all of those incidental costs. Incidental meaning not involving the shovel and the bricks, but teachers and all the roadways and all the infrastructure that we need. The sidewalks. Many of these things are the responsibility of the public. So, we need to reform the budget process. We need to use something more like needs-based budgeting. Last year many of the discussions were very superficial. They covered program after program after program in a very short period of time, looking at it, and the staff would say, this is what we spent last year, and we’d like to spend this much plus three percent. Okay! That’s fine, let’s go on to the next one. We need more details. We need much longer time in the process, starting in the fall. We cannot wait until February and then have people feel like they’re being rushed to master the concepts that are in the budget. I appreciate and admire all the work the School Board did last year, voting line-by-line to really hammer out which of their programs they absolutely had to carry forward. The Board of Supervisors did not do as good a job with that, in the beginning of the process. So, we definitely have a big problem going forward. Someone said to me, are you sure you want this job? Think of how much worse the budget is going to be next year than it was last year. I do want this job, very much, because I want to represent the citizens of Albemarle, but it’s going to be a very challenging task.”
Question 3: What steps will be taken if we have an economic shortfall to preserve projects already in process from being cut, set back, or eliminated in some other way? Specifically, the temporary bridge over the Rivanna at Advance Mills.
Ann Mallek (D):
Boy, I hope that budget comes in in December. No, the bridge funds are being happily provided by the state VDOT… The statewide budget is in itself in catharsis now, so there is a possibility. We will find out hopefully this coming Thursday at a meeting at Spring Hill Baptist Church about more details about that bridge. As our budget goes forward, we’re certainly going to have to have a prioritization of all of the various projects that are under way for the County.
David Wyant (R):
Specifically on the Advance Mills Bridge. It’s state funded. The permanent bridge is federally funded, with maybe some matching funds from the state. Also, VDOT has moved ahead, I will tell you, I just found this out this afternoon, they’ve already got a temporary easement for the crane to remove the bridge that’s there… VDOT processes on the road… I’ve been working with VDOT for thirty years, and we won’t be paving entire roads. We’re looking at trouble spots, and doing spot treatment… Inside the County government, we’re looking at ways to be more efficient. With my background in engineering and what I did with research and looking at new technology… I’ve introduced a lot of that already in the last four years, and intend to continue to do that so we can be more effective and more efficient…
Ann Mallek (D):
“I know what we have to lose if we don’t think about how we will grow, and how much infrastructure we can afford as a County. The taxpayers have made the connection between rising property tax bills and development we cannot afford. Can we wait four more years to change? I think the time to change is now, and I have the experience to serve as your next representative. I really care about what happens here, and about the lives of the people who live here. I’ve spent decades working on critical local issues. I understand them and will work to find solutions by speaking to all sides, and following adopted plan. Most importantly, I want to represent the voters. I think that the citizens are the true customers of the County, and in that spirit, I will represent you. I’m a candidate with proven leadership capability and experience with County issues that will allow me to hit the ground running. It’s time for positive, citizen driven change, and I hope you will vote for that change…”
David Wyant (R):
“I think it’s clear the choice that you’re making is the difference in the two of us in that I have some experience. I’ve been there for four years but also, in my engineering experience. I’ve done a lot in storm water management. I’ve done a lot in erosion control. I’ve established those standards in the state, so I bring a lot of my engineering skills and everything to this office. I work with the staff and others to make things be more efficient within the government. The value engineering I’ve spoken about. One thing I haven’t talked about is what’s called systems engineering. How you bring all these complex problems together to a solution. I’ve done a lot of door to door and I’m meeting the folks, so I’m out there to listen to our citizens to represent the folks. We represent you and the others in this county. I appreciate your vote in November.”
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