By Sean Tubbs
Monday, April 11, 2011
McIntire Park and water supply activist
announced Monday he will try again to win election to the
Charlottesville City Council
as an independent candidate.
“I will run a spirited campaign based on these and other issues,” Fenwick said at a campaign announcement held outside City Hall.
Fenwick ran as an independent in
and won 20% of the vote, losing to Democrats
. He received a total of 3,293 votes.
In his first run, Fenwick campaigned on a platform to stop construction of the
Meadow Creek Parkway
and to dredge the
South Fork Rivanna Reservoir
as a first step in enlarging the capacity of the urban water supply system. He also sought to prevent the
Piedmont Family YMCA
from building a new aquatic and fitness center in the park.
This year, his platform is much the same.
“A county highway is poised on the outskirts of McIntire Park, and a new dam and reservoir and pipeline is poised to go into
Ragged Mountain Natural Area
,” he said. “
Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
has packed City Hall to urge dredging and repair of the Ragged Mountain Dam… and still [council] ignores us.”
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council voted 3-2 to build a new earthen dam at the reservoir
, but at a lower initial height than desired by Albemarle County.
will present a final design for the dam to the
Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority
later this month.
Instead, Fenwick said he wanted the RWSA to repair the existing dam, which was built in 1908. However, he said he could support the construction of a new dam in the future.
“The group advocating for dredging first has never said we will never need a new dam, but that’s the last step, not the first,” Fenwick said.
Fenwick said he would call for a review of the real estate assessment process in order to make the city more “business-friendly.”
“The city is not business friendly now, not when real estate taxes are raised year after year in the face of a declining real estate market,” Fenwick said. “It makes no sense to raise real estate assessments… when everyone knows real estate values are decreasing.”
The city announced earlier this year that real estate assessments were up by 0.63%, mostly due to new construction. Existing property assessments declined.
“The City has 12,887 taxable residential parcels and approximately 32% will have a decline in value and 39% will not have a change,” said finance director Bernard Wray in a January press release.
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Fenwick moved to Charlottesville in the 1970’s when his wife Victoria was attending the University of Virginia School of Law.
“We loved the city so much that we stayed,” Fenwick said.
Fenwick added that he has also lived in Albemarle County, and said the two communities can find common ground despite having “diverging goals.”
“We are not at war,” Fenwick said. “If I ran into people on the downtown mall, I couldn’t tell who is a city resident and who is a county resident… We all basically want the same things. We want an honest government and we want fair treatment from the government.”
An independent candidate has not won election to city council in many decades.
“The real challenge for independents is in gaining some name recognition since they need something to substitute for a party’s brand,” said Isaac Wood, an analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “People have ideas about what a Democrat is but an independent could mean anything.”
Party label is no guarantee that candidates running on the same ticket hold the same views on local issues. In 2009, the
Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club
endorsed Fenwick and Norris because they shared the same position on both the water supply plan and Meadow Creek Parkway.
Wood said Fenwick might have more of a chance this year because there are three seats up for election.
“Fenwick got over 20% of the vote which is pretty substantial,” Wood said. “If he can keep his percentage up, he might have a shot at winning one of those slots but it all depends on who the Democrats nominate.”
The Democrats will choose their three candidates on August 20 at an unassembled caucus, also known as a “firehouse primary.”
Fenwick acknowledged he has “a mountain to climb” to win election.
“I’ll give credit to the Democrat party,” Fenwick said. “I believe they are probably the strongest organized party in the state of Virginia. The results prove that. What I learned last time is that you have to get out there and meet as many people as possible.”
Fenwick has not yet filed paperwork with City Registrar Sheri Iachetta, but has ten days to do so now that he has declared his candidacy. To appear on the ballot, he will also need to submit the petition signatures of 125 registered city voters.
Two other candidates have declared their intentions to run. In March, Independent
submitted his paperwork and incumbent
announced he would seek re-election. City Councilors
and David Brown are not running again.