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Election Watch 2009

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By Connie Chang

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In the race for the Rio District seat on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, candidate Rodney S. Thomas and Supervisor David L. Slutzky are both promising to make the County more business friendly.

At a Tuesday candidate forum, the audience challenged the candidates to
address how they would handle community growth and the current economic
conditions facing the County.


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Candidates David Slutzky (D-Rio) and Rodney Thomas (R-Rio)

Both candidates emphasized the importance of improving the relationship the County has with its businesses and neither said they would support a real estate property tax rate increase in next year’s budget.

Slutzky, the incumbent Democrat, spoke of his experience in trying to change the County staff’s attitudes towards economic growth and development.

“We have a serious culture problem in Albemarle County, in the staff…An awful lot of people in the County, particularly in the planning department are not supporters of business, they’re not committed to economic growth and development,” said Slutzky.

“In the next four years, I’m going to be more assertive with respect to the culture of the County and I’m hopeful other Board members will join me.”

Thomas, the Republican challenger, has emphasized fiscal conservatism throughout his campaign.  He referred to his experience as a businessman and the importance of employing a zero-based budget. “Albemarle County residents cannot afford another tax increase,” said Thomas. “If anything’s not working, take it out. We need to save some money in Albemarle County.”

Candidates also discussed plans for creating and retaining jobs in the County. Slutzky noted the desire to bring “green jobs” and referenced his encouragement of staff to create the winning proposal for a $500,000 energy-retrofit program grant. According to Slutzky, if this program is successful, it has the potential to create as many as 3,000 jobs in the community.

Both candidates discussed the need to increase the commercial tax base to generate new sources of revenue and help fund infrastructure in the community.  Thomas emphasized the need to reach out to the business sector and to look beyond the University of Virginia for new jobs.

“I would hope we could advertise Albemarle County as ‘open for business’ rather than trying not to have new businesses come to Charlottesville,” said Thomas. He also spoke of the importance of providing County children with a good education to fill jobs the County has to offer.

“It’s about being mindful of the need to balance the residential growth with commercial growth,” said Slutzky. “We might as well experience [growth] in the most balanced and cost-effective way.”

The candidates also addressed the level of service the County will be able to provide during difficult economic times.

“There has to be ways to cut costs and make Albemarle County government more affordable,” said Thomas. “I would like to keep the taxes low. We will have to come up with some very good ideas to raise the money in order to put [new proposals] in.”

Slutzky warned the audience about the long term consequences of maintaining the current tax rate in the face of increasing state and federal mandates.

“If we maintain our tax rate for ten years running…you are going to see continued erosion in services,” said Slutzky.  “The reality is we’re not going to be able to increase our tax rate for the foreseeable future, so please be prepared to adjust to some of those reductions in services.”

In his closing statement, Slutzky emphasized his leadership skills and his ability to investigate issues in-depth. “It’s imperative that we be able to work towards a vibrant economy locally,” Slutzky said. “I will ultimately vote the way I feel my voters would like me to vote if they understood all of the facts.”

Thomas reemphasized his commitment to helping develop a “more comprehensive economic development plan” and protecting the property rights of Albemarle residents.

The Earlysville Area Residents’ League hosted the candidate forum which was attended by about 45 people and moderated by WINA’s Jay James.  The election will be held on November 3, 2009.


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

00:52 – Opening statement by David L. Slutzky

04:28 – Opening statement by Rodney S. Thomas

06:50 – Question 1: Do you think Albemarle County is a business-friendly community?

07:25 – Thomas responds to question 1

08:42 – Slutzky responds to question 1

10:48 – Question 2: You have both served in local government. How would each of you grade yourselves from a constituent service standpoint?

11:15 – Slutzky responds to question 2

13:53 – Thomas responds to question 2

15:28 – Question 3: What is your philosophy on property tax rate and the budget? How would you approach that process?

16:05 – Thomas responds to question 3

17:40 – Slutzky responds to question 3

20:50 – Question 4: What is your plan for keeping and creating jobs in Albemarle County?

21:05 – Slutzky responds to question 4

23:30 – Thomas respond to question 4

25:20 – Question 5: What are your thoughts on the community water supply plan?

25:40 – Slutzky responds to question 5

28:59 – Thomas responds to question 5

30:55 – Question 6: Please name some ways that growth can pay for itself

31:10 – Thomas responds to question 6

32:20 – Slutzky responds to question 6

35:22 – Question 7: Why do you feel the County should take our property rights by asking us to give up our development rights to keep our land use taxes?

35:36 – Slutzky responds to question 7

39:07 – Thomas responds to question 7

41:50 – Question 8: If taxes remain the same or lowered, will Albemarle County still be able to continue its level of service?

42:12 – Thomas responds to question 8

43:02 – Slutzky responds to question 8

46:44 – Thomas asks Slutzky how he brought NGIC to Charlottesville?

47:04 – Slutzky responds

51:10 – Slutzky asks Thomas how he proposes to fund unfunded mandates without raising taxes?

52:17 – Thomas responds

53:55 – Slutzky closing statement

57:46 – Thomas closing statement

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